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Recently a retired officer of the Russian army and a correspondent of the “Russ” came to call upon me. When war broke out between Russia and Japan he was at Harbin; soon afterward he was summoned to Port Arthur and set out thither. But by that time communication had been cut off by our army, and in consequence he was obliged to return to Vladivostock. According to my visitor’s story the railway trains from the Russian capital were loaded with decorations and prize money, and the officers and men traveling in the same trains were in the highest of spirits, as if they had been going through a triumphal arch after a victory accomplished. They seemed to believe that the civilized Russian army was to crush into pieces the half-civilized forces of Japan and that the glittering decorations and jingling gold were soon to be theirs. They did not entertain in the least the feeling with which a man enters a tiger’s den or knocks at death’s door. The Japanese fighters, on the contrary, marched bravely to the front, fully prepared to suffer agonies and sacrifice their lives for their sire and their country, with the determination of the true old warrior who went to war ready to die, and never expected to come back alive. The Russian army lacked harmony and cooperation between superiors and inferiors. Generals were haughty, and men weary; while officers were rich, soldiers were left hungry. Such relations are something like those between dogs and monkeys. On the other hand, the Japanese army combined the strictest of discipline with the close friendship of comrades, as if they were all parents and sons, or brothers. Viewed from this standpoint, the success or failure of both armies might have been clearly foreseen even before the first battle. My Russian guest spoke thus, and his observations seem to the point.
The army of our country is strict in discipline and yet harmonious through its higher and lower ranks. The soldiers vie with each other in offering themselves on the altar of their country, the spirit of self-sacrifice prevails to a marked degree. This is the true characteristic of the race of Yamato. And in the siege of Port Arthur this sublime national spirit showed itself especially vigorous. Materially calculated, the loss and damage to our besieging army was enormous. If, however, the spiritual activity this great struggle entailed is taken into consideration, our gain was also immense,—it has added one great glory to the history of our race. Even the lowest of soldiers fought in battle-fields with unflinching courage, and faced death as if it were going home, and yet the bravest were also the tenderest. Many a time they must have shed secret tears, overwhelmed with emotion, while standing in the rainfall of bullets. They respected and obeyed the dictates at once of honor and duty in all their service, and shouted Banzai to His Imperial Majesty at the moment of death. Their display of the true spirit of the Japanese Samurai is radically different from the behavior of men who appear on the fighting line with only the prospect of decorations and money before their eyes.
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