Ever since the empires of the ancient world, it has generally been held that whoever controls the seas ultimately has the power. Railways are under 200 years old and automobiles even younger, meaning that until the Industrial Revolution, waterways and the oceans were the only efficient and reliable options for moving large amounts of trade goods or armies with any sort of speed.
Therefore, whoever had the most effective navy tended to punch well above its weight, both militarily and economically. Indeed, one of the great errors of the Chinese Empire in the 1400s was that it literally burned its 3500-ship navy - which would still be the largest on the planet today - due to elements within the Ming Dynasty taking exception to the riches of a wealthy middle class. This threw away a technological superiority that paved the way for European empires to rise uncontested, most notably the British Empire, which proudly claimed in song that Britannia ruled the waves. From Nelson's ship Victory through to the launch of HMS Dreadnought, Britain dominated the seas - but it did not last. War with Germany's famous U-boat submarines hobbled the empire, which ceded oceanic dominance to America, the rising superpower.
Now America's ships secure the waterways of the world, including the two most important trade routes on the planet, the Panama and Suez Canals. So let's find out how much you know about the destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers and more that ensure this hegemony - each one from a single picture!
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