Bismarck Myths

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.
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José M. Rico
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Bismarck Myths

Postby José M. Rico » Mon Dec 13, 2004 1:40 pm

This topic has been moved here from the old forum. Feel free to continue the discussion.
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26 Nov 2003 02:30:01 - Dave Saxton

As Bismarck is perhaps the second most famous ship in history, I guess that it's only natural a great deal mythology surounds it. On one hand Bismarck is sometimes desribed in terms of some kind of mythical tutonic god in Krupp steel. We are to believe that Bismarck can take superior numbers of contemporaries and always come out the winner. On the other hand, I see common ideas about specific technical aspects of the design, that have been traditionally put forth, continually and perpetually espoused to the point that these common views have become myths themselves. Let's look at a few of these myths in no particular order of importance.

Myth: Bismarck was designed to fight primarly only at shorter ranges and it's protection scheme wasn't viable at longer ranges. It's a fact that the order put out by the Kriegsmarine called for a designed IZ from 20km-30km. That's long range. Moreover, this isn't just a theoretical protection principle mistakenly thought viable by an inexperianced and confused design team. The principles actually were put to the test in trial shoots by 15" guns at long range and found to be viable.

Myth: Bismarck's 15-inch guns had poor deck penetration. Poor compared to what? Yamato's 18.1-inch gun? In fact the German 15-inch gun had deck penetration performance more or less the same as the other 15-inch guns.

Myth: Bismarck's high velocity 15-inch guns were less accurate than other guns with lower MV. In fact dispersion is not a function of MV, although it can be a relation- multipling the effects of inconsistant charges, inconsitant shell weights, poor flight dynamics, poor areodynamics...ect. In the case of German guns many British combat accounts mention impressive German salvo patterns.

Myth: The German 15-inch projectiles were faulty compared to other battleship projectiles of the era. Dud's were a fact of life with the projectiles of all navies during the battleship era. Everyone had similar problems. Moreover, it's a fact that Krupp designed fuzes for AP rounds, were normally intended to not go off unless noticable armor was encountered.

Myth: The underwater protection sytems were backward in principle, and generaly inferior to those used on other contemporary designs. Actually torpedo defense systems by everone were never a guarantee and usually didn't perform as well as hoped. In fact the Germans never expected their systems to be able to withstand something unrealistic, like a 1,000 lb high expolisive warhead, but it did actually do better than they expected in the tests. Moreover, Bismarck's wreck just doesn't show the massive breachs of the system we had been led to expect.

Myth: Bismarck is riddled with faulty welding and is bound to fall apart if exposed to structral damage. Inflicted structral stress and damage will cause any battleship to show structral failures. Welding is a science without guarantees against failure, and everone had problems during the WWII era. Remember weld failures on occasion can and do happen even the 21st century. In fact the German warships probably had a greater probability of avoiding failed welds than most other welded warships of the era, due to the greater weldabilty of the materials and the earlier German understanding of hydrogen embrittlement potential.

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30 Nov 2003 19:35:18 - Brian

While the points you have given are basically correct, there are other myths that need to be addressed too:

Myth: Bismarck was the most powerful battleship ever.

Myth: Bismarck could have taken any two other battleships in the world.

Myth: Bismarck was unsinkable!

Etc, etc.

The Bismarck wasn't a faliure like some people state, she was probably the finest vessel at the time she sailed, but she has been overrated too.

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Bismarck Myths

Postby dgrubb64 » Wed Dec 15, 2004 8:36 pm

I think like every famous battleship from any navy myths will build up around that ship. I also think it is true that the leading battleship designs of any time can lay claim to be the best / heaviest / greatest at something. This is because every battleship is not a complete design for any one thing but has to be that designers best design and is essentially a compromise. I feel this because every battleship is a compromise between hitting size/speed hitting power/armour damage limitation/habitability etc

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myths

Postby turlock » Tue Jan 18, 2005 2:45 am

Bismarck herself is a myth. The legend was made by the crew.

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There is abundant evidence for all Jose's points.

Postby George Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:39 am

But it almost seems heretical, despite what we have learned from the translations of the record, to claim that the Bismarck was designed to fight at 20-30K. I keep pondering how the divided armor system was supposed to work to fascilitate fighting a long-range engagement because intuitively one would suspect a reduction is shear strength via dividing the armor would be difficult to negate vs one thick deck.
Yet when I consider decapping, I note the outer armor layer causes a reduction in shell mass of about 10-13% -- and thus striking energy. When I contemplate fuzing, I see the possibility that the shell may well explode before even encountering the main AD. This is all the more true since at long ranges shells are traveling at slower velocities -- and these velocities are even further reduced via the energy required to penetrate the upper deck.
And then their is yaw induction, which has become quite the focus of my research as of late. Yet the first two factors are important enough -- and now she-who-must-be-obeyed is demanding that I stop wasting time. And I must always obey!!!

