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The Laurels of Victory: Information Warfare in the RussoJapanese War (1904-1905)

LCDR Robert D. Gourley, USN

April 16, 1997

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The Laurels of Victory: Information Warfare in the RussoJapanese War (1904-1905) All warfare is based on deception. Sun Tzu.1

Rapid advances in computer and communications technologies are invigorating our modern ideas of information warfare and Command and Control Warfare (C2W). These concepts are becoming an integral part of the American way of war, and will soon impact virtually everything we do. However, we have little way of quantifying how dramatic these changes will be, or what to expect once they are fully implemented. History can help us in this regard. History can provide examples of previous information-based RMAs and can show the impact they had on combat operations. It can also provide lessons directly applicable to our current transformation. With these goals in mind this paper highlights historical lessons from Japans use of information warfare during their 1904 war with Russia. We now know that Japans surprising victory over the eras greatest land power was not just a function of its newly purchased western weapons. Japan also made use of extensive psychological operations, complex deception plans, strict security measures, well thought out information management plans, and the largest intelligence collection network the world had ever seen. In doing so the Japanese proved to be masters of the game we call information warfare today. The Russo-Japanese war was fought over hegemony in Korea and Manchuria. Diplomatic stalemate and a naval arms race made war seem inevitable by late 1903. To fight in Manchuria, Japan would have to carry reinforcements and supplies via sea. Therefore, Japan would have to establish command of the sea with its fleet (based around six foreign built battleships). The Russian Pacific fleet had a strength of seven battleships, with several more in Europe undergoing refit for transfer to the Pacific.2 Additionally, Japanese army intelligence suggested a speed up in work on the Trans-Siberian railway, the completion of which would allow for more rapid resupply of Russian troops. If Japan was going to act, it would need to do so soon.

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THE NAVAL BATTLES Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move. Sun Tzu.3

Correspondents from western newspapers documented the key battles of this war, and military observers wrote detailed campaign studies.4 Additionally, both sides in the war published official histories and lessons learned. A summary of the current historical interpretation of the wars naval battles follows.5 After these summaries the Japanese information support architecture and intelligence network will be explored. Specific examples of how Japans information warfare efforts influenced the outcome of the war will also be provided. THE BATTLE OF CHEMPULO (Inchon): On 7 February, 1904, Admiral Togo sent a task force to Chempulo to engage Russian ships there and to offload troops. Togo destroyed two Russian ships. Foreign ships in the port reported that the entire operation came off without a hitch. THE BATTLE OF PORT ARTHUR: During the landings at Chempulo, the main fleet moved off Port Arthur. Admiral Togos forces entered the harbor and attacked several ships. The surprising success of this attack made headlines around the world. THE BATTLES OF THE YELLOW SEA: In March, 1904, Admiral Markarov accelerated the pace of fleet operations from Port Arthur. His destroyers began to patrol against their counterparts and his heavier ships began to sortie against the bombardments of the Japanese battle line. However, in an incident regarded by the west as pure luck for the Japanese, Admiral Markarovs flagship hit a mine while returning to port, sinking with all onboard. Admiral Markarovs successor, Admiral Witgeft, chose to keep his ships in port. He was ordered to attempt a breakout on 10 August. He was engaged, and in another serendipitous incident, the Admiral was killed. Some ships were captured, while others conducted a hasty retreat to Port Arthur. This was the last real activity of the Russian Pacific Fleet. By December, the Japanese army had taken a key hill overlooking Port Arthur. On New Years Day, 1905, Port Arthur fell. THE VOYAGE OF THE BALTIC FLEET: The Russians now pinned their hopes on the arrival of their Baltic fleet, being led to the Orient by Admiral Rozhdestvenski. While departing the

Baltic, the ships mistakenly attacked a fleet of English fishing ships, believing them to be Japanese torpedo boats. This incident almost brought war with England, and caused problems for the Russians for the rest of their cruise. They had a hard time receiving permission to pull directly into ports along the way, and had to do much recoaling/resupply while at sea. The fleet moved abeam Singapore 8 April 1905, and then entered Cam Ranh Bay. They departed Cam Ranh 25 May. The Russian officers were reportedly very tense, having indications of a Japanese fleet planning to attack them in the South China Sea. They decided that their best course of action was to sail directly for Vladivostok, since it was unlikely that Togos fleet could find or catch them on the high seas. THE BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA: While the Russian formation was steaming into the Korea Strait to the east of Tsushima Island, the bulk of Togos fleet suddenly surprised the Russians. Admiral Togo sank, captured or disabled 29 warships, crushing a navy which in aggregate strength was almost twice as powerful as his own. This wasthe greatest naval victory since the battle of Trafalgar. Following this last naval battle, the Russian Navy was decimated. Although Russia was a great land power (over 4,500,000 men, 130,000 in Asia), there was no way it could land troops on Japan to force a surrender. Japan, on the other hand, could land up to 680,000 troops anywhere in the Far East. The war was virtually won.

