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Top Most Famous Ships in History

#1 Battleship U.S.S. Maine

Some ships become famous not for what they did, but for what they represented. In this instance, the battleship Maine (a tiny thing set alongside the later behemoths that have been to transport the title of battleship) became a rallying point for a nation intent on war. Anchored in the shallow waters of Havana harbor late on the evening of February 15, 1898, the ship was torn in two by a mysterious explosion and sank in a matter of minutes, killing all but 89 of her 355-man crew.

Though the reason for the explosion was never determined (some historians and naval engineers believe it could have been an unintended detonation of her magazines with a coal bin fire), it was immediately suspected to own been a deliberate act of sabotage—probably with a pre-placed mine—sending the country into a war frenzy that will, within the next month or two, propel the United States into a short and spectacularly successful war with Spain.Top  Most Famous Ships in History.

While Spanish complicity in the incident never been proven (and could have been counter-productive to the Spanish in any case), the battle cry “Remember the Maine” would remain a favorite and long-remembered one for a lot of decades afterwards. When it comes to ship itself, in 1911 that which was left of her grew up from the mud of Havana Harbor where she'd develop into a hazard to navigation, towed out to the open sea, and scuttled with full military honors—a fitting end to a ship that did so little but caused so much trouble.

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#2 Battleship-U.S.S.-Arizona

Few ships illicit the kind of emotion among American veterans as does the name Arizona.A World War One era battle wagon having an undistinguished career, her active life in World War Two lasted a mere fifteen minutes before she was sunk by a well-aimed Japanese bomb that ignited her forward magazine and tore her in two during the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. The “unlucky shot”—a one-in-million hole in one—killed 1,177 men out of her crew of 1,400—including her captain and an admiral—and left her a blazing wreck that was to burn for days.*

Too badly damaged to be salvageable (she was one of only three ships sunk during the attack that was never repaired) the ship remains there even today as a war memorial, where she is visited by literally huge numbers of people every year. Considering how famous the ship is today, it is interesting that few Americans knew about the Arizona's fiery fate until years later as a result of wartime censorship, and that she lay largely forgotten in the shallow waters of Battleship Row for decades following the attack. It wasn't before 1960s that she became a symbol of American resolve and sacrifice and acquired the mystique—plus a simple but powerful memorial that straddles her remains—that she enjoys today.

 

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#3 Battleship-U.S.S.-Missouri

Though not really a participant in virtually any major ship-to-ship sea battles, the “Mighty ‘Mo”, as she became known to her crew, had the distinction of being the vessel upon which the surrender documents that ended World War Two were signed in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. But World War Two wasn't the only action the massive 45,000 ton battleship was to sea in her lifetime; decommissioned following the war, she was reactivated and provided for fight during the Korean War, and again in 1984, when she became part of Ronald Reagan's 600-ship fleet plan.Top  Most Famous Ships in History.

She even saw service in the First Persian Gulf War in 1991, when she lobbed cruise missiles and 16-inch rounds from her massive guns against Iraqi targets in Kuwait. Today she sits tangled up serenely at Pearl Harbor, where she serves as a museum and war memorial. Interestingly, she is moored just a few hundred yards from the wreck of the Battleship Arizona (see no. 3), making it possible to see from her decks both the area the war started and the area that it ended at the exact same time.

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#4 British Luxury Liner RMS Titanic

Easily the absolute most famous ship ever, this luxury liner was designed to showcase mankind's technological brilliance but rather only illustrated his hubris. The biggest and fastest passenger ship of its time, the British White Star liner left England on April 10, 1912 on its maiden voyage to New York, and then strike an iceberg five days later and sink.

Some would imagine two hours could be the required time to evacuate the nearly 2,300 souls onboard, the ship had only half the lifeboats needed, dooming some 1,500 passengers and crew to a watery grave in the middle of the icy North Atlantic. The sinking sent shockwaves through the maritime community, causing wholesale changes in regulations mandating how many life boats every vessel was required to carry and making other much needed safety improvements. Eventually the ship's name became synonymous with avarice, indifference, and class privilege (most of the lost having been passengers from steerage) and holds a mystique that, if anything, has only grown over time.

