Bismarck Battleship - Is it a wrong choice for Kriegsmarine to send it to Atlantic in May 1941

Will you take the risk and send Bismarck to Atlantic in May 1941?


  • Total voters
    13
#1
Sabaton has just released the new song BISMARCK to commemorate the battle of the Atlantic. The battleship was sunk in its first voyage to the Atlantic in its short lifespan of 3 years into the sea. Is it a wrong choice for the Kriegsmarine headquarters to continue its Operation Rheinübung after being spotted near the port on the Norwegian coast?

[BISMARCK - with Real Battle Footage 1939 - 1941 and Animation]

Bismarck was the first of two Bismarck-class battleships built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. Named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1936 and launched in February 1939. Work was completed in August 1940, when she was commissioned into the German fleet. Bismarck and her sister ship Tirpitz were the largest battleships ever built by Germany, and two of the largest built by any European power.

In the course of the warship's eight-month career under its sole commanding officer, Captain Ernst Lindemann, Bismarck conducted only one offensive operation, lasting 8 days in May 1941, codenamed Rheinübung. The ship, along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was to break into the Atlantic Ocean and raid Allied shipping from North America to Great Britain. The two ships were detected several times off Scandinavia, and British naval units were deployed to block their route. At the Battle of the Denmark Strait, the battlecruiser HMS Hood initially engaged Prinz Eugen, probably by mistake, while HMS Prince of Wales engaged Bismarck. In the ensuing battle Hood was destroyed by the combined fire of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, who then damaged Prince of Wales and forced her retreat. Bismarck suffered sufficient damage from three hits to force an end to the raiding mission.

The destruction of Hood spurred a relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy involving dozens of warships. Two days later, heading for occupied France to effect repairs, Bismarck was attacked by 16 obsolescent Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal; one scored a hit that rendered the battleship's steering gear inoperable. In her final battle the following morning, the already-crippled Bismarck was severely damaged during a sustained engagement with two British battleships and two heavy cruisers, was scuttled by her crew, and sank with heavy loss of life. Most experts agree that the battle damage would have caused her to sink eventually. The wreck was located in June 1989 by Robert Ballard, and has since been further surveyed by several other expeditions.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,090
Sydney
#4
the swordfishs were pathetic junk and yet they did the crippling blow ,
due to the their crew using optimistic aggression rather than reason
this was the real lesson of the battle ,

in the last and greatest engagement of ship versus ship ,
the ultimate gunnery display during the apex of naval firepower was the mere epilogue to the supremacy of air power
 
#5
the swordfishs were pathetic junk and yet they did the crippling blow ,
due to the their crew using optimistic aggression rather than reason
this was the real lesson of the battle ,

in the last and greatest engagement of ship versus ship ,
the ultimate gunnery display during the apex of naval firepower was the mere epilogue to the supremacy of air power
True, in 1941, naval firepower was the mere epilogue to the air power... by the way, in that era aircraft carrier replaces battleships, and there are sayings that China is investing in a new form of drone carrier which is able to dispatch thousands of drones carrying bombs to attack aircraft carrier in the future, those drones are extremely cheap compared to the cost of a carrier and their batch attack like flies / bees would render the carrier's anti-missile or anti aircraft guns no use... would that be drone carrier replacing aircraft carrier in our era?

non militarized drone sample:
https://img.newatlas.com/dji-drones...1079&w=616&s=309c1dd894c9f110e50be8a33fa4e6dd
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,112
#6
The whole concept of "raiders" (single combat ships sent on far away missions where they would get no support) was wrong... This was no longer the 18th century.....

Cheap converted cargo ships would be better at that role, and their loss was no big deal....
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,534
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#7
True... I also wondering why Bismarck couldn't shoot any of the aircraft down
Sea and weather conditions ... on board of Bismarck they had their problems to aim with accuracy to those planes flying among clouds under the rain, while the ship faced high waves and a bad sea.

The real right decision [and I would add that it was a brave decision] was to attack in those weather conditions using those light planes. It was the key decision.

To make things clear: the first group of swordfishes which left the Ark Royal attacked the Sheffield, thinking it was the Bismarck [at 14:50].

An other lucky coincidence is that a German U-Boat intercepted the English convoy, but it had no more torpedoes to lunch [20:39, U-556].

And during the attack on the swordfishes they didn't realize to have been able to hit the Bismarck ...
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,534
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#8
Regarding sending or not the Bismarck to North Atlantic, my opinion is that it was the right thing to do to increase the pressure on the United Kingdom [and this was the reason why London wanted to destroy the Bismarck before it reached Northern Atlantic ... they hadn't satellite and remote horizon surface radars ... to find the Bismarck in the ocean would have been well more difficult.

