19 Amphibious Assaults That Changed the Course of History

Amphibious warfare are offensive military operations launched from bodies of water by naval and landing forces against hostile forces on the shore. Such warfare has been fought as long as humans have built ships large enough to carry soldiers and weapons.

Some famous landings throughout history include the Persians’ ill-fated attempt to conquer Athens in 490 B.C. or William the Conqueror’s amphibious landing at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Today, modern amphibious assaults involve specialized landing craft supported by warships and air cover. (Also see, the most pivotal naval battles of all time.)

Perhaps the most famous amphibious landing is the Normandy landings of D-Day on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops stormed the shore under intense fire from Nazi forces. Many other of history’s major amphibious operations happened in World War II, including the Second D-Day in southern France a few months after Normandy and the horrifying battles fought between Ameircans and Japanese on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. (These two landings are among the deadliest battles in U.S. history.)

To compile a list of 19 amphibious assaults that changed the course of history, 24/7 Wall St. consulted numerous historical and military sites, including World History Encyclopedia, Britannica, the Center for Naval Analysis, the Marine Corps University Research Library, American Battlefield Trust, and the National Archives. 

Because amphibious assaults are typically only one aspect of an invasion or battle and may proceed in several stages and involve reinforcements, the number of combatants in the landing force and the dates of the landing may vary from source to source. Wherever possible, the date and number of combatants given refers to the first landing in a campaign. The number of combatants in all cases is an estimate. 

One of the largest amphibious assaults in recent history took place on a small peninsula in southern Iraq in 1986. In that operation, Iran sent commandos on speed boats that crossed rivers and marshlands, aided by air and artillery fire, to occupy Iraqi territory — an operation that eventually ended in a stalemate and Iranian withdrawal.

Today, amphibious assaults at the scale of past major conflicts are rare. But because they are an effective offensive strategy, most countries with major militaries maintain amphibious fighting capabilities in the event that war breaks out anywhere near significant bodies of water.

Here are 19 amphibious assaults that changed the course of history

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