Chapter 103 - The Battle of Manila
The Battle of Manila
In many ways, Japan was widely expected to lose the Spanish-Japanese War fairly quickly. Once the Spanish Fleet from Europe and the Caribbean arrived, the general belief would be that the Japanese would be defeated at sea and blockaded in the same way that the Confederate States was. Japan in particular was also a food importer, predominantly from French Formosa and East Korea. An end to naval trade would prove disastrous for the Japanese. However, the Japanese has one tremendous advantage - they were much closer to the Philippines than Spain was. The Spanish Caribbean Fleet was to arrive in Europe, link up with the European Fleet, sail through Gibraltar and the Suez, and then travel to the Philippines. This was a critical aspect of Spanish war strategy, which is why Spanish battleships were just small enough to fit through the Suez Canal. However, the Suez Canal was in theory shared by the British and French. And although the Suez Agreement guaranteed free passage to both nations - it didn't stop either nation from vetoing fleets from other nations. In this case, the French declined Spanish access to the Suez and Panama, which necessitated going around the Cape of Africa. This was estimated to almost take half-a-year. In that time, Japan was in the driver's seat.
Although the Japanese government and the Tokonami cabinet had hoped to avoid the war, feeling they were unlikely to win, they realized that they had several months. The initial phase of the Spanish-Japanese War was marked by very aggressive advances by the Japanese, who went on the all-out offense. The entire Imperial Japanese Navy under Admiral Togo Heihachiro was sent straight to Manila, where they overwhelmingly outnumbered the Spanish Pacific Squadron. While some of the Spanish Pacific Squadron decided to make a last stand in Manila, the bulk of their forces were able to escape to North Borneo. Easily mopping up the Spanish Navy that chose not to flee, the Spanish garrison soon saw it flanked between members of the Philippine Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy. Japanese officials had ferried Emilio Aguinaldo from exile in Macau, promising him Filipino independence upon the defeat of the Spanish. With the long history of Japanese mercenaries and adventurers aiding Filipino independence fighters, Aguinaldo saw no reason to distrust the Japanese offer. The Imperial Japanese Army would land directly north of Manila and join in the Siege of Manila.
The Spanish Fleet hoped to arrive before the fall of Manila. That would not happen. The Spanish were wildly outnumbered and surrounded, on both land and sea. The formidable fortifications in Manila were unable to hold up again Japanese human wave attacks, who simply realized they could attack faster than the smaller Spanish garrison could shoot. The surrender of the Spanish garrison cut much of Spain's chain of command, especially as Governor-General Weyler died after refusing to surrender and charging Filipino-Japanese forces. The still de facto independent Republic of Zamboanga (largely run by more radical nationalists, often allied with radical Japanese pan-Asianists) took advantage of the chaos, seizing control of most of the Zamboanga Peninsula and even pushing into the rest of Mindanao. All this notably happened before the Spanish fleet had even gotten into Asia. The Spanish Army in the Pacific desperately regrouped, evading the Imperial Japanese Navy to either escape to the Visayas or North Borneo.
Most of the rest of the Spanish Army, facing insurmountable odds against a feared enemy, simply chose to desert en masse. Although some in the Japanese Army wanted to "pursue" them, orders from Tokyo did not believe they could hold onto the Philippines. As a result, instead of taking control of the Philippines directly like many more imperialist-minded Japanese thought (and that the government itself did in fact prefer), they simply turned over control to the Philippine Revolutionary Army, figuring they could delay the Spanish. The Japanese had seriously studied what had happened to the Confederate States of America in their war against Spain - and they believed that although the Confederates won on land in Cuba, they overcommitted to winning in Cuba and neglected defending the Home Country. Rather than further support an offensive into the Philippines, the Japanese Army was given only basic supplies (food?), with the rest of the Japanese war industry almost entirely dedicated to getting more ships into fighting action. Several not-entirely completed warships to rushed to the sea far earlier than planned. When the Spanish fleet arrived, ready to fight the Japanese fleet, the Japanese fleet simply ran away - back to their ally in Ryukyu.
Japan believed that the Spanish would basically spend time and effort retaking the Philippines - which was the rationale behind turning control over to the Philippine Revolutionary Army. The Imperial Japanese Army was pulled back to the Home Islands and to a smaller extent, the Ryukyu Islands (in compliance with the maximum garrison allowed under the Qing-Japanese Peace Treaty." Shocking the Japanese, the Spanish Fleet completely ignored the Philippines. Unsurprisingly, they had also studied the Spanish-Confederate War and believed that they could not retake the Philippines unless the Imperial Japanese Navy was as conclusively defeated as the Confederate Fleet was. The Japanese also believed that the Ryukyu Kingdom being a technical tributary of the Qing Empire would prevent a Spanish attack on Japan - but the Qing Empire had secretly given the Spanish the go-ahead on attacking Ryukyu. As a result, the Spanish Navy steamed directly towards the Japanese Fleet north of Okinawa, ready to fight the decisive confrontation of the Spanish-Japanese War and the largest clash of battleships until that point in history, the Battle of Miyako.