Address on the Dissolution of the Combined Fleet
The war of twenty months’ duration is now a thing of the past, and our United Squadron, having completed its function, is to be herewith dispersed. But our duties as naval men are not at all lightened for that reason. To preserve in perpetuity the fruits of this war; to promote to an ever greater height of prosperity the fortunes of the country, the navy, which, irrespective of peace or war, has to stand between the Empire and shock from abroad, must always maintain its strength at sea and must be prepared to meet emergency.
This strength does not consist solely in ships and armament; it consist also in immaterial ability to utilize such agents. When we understand that one gun which scores a hundred per cent. of hits is a match for a hundred of the enemy’s guns each of which scores only one per cent. it becomes evident that we sailors must have recourse before everything to the strength which is over and above externals. The triumphs recently won by our Navy are largely to be attributed to the habitual training which enable us to garner the fruits of the fighting.
If then we infer the future from the past, we recognize that though war may ceases we can not abandon ourselves to ease and rest. A soldier’s whole life is one continuous and unseasing battle, and there is no reason why his responsibilities should vary with the state of the times. In days of crisis he has to display his strength; in days of peace to accumulate it, thus perpetually and uniquely discharging his duties to the full. It was no light task that during the past year and a half we fought with wind and waves, encountered heat and cold, and kept the sea while frequently engaging a stubborn enemy in a death or life struggle; yet, when we reflect, this is seen to have been only one in a long series of general maneuvers, wherein we had the happiness to make some discoveries; happiness which throws into comparative insignificance the hardships of war.
If men calling themselves sailors grasp at the pleasure of peace, they will learn the lesson that however fine in appearance their engines of war, these, like a house built on the sand, will fall at the first approach of the storm. From the day when in ancient times we conquered Korea, that country remained for over 400 years under our control, to be lost immediately as soon as our navy declined. Again when under the sway of the Tokugawa in modern days our armaments were neglected, the coming of a few American ships threw us into distress, and we were unable to offer any resistance to attempts against the Kuriles and Saghalien.
On the other hand, if we turn to the annals of the Occident, we see that at the beginning of the 19th century the British Navy which won the battles of the Nile and of Trafalgar, not only made England as secure as a great mountain but also by thenceforth carefully maintaining its strength and keeping it on a level with the world’s progress, has throughout the long interval between that era and the present day safe-guarded the country’s interests and promoted its fortunes.
For such lessons, whether ancient or modern, Occidental or Oriental, though to some extent they are the outcome of political happenings, must be regarded as in the main the natural result of whether the soldier remembers war in the day of peace. We naval men who have survived the war must take these examples deeply to heart, and adding to the training which we have already received our actual experiences in the war, must plan future developments and seek not to fall behind the progress of the time.
If, keeping the instructions of our Sovereign ever graven on our hearts, we serve earnestly and diligently, and putting forth our full strength, await what the hour may bring forth, we shall then have discharged our great duty of perpetually guarding our country. Heaven gives the crown of victory to those only who by habitual preparation win without fighting, and at the same time forthwith deprives of that crown those who, content with one success, give themselves up to the ease of peace. The ancients well said:
“Tighten your helmet strings in the hour of victory.”
(Dated) 21st December, 1905.
而（しこう)して、武力なるものは艦船兵器のみにあらずして、之を活用する無形の実力にあり。百発百中の一砲能（よ)く百発一中の敵砲百門に対抗し得るを 覚（さと)らば我等軍人は主として武力を形而上に求めざるべからず。近く我海軍の勝利を得たる所以（ゆえん)も至尊霊徳に由る処多しと雖（いえど)も抑 （そもそも)亦（また)平素の練磨其因を成し、果を戦役に結びたるものして若し既往を以って将来を推すときは征戦息（や)むと雖（いえど)も安んじて休憩 す可らざきものあるを覚ゆ。惟（おも)ふに武人の一生は連綿不断の戦争にして時の平戦に依り其責務に軽重あるの理（ことわり)無し。
事有らば武力を発揮し、事無かれば之を修養し、終始一貫其本分を尽さんのみ。過去一年有余半彼（か）の波濤（はとう）と戦い、寒暑に抗し、屡（しばしば) 頑敵（がんてき)と対して生死の間に出入（しゅつにゅう)せし事、固（もと)より容易の業（わざ)ならざりし、観ずれば是亦（これまた)長期の一大演習に して之に参加し幾多啓発するを得たる武人の幸福比するに物無く豈（あに)之を征戦の労苦とするに足らんや。
昔者（むかし）神功皇后三韓を征服し給ひし以来、韓国は四百余年間我統理の下にありしも一度（ひとたび)海軍の廃頽（はいたい)するや忽ち之を失ひ又近 世に入り徳川幕府治平に狃（な）れて兵備を懈（おこた)れば挙国米船数隻の応対に苦しみ露艦亦（また）千島樺太を覬するも之に抗争する能（あた)はざるに 至れり。翻って之を西史に見るに十九世紀の初めに当たり、ナイル及びトラファルガー等に勝ちたる英国海軍は祖国を泰山の安きに置きたるのみならず爾来後進 相襲（あいつい)で能（よ)く其武力を保有し世運の進歩に後れざりしかば今に至る迄永く其（その)国利（こくり)を擁護し、国権を伸張するを得たり。
蓋（けだ)し此の如き古今東西の殷鑑（いんかん)は為政の然らしむるものありしと雖も主として武人が治に居いて乱を忘れざると否とに基づける自然の結果た らざるは無し。我等戦後の軍人は深く此等（これら)の事例に鑑（かんが)み既有の練磨に加ふるに戦役の実験を以ってし、更に将来の進歩を図りて時勢の発展 に遅れざるを期せざるべからず。若し夫（そ)れ常に聖諭（せいゆ)を奉戴（ほうたい)して孜孜奮励し、実力の満を持して放つべき時節を待たば庶幾（こいね がわ)くは以って永遠に護国の大任を全うする事を得ん。神明は唯（ただ)平素の鍛練に力（つと)め、戦はずして既に勝てる者に勝利の栄冠を授くると同時に 一勝に満足して治平に安（やすん)ずる者より直（ただち)に之を奪ふ。
明治三十八年十二月二十一日 連合艦隊司令長官 東郷 平八郎