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Top 10 Famous Military Ships

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Clayton Martino The sea has always been an important part of human history, so naturally humans found a way to fight on it. Join WatchMojo.comsuggest down our picks for the top 10 famous military ships. For this list, we're taking a look at sea-faring vessels that fought for militaries around the world, and gained fame thanks to their service. Special thanks to our users Trigger51 and Emily Carlstrom for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Famous Military Ships

The sea has always been an important part of human history, so naturally humans found a way to fight on it. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 famous military ships.

For this list, we’re taking a look at sea-faring vessels that fought for militaries around the world, and gained fame thanks to their service.

#10: USS Nimitz (CVN-68)

What better way to start our list than with the USS Nimitz, which is currently one of the largest warships in the world? Nicknamed Old Salt, she’s over 1,000 feet long and can travel at speeds as high as 31.5 knots. After first being deployed in the 1970s, Nimitz has provided support during both the Persian Gulf War and the War in Iraq. In 2010, she was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for her service in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. Ships like the Nimitz are why the United States Navy is so powerful.

#9: Battleship Potemkin

It’s the ship responsible for starting the Russian Revolution. Okay, that might be going a bit far, but when the crew rebelled against the officers in 1905, the flames of revolution were definitely fanned. Of course, the Potemkin wasn’t just the setting of a famous rebellion or brilliant propaganda film; she also had a long military career, particularly during World War I, where she assisted with the bombardment of Ottoman fortifications on the Bosphorus strait in 1915 and helped Russian troops capture Trebizond in 1916. Those are just a few reasons why she was considered the pride of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet.

#8: USS Enterprise (CV-6)

The first of several ships from World War II on our list, the USS Enterprise (CV-6) was involved in more naval engagements with Japan than any other U.S. ship. Known as the “Big E,” she became something of a mythological ship to the Japanese: they believed they had sunk her on numerous occasions only to find themselves squared off against the Enterprise again in the next naval battle. She was decommissioned in 1947 and finished the war with 20 battle stars, more than any other American ship in World War II.

#7: CSS Virginia & USS Monitor

We’re cheating a little here, but considering the fact that both of these ships played a large role in making the other one famous, we decided to combine them as one entry. The CSS Virginia and USS Monitor were two ironclad warships who squared off against each other during the American Civil War. Called the Battle of Hampton Roads or the Battle of Ironclads, it was the first time in history that two ships made from iron engaged each other. The Union-controlled Monitor and Confederate-controlled Virginia fought for hours, but neither side emerged victorious. Although the battle may not have been glorious, it marked a significant change in naval warfare.

#6: USS Constitution

The USS Constitution first set sail from Boston Harbor in 1797, and remarkably you can still find her there today. Perhaps best known as “Old Ironsides,” she became famous during the War of 1812 where she fought against Britain and defeated five British warships, including the frigates HMS Guerriere and HMS Java. This was especially impressive as the British Navy was considered the most powerful in the world at the time. She officially retired in 1881, but is still fully commissioned and equipped with a 60-man crew.

#5: USS Maine (ACR-1)

“Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!” That was the rallying cry after the USS Maine exploded and sank in 1898. The Maine, which was equipped with a range of guns including 4 Gatling guns, 4 Hotchkiss guns, and 4 torpedo tubes, was anchored in Havana Harbor during the Cuban revolt against Spain. On February 15th 1898, however, she exploded, which resulted in the deaths of more than 260 people. This was the catalyst for the Spanish-American War, as the Spanish were blamed for causing the explosion by “yellow press” such as William Randolph Heart and Joseph Pulitzer. The Spaniards’ culpability has never been proven, however, and the incident remains a source of controversy.

#4: USS Missouri (BB-63)

Also known as Mighty Mo or Big Mo, the USS Missouri was the site where World War II officially ended. She participated in numerous battles in the Pacific Theatre, including assisting with the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Not long after, the Japanese officially surrendered and the documents making this official were signed on board. Her service wasn’t done yet, however, as she participated in the Korean War and provided support during Operation Desert Storm. Today, the 45,000-ton battleship is located in Pearl Harbor and serves as a war memorial and museum.

#3: HMS Victory

A truly majestic ship, the HMS Victory is one of the largest wooden ships ever built and represents the remarkable power of the Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th centuries. Serving as Lord Nelson’s flagship at 1805’s Battle of Trafalgar, the Victory helped lead the British to victory over the Spanish and French, despite the British being outnumbered. The ship was allegedly saved by the First Sea Lord’s wife, who was moved to tears upon hearing of its proposed destruction. Currently, the Victory serves as a museum in Portsmouth, England, and remains the oldest commissioned warship in the world.

#2: USS Arizona (BB-39)

Whether you are an avid military history buff or not, you’ve probably heard of the USS Arizona. Representing American resolve and sacrifice, the Arizona was hit by a Japanese bomb during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. She was blew up and sank, killing 1,177 people and pushing the United States into World War II. She could not be salvaged, and today she remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor below the USS Arizona Memorial, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- HMS Beagle
- Yamato
- CSS H. L. Hunley
- HMS Bounty

#1: Bismarck

For hundreds of years, the Royal Navy was the most feared fleet in the world. But in 1941, they met their match. The Bismarck was over 800 feet long and could travel at a speed of 30 knots, making it one of the biggest and fastest ships in the world at the time. She sank the near-invincible HMS Hood and badly damaged the HMS Prince of Wales, sending the Royal Navy in hot pursuit. The Bismarck abandoned the Atlantic due to damage, however, and was attacked by the British off the coast of France just days later. She was scuttled by her crew, and the wreck was finally found in 1989 by Robert Ballard, the same man who found the Titanic.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the most famous military ship? For more great Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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