Machinery: 25 Belleville boilers, two vertical triple-expansion (VTE) steam engines
Coal: 700 tons (standard load); 1,521 tons (full load)
Length: 432 feet
Width: 76 feet
Draft: 27 feet
Standard displacement: 15,140 tons
Speed: 18 knots
Maximum range: 7,000 miles at 10 knots with standard load
Armor: Krupp cemented armor (main belt 4–9 inches)
Armament: Four 12-inch, 14 6-inch, 20 12-pounder, eight 3-pounder and four 2.5-pounder guns; four 18-inch submerged torpedo tubes
Laid down by Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness, England, on Jan. 24, 1899, launched on Nov. 8, 1900, and commissioned on March 1, 1902, Mikasa was the last of six modern battleships ordered from Britain by the Imperial Japanese Navy. While its five predecessors were protected by Harvey nickel-steel armor, Mikasa boasted the latest cemented steel armor from Krupp. On each of the six battleships the Japanese concentrated armor along the starboard and port main belt and in the gun turrets and forward conning tower rather than in the entire hull, as the Russians did on their warships, thus gaining 2 knots more speed. The armor was only 4 inches thick at either end, however, leaving the Japanese battleships vulnerable to mines. This led
to the sinking of Hatsuse and Yashima off the Russian naval base at Port Arthur, China, on May 15, 1904, amid the Russo-Japanese War.
Although outnumbered and outgunned by the Russian battleships, Adm. Heihachiro Togo (who made Mikasa his flagship) and his officers trained to operate with their armored cruisers at 3 miles or closer in order to bring all their guns into play. They held their own in the Battle of the Yellow Sea on Aug. 10, 1904, although Mikasa and Asahi were damaged. The Japanese line proved devastating against Vice Adm. Zinovy Rozhestvensky’s poorly organized and trained squadrons in the Tsushima Strait on May 27–28, 1905. On the night of September 11–12—a week after the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed, formally ending the war—Mikasa caught fire, exploded and sank at its moorings, killing 251 crewmen. Raised and repaired, it served through World War I and supported the postwar intervention in Siberia. Decommissioned in 1923, it was kept as a war relic and survived Allied bombing attacks in 1945. Although the Soviet Union wanted it destroyed, U.S. Navy Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz—an admirer of Togo—supported Mikasa’s restoration. In 1961 the historic pre-dreadnought battleship reopened as a museum ship at Yokosuka, where it remains. MH
This article was published in the January 2022 issue of Military History. For more stories, subscribe and visit us on Facebook.