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The remarkable story of Admiral Yi and his turtle boats

The defeat of the Spanish armadas in the 16th Century is well known. Lesser known is the equally remarkable tale of Admiral Yi of Korea and how his outnumbered turtle boats inflicted an astonishing victory on the Japanese Warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The account begins in 1592 when Hideyoshi sought to extend his control into China and requested to pass through Korea – a request that was vehemently denied. In retaliation, Hideyoshi prepared a massive invasion of Korea.

After easily taking Korea’s principal port, Pusan, Hideyoshi set his sights for Okpo in the Korean straits to join his victorious armies in northern Korea. He was not, however, prepared for what was to come.

Despite numerous setbacks in his military career, including political corruption, Admiral Yi had for a long time kept his fleet in a state of readiness, prepared to be put to sea on short notice if the Japanese launched an invasion. His fleet consisted of new turtle ships, the most effective fighting vessel in the region. It was a fleet like no other.

This is the story of how 80 Korean turtle ships commanded by a master tactician went up against a mighty armada of 800 warships and claimed victory.

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