BLUF

The author identifies five naval battles that he considers decisive, noting that to be decisive, a battle must achieve a long-lasting strategic impact.

Summary

This article by James Holmes in the National Interest makes the following points:
What makes a battle decisive?
  • Carl von Clausewitz defines a decisive engagement as one that leads directly to the end of hostilities.
  • The battle has strategic and political significance.
  • Decisive maritime battles shape affairs on land.
  • Naval actions have decided the fates of civilizations, empires and nations.
The author lists the following battles as having an enduring strategic impact.
5. Lepanto  (Greece) 1571. Holy League vs Ottoman Empire.
  • Stopped the Ottoman westward expansion across the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Ottomans lost most of their vessels and experienced crews.
  • Unable to quickly replace experienced naval officers.
  • Lost human capital is difficult to replace.
  • Ensured European command of the middle sea.
4. Battle of Yamen (China) 1279. Mongol Yuan Dynasty vs beleaguered Southern Song Dynasty.
  • 1000+ warships.
  • Song emperor was killed.
  • Enabled Kublai Khan to dominate China.
3. Quiberon Bay  (French coast) 1759 France vs U.K.
  • Enabled the British to control North America.
2. Spanish Armada  (English Channel) 1588 Spain vs England.
  • Spain aimed to depose Protestant Queen Elizabeth I'.
  • They wanted to end English support for the Dutch revolt against Spain.
  • Rough weather destroyed many Spanish ships.
1. Salamis  (Ancient Greece) 480 B.C. Greece vs Persia.

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    Source Information: National Interest The