The Turtle War Ship

In many cases innovation happens when something very important is needed. Innovation comes from people taking a deep look at their situation and developing significant ideas for resolution. This was never more true than in 1592 when Admiral Yi of Korea was facing certain destruction by the Japanese fleet. Admiral Yi needed to be ready to attack a much larger and better equipped force.

Admiral Yi knew that he could not attack the Japanese in a spearhead assault because he knew that the Japanese could direct arquebus fire down on the Koreans from the top of the cliffs. Admiral Yi wanted to fight the Japanese in the sea where there was more room to maneuver. Hoping to draw the Japanese into open waters, he turned his battleships around and withdrew. Apparently, the Japanese commander had been observing the Korean movements and quickly ordered his captains to take a portion of the fleet anchored at Sacheon and attack the Koreans when he saw them withdraw. Taking the bait, the Japanese pursued the Koreans.

The Battle of Sacheon was the first battle during which Admiral Yi deployed the turtle ship. By the time the Koreans and the Japanese were out on the open sea, it was nearly dark. Nonetheless, Admiral Yi had the turtle ship and his other vessels turn around quickly and fire upon the Japanese. Admiral Yi had his men unleash a hail of cannonballs and fire arrows. This had an immediate effect on the enemy warships, and the Japanese ships started taking heavy damage.

The fierce and sudden Korean attack shocked the Japanese. But unlike their previous poor performance at the Battle of Okpo, the Japanese soldiers fought bravely and returned fire with their arquebuses in a timely manner. Unfortunately for the Japanese, they did not have a chance to board the Korean ships because of concentrated Korean cannon fire. Also, the Turtle Ship was impossible to board anyway due to iron spikes on its roof. Then, the Japanese began to panic when the Turtle Ship smashed into Japanese lines, firing in every direction.

In a couple of hours, every single Japanese warship that had fought was sunk. Admiral Yi and his team put in place some very innovative components that prevented the Japanese from being successful. This included hard wood that could not be penetrated, twelve cannons capable of shooting flaming rods, and a dragon head spewing fire and smoke.

How would you have used innovation in this situation?