Special Report

These Are the Worst Disasters in Naval History

It isn’t immediately obvious how to classify naval disasters. Is it by the number of ships that went down? The size of the vessels destroyed? The number of casualties?

Some disasters involved more than one ship. Pearl Harbor is a good example. Eight of America’s battleships were disabled when the Japanese bombed the Hawaiian naval base on Dec. 7, 1941. In total, nearly 20 ships were damaged or destroyed, and over 2,400 Americans were killed. (These are the deadliest battles in U.S. history.)

Other U.S. naval disasters included just one ship. The Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser, delivered the first atomic bomb components for the bombing of Japan. A Japanese submarine sank it on June 30, 1945. Over 500 men died, many of them from shark attacks. 

To find the worst disasters in naval history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed records of major naval ships that were sunk during the course of wars. The worst disasters were based primarily on three factors: the number of ships destroyed. the number of people killed, and the strategic value of the ship or ships destroyed.

Some naval disasters happened during large sea battles. The huge Japanese battleship Yamato was sunk on April 7, 1945. Almost 2,500 Japanese sailors died. (This is the world’s largest warship.)

Not all of the naval disasters occurred in World War II. One of the greatest sea battles of all time was the Battle of Jutland in World War I. Fought between the German and British navies, one result was the destruction of the huge HMS Invincible. Between the British and German navies, over 8,000 men were killed. 

Large sea battles have become much less likely given the development of modern weapons. Aircraft carriers, the largest ships in several navies, including the U.S., launch planes that attack targets hundreds of miles away. (This is how far the most powerful missiles can travel.)

Despite the fact that large naval battles are a thing of the past, there is still a chance that a large ship could be destroyed. One concern about modern navies is that they could be attacked from hundreds of miles away, by air or land.

Click here to see the worst disasters in naval history

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