Admiral Yi Soon Shin (sometimes written Yi Sun-sin because for some dumbass reason there are like fifteen bajillion ways to transliterate Asian languages into the Latin alphabet) is the national hero of both Koreas and one of the most brilliant and badass naval commanders in history. Born in Seoul in 1545, he grew up doing badass things like practicing his swordsmanship, studying military tactics, riding wild horses, eating steaks and building homemade bows-and-arrows using only a kitchen knife some fishing wire. His badassitude got him enrolled in a prestigious military academy, and upon graduation was assigned to defend the Northern Frontier against some fuckers known as Jurchens who were cocking everything up and being total d-bags to everyone. The Jurchens were constantly running into Koran lands and pillaging shit, so Yi earned valuable combat, leadership and tactical experience beating the shit out of the marauders and donating their severed heads so a local minor league baseball team could use them for batting practice. After several successful campaigns against the Jerk-Ins (this is the term he uses for them in his war journal) he eventually captured their war leader and made him do "The Worm" for like four hours straight until he died of exhaustion because he just wasn't funky enough to handle it. While this was a huge victory for Korea, Yi's commanding officer was pissed that Yi was stealing all the thunder so he made up a false rumor that Yi had deserted his army during the final victorious battle. Yi's reward for being a hero to the Korean people was that he was arrested, stripped of his rank and tortured within an inch of his life. When he was finally released from jail, he re-enlisted as a lowly Private.
It's hard to keep a badass down though and within a few months of re-joining the army Yi found himself steadily rising back through the ranks again, thanks in large part to him being fucking awesome. In virtually no time he was appointed the commandant of an Ivy-league military academy, and a few months later was awarded the rank of Admiral and assigned command of a large naval district. He was charged with the buildup of the Korean Navy, which he took to with great diligence. Good thing too, because right about this time the Empire of Japan had recently been unified by a dude named Toyotomi Hideyoshi and he had his sights set on the conquest of Korea and the Ming Empire of China. In 1592 a fleet of 1,700 Japanese warships set sail to start jacking up the Koreans' shit.
Despite the notable handicap that Yi Soon Shin had never actually fought a single naval battle in his entire life and knew about as much about hoisting a mainsail as I do about crocheting a full-size replica of the USS Enterprise, all of a sudden he found himself in command of an untrained, outmanned, outgunned and outsupplied Korean Navy staring down a Japanese Armada of warships filled with badass samurais, footsoldiers and ninjas who can both fly and stab and even do both of those things at the SAME TIME. Admiral Yi didn't give a fuck though - he immediately set out to kick some asses. At the Battle of Okpo, Yi's first-ever experience with naval warfare, his fleet of 54 ships utterly annihilated a force of over 70 vessels. Not only did he kick their asses, but the only reported damage to the Korean side came when some dude got a splinter in his right index finger while bashing a Japanese sailor over the head repeatedly with a rowing oar. At the Battle of Sacheon, Yi came across a force of Japanese troops who had landed on the shore so they could pillage a Korean settlement so he got super pissed, swept in, sunk every Japanese warship in the harbor, broke the main mast off of his flagship with his bare hands and used it to pummel the Japanese commander to death. During the battle, Yi was shot in the shoulder by a stray bullet, but he didn't even flinch. He just sucked the bullet out of his wound and spit it with enough velocity to explode two Japanese battleships.
Throughout 1592 Admiral Yi Soon Shin won numerous other small-scale battle against the Japanese Navy, sinking hundreds of enemy vessels during the course of two campaigns while suffering only eleven wounded sailors, no KIAs and no ships lost. Now it should be noted that the Korean ships were superior to the Japanese ships in terms of firepower and hull strength, but still holy shit that's a fucking hell of a record. Yi was a brilliant naval strategist, carefully planning and coordinating all of his attacks and personally leading his navy into combat, issuing them directions on the fly. He received intelligence from local fishermen and villagers and planned his battles accordingly, striking enemy supply ships that were bringing food, supplies and munitions to the Japanese Army and severly hindering their war effort. In ship-to-ship combat on a tactical level, Yi relied on the firepower of his ships' cannons and ordered his men to avoid hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese navy at all costs. You see, the Japanese had tons of badass samurai so their strategy was to board the Korean ships and start chopping motherfuckers up Mifune-style and there wasn't a whole lot of shit that the Koreans could do about it except die painfully. Yi knew that his men didn't stand a chance against goddamned samurai so he did his best to set fire to the Japanese vessels before they even got close and burn those jerks to death before they could start impaling people on their magical katanas. His men were down with this strategy.
