Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 26, 2012

Battle of Myeongnyang

October 26, 1597: The Battle of Myeongnyang is fought. A series of attacks between a newly unified Japan and modern day Korea took place between 1592 and 1598. Toyotomi Hideyoshi of Japan led attacks against the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, the Jurchens (people of Manchuria), and eventually the Ming Dynasty of China. There are several names for this: Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea, the Seven Year War, or the Imjin War. The last name is in reference to the first attack led by the Japanese in the the imjin year of the sexagenary cycle of the Korean calendar. In China, it is also called the Wanli Korean Campaign, after the reigning emperor of that country.

The Josean admiral Yi Sunsin had been in trouble with the leaders of the fractious dynasty court. He was impeached and nearly put to death. Rather than a death sentence, he was tortured and reduced in rank to a common soldier. His rival, Admiral Won Gyun took over the fleet which Yi and carefully built from 63 heavy ships to 166. Admiral Won was a master of political intrigue but a buffoon at logistical and tactical maneuvers in war. At the Battle of Chilchonryang on August 27, 1597 the Japanese under the command of Todo Takatora nearly wiped the Korean navy out.

Admiral Won was killed at Chilchonryang. There were only 12 panokseon ships left to the navy. These were oar and sail propelled ships and were the major type of warship used by the Josean Dynasty. King Seonjo opted to disband the navy. Yi wrote him a letter proclaiming that there were still 12 ships and he would never allow the Japanese into the Western Sea. One more ship was added to Yi’s fleet before this day’s battle. Yi placed his fleet guarding the Myeongnyang Strait, a place with strong currents which switched directions every three hours. The narrowness of the strait would also make it impossible for his small fleet to be flanked by the approaching Japanese fleet of over 300 ships.

Using his understanding of the currents and his military knowhow, Yi managed to damage many Japanese ships. His ships, in the shadows of the surrounding hills, were difficult to target. Early in the battle, a body was seen floating in the water wearing the distinctive clothing of a daimyo, or Japanese leader. The body was hauled aboard and was identified as Kurushima Michifusa, a leader met in battle prior to this day. His head was cut off and posted on the mast of the Josean flagship. As the tide shifted, the Japanese ships were pulled back out of the strait and ran into other ships behind them. They lost 31 ships and many others suffered significant damage. The Japanese withdrew. With supplies cut off from the mainland, the Japanese had to institute an general retreat as well.

A country’s strategy is always based on a fundamental philosophical outlook. – Marc Forne Molne

Finally, strategy must have continuity. It can’t be constantly reinvented. – Michael Porter

Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there. – John P. Kotter

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day:

Tombstone, Arizona – In 1881, the gunfight at the OK Corral took place.
Whoa! – In 1861, Pony Express service officially ended.
Cloud of Death – In 1948, Donora, Pennsylvania was shrouded in a toxic fog.