Bismarck and her contemporaries

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.
Djoser
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Djoser » Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:56 am

yellowtail3 wrote:... so much for royal ass kicking.
So you are making fun of the Bismarck's performance at Denmark Strait? Because that is what I was referring to, not AA effectiveness.

And I was also referring to a hypothetical final gunnery duel between Bismarck 'and her contemporaries', sans rudder damage. Nowhere did I refer to the Swordfish attacks, which were by no means guaranteed to cripple the Bismarck, as you seem to be implying.

Try to stick to the topic I was referring to, if you are going to attempt to lambast it with sarcasm. In this case you have failed as badly as the Bismarck's AA fire against the Swordfish--but at least they were shooting at the correct targets.

:lol:

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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Djoser » Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:26 am

Your point is well taken, if out of context, Yellowtail--the Bismarck did perform very badly in its AA fire against the Swordfish. I have always wondered why this was so. I have read various explanations, from the somewhat contrived excuse that the Swordfish were so slow that the AA crews led them too much in traversing the guns, to the ineffectiveness of the AA guns themselves, and also the presumed poor training of the crews.

It does seem that almost all navies' ships did fairly badly with AA defense in the early years of the war, but this is definitely one of the worst cases. Other than maybe Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, California, Nevada, Prince of Wales, Repulse, Conte di Cavour, and Littorio--all of which were sunk* by air attack alone.

In the Bismarck's case, it took 2-3 torpedo hits--none of which did much damage to hull integrity or propulsion, only to the rudder. Furthermore, had it not been for the POW's hit at DS forcing somewhat reduced speed, there wouldn't have been the fatal torpedo hit on the rudder anyway--or it would have occurred too late to prevent Luftwaffe protection against the british ships in the final gunnery duel. Nor did the Swordfish sink the Bismarck, despite the abysmal performance of the AA fire--they only made it possible for a fleet of ships batter him into sinking state, forcing his crew to scuttle.

*or only saved by being run aground or resting on shallow harbor bottoms.

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:48 am

AA performance was bad in the early stages of war. US Navy achieved some degree of excelence in the use of saturation: many ships in concentric formations protecting the aircraft carriers. In this inmense number of repetition weapons installed in massive formations is how the US Navy was capable of defeating, in a great number of cases, the continuos attack of small airplanes: cross saturated fire. Sometimes it failed and no one states that... USS Big Ben performed bad in AA fire... or the tens of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and corvettes defending it.
Bismarck was alone... again this has to be put in context which is what educated, knowledgable people do and while doing it bringing forth support and evidence to set aside the presumption that he is only speaking his mind out. Making sarcastic visceral statements and then posting a photo hardly makes something more than brand the author as making ridicule of himself.
By the way, the pressure of the Royal Navy on Ark Royal's air crews is historical fact that if they do not stop Bismarck that evening she will come closer to France and Lutwaffe air cover. Maybe Bismarck's AA was not that good but any attempt of launching Swordfish (or whatever else they have) against the Luftwaffe would have been a suicide and the Royal Navy knew it. That is why the Swordfish attack that evening was so important... and lucky: it was a last chance. So, if Bismarck would have escaped then that was it, as Djoser describe it.
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Djoser » Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:44 am

Much ado has also been made about the Pearl Harbor AA defense. 'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition', etc. However I am not convinced of the efficacy of this AA barrage. As far as I can tell, the primary effect was to kill civilians when the projectiles landed. Not to knock the courage and spirit of the guys firing the AA weapons.

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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Lutscha » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:57 am

Bismarck's poor AA performance was due to a very low number of light AA guns (like all ships in 1941), a hand loaded single shot(!) 3,7cm AA gun, two types off mountings for the 10,5cm guns, which caused half of them to miss due to faulty synchronisation with the AA directors and most improtantly lack of training for the AA crews. All of this can be viewed in the AVKS700 report hosted on this site.

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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:26 pm

Lutscha is right on these points. TP in March 1942 had most of these short comings, with the exception of the single shot 37mms, at least partially addressed and turned in a much better performance. In this case the British were able to approach almost to with in torpedo release range hidden by cloud before TP could open fire as well-negating TPs heavy flak batteries for the most part. The big difference was the greatly increased volume of fire from light flak, more accurately aimed, made possible by the addition of 20mm Vierling mounts. The Vierling was an effective AA weapon capable of lethal accuracy. Don't let the caliber fool you, because this high velocity weapon had the effective reach of most 40mm weapons.