THE INFORMATION ORGANIZATION Of all those in the army close to the commander none is more intimate than the secret agent; of all rewards none more liberal than those given to secret agents; of all matters none is more confidential than those relating to secret operations. Sun Tzu.6 It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used. Sun Tzu.7

Effective information operations cannot be carried out ad hoc. They require an extensive system designed to collect, process and disseminate information. The Japanese organized a system to do just this. This massive operation was designed to provide information on enemy locations, capabilities, and intentions. It supported decision-makers at the Imperial Naval and Army Staffs in Tokyo and in the field and fleet. This system was expensive, but it paid off by making significant contributions to Japans victories.8 Japans information operations network stretched throughout Asia into Europe. The Japanese military attache in St. Petersburg, Colonel Akashi, built a very fruitful intelligence collection web which penetrated the Russian war ministry.9 Akashi is one of the most famous Japanese spies, due to his financial support of Bolsheviks and other Russian dissidents. Other intelligence officers operated in France, Germany, England, Finland and Switzerland. Many operated under diplomatic cover. Others posed as business men or laborers. Several took jobs as low level clerks in Russian shipping companies or at key port facilities or military bases. Agents passed information gathered to the nearest Japanese embassy for forwarding to Tokyo. The attache would in turn provide targets to the spies if there were indications of Russian activity in the offing.10 Spy rings run by officers undercover in China and the Russian Far East emphasized collections against Russian garrisons, fortifications and port facilities. Paid informants were solicited among coolie labor tasked with building fortifications.11 Spy teams also secretly and systematically mapped the entire area in the theater from Lake Baykal east. When war began, the Japanese had a more accurate knowledge of the Russian-held territory than did the Russians.12 Japan dispatched intelligence officers to key ports in Asia and Africa that would be used by the Russians. Intelligence officers in Singapore monitored the Strait of Malacca, and were also able to successfully recruit a Russian diplomat named Pavlov who had previously served in Korea.13 The Japanese information operations system placed great emphasis on open source and other overt collection. Japan dedicated resources to collect against Russian tourists, emigres and businessmen dissatisfied with life under the Tsar.14 Most of this effort was in Muslim countries, where Japanese attaches and spies posing as businessmen targeted Russian Muslims on pilgrimage. Additionally, all officers sent abroad to study

were also directed to return with books, pamphlets and ideas. Collectors fed their information to analysts in Tokyo. Many analysts studied Russian culture, religion, history and language to assist them in understanding the context of open source information. Other analysts studied ethnic cultures under Russian domination. A payoff of this open source intelligence collection was the ability to scrutinize the writings of Russian Admirals.15 The Japanese Navy also had at its service a vast array of merchant and fishing vessels serving as lookouts around the Japanese archipelago. The Japanese navy configured three ships as intelligence ships (AGIs), making this war the first in history to use them.16 The Imperial Japanese staff instructed captains of ships on the importance of gathering intelligence on foreigners, especially the Russians. All Japanese naval officers were required to learn another language to assist in this regard.17 In contrast to the Japanese information management organization, the Russians devoted little in terms of resources or forethought to a formal information management system. The Russians were never able to obtain accurate information about Japanese troops in Manchuria or about the Japanese navy on the high seas. There was not even a dedicated effort to use open sources. One senior Russian officer noted that there was not one person (on the naval staff) who was a thorough master of the Japanese language and characters.18 Russia derived most of its intelligence from the London newspapers (which were also avidly read by the Japanese).19 During the Baltic Fleets journey to the Pacific, the only significant intelligence updates were from newspapers and copies of the Russian naval journal Noveya Zemla.20

OPERATIONAL SECURITY The ultimate in disposing ones troops is to be without ascertainable shape. Then the most penetrating spies cannot pry in nor can the wise lay plans against you. Sun Tzu.21

