Japan In The War
( Originally Published 1918 )
ON August 15, 1914, the Empire of Japan issued an ultimatum to Germany. She demanded the evacuation of Tsing-tau, the disarming of the warships there and the handing over of the territory to Japan for ultimate reversion to China. The time limit for her reply was set at 12 o'clock, August 24th. To this ultimatum Germany made no reply, and at 2:30 P. M., August 23d, the German Ambassador was handed his passports and war was declared.
The reason for the action of Japan was simple. She was bound by treaty to Great Britain to come to her aid in any war in which Great Britain might be involved. On August 4th a note was received from Great Britain requesting Japan to safeguard British shipping in the Far East. Japan replied that she could not guarantee the safety of British shipping so long as Germany was in occupation of the Chinese province of Tsing-tau. She suggested in turn that England agree to allow her to re-move this German menace. The British Government agreed, on the condition that Tsingtau be subsequently returned to China.
The Japanese Government in taking this stand was acting with courage and with loyalty. Toward individual Germans she entertained no animosity. She had the highest respect for German scholarship and German military science. She had been sending her young men to German seats of learning, and had based the reorganization of her army upon the German military system. But she did not believe that a treaty was a mere "scrap of paper," and was determined to fulfil her obligations in the treaty with England
It seems to have been the opinion of the highest Japanese military authorities that Germany would win the war. Japan's statesmen, however, believed that Germany was a menace to both China and Japan and had lively recollections of her unfriendly attitude in connection with the Chino-Japanese war and in the period that followed. Germany had been playing the same game in China that she had played in the Mediterranean and which had ultimately brought about the war.
The Chino-Japanese war had been a great Japanese triumph. One of Japan's greatest victories had been the capture of Port Arthur, but the joy caused in Japan had not ended before it was into mourning because of German interference. Germany had then compelled Japan to quit Port Arthur, and to hand over that great fort to Russia so that she herself might take Kiao-chau without Russia's objection.
Japan had never forgotten or forgiven. The German seizure of Kiao-chau had led to the Russian occupation of Port Arthur, the British occupation of Wei-hai-wei and French occupation of Kwan-chow Bay. The vultures were swooping down on defenseless China. This had led to the Boxer disturbance of 1910, where again the Kaiser had interfered.
Japan, who recognized that her interests and safety were closely allied with the preservation of the territorial integrity of China, had proposed to the powers that she be permitted to send her troops to the rescue of the beleaguered foreigners, but this proposition was refused on account of German suspicion of Japan's motives. Later on, during the Russo-Japanese war, Russia was assisted in many ways by the German Government.
Furthermore, the popular sympathy with the Japanese was strongly with the Allies. It was the Kaiser who started the cry of the "yellow peril," which had deeply hurt Japanese pride. Yet, even with this strong feeling, it was remarkable that Japan was willing to ally herself with Russia. She knew very well that after all the greatest danger to her liberties lay across the Japan Sea. Russian autocracy, with its militarism, its religious intolerance, its discriminating policy against foreign interests in commerce and trade, was the natural opponent of liberal Japan.
The immediate object of Japan in joining hands with England was to destroy the German menace in the Pacific. Before she delivered her ultimatum the Germans had been active; ignoring the rights of Japan while she was still neutral they had captured a Russian steamer within Japanese jurisdiction, as well as a number of British merchant vessels, and even a few Japanese ships had been intercepted by German cruisers. This was the disturb-once to general peace in the Far East, which had prompted England to request Japan's assistance.
Japan, when she entered the war, was at least twice as strong as when she bcgan the war with Russia. She had an army of one million men, and a navy double the size of that which she had possessed when the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed. As soon as war was declared she proceeded to act. A portion of her fleet was directed against the German forces in the Pacific, one squadron occupying Jaluit, the seat of government of the Marshall Islands, on October 3d, but her main forces were directed against the fortress of Tsing-tau.
The Germans had taken great pride in Tsing-tau, and had made every effort to make it a model colony as well as an impregnable fortress. They had built costly water works, fine streets and fine public buildings. They had been making great preparations for a state of siege, although it was not expected that they would be able to hold out for a long time. There were hardly more than five thousand soldiers in the fortress, and in the harbor but four small gunboats and an Austrian cruiser, the Kaiserin Elizabeth. As Austria was not at war with Japan the authorization of Japan was asked for the removal of the Kaiserin Elizabeth to Shanghai, where she could be interned. The Japanese were favorable to this proposition, but at the last moment instructions arrived from Vienna directing the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to ask for his passports at Tokio and the commander of the Kaiserin Elizabeth to assist the Germans in the defense of Tsing-tau. The Germans also received orders to defend their fortress to the very last. A portion of the German squadron, under Admiral von Spee, had sailed away before the Japanese attack, one of these being the famous commerce raider, the Emden.
On the 27th of August the Japanese made their first move by taking possession of some of the small islands at the mouth of the harbor of Kiao-chau. From these points as bases they swept the surrounding waters for mines, with such success that during the whole siege but one vessel of their fleet was injured by a mine. On the 2d of September they landed troops at the northern base of the peninsula upon which Tsing-tau was situated, with the object of cutting off the fortress from the mainland.
