Joseph Strauss........HS. FORMION, DDG-220
Admiral Formion of Athenian was a pioneer in naval tactics. Through the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 B.C.) He employed inventive tactics to gain victory after victory and thus gave birth to his legend.
His most famous battle was in the gulf of Patras in 429 B.C. There he defeated 77 Peloponnesian Triremes (an ancient galley having three banks of oars) with his fleet of Triremes numbering only 20. The Pelopnnesians sailed with their ships in a circular formation, their brows facing outward and sterns in. The gaps between ships were kept small so the enemy would not be able to maneuver into the circle. In the center of the formation were kept the light and highly maneuverable craft able to come to the aid of any portion of the circumference weakened by enemy attack.
Formion had a plan for the Peloponnesians. He kept his smaller fleet in a line and sailed around and around the enemy circle, forcing it inward. Formion expected that eventually the Peloponnesian formation would fall afoul of itself with the smaller craft adding to their confusion.
Formion also knew this gulf, and that by afternoon the wind would pick up, so he would stall until then and use the winds to add to the Peloponnesians confusion.
The winds came up, and the Peloponnesians fell afoul of each other. Poles were used to push off, yells and shouts between crews kept captains from giving orders to their helmsmen and boatswains, inexperience took its toll. Formion attacked. The enemy fled from Formion's fleet to Patrae and Dyme in Achaea.
The Peloponnesians reinforced their fleets and again sailed forth to engage Formion. Again Formion responded with intentiveness. The standard naval tactic of the time was to carry foot soldiers and use the ships as floating battle fields. Formion removed the soldiers and fitted his decks with an overhead cover (katastroma) to protect his oarsmen. With no soldiers, he fit many more oarsmen on board and thus was able to maneuver quicker and more faster. With these new ships he sailed through the enemy lines, quickly reversed and rammed the enemy in its weak point, its stern, then back away quickly. Again his victory was total.
Admiral Formion was instrumental in helping the Athenians soundly defeat the Peloponnesians. Admiral Formion's words and the crew motto has always been,
"NEVER GIVE WAY BEFORE ANY NUMBER OF SHIPS"
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