Secrecy was a key ingredient of Japans successful information operations. Secrecy not only kept information from the Russians, but it also hampered collection efforts by

neutrals and allies. One U.S. intelligence officer praised Japans strategy of absolute secrecy at every stage of the war which may well be considered by us, belonging as we do to a press-ridden country, always clamoring for the publication of military information however valuable to an enemy it may be.22 A British Intelligence officer made similar observations when he noted that the Japanese had an excellent rule which forbade them from even speaking to attaches and newspaper correspondents. An officer designated by the Japanese director of intelligence escorted them and insured that they saw only what the Japanese wanted them to see.23 Japanese security frustrated General Sir Ian Hamilton, the senior British military observer with the Japanese. His anger is apparent in his official reports from the war, where he expressed outrage that Japan did not have a most favoured nation policy for sharing information with their British allies.24 Japanese naval intelligence officers closely watched members of the foreign press. For example, Lionel James, a correspondent of the Times, chartered his own steamship (the HAIMUN) to observe naval battles. The Japanese insisted that an officer from their intelligence staff be stationed on board. This intelligence officer disguised himself as a Malay steward when the HAIMUN was boarded by the Russians.25 The Russians had a completely different attitude toward secrecy and security. According to a U.S. intelligence officer assigned as an observer with the Russian forces, even months after the surprise attack at Port Arthur journalists and foreigners were allowed a free reign in the city. He complained that due to poor U.S.- Russian relations at the time the authorities made decided distinctions between attaches of France and Germany and myself, giving them many privileges denied to me, failing to receive me properly or to recognize official calls and treating me with marked suspicion.26 However, he was given much more information than his counterparts observing the Japanese were. He traveled throughout the town, photographing bridges, defensive positions and ships. He made detailed sketches of port facilities and obtained crew lists of every ship. He observed many naval battles from ashore and made first hand reports on Russian battle damage. He traveled throughout the Far East, inspecting Russian facilities, including Vladivostok. He reported all this information back to the Office of Naval Intelligence, which in turn, provided summaries to President Roosevelt.27

THE REST OF THE STORY For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles in not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. Sun Tzu.28

THE BATTLE OF CHEMPULO (Inchon): Admiral Togos landings at Chempulo were preceded by an in depth intelligence collection operation. This included the stationing of an intelligence collection ship, The CHIYODA, in the port for six months prior to the landings. The CHIYODA observed other ships and recruited spies among the dockworkers, many of which had access to Russian officers and ships. Just prior to the attack on Chempulo, the CHIYODA departed port and passed intelligence updates to Togo and his staff. The Japanese then enticed the Russian ships out of port. The Russians soon realized the situation was hopeless and returned after a few shots were exchanged. They scuttled their ships pierside.29 CHIYODAs crew had also provided Admiral Togo with information on Russias telegraph link to Chempulo, allowing Japanese troops to easily sever the connection (an example of what we call C2W Physical Destruction today). Cutting this link was crucial to ensuring surprise at the Port Arthur attacks the next day.30 THE BATTLE OF PORT ARTHUR: This attack was supported by a large intelligence ring inside the city. The Japanese employed local Koreans and Chinese laborers as part of this effort. They also sent the captain of one of their spy ships into the port just prior to the attack (he posed as the steward to the Japanese counsel, who had been sent in to evacuate Japanese citizens). He provided Togo the exact location of Russian ships at anchor in the port hours prior to his attack. He also told Togo that the Russians were planning a large party that night, helping Togo determine the best time to attack.31 THE BATTLE OF THE YELLOW SEA: Admiral Togo had the advantage of knowing Admiral Markarovs warfighting philosophy. He had read Markarovs book on tactics (translated by the Imperial Navys Intelligence Staff), and knew that Markarov advocated aggressive behavior. He used this knowledge to create a deception plan tailor made for Markarov. Togos plan was for a cruiser squadron to act as bait to lure the aggressive Markarov out toward the Japanese battleships. The battleships lay in wait while in constant radio contact with the cruisers. They

