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
    20
Feb 2019
345
California
#51
Actually I just changed my vote---was I the only one who was fooled by the title of this thread (that is to say, who answered the TITLE of the thread which is put in the form of a question, rather than the question as re-stated (and flipped) in the poll)?

I would have waited until either S&G or Tirpitz was ready to accompany, personally.
 
Jun 2017
2,891
Connecticut
#52
Yes if only because using white elephants as more effective U Boats while being ordered not to do the thing it was designed to do was an extremely inefficient and wasteful strategy. I have a feeling this was known, Hitler did cancel the whole battleship program and only didn't cancel Bismarck and Tirpitz because they were too far along. Not saying they were put in a suicide mission but it's just such an inefficient task that you wonder if it wasn't expected to end that way at least eventually. You're sending a huge expensive battleship with thousands of people, to do a little submarines job.

That being said if Bismarck was allowed to engage she sinks Prince of Wales and could very well bring down much of the RN with her if not for the lucky torpedo. How she fared defenseless at the end against 14 inch guns, 16 inch guns and even some cruisers for good measure showed a Bismarck class would have been a royal pain to bring down in a fight, those ships actually had to leave the scene before the sinking because the guns were too hot(or maybe they were out of ammo) and it took close range torpedos to a mortally wounded ship to finally finish her. But regardless her mission(where she wasn't allowed to fight enemy capital ships) hamstrung her combat effectiveness and the only reason Hood sank was because it was a one shot kill and that shot was technically against orders and was just common sense(you know to shoot back if you're getting shot). Would have kept the Prinz Eugene with her and think Bismarck would likely have been fine but got to vote no because the mission she was on was pointless and a job for the sake of a job. If I believed the mission wasn't overkill trying to make merchant captains poop themselves I'd vote yes cause Bismarck should have been fine without with an escort nm with one. Think Prinz Eugene was satisfactory and barring the overkill hunt(maybe, certainly had a chance) and carrier planes(which was tame compared to the onslaught Tirpitz was faced with) they could have dealt with any realistic UK surface threat.

For the inefficent mission they were on if they needed a second ship the Prinz Eugene class was perfect giving it's power speed and tiny size. While the "what if" fight between them and KGV and Rodney wasn't the mission it's far more fascinating IMO. Don't think Prinz Eugene could save Bismarck once she couldn't steer and would be sunk by the Avengers overkill they had out there but if Bismarck and Eugene encountered that group and Bismarck wasn't crippled(say the last torpedo missed) that would be a very interesting fight. UK would be favored obviously it's 4 v 2 but 2 of the UK ships are cruisers and might run and while the UK's got two battleships the 16 incher is old and slower while the other is a KGV class. Prinz Eugene might be small and would be in serious danger but she makes the fight interesting because those 8 inchers aren't nothing and she has torpedos. As long as she's afloat the British wouldn't be able to gang up on Bismarck and given the previous battle with POW I don't think they would win. Also in the fight with Hood and POW, Prinz Eugene at least from a distance was believed to be the Bismarck and was big enough in appearance to serve as a decoy. This is only one of the biggest what if fights in history I am legit bummed we never saw it. While Jutland gets a lot of hype that was over before it began but Germany had a much better chance of seizing naval superiority here. If Bismarck and Prinz Eugene win, Germany's capital ship lineup would be 4 battleships and 5 "large cruisers" and the UK would have 2 battleships not including the QE class(which not as obsolete as the Royal Soverigns were considerably weaker) and 2 battlecruiers. If POW had been sunk this would be 1, though Duke of York was coming up the pipeline. The UK would also lose three more capital ships in 1941 which could have brought the capital ship lineup to 4-6 even without the German "large cruisers". Far more competitive than Jutland. Of course unlike in WWI, the naval war wasn't a priority(for either side, UK Lions the topic I came closest to writing a book on were scrapped as well) but it's fascinating how much more realistic naval superiority was in WWII even when Germany wasn't trying. While Tirpitz never really got a chance to see action Bismarck in her one mission gives battleship nerds more material than almost all of WWI.