The ship was rediscovered three miles below the top of the North Atlantic in 1985, and has since that time end up being the inspiration for a multitude of documentaries along with the backdrop to the absolute most successful movie of 1999. It may truly be stated that with the Titanic, humanity learned a tough lesson that continues to pay for dividends to the day.

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#5 C.S.S.-Hunley

This early excuse for a submarine turned out to be far more dangerous to her very own crews than she was to the Union Navy, but she was to start a revolution in naval engineering that remains around to the day. Built by the Confederates in 1863 specifically to sink Union ships then barricading Southern ports, she sank twice while being tested, killing 13 of her crew (including her designer, H.L. Hunley) in the process. Finally ready on her first combat test, on the evening of February 17, 1864, the Hunley, which never seemed to run out of men eager to serve on her behalf regardless of the generally suicidal nature of accomplishing so, snuck on the Union sloop Housatonic and buried a spar torpedo in her side.Top  Most Famous Ships in History. 

Remarkably, the torpedo detonated as planned and the Housatonic sank, giving her the dubious distinction to be the very first ship in history to be sunk with a submarine. Tragically, the small boat didn't allow it to be back to dock but sank for the third and last time that evening for unknown reasons, taking her entire eight-man crew down once again.

After sitting on underneath of Charleston Harbor for another 136 years, she was finally located and raised in August of 2000 to great fanfare. The remarkably well preserved hulk now sits in a specially designed tank awaiting conservation.

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#6 German-Battleship-Bismarck

Perhaps no ship struck the maximum amount of fear into the heart of the British Navy in the spring of 1941 compared to the massive German dreadnought Bismarck which, at 823 feet and with a top speed of 30 knots, was the biggest and fastest warship then afloat. Breaking out of her Baltic haven in late May, 1941 intend on decimating the ragged and besieged British merchant fleet keeping the British Isles afloat, the ship became the main topic of the biggest naval hunt in Royal Navy history and one which was to cost the British dearly.Top  Most Famous Ships in History. 

Engaged by the British battle cruiser HMS Hood and new battleship HMS Prince of Wales off Iceland in early morning hours of May 24, after having a brief but vicious battle the Hood exploded and sank, taking down all but three of her 1,418-man crew, and left the Prince of Wales damaged and limping for home. Damaged herself 24 hours later by British aerial torpedoes, the wounded battleship made a function for the French coast for repairs, simply to be chased down by a set of British battleships, the Rodney and King George V, whose combined firepower finally were able to send Hitler's proud but battered warship to the bottom—along side all but 200 of her 2,200-man crew—after having a two-hour barrage.

There the infamous warship remained undisturbed until it had been located by Robert Ballard (the same man who'd found the Titanic 36 months earlier) in 1989 and carefully examined. Even then your venerable ship had a tale to inform, for it appeared that regardless of the heavy damage it endured during its final battle, it had been still largely intact, suggesting that she have been scuttled as opposed to sunk by the British all things considered, giving her, even in death, the final laugh.

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#7 HMS-Victory

Not one ship serves as a much better symbol for the energy that was the Royal Navy through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century than does Lord Nelson's venerable and, indeed, almost legendary, flagship. One of many largest wooden warships ever built, the ship not just saw considerable action within the last decades of the eighteenth century fighting both French and Spanish fleets, but she became the stuff of legends at the pivotal battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where Nelson was to be mortally wounded however, not before besting the combined French and Spanish fleet and effectively saving England from a sea-borne invasion.