For the Allies the most important AA weapon upgrade was the 40mm Bofers. McMullen's post action report after the loss of Prince of Wales paints a picture that supports the importance of light , high volume of fire, weapons. The heavy flak and the slow firing pom poms both in director control proved completely ineffective during the sinking of Prince of Wales. McMullen points out that the 40mm Bofers and the 20mm Oerlikons with tracer were at least some what effective. This same Air Group was cut to pieces in the Solomons in 1942 by American transport ships equipped with Bofers.* Allied ships would find the Bofers in large numbers indespensable as the war progressed

Prinz Eugen had its 37mm battery replaced with 40mm Bofers and this improved PG's AA capability.

The 37mm weapons were upgraded to automatic fire like the land versions in some cases. I have one refrence that this ocurred on TP but have not been able to confirm this.


* American light flak had the advantage of the excellent MK14 computing optical gun sight designed by Stark Draper of MIT
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by yellowtail3 » Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:59 pm

Djoser wrote:
yellowtail3 wrote:... so much for royal ass kicking.
So you are making fun of the Bismarck's performance at Denmark Strait? lol:
No, I am making fun of your choice of words.

Karl - be nice. Your testiness is unbecoming (and not a bit persuasive)

Pearl AA... Well, they were in port in peacetime...
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by ede144 » Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:47 pm

@yellowtail
You are right, BS did not shoot down any Swordfish, however how many planes came back undamaged?
I wonder how many attacks would possible after another day?
Regards
Ede

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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Dave:
Lutscha is right on these points. TP in March 1942 had most of these short comings, with the exception of the single shot 37mms, at least partially addressed and turned in a much better performance. In this case the British were able to approach almost to with in torpedo release range hidden by cloud before TP could open fire as well-negating TPs heavy flak batteries for the most part. The big difference was the greatly increased volume of fire from light flak, more accurately aimed, made possible by the addition of 20mm Vierling mounts. The Vierling was an effective AA weapon capable of lethal accuracy. Don't let the caliber fool you, because this high velocity weapon had the effective reach of most 40mm weapons.

For the Allies the most important AA weapon upgrade was the 40mm Bofers. McMullen's post action report after the loss of Prince of Wales paints a picture that supports the importance of light , high volume of fire, weapons. The heavy flak and the slow firing pom poms both in director control proved completely ineffective during the sinking of Prince of Wales. McMullen points out that the 40mm Bofers and the 20mm Oerlikons with tracer were at least some what effective. This same Air Group was cut to pieces in the Solomons in 1942 by American transport ships equipped with Bofers.* Allied ships would find the Bofers in large numbers indespensable as the war progressed

Prinz Eugen had its 37mm battery replaced with 40mm Bofers and this improved PG's AA capability.

The 37mm weapons were upgraded to automatic fire like the land versions in some cases. I have one refrence that this ocurred on TP but have not been able to confirm this.


* American light flak had the advantage of the excellent MK14 computing optical gun sight designed by Stark Draper of MIT
I think we are talking more or less of the same thing here: the allies came to a saturation fire solution. Both: light automatic fire and systems like the Bofors worked in a way more like the actual CIWS, it depend on accurate fire solutions but the chances to hit something increases with the rapid automatic repetition. To that we have to add that these weapons were installed in a massive way in battleships, cruisers and destroyers that were placed around the CVs. So we have three measures of saturation: the weapon itself, the amount of batteries per ship and the number of ships. And basically we started to see this, when? Mid 1942? Spring of 1943?
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Djoser » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:10 am

yellowtail3 wrote:
Djoser wrote:
yellowtail3 wrote:... so much for royal ass kicking.
So you are making fun of the Bismarck's performance at Denmark Strait? lol:
No, I am making fun of your choice of words.
Well you did it in abysmally poor fashion.

One of my professors at University of Chicago once gave me some shit for adapting a little too informal writing style for a review of an article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies. But of course he was just doing his job, training me to write in a fashion acceptable for scholarly publication. So he really wasn't just being a pedantic ass.

Fortunately we are just here amongst friends, discussing the relative merits of battleships in the early 1940s in an informal manner.