The heavy rains which were customary at that season prevented much action, but air-planes were sent which dropped bombs upon the wireless station, electric power station and railway station of Kiao-chau, and upon the ships in the harbor. On September 13th General Kamio captured the railway station of Kiao-chau which stands at the head of the bay. This placed him twenty-two miles from Tsing tau itself. On September 27th he captured Prince Heinrich Hill, giving him a gun position from which he could attack the inner forts. On the 23d a small British force arrived from Wei-hai-wei to cooperate with the Japanese.
The combined forces then advanced until they were only five miles from Tsing-tau.
The German warships were bombarding the Japanese troops fiercely, and were being replied to by the Japanese squadron in the mouth of the harbor. The great waste of German ammunition led General Kamio to the opinion that the Germans did not contemplate a long siege. He then determined on a vigorous assault.
Before the attack was made he gave the non-combatants an opportunity of leaving, and on the 15th of October a number of women and children and Chinese were allowed to pass through the Japanese lines. On October 31st the bombardment began, and the German forts were gradually silenced. On November 2d the Kaiserin Elizabeth was sunk in the harbor.
The Allied armies were pushing their way steadily down, until, on November 6th, their trenches were along the edge of the last German redoubts. At 6 o'clock on that day white flags were floating over the central forts and by 7.30 Admiral Waldeck, the German Governor, had signed the terms of capitulation.
Germany's prize colony on the continent of Asia had disappeared. The survivors, numbering about three thousand, were sent to Japan as prisoners of war. Japanese losses were but two hundred and thirty-six men killed. They had, however, lost one third-class cruiser, the Takachiho, and several smaller crafts. The whole expedition was a notable success. It had occupied much less time than either Japan or Germany had expected, and the news was received in Germany with a universal feeling of bitterness and chagrin.
After the Japanese capture of Kiao-chau Japan's assistance to the Allies, while not spectacular, was extremely important, and its importance increased during the last two years of the war. Her cruiser squadrons did continuous patrol duty in the Pacific and in the China Sea and even in the Indian Ocean. She occupied three groups of German Islands in the South Sea, assisted in driving German raiders from the Pacific, and by her efficiency permitted a withdrawal of British warships to points where they could be useful nearer home. She patrolled the Pacific coast of North and South America, landed marines to quell riots at Singapore, and finally entered into active service in European waters by sending a destroyer squadron to the assistance of the Allies in the Mediterranean.
The Japanese fleet was one of the strongest in the world. It had twenty-one first- and second-class cruisers, ten superb ncw destroyers, with a reserve of twenty others, as well as twenty battle-ships and battle cruisers.
One of Japan's most important contributions to the cause of the Allies was her assistance in convoying to Europe the Anzac troops, and it was because of the approach of her fleet that the German raiding squadron in the South Pacific was driven to the point near the Falk-land Islands where it was destroyed by Admiral Cradock's British cruisers.
But while the aid of Japan's navy was important to the Allies, her greatest assistance to the Allied cause was what she did in supplying Russia with military supplies. The tremendous struggle carried on by Russia's forces during the first years prevented an easy German victory, and was only made possible through the assistance of Japan. Enormous quantities of guns, ammunition, military stores, hospital and Red Cross supplies, were sent into Russia, with skilled officers and experts to accompany them. Before the Russian revolution disorganized Russia the total value of those supplies had reached $250,000,000. This tremendous exportation, of course, enormously benefited Japan, but it was essential to Rusisia. Japan also shipped to both England and France vast quantities of flour, beans, peas and canned goods, and other supplies in proportion. Japan's financial aid was also of great value. She made great loans, to Russia $60,000,000; to Great Britain $50,000,000. She has become today a great workshop, and her merchant shipping has grown in proportion to the growth of her manufactures. Immense cargoes were moved, not only from Japan to Allied countries, but from the American sea-board to Vladivostock. More than one hundred thousand Chinese laborers were put at the service of the Allies in France and England, and a great part of her magnificent merchant fleet was sent as a reinforcement to the merchant fleets of the Atlantic powers when they had been depleted by the attacks of the German submarines.
In the last year of the war Japan once more came prominently in the public eye in connection with the effort made by the Allies to protect from the Russian Bolsheviki vast stores of ammunition which had been landed in ports of Eastern Siberia. She was - compelled to land troops to do this and to preserve order in localities where her citizens were in danger. Upon the development of the Czecho-Slovak movement in Eastern Siberia a Japanese force, in association with troops from the United States and Great Britain, was landed to protect the Czecho-Slovaks from Bolsheviki treachery. These troops succeeded in their object, and throughout the latter period of the war kept Eastern Siberia friendly to the Allied cause. In this campaign there was but little blood shed. The expedition was followed by the strong sympathy of the allied world which was full of admiration for the loyalty and courage of the Czecho-Slovaks and their heroic leaders.