- German battleship Bismarck
Bismarck in 1940
Career Namesake: Otto von Bismarck Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg Laid down: 1 July 1936 Launched: 14 February 1939 Commissioned: 24 August 1940 Fate: Sunk, 27 May 1941 in the North Atlantic
General characteristics Type: Battleship Displacement: 41,700 t (41,000 long tons; 46,000 short tons) standard
50,300 t (49,500 long tons; 55,400 short tons) full load
Length: 241.6 m (793 ft) waterline
251 m (823 ft) overall
Beam: 36 m (118 ft) Draft: 9.3 m (31 ft) standard[Note 1] Propulsion: 12 Wagner superheated boilers;
3 geared turbines;
3 three-blade screws
150,170 shp (111.98 MW)
Speed: 30.01 knots (34.53 mph; 55.58 km/h) during trials[Note 2] Range: 8,870 nmi (16,430 km; 10,210 mi) at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) Complement: 103 officers
1,962 enlisted men
Armament: 8 × 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 (4 × 2)
12 × 15 cm (5.9 in) (6 × 2)
16 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/33 (8 × 2)
16 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 (8 × 2)
12 × 2 cm (0.79 in) FlaK 30 (12 × 1)
Armor: Belt: 320 mm (13 in)
Turrets: 360 mm (14 in)
Main deck: 100 to 120 mm (3.9 to 4.7 in)
Aircraft carried: 4 × Arado Ar 196 floatplanes Aviation facilities: 1 double-ended catapult
Bismarck was the first of two Bismarck-class battleships built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the primary force behind the German unification in 1871, the ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1936 and launched nearly three years later in April 1939. Work was completed in August 1940, when she was commissioned into the German fleet. Along with her sister ship Tirpitz, Bismarck was the largest battleship ever built by Germany, and the heaviest built by any European power.
Bismarck conducted only one offensive operation, codenamed Rheinübung, in May 1941. The ship, along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was to break out into the Atlantic Ocean and raid Allied shipping from North America to Great Britain. The two ships were detected several times off Scandinavia, however, and British naval units were deployed to block their route. At the Battle of Denmark Strait, Bismarck engaged and destroyed the battlecruiser HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, and forced the battleship HMS Prince of Wales to retreat with heavy damage, although Bismarck herself had been hit three times and suffered an oil leak from a ruptured tank.
The destruction of Hood spurred a relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy with dozens of warships involved. Two days later, while steaming for the relative safety of occupied France, Bismarck was attacked by Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal; one hit was scored that jammed the battleship's steering gear and rendered her unmanoeuvrable. The following morning, Bismarck was destroyed by a pair of British battleships. The cause of her sinking is disputed: some in the Royal Navy claim that torpedoes fired by the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire administered the fatal blow, while German survivors argue that they scuttled the ship. In June 1989, Robert Ballard discovered the location of Bismarck's wreck. Several other expeditions have surveyed the sunken battleship in an effort to document more completely the condition of the ship and to determine the cause of the ship's loss.
Construction and characteristics
Bismarck was ordered as Ersatz Hannover as a replacement for the old pre-dreadnought SMS Hannover, under the contract name "F". The Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg was awarded the contract, where the keel was laid on 1 July 1936. The hull was launched on 1 April 1939; during the elaborate ceremonies, the ship was christened by the granddaughter of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the ship's namesake. Fitting-out out work followed her launch, during which time her original straight stem was replaced with a raked "Atlantic bow" similar to the Scharnhorst-class battleships. Bismarck was commissioned into the fleet on 24 August 1940 for sea trials, which were conducted in the Baltic. Kapitän zur See Ernst Lindemann took command of the ship at the time of her commissioning.
Bismarck displaced 41,700 t (41,000 long tons) as built and 50,300 t (49,500 long tons) fully loaded, with an overall length of 251 m (823 ft 6 in), a beam of 36 m (118 ft 1 in) and a maximum draft of 9.9 m (32 ft 6 in). She was the largest battleship built by Germany, as well as the heaviest battleship built by a European navy. She was powered by three Blohm & Voss geared steam turbines, which developed a total of 150,170 shaft horsepower (111,980 kW) and yielded a maximum speed of 30.01 kn (55.58 km/h; 34.53 mph) on speed trials. Her standard crew numbered 103 officers and 1,962 enlisted men. Bismarck was equipped with three FuMO 23 radar sets, mounted on the forward and stern range-finders and the ship's foretop.
She was armed with eight 38 cm (15 in) L/52 guns arranged in four twin gun turrets: two super-firing turrets forward—Anton and Bruno—and two aft—Caesar and Dora. Her secondary armament consisted of twelve 15 cm (5.9 in) L/55 guns, sixteen 10.5 cm (4.1 in) L/65 and sixteen 3.7 cm (1.5 in) L/83, and twelve 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft guns. The ship's main belt was 320 mm (13 in) thick and was covered by a pair of upper and main armoured decks that were 50 mm (2.0 in) and 100 to 120 mm (3.9 to 4.7 in) thick, respectively. The 38 cm turrets were protected by 360 mm (14 in) thick faces and 220 mm (8.7 in) thick sides.
On 15 September 1940, three weeks after her commissioning, Bismarck left Hamburg to begin sea trials in Kiel Bay. Sperrbrecher 13 escorted the ship to Arcona on 28 September, and then on to Gotenhafen for trials in the Gulf of Danzig. The ship's power-plant was given a thorough workout; Bismarck made measured-mile and high speed runs. Her stability and maneuverability were also tested; during these tests, a flaw in the ship's design was discovered. While attempting to steer the ship solely through altering propeller revolutions, the crew learned that the ship could be kept on course only with great difficulty. Even with the outboard screws running at full power in opposite directions, they generated only a slight turning ability. Trials lasted until December; Bismarck returned to Hamburg, arriving on 9 December, for minor alterations and the final completion of the out-fitting process.
