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Jack London in the Russian-Japanese War

About an extraordinary man who knew how to look into the eyes of danger

Jack London in the Russian-Japanese War

Everyone knows this writer, a brave gold digger, a desperate vagabond traveler, a stubborn explorer of the slums of the English capital, a great sailor in the southern seas, the author of excellent essays, novels and stories known throughout the world. And they know less about London - a war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War. But he was the first of the foreign correspondents, contrary to the prohibitions, to get closest to the battlefield.

The bow of the warship sticks out above the surface of the water. The pipe is visible, the deck rigging. The frames were shot from different angles. The gear of some sunken ships also hit the lens. In the distance, near the horizon, the tops of the masts of a large ship are smoking. And the signature under the photograph is in his hand - "Varyag".

Two weeks before the declaration of hostilities, Jack London arrived in Yokohama at the end of January. Then there were Tokyo - Kobe - Nagasaki - Modi - Kokura - Shimonoseki. The writer poked around Japanese cities and towns, trying to sail to Korea, where there were two Russian warships and one could expect a fight.

Jack was hurrying with all his might. I heard that although the war has not yet been announced, there, in a quiet neutral port, the Russian ships - the Varyag cruiser and the Korean gunboat - are surrounded by superior forces of the Japanese squadron. The Russians will not surrender, there will definitely be a battle. Japanese military patrols every now and then checked documents, detained, prohibited to take photographs, finally arrested, took his camera away from him, but returned a day later. Achieved that he was late for the steamer to Korea, he had to cross the Sea of ​​Japan and circumambulate the bad weather in the Korean Peninsula.

9 February, when London was making its way along the fragile junk along the tangled coast of the Yellow Sea to Chemulpo, which was full of islands and impassable reefs, the Japanese fleet in battle formation suddenly attacked Port Arthur.

In vain by an insidious attack on the day of the attack on Port Arthur, the Japanese tried to seize Russian ships stationed in the Portuguese port. The whole world now knows about the immortal feat of the seamen "Varyag" and "Koreans", sung in songs.

It is snowing. His ears, hands and feet are frostbitten. But it's a shame that he did not have time. He was prevented from becoming a witness to the unprecedented dedication of Russian sailors. Historical tragedy has already happened. Jack and his accompanying photographer Dunn, two weeks later, shot the arena of a deadly battle.

In the hall of the manuscripts of the Huntington Library, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, blessed silence. I leaf through an album of hundreds of photographs of Jack London, which he shot in Korea and Manchuria. He was the first foreign correspondent, in spite of the prohibitions, to get closer to the battlefields. His professional courage and determination were noted by all the special forces. "I'm not afraid of death, although I love life," he repeated, "I'm not afraid of illness, I'm not afraid of injuries, but I can not bear the pain."

In Chemulpo he bought horses, provisions for the road, hired an interpreter, two coolies.

Iron nose, trumpet and scraps of ship's rigging over the calm surface of the water are the remains of the Korean gunboat sank by the crew of the gunboat. "I'm dying, but I'm not giving up!" - this was the motto of valiant warriors. They amicably launched a Japanese destroyer into the background and two damaged. These painfully compressed images of sunk Russian ships were made in February 1904 by the military chauffeur of the American newspaper San Francisco Examiner, Jack London, in the Korean port of Chemulpo.

There are other photographs of the military commissar of London: the streets of the village of Chemulpo, the Japanese infantry on the march, the torpedo salvo of their destroyer, hundreds of refugees with pathetic luggage, a group of Russian prisoners - all in bandages, wounded. The aggressor's artillery was made to fire. Their soldiers are moving across the river. More refugees-Koreans: women, children. Crosses over Russian tombs. The newspaper: across the entire strip - on the operating table wounded in the environment of doctors. Signature: this is the first photo of the Russian, operated by Japanese surgeons.

Military episodes and assessments are given by the author mainly from the Japanese side. London drew attention to the good telephone equipment, discipline and endurance of the Japanese soldiers, prudence and military cunning of their commanders, careful organization of the armed forces: the fleet - according to the English model, the army - according to the German.

"I do not know if there are still as calm, disciplined soldiers in the world as the Japanese. Our Americans would have long stirred the whole of Seoul with their antics and merry revelry, but the Japanese are not inclined to revelry. They are deadly serious. "

"The Japanese," concludes Jack London, "were able to use all the achievements of the West."

