I hadn’t intended to irritate all of you blog readers out there with a third offering this week, but I couldn’t help myself after finding this in my photo files:
This is a wood model of a Korean war ship called a Geobukseon (pronounced Ko-Bock-Sonn), or Turtle Ship. My wife and I collaborated on building it over the past few years.
The real Turtle Ships were part of the war fleet used by Korean Admiral Yi Sun Shin in the late 16th century to repulse the Japanese invasions of the Korean peninsula.
The ships hold the distinction of being history’s first ‘ironclad’ vessels. The top of the hull was enclosed and covered with iron plates to which spikes were attached to thwart enemy soldiers from jumping onto the deck.
In those days, the battle strategy of the Japanese navy was to get in close to enemy ships, grapple, and board with their soldiers for melee fighting, at which they were very good.
Yi Sun Shin devised a strategy that called for keeping at a distance from the Japanese fleet, then blowing them to splinters with cannon barrages.
The turtle ships were equipped with decks containing 12 to 15 guns port and starboard. Since the boat was flat bottomed, oarsmen could turn it on a dime. The soldiers would fire a cannon barrage from one side, after which they could quickly turn the ship around to fire from the other, and just keep it going.
With these ships, along with his regular non ironclad vessels, the admiral was able to gain complete sea superiority around Korea, which greatly hampered the Japanese ground operations being conducted at the same time.
Amazingly, Yi Sun Shin engaged the Japanese fleets in 23 battles, and won every single one! Such a record of success has never been accomplished by any other naval officer in world history.
The greatest of these victories was one in which he defeated a Japanese fleet of over 300 ships while utilizing only 13 of his own. He lured the Japanese into a narrow strait where he knew the tide had a habit of changing direction 180 degrees at a certain time of day. The Japanese got caught in this tide change. Their ships crowded and collided. Tightly packed, damaged, and unable to maneuver in the narrow confines of the strait, they were sitting ducks for cannon fire!
Ironically, during the final battle with the main Japanese fleet which was fleeing back homeward to Japan, Yi Sun Shin was fatally struck by a stray bullet from a Japanese soldier’s firearm. Aware of his impending death, he instructed his officers to let no one know of his fall until the battle was over. One of his nephews was instructed to put on Admiral Shin’s armor and helmet, and make himself visible on the deck of the flagship. The battle was Yi Sun Shin’s final resounding victory.
Today, Yi Sun Shin is regarded as Korea’s national hero….