The ship was scheduled to return to Kiel on 24 January 1941, but a merchant vessel had been sunk in the Kiel Canal and prevented usage of the waterway. Severe weather hampered efforts to remove the wreck, and Bismarck was not able to make the passage to Kiel until March. The delay greatly frustrated KzS Lindemann, who remarked that "[Bismarck] had been tied down at Hamburg for five weeks...the precious time at sea lost as a result cannot be made up, and a significant delay in the final war deployment of the ship thus is unavoidable." While waiting to make the voyage to Kiel, Bismarck hosted a visit by Captain Anders Forshell, the Swedish naval attaché to Berlin. He returned to Sweden with a detailed description of the ship, which was subsequently leaked to Britain by pro-British elements in the Swedish Navy; this gave the Royal Navy its first full picture of the vessel, although it lacked specificity on important information, including top speed, radius of action, and displacement.
On 6 March, Bismarck received the order to steam to Kiel. While en route, the ship was escorted by several Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters and a pair of armed merchant vessels, along with an icebreaker. At 8:45 on 8 March, Bismarck briefly ran aground on the southern shore of the Kiel Canal, though she was freed within an hour. The battleship reached Kiel the following day, where her crew stocked ammunition, fuel, and other supplies and applied a coat of dazzle paint to camouflage her from aerial observers. British bombers attacked the harbour without success on 12 March. On 17 March, the old battleship Schlesien, now used as an icebreaker, escorted Bismarck through the ice to Gotenhafen, where the latter continued combat readiness training.
The Oberkommando der Marine (OKM, German: Naval High Command), commanded by Admiral Erich Raeder, intended to continue the practice of using heavy ships as surface raiders against Allied merchant traffic in the Atlantic Ocean. The two Scharnhorst-class battleships were based in Brest, France at the time, having just completed Operation Berlin, a major raid into the Atlantic. Bismarck's sistership Tirpitz rapidly approached completion. Bismarck and Tirpitz were to sortie from the Baltic and rendezvous with the two Scharnhorst class ships in the Atlantic; the operation was initially scheduled for around 25 April 1941, when a new moon period would make conditions more favourable.
Work on Tirpitz was completed later than anticipated, however, and she was not commissioned until 25 February; the ship would not be ready for combat until late in the year. To further complicate the situation, Gneisenau was torpedoed while in Brest and damaged further by bombs when in the drydock. Scharnhorst required a boiler overhaul following Operation Berlin; the workers discovered during the overhaul that the boilers were in worse condition than expected. She would also be unavailable for the planned sortie. Attacks by British bombers on supply depots in Kiel delayed repairs on the heavy cruisers Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper. The two ships would not be ready for action until July–August. Admiral Günther Lütjens, the officer chosen to lead the operation, wished to delay the operation until at least either Scharnhorst or Tirpitz would be ready. Regardless, the OKM decided to proceed with the operation, codenamed Operation Rheinübung, with a force consisting of only Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.
On 5 May, Adolf Hitler, Wilhelm Keitel, and a large entourage arrived to view Bismarck and Tirpitz in Gotenhafen. The men were given an extensive tour of the ships, after which Hitler met with Lütjens to discuss the upcoming mission. On the 16 May, Lütjens reported that Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were fully prepared for Operation Rheinübung; he was therefore ordered to proceed with the mission on the evening of 19 May. As part of the operational plans, a group of eighteen supply ships would be positioned to support Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Four U-boats would be placed along the convoy routes between Halifax and Britain to scout for the raiders.
By the start of the operation, Bismarck's crew had increased to 2,221 officers and enlisted men. This included an admiral's staff of nearly 65 and a prize crew of 80 sailors, which could be used to crew transports captured during the mission. At 02:00 on 19 May, Bismarck departed Gotenhafen and made for the Danish straits. She was joined at 11:25 by Prinz Eugen, which had departed the previous night at 21:18, off Cape Arkona. The two ships were escorted by three destroyers—Hans Lody, Friedrich Eckoldt, and Z23—and a flotilla of minesweepers. The Luftwaffe provided air cover during the voyage out of German waters. At around noon on 20 May, Lindemann informed the ship's crew via loudspeaker of the ship's mission. At approximately the same time, group of ten or twelve Swedish aircraft flying reconnaissance encountered the German force and reported its composition and heading, though the Germans did not notice the Swedish aircraft.
An hour later, the German flotilla encountered the Swedish cruiser HMS Gotland; the cruiser shadowed the Germans for two hours in the Kattegat. Gotland transmitted a report to naval headquarters, stating: "Two large ships, three destroyers, five escort vessels, and 10–12 aircraft passed Marstrand, course 205°/20'." The OKM was not concerned about the security risk posed by Gotland, though both Lütjens and Lindemann believed operational security had been lost. The report eventually made its way to Captain Henry Denham, the British naval attaché to Sweden, who transmitted the information to the Admiralty. The code-breakers at Bletchley Park confirmed that an Atlantic raid was imminent, as they had decrypted reports that Bismarck and Prinz Eugen had taken on prize crews and requested additional navigational charts from headquarters. A pair of Supermarine Spitfires were ordered to search the Norwegian coast for the German flotilla.
German aerial reconnaissance confirmed that one aircraft carrier, three battleships, and four cruisers remained at anchor in the main British naval base at Scapa Flow, which confirmed to Lütjens that the British were at that point unaware of his operation. On the evening of 20 May, Bismarck and the rest of the flotilla reached the Norwegian coast; the minesweepers were detached and the two raiders and their destroyer escorts continued north. The following morning, radio-intercept officers on board Prinz Eugen picked up a signal ordering British reconnaissance aircraft to search for two battleships and three destroyers northbound off the Norwegian coast. At 7:00 on the 21st, the Germans spotted four unidentified aircraft, though they quickly departed. Shortly after 12:00, the flotilla reached Bergen and anchored at Grimstadfjord. While there, the ships' crews painted over the Baltic camouflage with the standard "outboard gray" worn by German warships operating in the Atlantic.
