5 Famous Ships that Shaped History
There is no doubt that the ability to travel the oceans has massively changed the course of history, but which individual famous ships had the most profound effect on the chronicles of the past? There are undoubtedly thousands of famous ships that have made their mark, but these are the 5 famous ships that have shaped human narrative the most in my opinion. So lets hop right into the list, here are ten famous ships that have shaped history!
Famous Ship #5: The HMS Victory
The HMS Victory is a relatively famous ship, largely renowned for its longevity. As of 2019 this ship has been serving the British Navy for 241 years. Since 1922 the HMS Victory has been dry-docked in Portsmouth, England and serves as a museum vessel, but it is still technically in commission. This makes it the oldest commissioned ship on the planet!
The HMS Victory wasn't always relegated to a non-combat role however, it is most famous for serving as Lord Nelson's flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In 1831 HMS Victory was ordered to be broken up and recycled into other vessels, but there was a huge public outcry and so it was left at its mooring in Portsmouth.
Famous Ship #4: H.L. Hunley
The only submarine on this list, the Confederate-built H.L. Hunley wasn't the first submarine built. It was the first underwater vessel to sink an enemy ship, The USS Housatanic. The Hunley changed the face of naval combat as we know it, demonstrating the advantages and dangers of undersea combat. The history of the Hunley is relatively short, and definitely full of failures.
The first and second test runs took place in 1863. Both times the submarine sunk and killed the entire crew. A total of 13 people died in these test runs (including the man for which the sub was named), but each time the Hunley was raised and returned to service. Finally, a successful run in 1864 sank the Housatanic. Again the Hunley sank, along with its target. Once again it killed all crewmembers on board, adding another eight to its bodycount. This time it was finally left to rest.
Famous Ship #3: The RMS Lusitania
The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner that was sunk by a German U-Boat 11 miles off the coast of Ireland. 1,198 passengers were killed. The Germans attempted to justify the attack by claiming that the Lusitania was carrying hundreds of tons of war munitions, which made the passenger vessel a legitimate target. The ship was not armed for battle, and the 128 Americans that were killed on board galvanized the US citizenry to take action against the German aggressors.
This simple yet extreme act was all that it took to mobilize US forces, and turn the tide against the Germans in World War I. What had been a stalemate was soon broken by the might of the United States joining into the fray. Had it not been for the sacrifice of the RMS Lusitania, the result of the war could've been massively different.
Famous Ship #2: The USS Missouri
Mighty Mo saw combat, a lot of combat. The USS Missouri battled in World War II, the Korean War, and the Gulf War. Before being decommissioned in 1992 the Mighty Mo received numerous accolades. Three battle stars for its service in WW2, five more for actions in the Korean War, and several commendations and medals for the Gulf War. Throughout all of this the USS Missouri suffered almost no damage at all. In April 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot managed to dodge through anti-aircraft fire and impact the battleship's side just below the main deck. The damage was minimal.
A few months later in September of 1945 the Japanese surrendered on the deck of the Mighty Mo by signing the Instruments of Surrender. The USS Missouri did have a close call during the Gulf War in 1991, while firing its 16" guns in support of an amphibious landing in Kuwait. The loud guns apparently attracted some attention and the Iraqis fired an HY-2 Silkworm missile at the Mighty Mo. Luckily, the British frigate HMS Gloucester came to the rescue and managed to shoot the missile down using its equipped GWS-30 Sea Dart missiles.
Famous Ship #1: The RMS Titanic
If you asked anyone on the street for the name of a famous ship, this ship is almost guaranteed to be the first name out of their mouth. The RMS Titanic was the world's largest ship afloat at its time of service, and was considered unsinkable. That assumption was proven wrong however, as we've heard told and retold in countless books, movies, folk songs, and memorials.
On April 14th, 1912 at 11:40 p.m. the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank over the course of the next 2 hours and 40 minutes. The casualties were massive, with over 1,500 of the ship's 2,224 lost. The tragedy of the RMS Titanic caused many inquiries, and an overall improvement in the regulation of maritime safety.
Famous Ships Conclusion:
This was a massively enjoyable undertaking and in constructing this article I learned more than expected. I hope that you were able to learn something from it as well. The number of ships that I initially nominated to be on this list was around 20 or more. There are so many interesting vessels throughout history, so expect to see this list expanded upon in a future article. If you enjoyed this, please tell us so and we'll be sure to do it again sooner rather than later.