From Seoul, riding on roads slippery with dirt, he sneaks into Pyongyang. Once again, the patrol examines his camera. Jack in a cap, a hunting jacket, in boots, restraining himself, outwardly calmly presents documents. You can not shoot and you can not continue to go, the Japanese are forcing him to return to Seoul. “They don't let us see the war,” Jack is angry. It is not difficult to guess what feelings drove his pen. He could not, a supporter of a fair fight, approve of the treacherous aggressor.

"Until now it was considered compulsory," London writes sarcastically, "to observe the formalities: to declare war." And then you can kill, and then everything was in order.

The Japanese taught us a lesson. They did not declare war on Russia. They sent a fleet to Chemulpo, destroyed many Russians. And the war declared later. This method of murderers is introduced into the international principle He says: kill at first more manpower, and then declare that you will destroy even more. " (Boston Post, December 20 1904 of the year)

In the reports, London talked about the first confrontation between the Cossacks and Japanese forces, about the courage of Russian soldiers fighting to the last bullet, but forced to retreat under the pressure of much superior forces of the enemy.

"On one side of the river, winding through the flowering valley, there are a lot of Russians. On the other - a lot of Japanese, - describes London's military situation on the two sides of the Yalu River, emphasizing the senseless routine of war. - The Japanese want to cross the river. They want to cross the river to kill the Russians on the other side. The Russians do not want to be killed, so they are preparing to kill the Japanese when they go to the crossing. In this there is nothing personal. They rarely see each other. On the right, on the northern shore, several Russians are stubbornly firing from a long distance into the Japanese, who are firing off the islands on the river. The Japanese battery on the southern shore, on the right, begins to throw Russian shrapnel. Four miles to the left, the Russian battery pours this Japanese battery with enfilade fire. No result. From the center of Japanese positions, the battery fires on the Russian battery. With the same success. From the central position of the Russians, the battery begins to belch shells through the mountain, in the direction of the central Japanese battery. The Japanese battery on the right flank hits the Russian infantry. So goes on indefinitely: the Russian battery on the left now shoots at the central positions of the Japanese, the Russian battery in the center starts shooting at the right battery of the Japanese. "

The writer shows the naivety and mistakes of the Russian officers, who then camp and set up guns in open and easily vulnerable positions, then fall into a rather primitive trick of the Japanese command.

"A lot of Japanese soldiers looked with curiosity at the windows of a large Chinese house. Holding the horse, I also looked with interest at the window. And what I saw shocked me. In my mind this made the same impression as if I had been struck in the face with my fist. A man looked at me, a white man with blue eyes. He was dirty and torn. He was in heavy fighting. But his eyes were brighter than mine, and his skin was as white.

There were other white men with him-many white men. My throat stopped. I almost choked. They were people of my tribe. I suddenly and acutely realized that I was a stranger among these swarthy people who were staring out of the window with me. I felt a strange union with the people in the window. I felt that my place was there, with them, in captivity, and not here, at large, with strangers. "

The strict Japanese censorship obliged the voenker to be restrained in sympathy with the Russian side and very moderate in criticizing the Japanese. And yet in his reports there are feelings coming from justice, and in assessing the tactics and customs of the Japanese army there is wariness and serious concern. In his notes, he wrote: “The Japanese are undoubtedly a militant nation. All their men are soldiers. ” Jack London warned about the dangers of the trained and well-equipped militarist machine of Japan, about the lesson of Port Arthur and Chemulpo. Not even forty years had passed since the insidious Japanese attack on the American fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii taught a tragic lesson and confirmed the visionary writer's anxieties.

And then ... the Japanese arrested him three times, sent him to Seoul and forced a too-thorough correspondent, who almost did not hide his sympathy for the enemy, to leave the country. Soon more revealing articles and stories appeared in his hand (for example, the fantastic story “Unparalleled Invasion”, the article “Yellow Danger”) with warnings about the threat to humanity from the Far East.

"The Japanese are Asians, and Asians do not appreciate life the way we appreciate it. The Japanese generals know that the population will not ask the soldiers given for them in exchange for a victory, the population wants victory, brilliant victory, victory at any cost. "

And for many decades, this widely acclaimed literary man, who passed the hard way from a laborer, a gold prospector and a farmer to a literary day laborer and journalist, a famous humanist writer translated into 70 languages, was in the Land of the Rising Sun among the undesirable authors. For many years, Jack London was not published in Japan.

However, the attraction of true values ​​of art and people's striving for truth are irrepressible. And now, in Japan, the Society of Jack London was created. His works are published, his works are discussed, Japanese specialists participate in annual international literary symposia dedicated to the writer.

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