While in Norway, a pair of Bf 109 fighters circled over Bismarck to protect her from British air attacks. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Michael Suckling managed to fly his Spitfire directly over the German flotilla at a height of 8,000 m (26,000 ft) and snap several photos of Bismarck and her consorts. Upon receipt of the information, Admiral John Tovey ordered the battlecruiser HMS Hood, the newly commissioned battleship Prince of Wales, and six destroyers to reinforce the pair of cruisers patrolling the Denmark Strait. The rest of the Home Fleet was placed on high alert in Scapa Flow. Eighteen bombers were dispatched to attack the Germans, but weather over the fjord had worsened and they were unable to find the German warships.
Bismarck failed to replenish her fuel stores while anchored in Norway, as her operational orders did not require her to do so. She had left port 200 t (200 long tons; 220 short tons) short of a full load, and had since expended another 1,000 t (980 long tons; 1,100 short tons) on the voyage from Gotenhafen. Prinz Eugen, meanwhile, took on 764 t (752 long tons; 842 short tons) of fuel. At 19:30 on 21 May, Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, and the three escorting destroyers left Bergen. By midnight, the force was in the open sea and headed toward the Arctic Ocean. At this time, Admiral Raeder finally informed Hitler of the operation, who reluctantly gave his consent to continue the raid. The three escorting destroyers were detached at 04:14 on 22 May, while the force steamed off Trondheim. At around 12:00, Lütjens ordered his two ships to turn toward the Denmark Strait to attempt the breakout into the open waters of the Atlantic.
By 04:00 on 23 May, Lütjens ordered Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to increase speed to 27 kn (50 km/h; 31 mph) to make the dash through the Denmark Strait. Upon entering the Strait, both ships activated their FuMo radar detection equipment sets. Bismarck led Prinz Eugen by about 700 m (770 yd); mist reduced visibility to 3,000 to 4,000 m (3,300 to 4,400 yd). The Germans encountered some ice at around 10:00, which necessitated a reduction in speed to 24 kn (44 km/h; 28 mph). Two hours later, the pair had reached a point north of Iceland. The ships were forced to zigzag to avoid ice floes. At 19:22, hydrophone and radar operators aboard the German warships detected the cruiser HMS Suffolk at a range of approximately 12,500 m (13,700 yd). Prinz Eugen's radio-intercept team decrypted the radio signals being sent by Suffolk and learned that their location had indeed been reported.
Admiral Lütjens gave permission for Prinz Eugen to engage Suffolk, though the captain of the German cruiser could not clearly make out his target and so held his ship's fire. Suffolk quickly retreated to a safe distance and shadowed the German ships. At 20:30, the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk joined Suffolk, but approached the German raiders too closely. Lütjens ordered his ships to engage the British cruiser; Bismarck fired five salvoes, three of which straddled Norfolk and rained shell splinters on her decks. The cruiser laid a smoke screen and fled into a fog bank, ending the brief engagement. The concussion from the 38 cm guns firing disabled Bismarck's FuMo 23 radar set; this prompted Lütjens to order Prinz Eugen to take station ahead so she could use her functioning radar to scout for the formation.
At around 22:00, Lütjens ordered Bismarck to make a 180-degree turn in an effort to surprise the two heavy cruisers shadowing him. Although Bismarck was visually obscured in a rain squall, Suffolk's radar quickly detected the manoeuvre, allowing the cruiser to evade Bismarck. The cruisers remained in their stations through the night, continually relaying the location and bearing of the German ships. The harsh weather broke on the morning of 24 May, revealing a clear sky. At 05:07 that morning, hydrophone operators aboard Prinz Eugen detected a pair of unidentified vessels approaching the German formation at a range of 20 nmi (37 km; 23 mi), reporting "Noise of two fast-moving turbine ships at 280° relative bearing!".
Battle of the Denmark Strait
At 05:45, lookouts on the German ships spotted smoke on the horizon; these turned out to be from Hood and Prince of Wales, under the command of Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland. Lütjens ordered his ships' crews to battle stations. By 05:52, the range had fallen to 26,000 m (28,000 yd) and Hood opened fire, followed by Prince of Wales a minute later. Hood engaged Prinz Eugen, which the British thought to be Bismarck, while Prince of Wales fired on Bismarck.[Note 3] Adalbert Schneider, the first gunnery officer aboard Bismarck, twice requested permission to return fire from Lütjens, who hesitated. Lindemann intervened, muttering "I will not let my ship be shot out from under my ass." He demanded permission to fire from Lütjens, who relented and at 05:55 ordered his ships to engage the British.
The British ships approached the German ships head on, which permitted them to use only their forward guns, while Bismarck and Prinz Eugen could fire full broadsides. Several minutes after opening fire, Holland ordered a 20° turn to port, which would allow his ships to engage with their rear gun turrets. Both German ships concentrated their fire on Hood; about a minute after opening fire, Prinz Eugen scored a hit with a high-explosive 20.3 cm (8.0 in) shell; the explosion detonated Unrotated Projectile ammunition and started a large fire, which was quickly extinguished. After firing three four-gun salvos, Schneider had zeroed in the range to Hood; he immediately ordered rapid-fire salvos from Bismarck's eight 38 cm guns. He also ordered the ship's 15 cm secondary guns to engage Prince of Wales. Holland then ordered a second 20° turn to port, to bring his ships on a parallel course with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Lütjens ordered Prinz Eugen to shift fire and target Prince of Wales, to keep both of his opponents under fire. Within a few minutes, Prinz Eugen scored a pair of hits on the battleship and reported a small fire to have been started.
Lütjens then ordered Prinz Eugen to drop behind Bismarck, so she could continue to monitor the location of Norfolk and Suffolk, which were still some 10 to 12 nmi (19 to 22 km; 12 to 14 mi) to the east. At 06:00, Hood was completing the second turn to port when Bismarck's fifth salvo hit. Two of the shells landed short, striking the water close to the ship, but at least one of the 38 cm armour-piercing shells struck Hood and penetrated her thin deck armor. The shell reached Hood's rear ammunition magazine and detonated 112 t (110 long tons; 123 short tons) of cordite propellant. The massive explosion broke the back of the ship between the main mast and the rear funnel; the forward section continued to move forward briefly before the in-rushing water caused the bow to rise into the air at a steep angle. The stern similarly rose upward as water rushed into the ripped-open compartments. Schneider exclaimed "He is sinking!" over the ship's loudspeakers. In only eight minutes of firing, Hood had disappeared, taking all but three of her crew of 1,419 men with her.
