Battle of Hansan Island

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Battle of Hansan Island
Date 8 July 1592
Location The eastern coast of Hansan Island
Result Decisive Korean victory
Belligerents
Fleet of Toyotomi Hideyoshi Joseon navy
Commanders and leaders
Wakizaka Yasuharu Yi Sun Shin
Won Kyun
Yi Eok Ki
Strength
73 ships (Diary of Yi Sun Shin),[1] (Yi's Military report published by the Japanese Governor-General of Korea)[2][3] 56 ships
Casualties and losses

66 ships destroyed. (Diary of Yi Sun Shin),[4] (Yi's Military report published by the Japanese Governor-General of Korea),[5][6](American historian)[7][8]

9000 soldiers killed(American historian)[9][10]

No ships lost

19 dead and 400 wounded. (Diary of Yi Sun Shin),[11](American historian),[12][13](Yi's Military report published by the Japanese Governor-General of Korea)[14][15]
Battle of Hansan Island
Hangul 한산도대첩
Hanja 閑山島大捷
Revised Romanization Hansan-do Daecheop
McCune–Reischauer Hansan-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. Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin destroyed at least 47 Japanese ships, captured 12. This battle is also the first in Admiral Yi's 3rd Naval Campaign. The battle, one of the three great battles won by Joseon during the Imjin Waeran, carried great import, because Joseon's forces now came to dominate the southern seas. After Hansan-do Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the Japanese navy to avoid direct engagement with the Joseon navy and instead station itself in fortifications along the coast to defend important sea lands.[16][17]

Prelude[edit]

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. Admiral Yi Eok Ki joined Admirals Yi and Won for the third campaign. 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. Out of the 73 ships, 36 were the large multi-decked atakebune, 24 the medium-sized seki bune and 13 small kobaya scout ships. The fleet is the elite of the Japanese navy.[18][19]

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.

The battle[edit]

First phase[edit]

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.

On July 8, 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, 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. Korean sailors boarded some of the Japanese ships, 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. In total, 14 Japanese ships were able to retreat from the immediate area of the battle. 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.

Impact[edit]

It is clear that Toyotomi Hideyoshi regarded these losses as unacceptable. It is also clear that he now doubted the ability of his navy to overcome Korean resistance in southern waters and establish the much-needed supply route around the southwestern tip of the peninsular and north through the Yellow Sea. On August 23 he ordered naval commander Todo Takatora forward from Iki Island to reinforce his colleagues in Korea, and dispatched orders to Busan halting naval operations along the southern coast. Yi Sun Shin's victories in the Battles of Hansan-do and Angolpo have been described as one of the main factors leading to the ultimate failure of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's campaign to take Korea and conquer China.[20][21]

There can be no doubting that Hideyoshi's armies in Korea needed reinforcements if they were to continue their advance with any degree of confidence. As things currently stood there were fewer than thirty thousand Japanese troops in the north, not nearly enough to slash their way to Beijing. Hideyoshi launched his invasion with the clear intention of sending these reinforcements north by ships via the Yellow sea, therefore, Yi Sun Shin was not merely making a nuisance of himself off to one side. In stopping the Japanese navy's westward advance he had thrust a wrench into the heart of Hideyoshi's war machine. In the coming weeks and months the Japanese would encounter other obstacles in Korea, principally the arrival of large numbers of Chinese troops and determined resistance from local guerrilla fighters. The rout at sea, however, would remain the first serious setback in their planned invasion of the mainland, and as such possibly the most important one, for in blocking the flow of reinforcements, it significantly weakened the Japanese land forces and in turn rendered them that much more vulnerable in the land battles to come.[22][23]

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."[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Yi Sun shin(translated by 北島万次) Nanjung Ilgi (乱中日記 : 壬辰倭乱の記錄), 平凡社 Press, Tokyo (2000)
  2. ^ 李舜臣, 亂中日記草 ; 壬辰狀草, 朝鮮史編修會 編, 京城, 朝鮮總督府 昭和10 (1935)
  3. ^ "Tokyo university's Library". Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. 
  4. ^ Yi Sun shin(translated by 北島万次) Nanjung Ilgi (乱中日記 : 壬辰倭乱の記錄), 平凡社 Press, Tokyo (2000)
  5. ^ 李舜臣, 亂中日記草 ; 壬辰狀草, 朝鮮史編修會 編, 京城, 朝鮮總督府 昭和10 (1935)
  6. ^ "Tokyo university's Library". Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. 
  7. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 239p (2005)
  8. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan". 
  9. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 239p (2005)
  10. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan". 
  11. ^ Yi Sun shin(translated by 北島万次) Nanjung Ilgi (乱中日記 : 壬辰倭乱の記錄), 平凡社 Press, Tokyo (2000)
  12. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 239p (2005)
  13. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan". 
  14. ^ 李舜臣, 亂中日記草 ; 壬辰狀草, 朝鮮史編修會 編, 京城, 朝鮮總督府 昭和10 (1935)
  15. ^ "Tokyo university's Library". Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. 
  16. ^ James B. Lewis, The East Asian War, 1592-1598 ; International relations, violence, and memory, Routledge Press, 126p (2014)
  17. ^ "Routledge". 
  18. ^ James B. Lewis, The East Asian War, 1592-1598 ; International relations, violence, and memory, Routledge Press, 126p (2014)
  19. ^ "Routledge". 
  20. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 239p (2005)
  21. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan". 
  22. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 240-241p (2005)
  23. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan". 
  24. ^ 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.

See also[edit]

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