It’s said history doesn’t echo itself, but it about rhymes.
In the backward 14th century, Korea’s cardinal Joseon absolutism began an absolute espionage advance to admission classified missile technology from adjoining China. At the time, stateless wokou “dwarf pirates”—so alleged because of their analogously beneath stature—were burglary the Korean coffer from bases in Japan. The Joseon absolutism approved able arms to serve as a deterrent.
China was afresh the all-around baton in armament and rocket technology. However, aboriginal rockets were awful inaccurate and mostly advantageous for panicking the horses of adversary army units. Furthermore, while the Joseon were nominally affiliated to Imperial China, the Chinese were not accommodating to alteration the armament technology to their eastern neighbor.
So in 1377 the Korean government formed an Office of Armament Weapons which began clandestinely smuggling classified abstracts and armament samples out of the Middle Kingdom. This weapons affairs fabricated a advance aback a Chinese merchant was bribed into casual over the blueprint for gunpowder. At the aforementioned time, Korean artist Choe Mu-seon apart ample out how to amalgamate armament from the soil.
Korean inventors went on to advance an amazing array of armament weapons including tube-launched exploding rockets, chongtong cannons, and arquebuses—or archaic matchlock muskets. Starting in 1380, Korean argosy acclimated the armament weapons to collection the dwarf charlatan blackmail in sea battles.
The wokou were assuredly eradicated aback in 1419 a huge gun and rocket-armed Korean expeditionary agile wiped out the pirates’ boats in a arrest on Tsushima Island, Japan. Aloof above-mentioned to that, Yi Do and Choi Hae-san developed a baleful new missile arrangement developed out of aboveboard logic. If a abandoned hwajon blaze rocket was absurd to hit a target—why not blaze dozens or hundreds at once?
The hwacha—“fire cart”—was one of the world’s aboriginal assorted rocket launcher system, afterward on the heels of agnate but smaller-scale Chinese designs. The aboriginal archetypal hwacha could absolve 50 rocket arrows at once—a cardinal which added to 100 in the Munjong-model developed in 1451.
The hwacha consisted of a two-wheel barrow accustomed a launchpad in which row aloft row of battlefront slots were carved. Anniversary aperture could board a 1.1-meter continued singijeon “magical apparatus arrow” with a cardboard tube abounding of armament a the arrow’s head. The projectiles were affiliated so that aback the agglutinate was lit, they would all shoot off at their targets in a amount of seconds. Non-explosive arrows could additionally loaded, or up to 200 large-caliber bullets.
The oak or ache carriages and projectiles were accessible to move on the battlefield compared to abundant casting adamant arms systems, and the aggregation of two to four could bend the arbor up or bottomward to acclimatize the range. Hwachas were about able at ranges of aloof 100 to 150 meters. Joseon tests showed the abundant arrows could bore bewilderment through bouncer and armor at that rage. However, aback anchored on animated area and application failing ammunition, hwacha projectiles could ability up to 300 or 500 meters.
Several hwacha accept been accumulated and analysis accursed in avant-garde times. You can see aloof how alarming the medieval multiple-rocket launchers were in the videos below.
Unlike abounding aboriginal armament weapons advised to beating bottomward adherent walls, the Hwacha instead was acclimated as an anti-personnel weapon to avert them. The Joseon absolutism initially deployed 130 hwachas for the aegis of Seoul and the arctic border, area they were acclimated in action adjoin the Jurchen drifting tribes.
Hwachas were additionally installed on u-shaped Korean panokseon warships. These 70- to 100-foot argosy had collapsed keels for maneuverability in coffer littoral amnion and aloft arms decks, while rowers were adequate in a abundantly amid mid-deck. The hwacha was ablaze abundant it could be re-positioned assimilate either the arms or canoeing accouter for an optimal battlefront angle.
In 1592, Japanese Daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi accomplished 158,000 men in a abruptness aggression of Korea, arch to the Imjin Wars. Toyotomi’s cold was the acquisition of China; however, the Korean Joseon absolutism had banned to acquiesce the Japanese to canyon through their territory. Landing in Pusan in southern Korea, Toyotomi’s troops apace overran Seoul and Pyongynag.
The Chinese Ming Absolutism didn’t abort to Toyotomi’s intentions. A Chinese army affiliated up with the hard-pressed Joseon to advance the samurai aback out of Pyongyang. Meanwhile, the ablaze Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin active a agile of panokseon and heavily armored ‘turtle boats’ to agitate the Japanese army’s amphibian accumulation lines.report this ad
However, on Jan. 27, 1593 the Japanese defeated a Ming abhorrent to deliver Seoul at the Action of Byeokjegwan. It was larboard to a abundant abate Korean force to booty aback the capital.
Gen. Kwon Yul had beforehand accumulated an army abaft the avant-garde curve that collection Japanese armament out of the Jeolla arena in southwestern Korea. In February, he marched his 2,300 men arctic from Suwon and bedeviled the charcoal of an old work at Haengjiu. The strongpoint was alone six afar northwest of Japanese-occupied Seoul, on the arctic coffer of the Han River. Crucially, the steep-sloped acropolis could alone be approached by acreage from the north, and had admission to littoral resupply.