Originally slated to be broken up shortly following the Napoleonic Wars ended, she was saved, the story goes, by the wife of the First Sea Lord, who, upon learning that the vessel that had served so long and gallantly was to be delegated to the wrecker's yard, broke into tears and demanded that he rescind the order. Being no fool—and perhaps in a well-advised effort at maintaining marital bliss—the person did just that and the ship served for another century as a pier-side training school. Heavily restored in 1922 by the British government, she now serves as a museum in Portsmouth, England, making her one of the oldest ships still afloat in the world.

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#8 The Santa Maria

Though significantly less than 70 feet long and by all accounts a slow and hideous vessel, few can deny the fame the tiny Spanish boat  achieved when she brought Christopher Columbus to the brand new world.

While Columbus has acquired a poor rap of late for his brutality as governor of Hispaniola and other little foibles he was famous for, no one can deny his extraordinary seamanship or his courage in making the crossing not just once, but four times during his lifetime. Top  Most Famous Ships in History.  Unfortunately, the sturdy little Santa Maria would not be building a repeat journey, as she ran aground on Christmas day, 1492, and was salvaged on her wood (which, interesting enough, went to the construction of another ship originally called La Navidad—Christmas—as the wreck occurred on Christmas Day).

While the original is over, no fewer than four replicas of the ship have now been built since, these effective at putting to sea. Unfortunately, do not require are exact duplicates as no records of the ship's original construction exist, causing a quantity of different configurations.

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#9 U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia (aka Merrimack)

Whilst the hours-long battle fought between these two behemoths off Hampton Roads, Virginia in March of 1862 was relatively unspectacular and ended in a draw, it could have been one of the most important battles in naval history in that it was initially two ships made predominantly of iron as opposed to wood ever engaged in battle. The Union-built Monitor—derisively called a “cheesbox on a raft” (which turned out to be a fairly accurate description)—also had the distinction of being the first ship to possess a spinning gun turret, changing the length of naval warship design for another century.

The interesting thing in regards to the Confederate ironclad was that it was built upon the refloated hull of the Union frigate Merrimack (hence the confusion regarding her name), which have been scuttled when Norfolk fell in to the hands of the South in April of 1861. Refloated and fitted with massive iron plates, she not merely turned out to be impenetrable to cannon fire, but a dangerous weapon the South used to sink a pair of traditional wooden Union warships per day earlier. Neither ship fought again or survived the entire year, however; the Virginia would be blown as much as prevent her from being captured in May of 1862 when Union troops retook Norfolk and the Monitor would be lost in heavy seas off Cape Hatteras on New Year's eve of the year, taking 16 of her crew down with her.  (Note: The wreck of the Monitor was located off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1973 and was designated a national landmark.

Ever since then, many artifacts from the ship, including her turret, cannon, propeller, anchor, engine and some personal effects of the crew—combined with remains of two of her crew—have already been recovered and are now on display—minus the bodies—at the Mariners'Museum of Newport News, 

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#10 U.S.S.-Constitution

Called “Old Ironsides” as a result of her sturdy construction, the oldest still intact ship in America serves as a museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Still afloat after 213 years, she'd an usually long service life, having remained in commission on and off between 1797 all the best way to the Civil War, after which it she was created an exercise ship and continued sailing periodically right around her final decommissioning in 1881.

During that time she fought in two conflicts: the First Barbary War—when she battled real pirates—and the War of 1812, during which she distinguished herself by defeating the British frigates HMS Guerriere and HMS Java.It had been those engagements that gave her something of a reputation as a ship that may undertake the British in a head-to-head fight, that was no small feat when one considers that the Royal Navy was the biggest and most effective on the planet at the time. Top  Most Famous Ships in History. Her fame saved her from the wrecking yard and in 1907 she began serving as a museum ship.

Old Ironsides has been restored, refurbished and otherwise rebuilt so often, it's said her keel is the only part of the original ship that remains, the others having being replaced numerous times on the decades. She can still get underway, however, which she proves once a year when she's towed into to Boston Harbor on her “turnaround cruise” designed to make sure she weathers evenly on both sides. She can be a still officially commissioned warship, with a sixty-man crew who are all active duty members of the United States Navy.

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