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There have been countless Marinas in the last three thousand years of the history of mankind. Built by maritime nations or by those who wish to expand in the realm of naval powers, multiple navies often compete to provide security and expand national influence.
The most powerful Navy of every period of human history is always relative. The Greek Navy reported by Herodotus is far from as powerful as the US Navy by Samuel Eliot Morison. Both made an important contribution to the security of their respective countries. Each of them was the most powerful Navy of its time, and shaped the world around it to make the world we know today.
Greek Navy, Battle of Salamis, Second Persian Invasion (480 BC)
The Greek Navy at the time of the Second Persian invasion was not the largest in the world known. Instead, he defeated that Navy and through his victory he preserved Western civilization.
A terrestrial power, the Persian Empire created a navy from the conquered maritime nations. This multinational force included Phoenicians, Egyptians, Cypriots and sailors from various parts of Greece and Asia Minor. The Persian fleet had 1,207 triremes, the standard warship of the time, but lost approximately 250 before Salamis suffered storms and skirmishes in Artemisium.
The Greeks, led by Athens and Sparta, gathered a force of 381 triremes. Although they outnumbered at least two to one, the Greek Navy in Salamis inflicted such losses that the Persian Navy was forced to withdraw.
The Greek naval victory in Salamis had two important results. The Greek Navy protected the sea flank from Greek armies, preventing Xerxes from flanking them with an amphibious landing. Second, the Persian losses were significant enough for Xerxes to order the withdrawal of the Navy, and the invasion stopped.
Chinese Navy, AD 1433
The Chinese Navy of the fifteenth century was undoubtedly the most powerful in the world . Directed by Eunuch Admiral Zheng He, the Chinese Navy made seven trips in the Indian Ocean and around it with what was then the most powerful navy the world had ever seen.
The Ming dynasty, in power, had an outward-oriented program, in order to ensure trade routes for the importation of luxury products and raw materials to a growing China. Chinese naval technology was probably the most advanced in the world, with shipbuilding technology, such as sailboats with three and four masts, sometimes a thousand years ahead of Europe.
The fleet of the first expedition was massive, composed of 317 ships. Sixty of them were the so-called “treasure ships” over 400 feet long and 160 feet wide, with nine masts and twelve sails. In total, Ming China organized seven expeditions. The range of fleet trips, including Southeast Asia, India, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf, were impressive.
The internal struggles would eventually lead to the end of the Ming Dynasty and its expeditions, and China would never again possess such a powerful fleet.
Royal Navy, AD 1815-1918
The end of the Napoleonic wars in Europe left the Royal Navy being the largest and most powerful in the world . As a Marine of an island country, the Royal Navy was essential to secure the sea lanes of the overseas colonies of the United Kingdom, particularly those of North America, India and Africa.
This period corresponds to the so-called “Pax Britannica”, a period of relative peace in the world. The average size of the Royal Navy during the 19th century was only 52,000, and yet it played a large role in maintaining the cover in the “great war” conflict.
The Royal Navy maintained its relative strength through the so-called “standard of the two powers,” which required it to be at least as strong as the two largest Marinas together. Such overwhelming superiority deterred other powers from challenging London and disturbed the balance of power in general.
Apart from the Crimean War, in which the rapid destruction of the Russian Navy fleet of the Black Sea occurred, the Royal Navy carried out few surface actions. Instead, a series of small businesses inside and on the periphery of the British Empire, against pirates in North Africa and the South China Sea, African slavers and the opening of foreign markets, including Japan and China .
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941
The Imperial Japanese Navy (MIJ) at the beginning of World War II in the Pacific was the most powerful Navy in the world . Japan, like the United Kingdom, is an island country that is forced to import oil and other raw materials from abroad. This vulnerability impressed Japan for the importance of building a large Marina to maintain its seaways … and secure those resources for itself if necessary.
The beginning of the war saw Japan with ten aircraft carriers, with 1,500 of the best aircraft carrier pilots in the world. It had twelve battleships, including the powerful Nagato class, and many modern cruisers, destroyers and submarines. He had the best fighter based on aircraft carriers in the world, the Zero-sen, and excellent torpedo bombers, dive bombers and even land aviation.
The MIJ was superbly armed and trained, as witnessed by the victories in Malaya, Pearl Harbor and the Solomon Islands, but a series of bad decisions by naval leaders, compounded by the inability to replace losses in battles in a timely manner , sealed their destiny. As brief as his reign was on top, the Imperial Japanese Navy of 1941 could easily be considered one of the most powerful of all time.
United States Navy, 1945
The United States Navy of 1945 emerged victorious from a war between two oceans, fighting two very different campaigns in each . In the Pacific, Japanese profits from the Philippines to the Solomon Islands had to be reversed, while in the Atlantic the Navy was responsible for mitigating the threat of submarines and carrying out invasions in North Africa, Italy and France.
After Pearl Harbor, the American shipbuilding industry emerged to replace losses and prepare for war. The United States Navy successfully handled the growth of 790 ships in December 1941 to 6,768 ships in August 1945. The Navy went from 17 battleships, 7 fleet carriers, 171 destroyers and 112 submarines to 23 battleships, 28 fleet carriers, 377 destroyers and 232 submarines.
Another 71 escort or “jeep” ships and 2,547 amphibious ships supported the war at sea. The U.S. Navy it even had a terrestrial component, six divisions of marines and five aerial wings of marines that fought from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.
The naval result could mean that the US Navy he never lost a battle after 1942. An increasingly diminishing Japanese Imperial Navy was pushed inexorably more and more eastward, until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945. At that time, the United States Navy was easily the World’s most powerful marina.