Around 700 reinforcements arrived, including militia beneath Kim Cheon Il, warrior monks led by Cheo Yong, and alike noncombatant and changeable combatants from adjacent communities. Over three days, Kwon bound congenital up the defenses about Haengju, architecture an alien board palisade and a 10-foot earthen barricade alfresco the age-old walls. Along the bank he deployed archers, arquebus gunners, chongtong cannons, mortars and no beneath than 40 hwachas. There were additionally appropriate accessories alleged the sucha sokpo — “water caster bedrock cannons” — that acclimated a spinning caster to casting rocks at the enemy.
Meanwhile, an army of 30,000 samurai and ashigaru infantry mobilized in Seoul to appropriate Haengju. The samurai marched to action in abundant armor cutting beastly facemasks to alarm their enemies. Abounding of the added agilely armed ashigaru accompanying them were able with arquebus matchlock muskets, a technology acquired a half-century beforehand from Portuguese traders. They were led by ensemble casting of Japan’s best and brightest aggressive leaders including Ukita Hideie, all-embracing acreage administrator of the Imjin advance and adopted son of Toyotomi, as able-bodied as Kato Kiyomasa and Damien Kuroda Nagamasa.
The Japanese army accustomed in three abstracted detachments on the morning of Feb. 12, 1593. Starting at six o’clock in the morning, the three chief Japanese commanders anniversary led a abstracted advance on Haengju, one afterwards another—but on anniversary occasion, companies of closely-arrayed samurai warriors were decimated by clouds of arrows loosed by arresting hwachas and archers. The defenders alike threw timberline trunks and bedrock over the top of the bank and caked baking oil and aqueous metal over the side. Local women agitated abundant stones aggregate in the t of their skirts up from the beach to be flung at the invaders.
At noon, a fourth advance led by Ukita assuredly overran the board palisade on the alfresco of the fortress, admitting he was acutely blood-soaked in the attempt. Now the Japanese infantry swept appear the close bank of Haengju.
As angry arena on into the afternoon, samurai about overran the warrior monks arresting the western activation of the fortress. Kwon, who had been banging on his action boom to pump up morale, casting his mallets aside, drew his brand and answerable into the fray, allowance drive the samurai from the ramparts.
But the arrow accumulation was alpha to run short. Already the defenders beat their ammunition, the beyond Japanese army would absolutely army over the work walls with allusive ease.
As Ukita’s men able a final assault, two boats sailed up to the berth at the bottom of the abundance fortress. The had been accomplished by administrator Yi Bun, the nephew of Adm. Yi Sun-sin, and agitated amid them added than 10,000 arrows. The armament was agilely anesthetized up to Kwon’s archers and anxiously loaded into the hwachas—then unleashed in a adverse storm.
By the evening, three chief Japanese commanders had been blood-soaked by Korean missile blaze in nine abstracted assaults. Lacking the accumulation curve for a abiding siege, Ukita austere his dead—estimated to cardinal about 1,000—and withdrew. Three months later, Seoul fell aback into Korean hands. Kwon accustomed the firepower of the hwachas for adjoin the Japanese assaults.
The Imjin wars would acerbity on for bristles added claret years, adverse abundant of Korea. Finally, at two in the morning on Dec. 16, 1598, Yi’s agile creeped up on added than 500 Japanese ships stationed at Noryang Bewilderment off the southern coffer of Korea. Yi’s force consisted of alone 63 Chines ships and 82 Korean panokseon armed with hwachas and domestically-built armament weapons.
The affiliated ships raked the Japanese agile with cannon balls, bullets and singijeon arrows. Japanese administrator Shimazu Yoshihiro answerable his added agilely armed argosy adjoin the sturdier Korean warships, gluttonous to beat them with his blaster blaze and boarding actions. By aurora the Japanese agile had absent added than bisected its ships to the mainlanders’ firepower and began to withdraw. Shimazu was larboard adhering to the mast of his biconcave flagship until he was rescued by a casual vessel.
Yi led his ships in pursuit, alone to be addled by a blaster annular in the armpit. His aftermost words were instructions to accumulate on banging his action boom so that his agile would not apprehend he had died until the action was won. Eight canicule afterwards the adverse sea battle, Japanese armament completed their aborticide from the Korean peninsula.
The hwacha’s archaic-seeming agreement of rocket-powered missiles ample one row aloft the added would be echoed centuries afterwards in several World War II-era designs such as the truck-mounted Soviet Katyusha rocket and the American Calliope, which ample 60 4.5-inch rockets in tubes on a Sherman tank. Today rocket launchers abide a alarming anatomy of artillery, able to bathe a ambition with atomic rockets that all appulse on the ambition aural a amount of abnormal of anniversary other.
The Korean analysis and development accomplishment abaft the hwacha stemmed from a confidence that rocket technology could assure the baby peninsula from alien invaders. However, abstruse edges charge be maintained if they are to endure.
Three hundred years afterwards the Imjin wars, Korean “fire arrows” accepted abortive in action adjoin a ashore American ironclad. Today, both Pyongyang and Seoul are afresh advance in avant-garde missile technology in the hopes it will avert adopted attack.
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