Special Report

19 Amphibious Assaults That Changed the Course of History

Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1. Marathon, Greece
> Date(s): Sept. 10, 490 B.C.
> Conflict: Greco-Persian Wars
> Landing force: 11,000
> Invaders: Persian Achaemenid Empire
> Defenders: Athens, Plataea

One of the earliest and most decisive amphibious landings involved Persians under King Darius I the Great, who sought to extend his empire across the Aegean Sea to quell the restive Greeks. The Persian navy made their way island by island toward Athens, subduing the city of Eretria before landing at Marathon, about 40 miles northeast of Athens. Despite facing a larger force armed with a superior Persian cavalry, the Athenians won decisively with the support of fellow Greek Plataeans.

Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

2. Pevensey, England
> Date(s): Sept. 28, 1066
> Conflict: Norman Conquest of England
> Landing force: 8,000 (disputed)
> Invaders: Normans and allies
> Defenders: Anglo-Saxon England

William the Conqueror was the Duke of Normandy when he became a contender to ascend to the throne of England following the death of the unmarried and pious Edward the Confessor in January 1066. But Harold Godwinson, a powerful earl, had been named successor by Edward on his deathbed. To challenge Harold, William crossed the English Channel in hundreds of ships filled with soldiers and horses. He handily defeated the defending forces and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings to become the first Norman king of England.

Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

3. Quebec, Canada
> Date(s): Sept. 13, 1759
> Conflict: French and Indian War
> Landing force: 4,400
> Invaders: Great Britain and British America
> Defenders: France, French Canada

Territorial disputes in North America between Britain and France turned violent in 1754. Native Americans allied with both sides in this conflict. The French and Indian War became part of the global Seven Years War in 1756. In 1759, British troops engaged in a months-long siege that included an amphibious landing across the St. Lawrence River. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was a pivotal victory for the British. Later, Britain passed the Quebec Act in 1774, which expanded the province of Quebec and restored some French and Catholic customs.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Sidi Ferruch, Algeria
> Date(s): June 14, 1830
> Conflict: French conquest of Algeria
> Landing force: 27,000
> Invaders: France
> Defenders: Ottoman Algeria

France’s landing at Sidi Ferruch, a precursor to the invasion and occupation of Algiers, was the largest amphibious assault attempted before World War II. The attack involved rafts that were deployed from warships and took soldiers and supplies to the beaches. While amphibious assault craft have become a standard part of modern amphibious warfare, it was a novel idea at the time to deploy small craft from large warships. The French would remain occupiers in Algeria until the North African country’s war of independence in 1962.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. Veracruz, Mexico
> Date(s): March 9-29, 1847
> Conflict: Mexican-American War
> Landing force: 8,600
> Invaders: United States
> Defenders: Mexico

The amphibious siege of this port city on the Gulf of Mexico was a key event in the U.S. march to Mexico City in the war, which broke out as the U.S. coveted lands held by Mexico, including modern day California and New Mexico. After a 20-day siege, Veracruz surrendered to the U.S., which then used the port to channel supplies and reinforcements to help take the Mexican capital about 250 miles to the east. The loss of Veracruz was a devastating blow to Mexico, leading to the Treaty of Guadalupe on Feb. 2, 1848, that ended the war in favor of the U.S.

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