Battle of Myeongnyang

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For the 2014 film, see Battle of Myeongryang, Whirlwind Sea.
Battle of Myeongnyang
Part of the Imjin War
Date October 26, 1597 (September 16 according to Chinese Lunisolar Calendar, September 13 according to Korean Lunisolar Calendar)
Location Myeongnyang Strait, near Jindo Island
Result Decisive Korean victory
Fleet of Toyotomi Hideyoshi Joseon navy
Commanders and leaders
Todo Takatora
Katō Yoshiaki
Mori Takamasa
Kurushima Michifusa 
Hata Nobutoki 
Kan Masakake 
Yi Sun-sin
Kim Eok-chu
133 warships
at least 200 logistical ships[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]
13 Panokseon.
Casualties and losses
31 ships destroyed,[9] No ships lost, at least 2 killed and 3 wounded about Yi Sun-sin's ship.[10]
Battle of Myeongnyang
Hangul 명량대첩
Hanja 鳴梁大捷
Revised Romanization Myeongnyang Daecheop
McCune–Reischauer Myŏngnyang Taech'ŏp

In the Battle of Myeongnyang, on October 26, 1597, the Joseon Admiral Yi Sun-sin fought the Japanese navy in the Myeongnyang Strait, near Jindo Island, off the southwest point of the Korean peninsula. With 13 ships remaining from Won Gyun's disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chilchonryang, Admiral Yi held the strait against a fleet of 133 Japanese warships and at least 200 logistical support ships. Many Japanese warships were sunk or disabled during the battle and the Japanese were forced to retreat. Given the disparity in numbers, the battle is regarded as one of Admiral Yi's most remarkable victories.


Due to Japanese intrigue taking advantage of the fractious politics of the Joseon Dynasty court, Admiral Yi Sunsin was impeached and almost put to death. Yi was instead tortured and demoted to the rank of a common soldier. Yi's rival, Admiral Won Gyun, took command of the Joseon fleet, which under Yi's careful management had grown from 63 heavy warships to 166.

Won Gyun was an incompetent military commander who immediately began squandering the Joseon Navy's strength through ill-conceived maneuvers against the Japanese naval base at Pusan. In the Battle of Chilchonryang, the Japanese navy, with Todo Takatora in overall command, outmaneuvered the Korean navy and virtually wiped it out. Soon afterwards, the Japanese reinforced their garrisons in Pusan and various forts in the southern coast of Korea, and began the second invasion.

With the Joseon Navy taken out of the scene, the Japanese believed that they now had access to the Yellow Sea and could resupply their troops through this sea route as they advanced northward. In the 1592 campaigns, Admiral Yi prevented the Japanese from resupplying their troops in this manner and kept their ships holed up at their main bases in Pusan Harbor.


Admiral Yi Sun-sin was hastily reinstated as Supreme Commander of the Regional Navies after Won Gyun was killed at the Battle of Chilchonryang. Yi only had 12 panokseon ships at his disposal, which had been saved by Bae Seol, a Joseon officer who escaped early in the Battle of Chilchonryang. At that time, King Seonjo, who judged that the Joseon navy had lost its power and would never be restored again, sent a letter to abolish the navy and join the ground forces under General Gwon Yul. Admiral Yi famously responded with a letter written "...I still have twelve battle ships...and I am still alive, the enemy shall never be safe in the Western Sea." Later, one more ship joined with Yi and his small fleet numbered 13. Although Yi only found 100 sailors initially, some of the survivors of Chilchonryang flocked to him, and he had at least 1,500 sailors and marines by the end of September.

After studying numerous arenas for his last stand with the Japanese navy, Admiral Yi decided on the Myeongnyang Strait. It had very strong currents that flowed at approximately 10 knots, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction, in three hour intervals. Admiral Yi realized he could use this unique condition as a force multiplier. The narrowness of the strait would prevent the Joseon fleet from being flanked by the numerically superior enemy fleet, and the roughness of the tide prevented the Japanese from effectively enveloping them. By using the shadows of the surrounding hillsides, Yi would be able to establish a visibility advantage for his fleet. And finally, the strait was sufficiently narrow that steel wire could be strategically tightened across its whole width.

His ships were docked in the Byeokpajin about late August in the lunar calendar. From that time, Japanese ships were detected in nearly every mild days. Belows are from his diary(date written in the lunar calendar).

Day 3~6 September: Bad weathers.

Day 7: Sunny. After wind calm, Japanese attacked twice, at noon and night.

Day 8: Sunny.

Day 9: Sunny. Detected and chased Japanese ships.

Day 10: Sunny. Japanese ships were detected and ran away.

Day 11: Sunny.

Day 12~14: Bad weathers

On the morning of 26 October(17 September in the lunar calendar), the huge Japanese Fleet attacked. He described as "As About 200 enemy ships were flowing, I promised with my men and moved to intercept the enemy. And about 130 ships surrounded our fleet." in his diary. And the Battle began.

