Japan Won The First Major War That Began In The 20th Century

(Japanese assault against Russian forces, c. October 10,1904, from Le Patriote Illustré, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)


The 20th century was filled to the brim with wars, including two world wars and multiple communist revolutions. A slew of conflicts were caused by the Cold War between capitalist democracies and communist regimes, which made the 20th century a tense and weary hundred years. The first nation to win a major war that began and ended in that fateful century, however, was none other that the newly modernized country of Japan.

After the 1850s, Japan shed its isolationism and leaped toward modernization. With land forces trained in German strategy, a navy modeled after Britain and an education system inspired by the United States, Japan quickly became a power to be reckoned with. The Japanese proved their newfound capabilities by defeating a major western power in warfare.

The conflict was the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), where Russia and Japan faced off to determine who would control Korea. The Japanese struck fast. They blockaded a Russian Fleet in Port Arthur and occupied Korea. Next, the Japanese pushed up towards Mongolia and Manchuria. The armies of Japan and Russia finally met in the great Battle of Mukden (February-March, 1905). In one of the largest battles in history, approximately 292,219 Russians faced off against 208,342 Japanese. Japan won the day, but both sides lost tens of thousands of men. Japan sealed its victory over Russia when it destroyed another large Russian fleet in May, prompting Russia to concede defeat on September 5, 1905.


  • Warfare in the Western World: Military Operations Since 1871, by Robert A. Doughty and Ira D. Gruber et al. Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1996.

Leave a Reply