Bismarck then shifted fire to Prince of Wales. The British battleship scored a hit on Bismarck with her sixth salvo, but the German ship also found her mark with her first salvo. One of the shells struck the bridge on Prince of Wales, though it did not explode and instead exited the other side. Regardless, everyone in the ship's command center was killed, save Captain John Leach, the ship's commander, and one other man. The two German ships rained shells on Prince of Wales, causing serious damage. Guns malfunctioned on the recently commissioned Prince of Wales, which still had civilian technicians aboard. Despite her problematic main battery, Prince of Wales scored three hits on Bismarck in the engagement. The first struck her in the forecastle above the waterline, but low enough to allow the crashing waves to enter the hull. The second shell struck below the armoured belt and exploded on contact with the torpedo bulkhead, inflicting minimal damage. The third shell passed through one of the boats carried aboard the ship and then went through the float plane catapult without exploding.
At 06:13, Leach gave the order to retreat; only two of his ship's ten 14 in (360 mm) guns were still firing and his ship had sustained significant damage. Prince of Wales made a 160° turn and laid a smoke screen to cover her withdrawal. The Germans ceased fire as the range widened. Though Lindemann strongly advocated chasing Prince of Wales and destroying her, Lütjens obeyed operational orders to shun any avoidable engagement with enemy forces not protecting a convoy, firmly rejected the request, and instead ordered Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to head for the open waters of the North Atlantic. In the course of the engagement, Bismarck had fired 93 armour-piercing shells and had been hit by three shells in return. The forecastle hit allowed 1,000 to 2,000 t (980 to 2,000 long tons; 1,100 to 2,200 short tons) of water to flood the ship, which contaminated fuel oil stored in the bow. Lütjens refused to permit a reduction in speed to allow damage control teams to repair the shell hole, and so the hole widened and allowed more water into the ship. The second hit caused some flooding and splinters damaged a steam line in the turbo-generator room, though Bismarck had sufficient generator reserves that this was not problematic. The flooding from these two hits caused a 9-degree list to port and a 3-degree trim by the bow.
After the end of the engagement, Lütjens reported that a "Battlecruiser, probably Hood, sunk. Another battleship, King George V or Renown, turned away damaged. Two heavy cruisers maintain contact." At 08:01, he transmitted a damage report and his intentions to OKM, which were to detach Prinz Eugen for commerce raiding and to make for St. Nazaire for repairs. Shortly after 10:00, Lütjens ordered Prinz Eugen to fall behind Bismarck to discern the severity of the oil leakage from the bow hit. After confirming that "broad streams of oil on both sides of [Bismarck's] wake", Prinz Eugen returned to the forward position. About an hour later, a British Short Sunderland flying boat reported the oil slick to Suffolk and Norfolk, which had been joined by the damaged Prince of Wales. Rear Admiral Frederic Wake-Walker, the commander of the two cruisers, ordered Prince of Wales to remain behind his ships.
The Royal Navy issued calls to all warships in the area to join the pursuit of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Admiral Tovey's Home Fleet was steaming to intercept the German raiders, but on the morning of 24 May, was still over 350 nmi (650 km; 400 mi) away. The Admiralty ordered the light cruisers HMS Manchester, Birmingham, and Arethusa to patrol the Denmark Strait in the event that Lütjens attempted to retrace his route. The battleship HMS Rodney, which had been escorting RMS Britannic and was due for a refit in the Boston Navy Yard, was ordered to join Tovey. Two old Revenge class battleships, HMS Revenge and Ramillies, which were in Halifax and escorting convoy HX 127, respectively, were ordered to join the hunt. In all, six battleships and battlecruisers, two aircraft carriers, thirteen cruisers, and twenty-one destroyers were committed to the chase. By around 17:00, the crew aboard Prince of Wales restored nine of her ten main guns to working order, which permitted Wake-Walker to place her in the front of his formation to attack Bismarck if the opportunity arose.
With the weather worsening, Lütjens attempted to detach Prinz Eugen at 16:40. The squall was not heavy enough to cover her withdrawal from Wake-Walker's cruisers, which continued to maintain radar contact. Prinz Eugen was therefore recalled temporarily. The cruiser was successfully detached at 18:14. Bismarck turned around to face the Wake-Walker's formation, forcing Suffolk to turn away at high speed. Prince of Wales fired twelve salvos at Bismarck, which responded with nine salvos, none of which hit. The action diverted British attention and permitted Prinz Eugen to slip away. After Bismarck resumed her previous heading, all three of Wake-Walker's ships took up station on Bismarck's port side.
Although Bismarck had been damaged in the engagement with Hood and Prince of Wales and forced to reduce speed, she was still capable of reaching 27 to 28 kn (50 to 52 km/h; 31 to 32 mph), the same maximum speed of Tovey's King George V. Unless Bismarck could be slowed, the British would be unable to prevent her from reaching St. Nazaire. Shortly before 16:00 on 25 May, Tovey detached the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and four light cruisers to shape a course that would position her to launch her torpedo bombers. At 22:00, Victorious launched the strike, which comprised six Fairey Fulmar fighters and nine Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. The inexperienced aviators nearly attacked Norfolk on their approach; the confusion alerted Bismarck's anti-aircraft gunners. Bismarck even used her main and secondary batteries to fire at maximum depression to create giant splashes in the paths of the incoming torpedo bombers. Nevertheless, none of the attacking aircraft were shot down. Bismarck evaded eight of the nine torpedoes launched at her. The ninth struck amidships on the main armoured belt and caused minor damage. The concussive shock threw one man into a wall and killed him; five others were injured.
