Battle of Hansan Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Battle of Hansan Island
DateAugust 14, 1592 (Gregorian Calendar);
July 8, 1592 (Lunar calendar)
The eastern coast of Hansan Island
Result Decisive Korean victory
Fleet of Toyotomi Hideyoshi Joseon navy
Commanders and leaders
Wakizaka Yasuharu
Wakizaka Sabei 
Watanabe Shichi'emon 
Manabe Samanosuke 
Yi Sun-sin
Yi Eok-gi
Won Gyun
36 large ships[1]
24 medium vessels[2]
13 small boats[2]
Total: 73 ships
56 warships[3]
Casualties and losses
47 ships sunk[4]
12 ships captured[4]
Total: 59 ships
Over 6,500 casualties (8,980 dead),
Manabe Samanosuke committed seppuku
3 dead[4]
10 wounded[4]
Battle of Hansan Island
Revised RomanizationHansan-do Daecheop
McCune–ReischauerHansan-do Taech'ŏp

The naval Battle of Hansan Island, also known as the Battle of Hansando, took place on July 8, 1592 near the Korean island of Hansan, and was one of the most important battles of the Imjin War. Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin destroyed at least 47 Japanese ships, capturing 12. Yi's success in this battle became a turning point in Hideyoshi's first campaign. This battle is also the first in Admiral Yi's 3rd Naval Campaign, and also is debated to be the third largest naval battle in world history, behind the Battle of Salamis and the Battle of Gravelines.


Admiral Yi Sun Shin, along with the small fleet of seven ships of Admiral Won Gyun, had fought two campaigns across the southern coast of Korea. For the third campaign, Yi Eok-gi joined with Yi Sun-sin at Yeosu on August 10 before rendezvousing with Won Gyun at Noryang on August 12. In all, the Koreans sank over 60 Japanese ships. Admiral Yi and the combined Korean fleet did not lose any ships and suffered only 11 killed and 26 wounded up to this point.

Given the importance that the Japanese navy had in supplying the army as it advanced along the Korean peninsula and prepared to invade China, Toyotomi Hideyoshi made it absolutely imperative to his commanders that the naval situation must be brought under control, the Korean fleets destroyed and the supply routes through the Yellow Sea secured. The Japanese commander, Wakizaka Yasuharu, was ordered to wait and combine his fleet with the forces of Katō Yoshiaki and Kuki Yoshitaka to seek out and destroy the Korean fleet. However, it would have taken some time for Katō and Kuki to assemble their ships, so Wakizaka went out alone with 73 ships. Wakizaka's fleet probably had the best warships fielded by the Japanese up to that point in the war. Out of the 73 ships, 36 were the large multi-decked atakebune, 24 the medium sized seki bune and 13 small kobaya scout ships.

In the meantime, Admiral Yi was planning a third campaign and worked with Admirals Won and Yi Eok Ki in combined operations and practiced arranging their fleets in a "crane's wing" battle formation. The formation was often used on land, but not normally used at sea. The combined fleets had a total of 54 panokseons and 2 or 3 turtle ships.


First phase[edit]

At Dangpo, Admiral Yi received intelligence from a local farmer that a large Japanese fleet (Wakizaka's ships) was making its way west towards him and was anchored north of the Gyeonnaeryang Strait, a narrow channel between Geoje Island and the mainland.[2]

On August 14, the next morning, Admiral Yi sent out six panokseon battle ships through the channel to lure out Wakizaka's fleet. Wakizaka took the bait and his ships chased Yi's six panokseons through the channel and into the broad open sea in front of Hansan Island. Wakizaka saw Admiral Yi's fleet before him and pressed to engage the Koreans. At that time, Admiral Yi began to arrange the fleet in the crane wing formation.

Crane wing formation[edit]

In the two previous campaigns, the Koreans had either met the Japanese ships in a straight battle line or, if space was limited, with a circular or rolling method of attack, where their ships attacked in relays to sustain a continuous bombardment. Although these tactics were effective, considerable numbers of Japanese had escaped and swum ashore. The crane wing formation, also known as the hagikjin (학익진), was designed to not just sink ships, but to annihilate the enemy without losing a lot of men.

The formation itself resembled a "U" shape (thus the crane), with the heaviest battleships in the center and lighter ships on the wings. There was a turtle ship at the end of each side, anchoring the flanks. Reserves were placed behind the central ships and would plug gaps as the formation expanded. Ships at the front of the formation would face broadsides to maximize the number of cannons that would be aimed at the enemy. Furthermore, the "U" shape itself would allow for interlocking fields of fire so that many Japanese ships would be enfiladed and hit from several angles. In this sense the Crane Wing formation shared similarities with the late-19th- and early-20th-century battleship tactic of 'Crossing the T'.