By the way when I say 5 large cruisers, I'm adding the Graf Spee and her sisters. Back when I was big into ships a year or two ago, it was an ongoing debate whether or not Graf Spee and co were battlecruisers or "pocket battleships" or something else. They are currently listed on wikipedia as large cruisers and the article apparently won some sort of award for quality(has that star in the corner so I'm going to take that as the WWII naval history community having finally put them into a box with the large cruisers that were also a unique type of ship. I'm down with that cause Prinz Eugene's can be seen as "pocket battlecruisers" to "pocket battleships" being bigger (as battlecruisers tended to be) with weaker guns(though in this case instead of normal to weaker it goes from weaker to weaker weaker) than the Spee's. Both are unique classes though Eugune has more peers while Spees are just weird. No idea if that's why it was decided that way though but that would be my guess. Even though it makes sense clearly weren't labeled as such and there were no right answers to that.
 
Last edited:

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,710
Sydney
#53
Sending the Bismarck to threaten the Atlantic convoys from the Bay of Biscay was a great idea
it would be able to put to sea and do fast raids in the mid Atlantic
terrifies the convoy escort , force the RN to get out of Scapaflow and move to bases South

IF it could get there !

the alternate was to do a Tirpitz , wait in ambush in the fiords of northern Norway
 
Jun 2017
2,891
Connecticut
#54
Sending the Bismarck to threaten the Atlantic convoys from the Bay of Biscay was a great idea
it would be able to put to sea and do fast raids in the mid Atlantic
terrifies the convoy escort , force the RN to get out of Scapaflow and move to bases South

IF it could get there !

the alternate was to do a Tirpitz , wait in ambush in the fiords of northern Norway
My issue with the mission isn't that Bismarcks wouldn't be better at the job than subs, can terrify enemy convoys. Just that it was a super inefficent use for them. The Atlantic is huge and there's a ton of convoys. Sure they don't have to run like U-Boats and would terrify escorts but in terms of their maximum actual impact, look at the Scharnhorsts which were about as successful in that role as could be. I just think the value of a handful of ships being able to fight convoys is rather limited. U-Boats aren't as good but U-Boats were a dime and dozen and were more of a threat because of the area they could cover as a group, the fact they were expendable and replaceable. I just don't see a meaningful tangible impact of Bismarcks being better. It seems in vein with the Germans WWII tendency to build these incredible fancy weapons that made little impact. Also while Bismarck was unlucky to get sunk on the maiden voyage and all it still showed how easy it would be for the UK's more numerous capital ships to guard the sealanes and find them(and that advantage would only keep growing it was it's smallest in spring 1941).

Finally it's boring and not interesting but practically speaking Tirpitz had more of an impact doing nothing than the other battleships even the Scharnhorsts had with tangible achievements. British spent years hunting the thing and just by making them harass the Tirpitz they were making the UK expend a bunch of resources. Didn't matter by that time of course and the USA and USSR were the main factors in the war but Tirpitz was one ship that held the entire royal navy down in fear without actually moving. That seems pretty useful to me, though it's boring and not interesting to talk about.

Also while the whole "get them out of Scapa Flow by harassing commerce and divide them" idea is good strategy, that wasn't what they were planning on doing. They(at least Bismarck, assume Tirpitz too) were supposed to evade the ships chasing them, even if successful in luring battleships into situations where they could be destroyed they weren't supposed to pick them off. It's a great strategy and that changes my opinion on the mission but that's your strategy not the WWII Germans.There wasn't an ulterior motive or larger naval strategy behind sinking the commerce, they were just supposed to sink commerce.
 
Likes: macon

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,239
#55
That being said if Bismarck was allowed to engage she sinks Prince of Wales and could very well bring down much of the RN with her if not for the lucky torpedo. .
Bring down much of the Royal Navy/ Large amounts of hyperbole.