The Kriegsmarine did it right and to be fair, in good weather conditions the Bismarck would have defended itself quite better. But the risk was there, anyway.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,534
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#9
True, in 1941, naval firepower was the mere epilogue to the air power... by the way, in that era aircraft carrier replaces battleships, and there are sayings that China is investing in a new form of drone carrier which is able to dispatch thousands of drones carrying bombs to attack aircraft carrier in the future, those drones are extremely cheap compared to the cost of a carrier and their batch attack like flies / bees would render the carrier's anti-missile or anti aircraft guns no use... would that be drone carrier replacing aircraft carrier in our era?

non militarized drone sample:
https://img.newatlas.com/dji-drones-update-registration-2.jpg?auto=format,compress&ch=Width,DPR&fit=crop&h=347&q=60&rect=0,0,1919,1079&w=616&s=309c1dd894c9f110e50be8a33fa4e6dd
That's seem to be the evolution [powers are commissioning the last generation of supercarriers in these years ... US and UK, France is still projecting its new carrier]. Regarding how to protect a carrier from a cloud of little "bee attack drones" there are several options, but keep in mind that you have to get close to the target ... and a carrier is connected with satellites and on board it has got fighters able to attack your "drone carrier" when it's too far to lunch its drones to attack the carrier. So more to a carrier in the water, I tend to think to stealth planes carrying attack drones. To get enough close to the target.
 
Dec 2014
397
Wales
#10
Interesting that in 1941 the only maritime strike aircraft equipped with ASV radar are considered obselecent, so inadequate, yet somehow Bismarck couldn't shoot any of them down...
Yes, it's one of the greatest ironies of the war that an aircraft that was obsolete and gets described as a piece of junk was also one of the most successful naval aircraft of the war. It....

Sank or crippled 3 battleships for the loss of 2 Swordfish at Taranto;
Was responsible for the crippling of the Bismark;
Sank more than 300,000 tons of Axis shipping (claimed as the highest tonnage sunk by any allied aircraft);
Accounted for 20 U-boats including;
The first U-boat kill by an allied aircraft as well as the first kill of a U-boat using rockets:
Proved to be an outstanding aircraft for use on small carriers (especially in rough weather such as found in the Atlantic);
and outlasted their replacement (Swordfish continued to be used on Merchant Carriers until 1945).

Swordfish | Royal Navy

As for why the Bismark's AA was ineffective:

Neither of Britain’s main enemies in Europe - Italy and Germany - had any aircraft carriers, so the Royal Navy knew every time it sent Swordfish into the sky it would have total air supremacy. This reduced the equation to enemy AA fire and the Swordfish’s ability to carry and drop torpedoes. In both aspects, the Swordfish found itself more than adequate, and, in the latter, perhaps uniquely skilled.

Remember the two things an aircraft needs to evade enemies? Speed and height? Well, it’s absolutely vital for torpedoes to be dropped at low altitude from slow-moving aircraft. The Americans, in their rush to avoid a repeat of the massacres of their pilots that happened in the early battles against Japan, had ignored or overlooked this. American torpedo bombers needed to slow down considerably as they reached dropping range, which left the aircraft unstable and under-powered, not to mention sitting ducks for enemy fighters and AA. Unlike in ground vehicles, when reducing speed in the air there is not a corresponding increase in handling ability - indeed, the reverse. Everything works better at higher speeds.

This wasn’t a problem for the Swordfish, which had a theoretical top speed of 140 mph. The Fleet Air Arm pilots could go like the clappers and still find themselves within the torpedo-dropping speed range. With their aircraft more capable at low speeds, they were also confident enough to fly closer to the water.

This mattered. Against an unprepared and unresponsive enemy, such as at Taranto, or a virtually helpless battleship in the dark, such as Bismarck, the Swordfish’s unique frame meant they could carry heavier torpedoes than the American torpedo bombers in the Pacific, they could deliver them with more precision, and they could be surer that their torpedoes would reach the target. Plus, as many commentors have pointed out by now, the Swordfish was too slow for many of the predicting mechanisms used by AA guns. The Germans hadn't thought about aircraft that ungainly being sent into attack.

https://www.quora.com/Why-was-the-B...-so-strong-at-sinking-ships-even-the-Bismarck

They were also able to take massive amounts of damage due to their fabric construction - there are tales of one plane returning from the attack on the Bismark with more than 300 holes in the fabric caused by shrapnel, so a 'near miss' wasn't good enough.

In other words all the AA failed because it was slow, obsolescent and at the same time a superb platform for dropping torpedos. Again, Irony.