View Full Version : First Ironclad Warships / Adm. Yi

Greg H
11-22-2002, 10:40 AM
I was watching a show on Hyundai Ship Yards, last night, and they had a brif mention of these. So I did a little research.....

Admiral Yi: Warrior Spirit by Ruth Hunter

"You may wish to compare me with Lord Nelson but do not compare me with Korea's Admiral Yi Sun-Sin . . .he is too remarkable for anyone,"
said the Japanese admiral after defeating the Russian navy in 1905.

Among admirals and seafarers the world over, Admiral Yi is acknowledged to be the greatest naval tactician ever. It was due to his extraordinary
warrior spirit that Korea finally defeated Japan in its invasions of 1592 and 1597.

Japan's Toyotomi Hideyoshi had decided to invade China in order to tie up the men and arms belonging to Japan's overlords who were vying for his
power. He asked Korea to join Japan and allow them to enter China through Korea. Korea, with its close relationship to China, refused.

In April 1592, the Japanese sent over an enormous force which included 160,000 soldiers, 1,500 heavy cavalry, 50,000 horses, 80,000 bodyguard
troops and 60,000 reserve troops. They fought with the traditional weapons of axes, spears, and swords, but they also brought muskets--300,000
muskets. They met with minimal resistance from the outnumbered Koreans who had never seen or fought against guns. The Japanese troops reached
Seoul in two weeks and finished overrunning the entire country in May.

Flushed with victory, the Japanese were unable to continue their invasion into China because their supply routes depended on the sea - and Admiral
Yi controlled the sea.

Admiral Yi was a throwback to the Hwarang a thousand years earlier. By now, the Hwarangdo, their martial arts and code were out of favor with the
government. It was the time of scholars. But Yi lived according to the Hwarangdo's code.

His first priority was serving the king & to defeat whatever enemy threatened Korea. Since they needed superior fighting machines and weapons, Yi
invented them.

The Japanese fleet of 800 was no match for Admiral Yi and his fleet of 80 ships which included the unique Kobuksons, or "turtle boats." The
flat-bottomed turtle boats were easily maneuverable, heavily armored, extremely effective warships. Metal plates covered the top of the ship and
protected the warriors and oarsmen.

Its name came from the massive, metal turtle head at the bow, an efficient ramming device which spewed forth noxious sulfurous fumes, clouds of
smoke and flaming arrows as it struck terror into the hearts of the superstitious Japanese. The smoke screen also effectively covered Yi's tactical

Some Japanese warriors undaunted by the fire-breathing turtle boat would try the age-old tactic of boarding the enemy ship to fight hand-to-hand and
overpower with sheer numbers. The turtle boats appeared to have thatched roofs which could easily be jumped upon or set afire. When the Japanese
boarded the ships, they were impaled by metal spikes hidden by the thatch. Flaming arrows intended to set the Kobuksons on fire, would set the
thatch on fire and it would roll harmlessly off the curved top of the ship.

The timber used to construct the ship was four inches thick, far too thick for arrows or musket balls to penetrate. Hundreds of small slots cut into the
wood enabled the warriors to fight from any direction. Twenty-two gun ports carrying cannons named "Black," "Earth" and "Heaven" were built
into each side. At least 40 3-inch cannons shot steel tipped darts and arrows.

In addition to inventing the smoke generator which burned sulfur and saltpeter, Yi invented flame throwing cannons which set fire to hundreds of
Japanese ships.

In comparison to Yi's Korean warships, the slow moving Japanese ships boasted one cannon each and were not armored.

Yi once had only 12 turtle boats with which to defeat 133 Japanese ships. Before battle, Yi said to his captains, "According to the principles of
strategy, `He who seeks death shall live, he who seeks his life shall die.'. . . You captains are expected to strictly obey my orders. If you do not,
even the least error shall not be pardoned, but shall be severely punished by martial law."

Yi's men feared him more than they feared the enemy, and they followed him into the thick of battle, defeating the Japanese.

Yi's superior tactics and leadership skills enabled him to sink an incredible number of ships. At a time when it was unusual for commanders to use
more than one method of fighting, Yi altered his strategies to fit the location of the attack.

The fishnet or inverted V formation was one of his most successful tactics. Once the Japanese ships were tricked into entering the fishnet, the Korean
ships would sink the enemy. Yi relentlessly followed the retreating ships and decimated them before they could escape and return to destroy more of

Yi still lives on the minds of the Koreans as one of their greatest heroes. Yi practiced self-discipline, fairness and integrity and required his men to do
so too. He lived according to the Hwarangdo code and focused his whole life: his integrity, his abilities as a warrior and inventor on loyalty to the
king. His war diary is displayed at the shrine of Hyonchung-Sa, and the museum in the seaport town of Choong-Moo includes a replica of the turtle
boat. After his death, Yi was awarded the honorary title Choong-Moo which means loyalty-chivalry.

Better pictures, here: (a good model site)

John E Hardiman
11-22-2002, 12:03 PM
First? is this a baited question?

If I recall correctly, the vikings used armored ships. There are several listed in the eddas.

Erik Jarl had the Jernbarden:

"Bard is the old name for the ship's prow, and that accounts for the fame of Erik Jarl's ship Jernbarden (fern=iron) which had iron pieces fastened to the stem. The word barge is also used poetically for ships in general."

And also:

"Halfdan had a great dragon, called Iron-ram; all of this ship that stood out of the water was iron-clad; it rose high out of the sea, and was a very costly treasure." http://www.northvegr.org/lore/viking/005.html

Greg H
11-22-2002, 12:33 PM
Not baited, I just don't know any better. ;)

The vikings! Of course! They had there hands everywhere.
I wonder what the ram actualy looked liked....." Halfdan had a great dragon, called Iron-ram; all of this ship that stood out of the water was iron-clad; it rose high out of the sea, and was a very costly treasure."

John E Hardiman
11-22-2002, 03:39 PM
I think "iron-ram", meant like a male sheep, not what we think of as a bow ram. Viking at sea naval tactics were not that sophisticated. Generally, ships would be tied together to form a big raft, and they were defended like a castle or used as a seige tower. It becomes very obvious how much an advantage a tall iron covered side or prow would be if one looks at their tactics of laying alongside and trying to board with sword, axe, and spear.

Sam F
11-22-2002, 04:25 PM
Neat stuff. Does anyone know where a picture of their hull form can be seen?
From the picture it's hard to get many clues.

11-22-2002, 04:25 PM
I'll stick with Nelson.

Greg H
11-22-2002, 05:15 PM

It's hard to find much on them.

Looks flat bottomed, round sided, I'd like to see a drawing.
Love the sail rig

Sam F
11-22-2002, 06:31 PM
Originally posted by Greg H:

It's hard to find much on them.

Looks flat bottomed, round sided, I'd like to see a drawing.
Love the sail rigYou bet. I'd read about the turtle boats years ago but had never seen any sort of picture. So I'm way ahead of where I was.
I seem to remember reading that the armor was bronze. The model page says "ironclad" though...