The explosive shock from the torpedo hit caused some minor damage to electrical equipment, though it was the high speed, erratic maneuvers to evade the torpedoes that inflicted more serious damage. The rapid shifts in speed and course loosened collision mats stemming the flood from the forward shell hole. Flooding increased, and eventually the port side number 2 boiler room had to be abandoned. The loss of now two boilers on the port shaft, coupled with decreasing fuel levels and the increasing bow trim, forced a reduction in speed to 16 kn (30 km/h; 18 mph). Divers were sent into the bow to repair the collision mats, after which speed was increased to 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph). The command staff had determined that this was the most economical speed for the voyage to occupied France.
Shortly after the Swordfish departed from the scene, Bismarck and Prince of Wales engaged in a brief artillery duel. Both ships failed to score any hits. Bismarck's damage control teams resumed work after the short engagement. The sea water that had flooded the number 2 port side boiler threatened to enter the number 4 turbo-generator feedwater system, which would have permitted saltwater to reach the turbine engines. The saltwater would have then destroyed the turbine blades and thus greatly reduced the ship's speed. By morning on 25 May, the danger had passed, however. The ship slowed to 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph) to allow divers to pump fuel from the forward compartments to the rear tanks; two hoses were successfully connected and a few hundred tons of fuel was transferred.
As the chase entered the open waters of the North Atlantic, Wake-Walker's ships were compelled to zig-zag to avoid any German U-boats that might be in the area. This required the ships to steam for ten minutes to port, then ten minutes to starboard, to keep the ships on the same base course. For the last few minutes of the turn to port, Bismarck was out of range of Suffolks's radar. At 03:00 on the morning of 25 May, Lütjens ordered the ship increase to maximum speed, which at this point was 28 kn (52 km/h; 32 mph). He then ordered the ship to circle away to the west and then north. This maneuver coincided with the period in which his ship was out of radar range; Bismarck successfully broke radar contact and circled back behind her pursuers. Suffolk's captain assumed that Bismarck had merely broken off to the west, and so he took his ship west in an attempt to locate the battleship. After half an hour, he informed Wake-Walker of the situation, who ordered the three ships to disperse as soon as daylight broke in order to conduct a visual search.
The Royal Navy now embarked on a frantic search for Bismarck. Victorious and her escorting cruisers were sent west, Wake-Walker's ships continued to the south and west, and Tovey continued to steam toward the mid-Atlantic. The situation was compounded by the fact that many of the British ships were low on fuel. Force H, centered on the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and steaming up from Gibraltar, was still at least a day's steaming out from the area. Unaware that he had shaken off Wake-Walker, Lütjens sent long radio messages to Naval Group West, based in Paris. These signals were intercepted by the British, from which bearings were determined. They were erroneously plotted, however, which kept Tovey's fleet on wrong courses for seven hours. By the time the mistake had been discovered, Bismarck had left the area.
British code-breakers were able to decrypt some of the German signals, including an order for Lütjens to make for the port of Brest, France. The French Resistance provided the British with confirmation, as Luftwaffe units were being relocated to Brest to provide support. Tovey could now turn his forces toward France to converge in areas through which Bismarck would have to pass to reach port. A squadron of Coastal Command PBY Catalinas based in Northern Ireland were committed to the search, covering areas where Bismarck might be headed in her attempt to reach occupied France. At 10:30 on 26 May, a Catalina piloted by Ensign Leonard B. Smith of the US Navy located Bismarck, some 690 nmi (1,280 km; 790 mi) northwest of Brest. At her current speed, she would have been close enough to reach the protection of U-boats and the Luftwaffe in less than a day. There were no British forces close enough to stop her.
The only possibility for the Royal Navy was Ark Royal with Force H, under the command of Admiral James Somerville. Victorious, Prince of Wales, Suffolk, and Repulse were forced to break off the search due to fuel concerns; the only heavy ships remaining apart from Force H were King George V and Rodney, but they were too far away to intercept Bismarck. Ark Royal's Swordfish were already searching the area in which Bismarck was steaming when the Catalina made the discovery. Several of the torpedo bombers also located the battleship, which was about 60 nmi (110 km; 69 mi) away from Ark Royal. Somerville ordered an attack as soon as the Swordfish returned and were rearmed with torpedoes. He detached the cruiser HMS Sheffield to shadow Bismarck, though Ark Royal's aviators were not informed of this. As a result, the Swordfish, which were armed with torpedoes equipped with new magnetic detonators, accidentally attacked Sheffield. The magnetic detonators failed to work properly, and Sheffield emerged unscathed.
Upon returning to Ark Royal, the Swordfish were armed with torpedoes equipped with contact detonators. Fifteen aircraft comprised the second attack, which was launched at 19:10. At 20:47, the torpedo bombers began their attack descent through the clouds. While the Swordfish approached, Bismarck fired her main battery at Sheffield, straddling the cruiser with her second salvo. Shell fragments rained down on Sheffield, killing three men and wounding several others. Sheffield quickly retreated under cover of a smoke screen. The Swordfish then launched their attack; Bismarck began to turn violently while her anti-aircraft batteries attempted to destroy the incoming bombers. She evaded most of the torpedoes launched, though two found their mark. One hit amidships on the port side, just below the bottom edge of the main armour belt. The force of the explosion was largely contained by the underwater protection system and the belt armour, but some structural damage was effected, which allowed minor flooding.
The second torpedo struck Bismarck in her stern on the port side, near the port rudder shaft. The explosion caused serious damage to the port rudder assembly; the coupling was badly damaged and the rudder was then unable to be disengaged. The rudders were now locked in a 12° turn to port. The explosion also caused major shock damage to the ship. The crew repeatedly attempted to regain steering control. They eventually managed to repair the starboard rudder, but the port rudder remained badly jammed. A suggestion to sever the port rudder with explosives was dismissed by Lütjens, who stated "We cannot endanger the ship with measures of that kind." He felt that the danger of damaging the screws, which would have left the battleship helpless, was too great. At 21:15, Lütjens reported that the ship was unmaneuverable.
