Russian Battleship Vs. Japanese Battleship: Yellow Sea 1904-05 by Robert Forczyk is a book in Osprey’s “Duel” series, which provides accounts of machines of war pitted against each other and the combatants that operated them. As with most of the technical books of Osprey, this is a very detailed analysis of the Russian and Japanese battleships that fought in the Russo-Japanese War.
I have always had an interest in learning more about this war. Although this book does not touch on the land battles between the Russians and Japanese, it provides a wonderful account of what occurred between the two countries’ navies in two crucial battles (Yellow Sea and Tsushima) and several minor skirmishes. This was the coming-out party for the Imperial Japanese Navy and what a party it was.
Forczyk not only provides a detailed narrative of the naval battles and how the Japanese bested the Russians (overwhelmingly so in the Battle of Tsushima), but he also includes an in-depth analysis of the competing battleship designs and ideas (including gun, communication, and armor development). For example, he looks at the British and French designs for battleship design (these two countries were the leaders in design at the time) and how those designs influenced the outcome of the war.
Forczyk’s gives an objective analysis of the Russian and Japanese commanders. He criticizes the performances of each side’s commanders – although the Russians are judged more harshly based upon their extremely poor performance. For instance, in the Battle of the Yellow Sea, he criticizes Russian Vice-Admiral Vilgelm Vitgeft for his timidity and Admiral Heihachiro Yogo for his poor attempt of “crossing the T” maneuver.
For anyone interested in the late 1800s and early 1900s international battleship development race, this book is an excellent resource.