Using double salvo cannon fire, the Koreans threw a barrage which quickly began damaging Japanese vessels. In the shadow of the hillsides, Yi's ships were difficult to target. The Joseon ships had flat bottoms that provided more stable and accurate cannon firing platforms than the Japanese ships, which had keel bottoms. But from beginning to mid-time, only commandship fought in the battle. other 12 ships were in backfront of the field, didn't fight and waited for time to ran away. In the diary, "Commandship was alone facing the enemy formation. Only my ship fired cannons and arrows. All the other ships didn't advanced, so I could not assure our outcome. All other officers were seeking to run, as they knew this battle was against a massive force. Ship commanded by Kim Eok-chu (김억추), the Officer of Jeolla Right province was at 1 majang(2~3km) away."

The tide soon shifted and the Japanese ships began to drift backwards and collide with each other. In the confusion, Admiral Yi ordered his ships to advance and press the attack, destroying ships out of all proportion to their relative numbers. The dense formation of Japanese ships crowded in the narrow strait made a perfect target for Joseon cannon fire. The strong tides prevented those in the water from swimming to shore, and many Japanese sailors who abandoned sinking or damaged ships drowned. After the Japanese lost 31 warships, their fleet was no longer combat effective, and thus they retreated.[citation needed](General Yi only reported the number of complete destroyed ships to the government during the war)[citation needed]

This victory prevented the Japanese from entering the Yellow Sea and resupplying their army, which had recently fought against Joseon and Chinese armies in the Battle of Jiksan (Cheonan) and was headed towards the capital city of Hanseong (Seoul). With their supplies and reinforcements cut off via the sea route, the Japanese had to halt their advance and begin a general retreat.[11]


The immediate results of the battle were a shock to the Japanese command. Without being resupplied or reinforced, the morale of the Japanese soldiers declined. Joseon and Chinese armies were able to regroup and push the Japanese back to their network of fortresses on the southeastern coast of Korea.

The victory also freed up the Chinese navy to join Admiral Yi in early 1598. After the destruction of most of the Joseon fleet at Chilchonryang, the Ming kept their navy stationed at important port cities to guard against possible Japanese naval attacks. The victory at Myeongnyang convinced the Ming government that they could ease security at their major ports and mobilize a fleet to Joseon's aid.

The Japanese navy was heavily damaged (31 battleships destroyed). As previously mentioned, Kurushima was killed, and Todo Takatora (the hero of Chilchonryang) was wounded[citation needed] .The Japanese navy retreated to Busan to refit and would not be in fighting condition for several months[citation needed], providing time for the Koreans to rebuild their fleet and the Chinese to bring naval reinforcements.

Technical notes[edit]

There are claims that Yi had steel ropes tightened across the channel between Japanese fleet groups, which severely dampened the Japanese numerical advantage,[12] but 1st reference of these are non-concrete family record about Gim Eok-Chu.

The unique tidal conditions of the strait, which Admiral Yi was careful to study beforehand, affected the Japanese in several ways. The Japanese were not incompetent sailors however, and also were not unaware of nor inexperienced in sailing in rough tides as similar conditions existed in Japan. They counted on the rapid tides of the strait and their numerical advantages to break through the Korean line. This turned out to be a miscalculation.

First of all, when attacking the Koreans, the Japanese had to do so in smaller groups. The Japanese could not advance all their ships into the channel at the same time; although the current was moving north, it was still unpredictable, with isolated eddies and whirlpools, and sending a mass of ships into the channel would cause them to collide with each other.

Secondly, when the current reversed and flowed south at the end of three hours, the Japanese ships not only drifted away from the battle, but could not maneuver and ended up colliding with each other even if they avoided the eddy problems. This is probably the major reason why there were so many damaged Japanese ships.

Lastly, the rough currents of Myeongnyang made it difficult for anybody who fell overboard or jumped from sinking or burning ships to swim to shore;[citation needed] most of the Japanese in the water ended up drowning.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yi-Sunshin This was originally published in the March 19, 1997 issue of the Korea Herald.
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Failure of the 16th Century Japanese Invasions of Korea
  4. ^ 명량 대첩
  5. ^ 야후! 백과사전 - 이순신
  6. ^ 한국일보 : [전남] "명량대첩 승전고 다시 울려라"
  7. ^ 세계를 밝히는 신문 - 세계닷컴
  8. ^
  9. ^ Yi Sun-sin, Nanjung Ilgi (War Diary of Yi Sun-sin),September 17, 1597 (the lunar calendar)
  10. ^ Yi Sun-sin, Nanjung Ilgi (War Diary of Yi Sun-sin), September 19, 1597 (the lunar calendar)
  11. ^ Yi, Min-Woong [이민웅], Imjin Wae-ran Haejeonsa: The Naval Battles of the Imjin War [임진왜란 해전사], Chongoram Media [청어람미디어], 2004
  12. ^ "Admiral Yi Sun-sin - A Korean Hero: The Battle of Myongnyang, A Maritime Miracle". Retrieved 2010-08-17. 


  • Hawley, Samuel 2005 The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China. Republic of Korea and U.S.A.: Co-Published by The Royal Asiatic Society and The Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Turnbull, Stephen 2002 Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War. Great Britain: Cassell & Co.
  • Sohn, Pow Key (edited by) 1977 Nanjung Ilgi: War Diary of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. Republic of Korea: Yonsei University Press.