The Japanese tactic was to put their fastest ships in the vanguard to keep the Korean ships occupied, then move their larger ships rapidly to close in, grapple, and board the Korean ships. However, this tactic played right into Admiral Yi's plan, as the Japanese rowed deeper into the trap. The volume and range of Korean cannon fire prevented the Japanese from employing their favorite tactic and the two wings of the crane formation would envelop, surround and finally have the effect of "crowding in" the Japanese ships, making it difficult to maneuver or retreat and "packing" in the ships and present an easier target for Korean cannons.

Second phase[edit]

Wakizaka Yasuharu was a highly aggressive commander and one of the legendary "Seven Spears of Shizugatake," having gained fame in the battle that solidified Hideyoshi's claim to be Oda Nobunaga's successor. It is clear from his tactics in the Battle of Hansan Island that Wakizaka tried to get as close as possible to the Korean ships so he could have his men grapple and board them, which was a traditional Japanese naval tactic. Wakizaka not only followed the six decoy Korean ships through the Kyonnaeryang Strait with his entire fleet of 73 ships into the ambush, but pressed as quickly as possible into the center of the crane wing formation, oblivious to the fact that he was exposing his ships and his flanks to the Korean fleet's concentrated and longer-range firepower.

The battle continued from the mid-morning to the late afternoon. Some boarding of Japanese ships by the Koreans did take place, but Admiral Yi only allowed it if the ship was already crippled and damaged. Wakisaka Yasuharu's Commanders Wakizaka Sabei and Watanabe Shichi'emon were killed. Commander Manabe Samanosuke committed seppuku aboard his burning, sinking ship. Wakizaka Yasuharu himself was hit by several arrows, but none penetrated his armor. After losing 59 ships, Wakizaka abandoned his flagship and boarded a faster, lighter ship. He managed to withdraw to Gimhae. In total, 14 Japanese ships were able to retreat from the immediate area of the battle.[2] However, many of the surviving ships were damaged so badly that they had to be abandoned in some of the surrounding islands that dotted the southern Korean coast. Only a few ships ever made it back to the Japanese base at Pusan Harbor.


Admiral Yi's victory at Hansan Island effectively ended Hideyoshi's dreams of conquering Ming China, which was his original goal in invading Korea. The supply routes through the Yellow Sea had to be open in order for his troops to have enough supplies and reinforcements to invade China. Thus, Konishi Yukinaga, the commander of the contingent of troops in Pyongyang could not move further north due to lack of supplies, nor could more troops be sent to him because there was not enough food to feed them. It took five times the resources in food and men to move supplies via the land route over Korea's primitive roads. Furthermore, moving supplies overland left them vulnerable to attacks by regular Chinese and Korean forces as well as Korean irregular or guerrilla forces (the Righteous Armies, 의병, 義兵) that were becoming increasingly active as the war progressed.

After the battle of Hansan Island (and the Battle of Angolpo shortly afterwards), Hideyoshi found it necessary to give a direct order to his naval commanders to cease all unnecessary naval operations and limit activity to the immediate area around Pusan Harbor. He told his commanders that he would come to Korea personally to lead the naval forces himself, but Hideyoshi was never able to carry through on this as his health was deteriorating rapidly.

The battle of Hansan Island was the most important battle of the Imjin War. It ensured that all the fighting would be in Korea, not China, and that Pyongyang would be the furthest northwestern advance of the Japanese armies (to be sure, Katō Kiyomasa's second contingent's brief march into Manchuria was Japan's northernmost advance, however, Manchuria was not a part of Imperial China in the 16th century). It can be argued that the battle was one of the most important in Korean history up to that point. While Hideyoshi was unlikely to be able to invade China and conquer a large part of it, the battle of Hansan Island checked his supply routes and hindered his movements in Korea. Hideyoshi's larger war plans, supported in much written documentation, was nearly identical to Imperial Japan's blueprint for conquest in the second half of the 20th century.

International recognition[edit]

George Alexander Ballard (1862–1948), a vice admiral of British Royal Navy, complimented Admiral Yi's winning streaks by the Battle of Hansando highly:

"This was the great Korean admiral's crowning exploit. In the short space of six weeks [actually about 9 weeks, May 7, 1592 – July 7, 1592] he had achieved a series of successes unsurpassed in the whole annals of maritime war, destroying the enemy's battle fleets, cutting his lines of communication, sweeping up his convoys, imperilling the situation of his victorious armies in the field, and bringing his ambitious schemes to utter ruin. Not even Nelson, Blake, or Jean Bart could have done more than this scarcely known representative of a small and cruelly oppressed nation; and it is to be regretted that his memory lingers nowhere outside his native land, for no impartial judge could deny him the right to be accounted among the born leaders of men."[5]


  1. ^ Hawley 2005, p. 335.
  2. ^ a b c d Hawley 2005, p. 235.
  3. ^ Hawley 2005, p. 234.
  4. ^ a b c d Hawley 2005, p. 239.
  5. ^ The Influence of the Sea on The Political History of Japan, 57p
  • 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.


