By Louis Ciotola January and February 1905 were critical months for both the Russian and Japanese empires, which were locked in a war over East Asia that neither of them could sustain. The enormous Russian Empire, assumed by most observers to be militarily far superior to its Asian rival, had failed to quickly subdue Japan. Now Russia was facing increasing domestic turmoil at home, which threatened not only to derail the war effort but possibly to topple the monarchy itself. Meanwhile, Japan, being far smaller than its adversary, was quickly running short of men and resources. With desperation taking hold, the Japanese hoped to achieve a decisive victory. It was a race against time for both empires—a race that only one of them could win. Each would attempt to do so in frozen, desolate Manchuria. The year began victoriously for Japan, but the triumphs were far from the decisive blow the Japanese were seeking. Still, the capture of Port Arthur freed up valuable troops that could be used to strike a decisive blow in Manchuria, where a large Japanese army sat facing the Russians along the Sha Ho River south of the village of Mukden. The situation was tense. Separated by only a few hundred yards, the opposing armies held tightly to their fortified positions. But despite appearances, both had ambitious plans to attack. Field Marshal Oyama Iwao awaited only the arrival of General Nogi Maresuke from Port Arthur before launching a carefully designed offensive that he hoped would w


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