planned to sink the Russians or drive them into a freshly laid minefield. This ruse worked better than expected.32 As Markarov fell for the ruse and pursued the cruisers, the Japanese communicated the exact position of the Russians to the waiting battleships. Forty minutes later, Markarov realized what was happening when the Japanese battleships appeared out of the mist with their guns blazing. Markarov hastily ordered a return to port. Ten minutes later his ship sailed right into the minefield, resulting in what the press would consider a terrible accident of war.33 The death of Admiral Markarovs successor, Admiral Witgeft, was also no accident. Japanese successes in the many battles of the Yellow Sea, including the one that took Witgefts life, were due far more to preparation for information management than to accident. For example, most of these battles were supported by intelligence collection ships. One of them in particular, the TATSUTA, was almost constantly employed in finding and passing locating information on Russian units. TATSUTA radioed locating information to Admiral Togo onboard his flagship (The MIKASA).34 Pre-planned information operations vice serendipity repeatedly provided the advantage to the Japanese. THE VOYAGE OF THE BALTIC FLEET: The Japanese established a large spy operation dedicated to collect information on this fleet. Japanese spies were undercover in Baltic shipyards and in almost every port the ships visited enroute the Far East. This time the spies did more than collect information. They planted deception evidence that led the Russians to believe that a squadron of Japanese torpedo boats had made the journey around the world and were waiting to trap them as they left the Baltic. The object of this deception was to contribute to Russian stress and lower morale; however, the ruse resulted in the Russian attack on British fishermen near Dogger Bank. Since the world did not know of the Japanese deception plan, an unexpected result was a loss of international support for the Russians.35 In Madagascar, Japanese spies posing as merchants were allowed onboard the ships to sell items to the officers and crew. As the ships passed Singapore, they were the victims of yet another deception plan designed to wear on the nerves of the officers and crew. Playing on the Dogger Bank incident, the Japanese crafted a ruse that led the Russians to believe they would be attacked in the South China Sea. This plan involved sailing a fleet of ships throughout Asia, where crew-members would let slip the fact that they would be waiting for the

Russians somewhere north of Borneo. They also used the Russian spy Pavlov in Singapore to provide this information.36 Reports from a survivor of the battle of Tsushima and debriefs of merchant seamen done by Japanese intelligence officers tell us this plan was effective. The Russian consulate in Singapore provided Admiral Rozhdestvenski information indicating the Japanese were preparing to attack them in the East China Sea. Admiral Rozhdestvenski and his officers were reportedly very worried by the prospect. That probably contributed to the Russian decision to await so long in Cam Ranh before setting sail north for the Strait of Tsushima.37 A Japanese spy monitored their departure from Cam Ranh. Togo had already received information suggesting the Russians would sail directly north to Vladivostok from Cam Ranh, so he positioned his fleet in a Korean port near the Tsushima Strait. This information was based on debriefs of merchant seamen whose ships had been boarded by the Russians and later made port calls in Japan. When Japanese spies confirmed Russian colliers had pulled into Shanghai, Togo knew they would be sailing directly through the Tsushima strait.38 Admiral Togo then set up the first coordinated naval surface search operation in history. He built a network of fishermen, merchant ships, combatants and coastal observation platforms. He even sought and gained approval from his Supreme Headquarters to charter two British ships from Hong Kong to search the South China Sea to the vicinity of Hainan Island.39 On 27 May, the merchant ship SHINANO MARU wired Togo: Enemy squadron sighted square 203 apparently bearing eastern passage.40 For the next two hours the SHINANO MARU sailed among the Russian fleet sending reports to Admiral Togo. Based on these reports, Admiral Togo took up position in the Tsushima Strait. The cruiser IZUMI relieved the SHINANO MARU and continued to provide Admiral Togo reports.41 THE BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA: We know now that it was no accident that Admiral Togos fleet appeared out of the mist to take on the Russian Baltic Fleet. Admiral Togo had a distinct advantage in this battle. In his own words: Thus, though heavy fog covered the sea, making it impossible to observe anything at a distance of over five miles, all the condition of the enemy were as clear to us, who were thirty or forty miles distant, as though they had been under our very eyes. Long before we came in sight of

him we knew that his fighting force comprised the Second and Third Baltic Squadrons, that he had seven special service ships with him, that he was marshaled in two columns line ahead, that his strongest vessels were at the head of the right column, that his special service craft followed in the rear, that his speed was about twelve knots, and that he was still advancing to the northeast.42

LESSONS LEARNED Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge. Sun Tzu.43 Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance. Sun Tzu.44

Information operations made significant contributions to Japan's victory in this war. With victory, Japan won control of half of Sakhalin Island, leaseholds on the Liaotung peninsula including Port Arthur, and Russian railway and mining rights in Manchuria. Japan also assumed the paramount position in Korea, paving the way for its annexation in 1910. Psychologically, Japan's new world power status awoke Asia to the fact that the European was not always invincible, setting the stage for regional politics for the rest of the twentieth century. Russia's disastrous defeat, which could largely be blamed on their own poor information operations, shifted the balance of power in Europe. It was also a cause of the 1905 Russian Revolution, and contributed to the backdrop of crises and despair that led to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Japans extensive use of information operations, and Russias neglect to do so, had changed the course of world history. This was not the first time that information operations would play a role in the rise and fall of great powers. Nor would it be the last. But this historical case is particularly instructive to todays information war planners, since it highlights the potential result of a cohesive information operations strategy. Other key lessons come from the proactive steps Japan took to succeed in information warfare:

- An information collection, processing and dissemination architecture was established years before the conflict. - Operational security was taken very seriously. - Information war plans were based on an in-depth study of enemy culture. Cultural studies also provided a foundation for intelligence assessments. - Deception plans made use of multiple transmission paths (double agents, ship movements, leaks by ships crew). - Since deception plans would not always result in the intended consequence, a mechanism was put into place to verify deception results. - The details of information management were an important part of operational war planning. Information was focused on the operational decision-makers. Perhaps the greatest information war lesson-learned was highlighted by Admiral Togo. He reported to the Emperor of Japan that the laurels of victory in war go to those who ready in time of peace, and win the battle before it is fought.45 We now know that his reference to preparedness did not refer only to training and equipping a force. It also includes planning for information operations. Togo proved in his day a key tenant that still holds true today: Integrating information operations into every facet of war planning breeds success. Failing to do so invites failure.



Sun Tzu, The Art of War. Translated and with an introduction by Samuel B. Griffith (London: Oxford University Press, 1971). 66. 2. A. Watts and B. Gordon, The Imperial Japanese Navy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1971), x. 3. Sun Tzu, 149. 4. Many military observers in this war would become well known in the west, including: Sir Ian Hamilton, John Pershing, Arthur and Douglas MacArthur. 5. The following history is summarized from: Julian Corbett, Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905, (London: Admiralty War Staff, 1915). The Official History of the Russo-Japanese War. Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defense. (London: Harrison and Sons. 1909). Bernard Brodie, A Layman's Guide to Naval Strategy (Princeton University Press, 1944). Peter Paret et al., Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). 6. Sun Tzu, 147. 7. Sun Tzu, 148. 8. Richard Deacon, Kempei Tai: the Japanese Secret Service Then and Now (Charles E. Tuttle company), 59. 9. Denis and Peggy Warner, The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 (NY: Charterhouse, 1974), 174. 10. Toshio Tani, Secret Russo-Japanese War History (Tokyo: Harashobo Publishing Company, 1966), 258 and Deacon, 61. 11. Deacon, 61. 12. Richard Connaughton, The War of the Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: A military History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-5 (London: Routledge, 1988), 12. 13. The New History of the Japanese-Russian Sea Battle (Tokyo, JA: Tokyo Publishing Company, 1985), 225. 14. Ronald Seth, Secret Servants: A History of Japanese Espionage (NY: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1957), 72 15. Connaughton, 12. 16. The three ships converted to AGIs were the TATSUTA, the CHIHAYA, and the YAEYAMA. See Japans Great War History (Tokyo, JA: Sankyo Shoin, March, 1944), 114. 17. Connaughton, 12. 18. Reginald Hargreaves, Red Sun Rising: The Siege of Port Arthur (Lippincott Company, 1962).

19. 20.

Connaughton, 51. Novikoff-Priboy, Tsushima, Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul. (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1936), 68. 21. Sun Tzu, 100. 22. Lyman A. Cotten, The Naval Strategy of the Russo-Japanese War, Naval Institute Proceedings, 36 (March 1910), 57. 23. Thomas G. Fergusson, British Military Intelligence, 18701914: The Development of a Modern Intelligence Organization (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1984). 184. 24. Warner, 94. 25. Warner, 256. 26. Diary and records of LT McCully at U.S. National Archives under following entry: Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Office of Naval Intelligence, 1882-1954: Communications with Naval Attaches, 1882-43. Confidential letters received from LT N.A. McCully regarding military operations in Manchuria, 1904-1905. Diary and related records of LT N.A. McCully, 1904-1905. 27. Ibid. 28. Sun Tzu, 77. 29. Official History, 42. 30. Togo, The Naval Battles of the Russo-Japanese War, Translated by J. Takakusu. (Tokyo, JA: Gogakukyokwai. 1907), 2. 31. Warner, 4, and Connaughton, 30. 32. Brodie, 262. 33. Warner, 68. 34. Memorial Ship Mikasa (Yokosuka, JA: Mikasa Preservation Society), 10, and Japans Great War History, 114. 35. Deacon, 64. 36. The New History of the Japanese-Russian Sea Battle, 224.
37. 38. 39.

Priboy, 94. The New History of the Japanese-Russian Sea Battle, 224.

Recalling the Great Battle of the Sea of Japan (Yokosuka, JA: Mikasa Preservation Society, 1930). 40. David Walder, The Short Victorious War: The Russo-Japanese Conflict (NY: Harper and Row, 1973), 41. 41. Togo, 47. 42. Togo, 97. 43. Sun Tzu, 144. 44. Sun Tzu, 67. 45. Togo, 127.