With the port rudder jammed, Bismarck was now steaming in a large circle, unable to escape from Tovey's forces. Though fuel shortages had reduced the number of ships available to the British, the battleships King George V and Rodney were still available, along with the heavy cruisers Dorsetshire and Norfolk. Lütjens signaled headquarters at 21:40 on the 26th: "Ship unmaneuverable. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer." In the growing darkness, Bismarck briefly fired on Sheffield, though the cruiser quickly fled at high speed. Sheffield lost contact in the low visibility; Captain Philip Vian's group of five destroyers were now tasked with keeping contact with Bismarck throughout the night.
The ships encountered Bismarck at 22:38; the battleship quickly engaged them with her main battery. After firing three salvos, she straddled the Polish destroyer Piorun. The destroyer continued to close the range until a near miss at around 12,000 m (39,000 ft) forced her to turn away. Throughout the night and into the morning, Vian's destroyers continually harried Bismarck, illuminating her with star shells and firing dozens of torpedoes, none of which hit. Between 05:00 and 06:00, Bismarck's crew attempted to launch one of the Arado 196 float planes to carry away the ship's war diary, footage of the engagement with Hood, and other important documents. The third shell hit from Prince of Wales, which had hit the captain's motor launch, had damaged the steam line on the aircraft catapult, rendering it inoperative. Unable to launch the aircraft, the crew simply pushed it overboard.
After daybreak on 27 May, Tovey, in King George V, led the attack against the crippled Bismarck. Rodney followed off her port quarter; Tovey intended to steam directly at Bismarck until he was about 8 nmi (15 km; 9.2 mi) away. At that point, he would turn south to put his ships on a parallel course with his target. At 08:43, lookouts on King George V spotted Bismarck, some 23,000 m (25,000 yd) away. Four minutes later, Rodney's two forward turrets, a total of six 16 in (410 mm) guns, opened fire. Almost immediately after, King George V's 14 in (360 mm) guns began firing. Bismarck returned fire at 08:50 with her forward guns; with her second salvo, she straddled Rodney.
As the range fell, the ships' secondary batteries joined the battle. Norfolk and Dorsetshire closed and began firing with their 8 in (200 mm) guns. At 09:02, a 16-inch shell from Rodney struck Bismarck's forward superstructure, killing hundreds of men and severely damaging the forward two turrets. According to survivors, this salvo probably killed both Lindemann and Lütjens and the rest of the bridge staff. The forward main battery was now effectively disabled, though it would manage to fire one last salvo at 09:27. The main gunnery control station was quickly destroyed. Lieutenant von Müllenheim in the rear control station took over firing control for the rear turrets. He managed to fire three salvos before a shell destroyed the gun director, disabling his equipment. He gave the order for the still active guns to fire independently, but by 09:31, all four main battery turrets had been neutralized.
By 10:00, Tovey's two battleships had fired over 700 main battery shells, many at very close range; Bismarck had been reduced to a shambles, aflame from stem to stern. She suffered from a 20° list to port and was low in the water by the stern. Rodney closed to 2,700 m (3,000 yd), point-blank range for guns of that size, and continued to hammer away at the battered hulk. Tovey could not cease fire until the Germans struck their ensigns or it became clear they were abandoning ship. Rodney fired two torpedoes from her port-side tube (a shell from Bismarck had exploded 20 feet off the bow and rendered the starboard tube useless — the closest Bismarck came to a direct hit on Rodney) and claimed one hit — a claim which, according to Ludovic Kennedy, "if true, [is] the only instance in history of one battleship torpedoing another". Hans Oels, the First Officer ordered the men below decks to abandon ship; he instructed the engine room crews to open the ship's watertight doors and prepare scuttling charges. Oels rushed throughout the ship, ordering men to abandon their posts. After reaching the deck, a massive explosion killed him and about a hundred other men.
At around 10:20, Tovey ordered Dorsetshire to close and fire torpedoes into the ship. The cruiser fired a pair of torpedoes into Bismarck's starboard side, one of which hit. Dorsetshire then moved around to her port side and fired another torpedo, which also hit. Around 10:35, the port list worsened significantly; Bismarck capsized and slowly sank by the stern, disappearing from the surface at 10:40. Hundreds of men were now in the water; Dorsetshire and the destroyer Maori moved in and lowered ropes to pull the survivors aboard. At 11:40, however, Dorsetshire's captain ordered the rescue effort abandoned after lookouts spotted what they thought was a U-boat. Dorsetshire had rescued 85 men and Maori had picked up 25 by the time they left the scene. A U-boat later reached the survivors and found three men, and a German trawler rescued another two. One of the men picked up by the British died of his wounds the following day. Out of a crew of over 2,200 men, only 114 survived.
Discovery of the wreck
Discovery by Robert Ballard
The wreck of Bismarck was discovered on 8 June 1989 by Dr. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer also responsible for finding the Titanic. Bismarck rests upright at a depth of approximately 4,791 m (17,500 ft), about 650 km (400 mi) west of Brest, France. The Bismarck struck an extinct underwater volcano, which rose some 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above the surrounding abyssal plain, triggering a 2 km (1.2 mi) landslide. Bismarck slid down the mountain, coming to a stop two-thirds down.
Ballard's survey found no underwater penetrations of the ship's fully armoured citadel. Eight holes were found in the hull, one on the starboard side and seven on the port side, all above the waterline. One of the holes is in the deck, on the starboard side of the bow. The angle and shape indicates it was fired from Bismarck's port side and struck the starboard anchor chain. The anchor chain has disappeared down this hole. Six holes are amidships, three shell fragments pierced the upper splinter belt, and one made a hole in the main armour belt. Further aft a huge hole is visible, parallel to the aircraft catapult, on the deck. It is unclear whether this was a result of an internal magazine explosion due to a shell penetration of the ship's armour. The submersibles recorded no sign of a shell penetration through the main or side armour that could have caused this; it is likely that the shell penetrated the deck armour only. Huge dents showed that many of the 14 inch (356 mm) shells fired by King George V bounced off the German belt armour.
