For centuries, the only way to get across the Earth was to embark on a long journey, ride a boat, and brave the high sea. But aside from serving as routes to get you from one place to another, the Earth’s ocean is also the place where so much conflict and violence happened. Throughout history, several nations built and sent enormous fleets to battle with one another and take control of the paths of the oceans.
And in this article, we gathered for you a selection of the largest, greatest, and most important naval fleets in history.
1. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 23-26, 1944
This naval fleet is probably the largest naval battle of World War II and according to some historians, it might even be the largest naval battle in history. All in all, It involved a total of three hundred ships, maritime crafts, and over four hundred planes.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf started when the Japanese Navy decided to push back against the American invasion in the Philippines. Because the Japanese believed that if the Philippines would lose to the American invasion, it meant that they also lose the South China Sea. That’s why they send a massive naval force which was divided into three groups to lure the allies into the sea and destroy them.
The end of the three-day naval fleet saw the loss of the Japanese Navy. Around three hundred planes were destroyed, six Japanese ships went missing, and almost 10,000 Japanese airmen and sailors died. On the other hand, the Americans lost over six ships, two hundred planes, and 3,000 sailors and airmen.
2. Battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942
The Battle of Midway was a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II it took place only one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan’s attack of Pearl Harbor. This naval fleet started when the Japanese had the plan to seize Midway Island and use it as a base for future attacks against the United States in Hawaii and the Pacific. They are decided to destroy the American reinforcements with a massive force.
But that the Japanese did not know was the United States intelligence had cracked down the Japanese codes and they were able to intercept Japan’s plans and they sent their own force of three aircraft carriers and prepared for battle.
In the end, it turned out as a massive loss for the Japanese navy because all of their heaviest aircraft carriers sunk, they lost a total of 292 aircraft and over 2,500 airmen and sailors.
The United States, on the other hand, lost a destroyer, 145 aircraft, and 307 sailors and airmen.
3. The D-Day Invasion Fleet
The D-Day invasion fleet supported the Normandy Landings during World War II. It’s consisted of 1,213 warships, 6,939 vessels, 4,126 landing crafts of different types, 864 merchant vessels, and 736 ancillary aircraft. These massive amounts of vessels and aircraft were drawn from different countries like the United States of America, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Poland, Germany, and Czechoslovakia.
D-Day was the top-secret American and British invasion of France in which they called it “Operation Overload” and their goal was to drive the German military back from occupying northern France. In the end, the allied casualties were at least 10,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead. The German casualties on D-Day are almost 9,000 men.
4. Battle of Tsushima, May 27-28, 1905
Also known as the Naval Battle of the Sea of Japan, the Battle of Tsushima witnessed the Empire of Japan take on the forces of the Russian Empire’s Pacific Squadron and Baltic Fleet. The war started when Russia’s Navy prevented Japan from controlling the sea and they intended to swarm the Japanese Navy with their combined forces. In the end, the Japanese sailors destroyed the Russian Navy. Almost two-thirds of Russia’s fleet was sunk during the battle and over 4,000 Russian sailors were killed and 5,000 sailors were captured.
The Battle of Tsushima proved that the Japanese were a major power and months later, the Russians accepted their defeat at the Treaty of Portsmouth.
5. Battle of Coronel, November 1, 1914
The Battle of Coronel was considered to be one of the first naval battles of World War I. it was between Britain’s Royal Navy and the German Empire’s Imperial Navy. And it took place in South America, off the coast of Chile.
It started when Germany’s East Asia Squadron retreated from its base in China after the Australian and British navy invaded the Pacific and Japan joined the war in the side of the allies. That’s why German Vice-Admiral Maximillian von Spee made the decision of using his ships as raiders to attack and scare away the vendors and merchant ships off the coast of South America to disrupt the commerce. That’s why Britain sent its West Indies Squadron to deal with what von Spee was doing.
In the end, Von Spee crushed the West Indies Squadron wherein two of their four ships sunk and over thousands of their sailors died. While the German did not have any fatalities and damage.
6. Greek Navy, Battle of Salamis, 480 BC
Although it was not the largest navy in the world at the time of the Second Persian invasion, the Greek Navy proved that they are powerful enough to beat the Persian Empire’s navy.
The Persian Empire created a multinational force which included Egyptians, Cypriots, Phoenicians, and several sailors from Asia Minor. And the Persian Fleet had a total of 1,207 triremes, an oared warship.
On the other hand, the Greek Navy, who was led by Sparta and Athens, only had an assembled force of 381 triremes. Even though they were clearly outnumbered by the Persian Navy, they still managed to inflict such losses that the Persian Navy was forced to withdraw.
7. Chinese Navy, 1433 AD
During the 15th century, the Chinese Navy was considered to be the most powerful in the world. it was led by the eunuch admiral named Zheng He and they commenced seven voyages in and around the Indian Ocean under the ruling of the Ming Dynasty. The Chinese Navy had an outward-looking agenda and this was to look for secure trade routes for the import of raw materials and luxuries to China.
The Chinese Navy was massive and by that we mean they have over 317 vessels where 60 of them were called as the “treasure ships” and they span over 400 feet long and 160 feet wide and the ships had nine masts and twelve sails.
8. Royal Navy, 1815-1918 AD
The Royal Navy became the largest and most powerful navy in the world at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. And it’s sole duty is to secure the sea lanes to the UK’s overseas colonies particularly in India, Africa, and North America.
The end of the Napoleonic War also started the “Pax Britannica” which means a period of relative peace in the world between the Great Powers. And even if the Royal Navy during that time was only 52,000 they played a big role in keeping a lid on the big war conflict.
And because they have to be some sort of global policeman, the Royal Navy maintained its strength through the “two-power standard” which means that they should be as strong as the next two largest navies combined. And this overwhelming superiority discouraged other powers from even challenging London and disturbing the balance of power in general.
9. Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the most powerful navy in the world during the outset of World War II in the Pacific. And during the start of the war, Japan had ten aircraft carriers along with 1,500 of the best carrier pilots in the world. They have moder- day cruisers, submarines, destroyers, and twelve battleships, including the powerful Nagato class. Japan Navy also had excellent torpedo bombers, dive bombers, land-based aviation, and the best carrier-based fighter in the world known as the Zero-sen.
Japan had proved that they have the most armed and trained navy fleet through their victories at Pearl Harbor, Malaya, and the Solomon Islands. But that powerful fleet came crashing down after a series of poor decisions by the naval leadership. However, the Imperial Japanese Navy of 1941 is still considered to be one of the most powerful navies of all time.