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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by yellowtail3 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:42 am

Djoser - Are you trying to demonstrate, obliquely, how to be one of those things yer prof wasn't? Or that you think I am? :shock:
ede144 wrote:@yellowtail
You are right, BS did not shoot down any Swordfish, however how many planes came back undamaged?
I wonder how many attacks would possible after another day?
Regards
Ede
I do not know... Prob fewer than they started with. I expect someone here knows the answer. Another whack at Bismarck, even by a reduced number of a/c, would have given her opportunity to get a Swordfish....

I read somewhere that the crew never got much AA training, but do not know details
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Djoser » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:53 am

Hey I wasn't the one to start making fun of choice of words. :lol:

But it's not a big deal, we are just posting opinions on an internet forum. I'm sure if we were all sitting at a table with a few beers or maybe a fine bottle of Schloss Vollrad, we would be laughing and enjoying the conversation even more.

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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by yellowtail3 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:38 am

Djoser wrote:Hey I wasn't the one to start making fun of choice of words. :lol:

But it's not a big deal, we are just posting opinions on an internet forum. I'm sure if we were all sitting at a table with a few beers or maybe a fine bottle of Schloss Vollrad, .
I've never had but will be glad to try some!
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Dave Saxton
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:15 am

Karl Heidenreich wrote:I think we are talking more or less of the same thing here: the allies came to a saturation fire solution. Both: light automatic fire and systems like the Bofors worked in a way more like the actual CIWS, it depend on accurate fire solutions but the chances to hit something increases with the rapid automatic repetition. To that we have to add that these weapons were installed in a massive way in battleships, cruisers and destroyers that were placed around the CVs. So we have three measures of saturation: the weapon itself, the amount of batteries per ship and the number of ships. And basically we started to see this, when? Mid 1942? Spring of 1943?
By Santa Cruz in 1942 the concept was being put into practice within the uSN carrier task forces. McMullen indicates that it was too bad that the only ships close by to PoW were so woefully equipped in terms of AA that the concept couldn't be used as it had to some degree in the Med in late 41.

The vast majority of aircraft shot down by warships during WWII were sot down by light automatic flak. This was because heavy flak, which can not achieve saturation, becomes less effective as the range decreases because it can no longer track rate changes rapidly enough. The gap must be filled by light automatic flak.

At long ranges heavy flak is most unlikely to obtain a direct hit, so it depends on a momentary burst of splinters in a shot gun type effect to destroy or damage the aircraft; if it can be put close enough to the aircraft to be into the splinters lethal zone. Proximity fuzes help no small amount, but it still needs to be put within 20 meters of the target to begin with. It was still largely a question of luck.

Conical scanning radar (Wuerzburg, SCR584, Type 275) made heavy flak deadly at longer ranges, by 1943 in the case of Wuerzburg, and 1944-45 for the others, but the standard DP battery directing radars used (Type 285, Mk4) during most of the war were less than steller in this role.

Saturation alone doesn't do it either. This was the problem with barrage fire. For example, after 12 salvoes in directed fire producing no results, and now with the rate change to quick to keep up to, PoW's 5.25's switched over to barrage fire which made it less likely that damage would be inflicted. It would be pure luck that aircraft would fly through the barrage's kill zone at exactly the right moment in time. A British operational researcher described barrage fire as: " based on sloppy thinking and bad arithmetic"
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Re: Bismarck and her contemporaries

Post by Francis Marliere » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:46 am

Gentlemen,

I would like to point another reasons why no Swordfish was shot down while attacking Bismarck. The first is awfull weather and visibility that didn't help the gunners. The second is bad luck. Air defense is a strange job in which luck has an important place. We know exemples of unexpected failures or successes. Force Z did shoot down only 3 Nells and/or Betties while during Watchtower, admiral Turner's ships shot down almost all the Betties. Of course having a lot of good guns give better chances to shoot down planes than having only a few of bad ones, but one never kbow if AA will be succesfull or not.

With respect to Mr Saxton, I am not sure that "The vast majority of aircraft shot down by warships during WWII were sot down by light automatic flak". As far as I know, AA warfare is a very confuse subject and I have no faith in resports that claim that 5" guns shot down xxx planes while 20 mm MG destroyed yyy ones (such as South Dakota who reported having shot down 27 planes during the battle of Santa Cruz, which, we all know, was not true). When a plane is destroyed by AA, he is shot at - and claimed - by dozens of gunners manning different weapons. How the hell can we say that he has been destroyed by the 5" guns of a cruiser rather by the 2mmm of a carrier ? Please feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken.

Best regards,

Francis Marliere

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