Ballard noted that he found no evidence of the internal implosions that occur when a hull that is not fully flooded sinks. The surrounding water, which has much greater pressure than the air in the hull, would crush the ship. Instead, Ballard points out that the hull is in relatively good condition; he states simply that "Bismarck did not implode." This suggests that Bismarck's compartments were flooded when the ship sank, supporting the scuttling theory. Ballard has kept the exact location of the wreck a secret to prevent other divers from taking artefacts from the ship, a practice he considers a form of grave robbing.
On discovering the wreck, it was found that the whole stern had broken away; as it was not near the main wreckage and has not yet been found, it can be assumed this did not occur on impact with the sea floor. The missing section came away roughly where the torpedo had hit, raising questions of possible structural failure. The stern area had also received several hits, increasing the damage caused by the torpedo. This, coupled with the fact the ship sank "stern first" and had no structural support to hold it in place, suggests the stern became detached at the surface. In 1942 Prinz Eugen was also torpedoed in the stern, which subsequently collapsed. This prompted a strengthening of the stern structures on all German capital ships.
Ballard estimated that Bismarck could still have floated for at least a day when the British vessels ceased fire and could have been captured by the Royal Navy, a position supported by the historian Ludovic Kennedy (who was himself a participant in the hunting of the Bismarck, as he was serving on the destroyer HMS Tartar at the time). Kennedy stated that "That she would have foundered eventually there can be little doubt; but the scuttling ensured that it was sooner rather than later." Ballard found the hull to be sound, adding: "we found a hull that appears whole and relatively undamaged by the descent and impact". They concluded the direct cause of sinking was due to scuttling: sabotage of engine-room valves by her crew, as claimed by German survivors.
In June 2001, Deep Ocean Expeditions, partnered with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, conducted another investigation of the wreck. The researchers used Russian-built mini-subs to examine Bismarck. William N. Lange, a Woods Hole expert, stated that "You see a large number of shell holes in the superstructure and deck, but not that many along the side, and none below the waterline." The expedition found no penetrations in the main armoured belt, above or below the waterline. The examiners noted several long gashes in the hull, but explained these as having been caused by the impact on the sea floor.
A third, Anglo-American expedition in July 2001 was funded by a British TV channel. The team used the information that Bismarck was resting at the foot of the only undersea volcano in that area to locate the wreck. Using ROVs to film the hull externally, the team concluded that the ship sank due to combat damage, having received numerous artillery and torpedo hits. Expedition leader David Mearns claimed significant gashes were found in the hull: "My feeling is that those holes were probably lengthened by the slide, but initiated by torpedoes". In the subsequently published book Hood and Bismarck, Mearns stated that scuttling "may have hastened the inevitable, but only by a matter of minutes."
The 2002 documentary film Expedition: Bismarck, directed by James Cameron and filmed in May–June 2002 using smaller and more agile MIR submersibles, reconstructed the events leading to the sinking of Bismarck. These provided some interior shots of Bismarck for the first time, which were transmitted on the National Geographic Channel. His findings were that there was not enough damage below the waterline of the ship to confirm that she was actually sunk by shells and torpedoes. In fact, upon close inspection of the wreckage, it was confirmed that none of the torpedoes or shells penetrated the second layer of the inner hull.
Cameron put forward a theory to explain the large gashes observed by the Anglo-American expedition: he suggested that Bismarck suffered a "hydraulic outburst" when it hit the bottom. Cameron said the belt held, but inner forces caused the sides to bulge out and break in places. Using small ROVs to examine the interior of the ship, Cameron discovered that the torpedo blasts had failed to shatter the torpedo bulkheads. The torpedo explosions had only destroyed the voids placed between the outer wall of the hull and interior sections of the ship; the purpose of these voids was to act as additional fuel storage and to absorb underwater explosions. "The inner tank walls are untouched by any explosive force...So the armor worked." Cameron concluded that the torpedoes caused "no significant flooding".
References in the Wehrmachtbericht
The following broadcasts by the Germans contained some inaccuracies. Bismarck did not shoot down any British aircraft, and it did not sink or significantly damage any enemy destroyer. The destroyer referred to in the report was HMS Mashona, sunk by the Luftwaffe on 28 May.
Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation Sunday, 25 May 1941 Wie ebenfalls durch Sondermeldung bekanntgegeben wurde, stieß ein deutscher Flottenverband unter Führung des Flottenchefs Lütjens im Seegebiet um Island auf schwere britische Seestreitkräfte. Nach einem kurzen schweren Gefecht versenkte das Schlachtschiff "Bismarck" den britischen Schlachtkreuzer "Hood," das größte Schlachtschiff der britischen Flotte. Ein weiteres Schlachtschiff der neuesten englischen "King George"-Klasse wurde beschädigt und zum Abdrehen gezwungen. Die deutschen Seestreitkräfte setzten ohne Verluste ihre Operation fort. As also mentioned in a special report, a German naval formation under the leadership of fleet commander Lütjens encountered, in the sea area of Iceland, heavy British naval forces. The battleship "Bismarck" sank the British battlecruiser "Hood," the largest battleship of the British fleet, after a short and heavy battle. A further battleship of the newest English "King George" class was damaged and forced to retreat. The German sea forces continued their operation without loss. Wednesday, 28 May 1941 Wie schon gestern bekanntgegeben, wurde das Schlachtschiff "Bismarck" nach seinem siegreichen Gefecht bei Island am 26. Mai abends durch den Torpedotreffer eines feindlichen Flugzeuges manövrierunfähig. Getreu dem letzten Funkspruch des Flottenchefs Admiral Lütjens ist das Schlachtschiff mit seinem Kommandanten Kapitän zur See Lindemann und seiner tapferen Besatzung am 27. Mai vormittags der vielfachen feindlichen Übermacht erlegen und mit wehender Flagge gesunken. As reported yesterday, the battleship "Bismarck," after its victorious battle near Iceland, was on 26 May hit by a torpedo from an enemy aircraft and left unmanoeuvrable. True to the last radio message from chief of fleet Admiral Lütjens, the battleship was defeated by overwhelming enemy forces and sank with flag flying together with its commander Kapitän zu See Lindemann and its brave crew, on 27 May before noon. Thursday, 29 May 1941 Das Schlachtschiff "Bismarck" schoß am Abend des 24. Mai fünf britische Flugzeuge ab, versenkte in der Nacht zum 27. Mai einen der angreifenden feindlichen Zerstörer und schoß einen weiteren in Brand. The battleship "Bismarck" shot down five British aircraft on the evening of 24 May sank an attacking enemy destroyer on the night of 27 May and shot up another until it burned.