The Bismark was quite a flawed ship and would not have fared well in any substained battle. The Fire control cables were above the armor. Once without real fire control, which is highly likely in any hits are scored against teh Bismark at all, it;s just going to lose aagiunst any equalivent ship.,

Germnay sizeing contyrol of teh seas in ww2. Laughable.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,239
#56
Bismarck class would have been a royal pain to bring down in a fight, those ships actually had to leave the scene before the sinking because the guns were too hot(or maybe they were out of ammo) and it took close range torpedos to a mortally wounded ship to finally finish her..
They were short of fuel. The Bismark was going down before any torpedoes were invloved.
 
Jun 2017
2,891
Connecticut
#57
They were short of fuel. The Bismark was going down before any torpedoes were invloved.
Not denying that. It was mortally wounded long before it sank. But the amount of time it took if they had been fighting still matters(look at that German battlecruiser in Jutland). And it did take a lot to mortally wound Bismarck the torpedos came at the very end.
 
Jun 2017
2,891
Connecticut
#58
Bring down much of the Royal Navy/ Large amounts of hyperbole.

The Bismark was quite a flawed ship and would not have fared well in any substained battle. The Fire control cables were above the armor. Once without real fire control, which is highly likely in any hits are scored against teh Bismark at all, it;s just going to lose aagiunst any equalivent ship.,

Germnay sizeing contyrol of teh seas in ww2. Laughable.

There is a lot of hyberbole. But it's plausible hyperbole. Despite the German navy's size in WWI there is no amount of hyperbole that would result in the German navy gaining naval superiority. Given the lopsided orders of battle we see in modern naval history being in the range of hyperbole is as close as things get. Bismarck was a flawed ship my praise sounds more glowing in the context of her opponents(Nelson old, KGV's 14 inch guns complied with a treaty everyone else gave the bird to). There were plenty of ships on the seas that were equal or superior to Bismarck just none in the RN. UK had built KGV's up to arms treatys most of their peers didn't follow so their French, German and Italian were better. The best US and Japanese battleships were yet better still because they didn't quit building them for another generation of ships.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,239
#59
There is a lot of hyberbole. But it's plausible hyperbole. Despite the German navy's size in WWI there is no amount of hyperbole that would result in the German navy gaining naval superiority. Given the lopsided orders of battle we see in modern naval history being in the range of hyperbole is as close as things get. Bismarck was a flawed ship my praise sounds more glowing in the context of her opponents(Nelson old, KGV's 14 inch guns complied with a treaty everyone else gave the bird to). There were plenty of ships on the seas that were equal or superior to Bismarck just none in the RN. UK had built KGV's up to arms treatys most of their peers didn't follow so their French, German and Italian were better. The best US and Japanese battleships were yet better still because they didn't quit building them for another generation of ships.
No battle was going to be a straight 1 on 1 duel. The Royal navy does not need to be the Bismark in fictional one on one duel. The range and depth of support available to Royal Navy battleships is totally decisive. If teh Royal Navy has a few cruisers and doxen destroyers presnet it going to matter. Let alone air craft carriers.

The German navy was just so good dammed small it could have neitehr control the seas. You need some sort of presence for that.

It;'s pretty debabatble that the Bismark could take the Nelson or Rodney. The Bismark had a glass jawed fire control system. Bascially running above the armor. Very easy to knock out at which piont the Bismeak is most likely to lose anyt battle against another battleships. If the British had landed hgits first in denamrk striaght it cold have easily gone the other way. Mis identifiiying the very similar looking German ships and engaged the Prine Eugen rather than the Bismark gave the Germans a good advanatge

A would not be so rosey eyed about Italian, french battleships. They had design flaws as well.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,319
Las Vegas, NV USA
#60
As long as it was built, I would use it. It was faster and its guns had a longer range than the British battleships. Anything floating once sighted was a dead duck (HMS Hood). When its steering was disabled it was vulnerable to air strikes which was lucky for Britain. If it were able to stay out to sea it might have lasted longer. Instead of heading to France, it should have returned to the fjords of Norway.
 

Similar History Discussions