  • Alagappa, Muthiah (2003), Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-4629-X
  • Arano, Yasunori (2005), The Formation of a Japanocentric World Order, International Journal of Asian Studies
  • Brown, Delmer M. (May 1948), "The Impact of Firearms on Japanese Warfare, 1543–1598", The Far Eastern Quarterly, Association for Asian Studies, 7 (3): 236–53
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (1988), "The Imjin War", Military Review, 68 (2): 74–82
  • Ha, Tae-hung; Sohn, Pow-key (1977), 'Nanjung Ilgi: War Diary of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, Yonsei University Press, ISBN 89-7141-018-3
  • Haboush, JaHyun Kim (2016), The Great East Asian War and the Birth of the Korean Nation
  • Hawley, Samuel (2005), The Imjin War, The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch/UC Berkeley Press, ISBN 89-954424-2-5
  • Jang, Pyun-soon (1998), Noon-eu-ro Bo-nen Han-gook-yauk-sa 5: Gor-yeo Si-dae (눈으로 보는 한국역사 5: 고려시대), Park Doo-ui, Bae Keum-ram, Yi Sang-mi, Kim Ho-hyun, Kim Pyung-sook, et al., Joog-ang Gyo-yook-yaun-goo-won. 1998-10-30. Seoul, Korea.
  • Kim, Ki-chung (Fall 1999), "Resistance, Abduction, and Survival: The Documentary Literature of the Imjin War (1592–8)", Korean Culture, 20 (3): 20–29
  • Kim, Yung-sik (1998), "Problems and Possibilities in the Study of the History of Korean Science", Osiris, 2nd Series, 13: 48–79, JSTOR 301878
  • 桑田忠親 [Kuwata, Tadachika], ed., 舊參謀本部編纂, [Kyu Sanbo Honbu], 朝鮮の役 [Chousen no Eki] (日本の戰史 [Nihon no Senshi] Vol. 5), 1965.
  • Neves, Jaime Ramalhete (1994), "The Portuguese in the Im-Jim War?", Review of Culture, 18: 20–24
  • Niderost, Eric (June 2001), "Turtleboat Destiny: The Imjin War and Yi Sun Shin", Military Heritage, 2 (6): 50–59, 89
  • Niderost, Eric (January 2002), "The Miracle at Myongnyang, 1597", Osprey Military Journal, 4 (1): 44–50
  • Park, Yune-hee (1973), Admiral Yi Sun-shin and His Turtleboat Armada: A Comprehensive Account of the Resistance of Korea to the 16th Century Japanese Invasion, Shinsaeng Press
  • Rockstein, Edward D. (1993), Strategic And Operational Aspects of Japan's Invasions of Korea 1592–1598 1993-6-18, Naval War College
  • Sadler, A. L. (June 1937), "The Naval Campaign in the Korean War of Hideyoshi (1592–1598)", Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Second Series, 14: 179–208
  • Sansom, George (1961), A History of Japan 1334–1615, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-0525-9
  • Sohn, Pow-key (April–June 1959), "Early Korean Painting", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 79 (2): 96–103, JSTOR 595851
  • Stramigioli, Giuliana (December 1954), "Hideyoshi's Expansionist Policy on the Asiatic Mainland", Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Third Series, 3: 74–116
  • Strauss, Barry (Summer 2005), "Korea's Legendary Admiral", MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, 17 (4): 52–61
  • Swope, Kenneth M. (2006), "Beyond Turtleboats: Siege Accounts from Hideyoshi's Second Invasion of Korea, 1597–1598", Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies, Academy of East Asian Studies, 6 (2): 177–206
  • Swope, Kenneth M. (2005), "Crouching Tigers, Secret Weapons: Military Technology Employed During the Sino-Japanese-Korean War, 1592–1598", The Journal of Military History, 69: 11–42
  • Swope, Kenneth M. (December 2002), "Deceit, Disguise, and Dependence: China, Japan, and the Future of the Tributary System, 1592–1596", The International History Review, 24 (4): 757–1008
  • Swope, Kenneth M. (2009), A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598, University of Oklahoma Press
  • Turnbull, Stephen (2002), Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592–98, Cassell & Co, ISBN 0-304-35948-3
  • Turnbull, Stephen (2008), The Samurai Invasion of Korea 1592-98, Osprey Publishing Ltd
  • Turnbull, Stephen (1998), The Samurai Sourcebook, Cassell & Co, ISBN 1-85409-523-4
  • Villiers, John (1980), SILK and Silver: Macau, Manila and Trade in the China Seas in the Sixteenth Century (A lecture delivered to the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society at the Hong Kong Club. 10 June 1980). The HKUL Digital Initiatives External link in |title= (help)
  • Yi, Min-woong (2004), Imjin Wae-ran Haejeonsa: The Naval Battles of the Imjin War [임진왜란 해전사], Chongoram Media [청어람미디어], ISBN 89-89722-49-7

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 34°45′44″N 128°30′09″E / 34.7622°N 128.5025°E / 34.7622; 128.5025