- ^ Bismarck's draft at full load was 9.9 metres (32 ft 6 in).
- ^ one work claims a speed of 31.1 knots (35.8 mph; 57.6 km/h)
- ^ The British were unaware that the German ships had reversed positions while in the Denmark Strait. Observers on Prince of Wales correctly identified the ships, but failed to inform Admiral Holland.
- ^ a b c d e f Gröner, p. 33
- ^ Jackson 2002, p. 24
- ^ Campbell, p. 43
- ^ Williamson, pp. 21–22
- ^ a b c Gröner, p. 35
- ^ Williamson, p. 22
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 203
- ^ Williamson, p. 43
- ^ a b c Garzke & Dulin, p. 210
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 38
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 39
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 39
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 39–40
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 40
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 41
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, pp. 210–211
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 211
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 43
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 44–45
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 71
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 74
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 55–56
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 63
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 76
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 214
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 64
- ^ a b Bercuson & Herwig, p. 65
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 66–67
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 68
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 114
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 83
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechburg, p. 84
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 120
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 71
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 72
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 215
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 216
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 126
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 126–127
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 127
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 129–130
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 132
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp 133–134
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, pp. 219–220
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 165
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 167
- ^ a b Bercuson & Herwig, p. 151
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 220
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 151–152
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 152–153
- ^ a b Bercuson & Herwig, p. 153
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 155–156
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 223
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 176
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, pp. 176–177
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 162–163
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 164–165
- ^ Kennedy p.79
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 165–166
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 224
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 226
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 167
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 168
- ^ a b Bercuson & Herwig, p. 173
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 173–174
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 174–175
- ^ Williamson, p. 33
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 175
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, pp. 192–193
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 227
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, pp. 194–195
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 229
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 189
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, pp. 229–230
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 230
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 192–193
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 226
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 229–230
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 230–231
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 232–233
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 231
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 232
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 233
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 234
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 233
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, p. 235
- ^ Zetterling & Tamelander, pp. 236–237
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 258–259
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 259
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 259–261
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 234
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, pp. 234–235
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, pp. 235–236
- ^ Kennedy, p 211
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 237
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 271–272
- ^ Von Müllenheim-Rechberg, p. 182
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 279
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, pp. 237–238
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 286–287
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 288–289
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 290–291
- ^ Garzke & Dulin, p. 239
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 291
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, pp. 292–293
- ^ Kennedy, p246
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 293
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 295
- ^ a b Garzke & Dulin, p. 246
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 297
- ^ a b Ballard, p. 221
- ^ Ballard, p. 216
- ^ Ballard, p. 194
- ^ Ballard, p. 214
- ^ Ballard, p. 191
- ^ Jackson, p. 85
- ^ Ballard, pp. 214–215
- ^ Jackson, p. 88
- ^ Ballard, pp. 177–178
- ^ a b c d Ballard, p. 215
- ^ a b c d e f g Broad, William J. (3 December 2002). "Visiting Bismarck, Explorers Revise Its Story". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/science/visiting-bismarck-explorers-revise-its-story.html. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- ^ Bercuson & Herwig, p. 302
- ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 538, 540
- ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 542
- ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 544
- Ballard, Robert D. (1990). Bismarck: Germany's Greatest Battleship Gives Up its Secrets. Toronto: Madison Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7858-2205-9.
- Bercuson, David J.; Herwig, Holger H. (2003). The Destruction of the Bismarck. New York, NY: The Overlook Press. ISBN 1585673978.
- Campbell, John (1987). "Germany 1906–1922". In Sturton, Ian. Conway's All the World's Battleships: 1906 to the Present. London: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 28–49. ISBN 0851774482.
- Garzke, William H.; Dulin, Robert O. (1985). Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9780870211010.
- Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870217909.
- Jackson, Robert (2002). The Bismarck. London: Weapons of War. ISBN 1-86227-173-9.
- Kennedy, Ludovic (1991). Pursuit: The sinking of the Bismarck. London: Fontana. ISBN 0-00-634014-8.
- Baron von Mullenheim-Rechberg, Burkhard (1980). Battleship Bismarck, A Survivor's Story. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0870210969.
- Williamson, Gordon (2003). German Battleships 1939–45. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781841764986.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.
- Zetterling, Niklas; Tamelander, Michael (2009). Bismarck: The Final Days of Germany's Greatest Battleship. Drexel Hill, PA: Casemate. ISBN 9781935149040.
- Preceded by: Scharnhorst class
- Followed by: H class
German battleship Bismarck Ships that were lost on their maiden voyage Naval ships Cargo shipsBatavia (1629) · Fortuyn (1723) · Amsterdam (1749) · Carrier Pigeon (1852) · Irex (1890) · Hastier (1919) · Adolf Vinnen (1923) · Michael E (1941)1 · Alexander Macomb (1942)1 · Empire Clough (1942)1 · Empire Drum (1942)1, 2 · Empire Dryden (1942)1, 2 · George Calvert (1942)1 · John Morgan (1943)1 · Ranga (1982) Racing yachtsMohawk (1876)1 = Due to enemy action. 2 = Maiden revenue-earning voyage.
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