Special Report

The Biggest Naval Battles of All Time

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. The Battle of Cape Matapan, March 27-29, 1941
> Casualties: 2,300 Italian sailors killed and 1,000 captured. 3 killed and 4 injured for the allies
> Location: Cape Matapan, Greece
> Conflict: World War II

In 1941, the Mediterranean Sea was a hotly contested area between the British and Italians, as they jockeyed for key positions during World War II. The Germans wanted Italian support in the area as they pushed ground forces into Greece, so the Italian Navy planned to attack allied convoys off of the Greek island of Crete. However, the British had shortly before unencrypted their communications, giving the British Navy advanced warning of the attack.

The Italians incorrectly thought the British battleships were disabled and prepared for a battle. Not only did the British have more naval power than the Italians, but they also had significant air cover thanks to planes launched from Crete. The Italians were decimated, losing over 2,000 sailors and five ships. Only three British troops were killed, and the allies maintained control over the Mediterranean.

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

12. The Battle of Midway, June 3-6, 1942
> Casualties: 3,000 Japanese casualties, 317 US casualties
> Location: Midway Atoll, Pacific Ocean
> Conflict: World War II

Shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered World War II. Japanese commanders hoped to control the Pacific by overtaking an allied base in the Midway Atoll, just northwest of Hawaii. Unbeknownst to them, U.S. codebreakers had access to their communications and knew the attack was coming.

Japanese planes attacked and damaged the base on June 4. After the attacks, they flew back to their aircraft carriers to refuel. U.S. ships and planes were waiting just off the island and launched a surprise counter. The plan worked well, and the U.S. Navy wiped out much of Japan’s fleet over the next few days. Japan lost over 3,000 soldiers in addition to four aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. U.S. casualties were much lower, and the victory allowed American forces to halt Japanese expansion into the Pacific and gain a foothold in the area.

Source: Pictorial Parade / Archive Photos via Getty Images

13. The Battle of the Coral Sea, May 4-8, 1942
> Casualties: 600 allied casualties, 900 Japanese servicemen killed
> Location: Coral Sea, New Guinea
> Conflict: World War II

In May 1942, Japan was trying to expand its territory, pushing towards Australia and occupying territory in the Solomon Islands. They next planned to take control of Port Moresby in New Guinea, but the Allies were prepared for the attack thanks to their codebreakers.

The Battle of the Coral Sea featured four days of heavy fighting between Japanese and American planes. The battle is sometimes known as the first modern naval battle, as ships from both sides never fired on one another, leaving the fighting to planes. Both sides lost dozens of planes and hundreds of troops, but Japan won control of the Solomon Islands. However, the fighting was so fierce and the losses so great that they were unable to extend their control any further into the Pacific.

14. The Battle of the Philippine Sea, June 19-20, 1944
> Casualties: 2,000 Japanese sailors killed and 395 planes destroyed. 100 US casualties and 130 aircraft destroyed
> Location: Philippine Sea, Pacific Ocean
> Conflict: World War II

In World War II, the U.S. Navy fought Japan through a strategy of “island hopping” by taking strategic Japanese-held islands closer and closer to the Japanese mainland. In June of 1944, the Americans sought to invade the island of Saipan in the Philippine Sea.

Japan sent four waves of air raids to try to repel American forces, but the inexperienced pilots stood little chance. An estimated 315 of the 423 Japanese planes involved were shot down, allowing the U.S. to sink three aircraft carriers in the course of battle.

Source: national_museum_of_the_us_navy / Flickr

15. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, Oct. 23-26, 1944
> Casualties: 10,000 Japanese sailors killed and all carriers destroyed. 3,000 US sailors killed and six ships destroyed
> Location: Leyte Gulf, Pacific Ocean
> Conflict: World War II

The Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines is considered by some to be the largest naval battle in history. The U.S. Navy pushed further into the Pacific, hoping to cut off Japanese supply lines from Southeast Asia and hold strategic points close enough to Japan to launch attacks on the mainland.

Already reeling, Japan’s Navy collected much of its remaining ships together to repel the U.S. invasion into the Philippines. As the U.S. forces approached, Japan drew the different fleets into a number of separate engagements all across the region. All in all, over 300 ships and more than 400 planes did battle. The U.S. inflicted massive casualties on Japan and sunk 26 warships, including four aircraft carriers. The loss at Leyte Gulf dealt a death blow to Japan’s ambitions, crippling their navy and giving the U.S. undisputed command of the Pacific.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.