He also built something called "Turtle Ships" which sound kind of stupid and fruity but were actually awesome. Turtle Ships were large, fast-moving warships with reinforced metal plating completely covering the top deck to protect the sailors from enemy arrows and gunfire. The plates also had big-ass steel spikes sticking out of them so if any ninjas tried to fly on board they'd get impaled like when you knock Scorpion or Sub-Zero off the bridge level in Mortal Kombat. It carried about 30 guns, and the front of it was shaped like a badass dragon that shot a cannon out of it's mouth, had a smokescreen that came out of it's nose, and could be used as a battering ram to smash enemy ships into driftwood. Yi used the Turtle Ships to barrel through the enemy lines, blast everything they came across on either side and then ram the shit out of the enemy flagship, sinking it and drowning the Japanese commanders. Plus it looked fucking badass and intimidated the shit out of people:
Later in 1592 Yi Soon Shin took a force of 56 vessels and went up against a fleet of 73 Japanese battleships near Hansan Island, a fortress that pretty much served as party central for the Japanese invasion forces. Yi staged a fake retreat to draw the Japanese out of their fortified harbor and then caught them in a trap that sank 59 enemy ships and essentially crippled what was left of the Japanese Navy. Yi followed up this asskicking by capturing the enemy naval fortress at Pusan, sinking several hundred Japanese ships as they sat in port, crushing the enemy morale, seizing control of all the major supply routes to Northern Korea and choking off all Japanese reinforcements to the battlefront. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered his Admirals not to face the Korean Navy again because they were getting their fucking asses reamed up and down the coast, and an armistice was signed between Korea and Japan.
However, the peace didn't last long and before you know it the Japanese were ready to have more of their ships reduced to firewood by Admiral Yi. Unfortunately for the Koreans, in the time between the fighting the Japanese had managed to put a double agent into the Korean Court, and he convinced the King to order Admiral Yi to move his armada to a dangerous area known as the Chilchon Straits. When Yi received the order he immediately saw through the bullshit and refused it, reportedly giving the messenger the finger and then slapping him full in the face like a little bitch. So once again Yi Soon Shin was stripped of his rank, imprisioned and tortured within an inch of his life. Command was given to some jackass named Won Gyun, who was fucking incompetent. Won moved Admiral Yi's combined force of 169 battleships and 30,000 sailors to the Chilchon Straits, directly into the trap that was laid for him by the Japanese. In the span of only a few hours Japanese Commando Samurai Ninja Marines annihilated the entire armada and chopped Won Gyun up into shark chum. Only thirteen ships and two hundred men were able to escape the carnage by bravely running away at top speed as soon as the Japanese started fucking everything up. The King then decided to get his shit together and put Yi back in charge because at this point it was pretty motherfucking obvious that not just any idiot could lead the Korean Navy to victory against the Japanese war machine. When Yi retook command of his navy and saw the dire situation before him, he is reported to have said the following:
"I still have thirteen ships. As long as I am alive, the enemies will never gain the Western Sea."
So in 1597 Admiral Yi and his thirteen ships found themselves on the run, hunted by the entire Japanese Navy. At the Battle of Myeongnyang, Yi Soon Shin came face-to-face with a fleet of three hundred Japanese warships, all bearing down on him and filled to the brim with angry, screaming katana-wielding samurai warriors. Yi wisely positioned his tiny force to block a narrow strait Thermopylae-style in an effort to deny the Japanese the chance of completely enveloping him. The Japanese poured into the strait at top speed and ran head-on into a strong current that slowed them down considerably, leaving them exposed to fire from the Korean ships. During the course of the battle, Yi constantly repositioned his fleet in an effort to keep the Japanese marines at a distance and prevent them from boarding his ships. His cannons bombarded the enemy, and when the smoke cleared he had sunk 123 Japanese ships and killed over 12,000 enemy sailors, including the Admiral in command of the Japanese Navy. Yi's losses totaled three wounded and two killed.
This insane victory broke the back of Japanese morale and marked a turning point in the war. At the Battle of Noryang, over 150 Korean and Chinese vessels finished the job on the Japanese Navy, defeating an armada of 500 enemy ships as they attempted to retreat back to Japan. While giving pursuit, Yi was shot in the chest and died. His last words were, "The battle is at it's height. Do not announce my death." The remnants of the Japanese fleet would limp back to its homeland and her leaders would sue for peace - the war was over.
Admiral Yi Soon Shin was a tactical genius and one of the most badass military commanders ever. He constantly went up against impossible odds and defeated the Japanese in thirty-three separate naval engagements, while always suffering minimal or negligible casualties to his own forces. He never lost a single battle in his entire career, his balls-outitude managed to severly cripple the Japanese war effort as he nearly single-handedly turned the tide of the war in Korea's favor. He was an excellent leader, he kept up his troops' morale, he was kind, gracious and a hero to the people, and after his death he received countless awards and honors both from the Korean and Chinese governments. A true badass.
Admiral Yi Sun-sun - Korean Hero