George

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Bismarck myth

Postby PM Collins » Sun Jun 12, 2005 7:06 am

Bismarck was no myth, and only his nine day operation in the North Atlantic is legend.
Fact is the Bismarck was a revolution in battleship design, his beam was relatively wider in proportion to his length. This characteristic ran counter to the prevalent desire for more speed, which called for the least beam possible in relation to length. However, the Bismarck's wide beam seemed to work in his overall advantage, because it lessened any tendency to roll in in heavy seas and, thus, increased his ability as a gun platform. It also reduced his draft, which could be important in the shallow waters of the North Sea.
Furthermore, it allowed a more efficient use of space, better placement of armour, a greater distance between the armoured outer shell and the inner torpedo bulkheads, which protected the Bismarck against underwater explosions, and simplified the arrangement of the twin turrets of the secondary battery and the heavy antiaircraft guns.
More than 90% of the Bismarck's steel hull was welded. As added protection against an underwater hit, her double bottom extended over 80% of her length. Her upper deck ran from bow to stern, and beneath it were the battery deck, the lower armored deck and the upper and middle platform decks.
Armour comprised the highest % of the ship's total weight, over 40%, and qualitatively it was mounted in proportion to the importance of the position to be protected.
The Bismarck was no myth, only legend. Other battleships, Yamoto and Missouri may have been bigger or have had more advanced weaponery, but they were not the Bismarck. No one talks about the Yamoto or the Missouri, unless there watching a Steven Segal movie, ie the Missouri.
I would stack the Bismarck up against any battleship, anywhere any time.

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Postby Matthias » Sat Dec 03, 2005 10:56 am

She was surely the most equilibrated ship ever builded, not the most powerful in firing, not the faster or the bigger, but surely the best in fact of efficiency of the protection, of sea crossing and design.

And anyway, myth or not, I am deeply convinced that she has been, and she is, the most beautiful ship ever builded. :wink:
"Wir kämpfen bis zur letzten Granate."

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Myths?

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:35 pm

Sure there have been myths about Bismarck as there are myths about everything, moreover if it´s a war affair. These are all subject to the passions aroused.
But Bismarck was a very fine fighting vessel, probably the most advanced for 1941 and it´s Rheinubung cruise was legendary. As a matter of fact two elements has contributed to it´s fame: the sinking of Hood (and the nearly sinking of Prince of Wales, which wasn´t materialized because of Lutjens criteria of not doing so) and the heavy pounding she received by KGV and Rodney (more than 2,000 rounds expended on her without sinking).
Bismarck is, after all, the second most famous ship and the most famous military ship, a legend by itself. That´s why we are all members of this site after all.

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Two more myths?

Postby iankw » Fri Jan 13, 2006 2:08 am

"and the nearly sinking of Prince of Wales"


I must have missed the account that had PoW nearly sunk, or maybe this is another myth in the making.

"more than 2,000 rounds expended on her without sinking"

She's still afloat somewhere? Again I missed that account.

Bismarck was a beautiful ship, one of the most beautiful of her time, and she was served by a gallant and brave crew who stuck with her until the end. But (according to people far more knowledgable than me) she did have her faults, as do all ships. She got lucky against HOOD and then unlucky against Ark Royal's swordfish, thus are legends born.

regards

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Re: Two more myths?

Postby Matthias » Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:02 am

iankw wrote:"more than 2,000 rounds expended on her without sinking"

She's still afloat somewhere? Again I missed that account.


In fact, Rodney and KGV action was not sufficient to sink her.
I don't think Sir Tovey was in mood to waste all his torpedoes if he hadn't a good reason to throw them at Bismarck....or may be he did it just for fun?;)

About PoW, it's true that the german hits didn't cause damages capable of sink her, but almost half of her firepower was cut off by technical problems and she was slower of both Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. The hit on her main bridge almost killed captain Leach too. Obviusly he found himself in a very bad situation and he wanted to flee away, while Lutjens was ordered to never engage heavier vessels and he preferred to leave PoW go away.

But after Hood depart, which has been due to Fisher ideas about battlecruisers contruction then to lucky, PoW was in a very dangerous situation, and she also could have been sunk if only Lutjens decided to keep on following her.

Thank God many lifes have been saved in this way.

Regards, Matthias ;)
"Wir kämpfen bis zur letzten Granate."



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Postby Karl Heidenreich » Fri Jan 13, 2006 3:20 pm

I do not agree that EVERYTHING about the Bismarck is a myth.
1. In Denmark Straits the Bismarck, after blowing he Hood with only five salvoes, was in a very good position and situation to go after Prince of Wales and sink it too. If Norfolk or Suffolk were able to interfere there was always the Prinz Eugen to tackle them while Bismarck finishes the PoW. It was Lütjens decision not to do that and instead try to head South.
2. The KGV and Rodney barrage didn´t sink the Bismarck (but, I agree, it rendered her out of combat). And, there´s consensus that there are still arguments about her sinking by the Dorsetshire´s torpedoes or scuttled by her own crew.

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Postby iankw » Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:58 am

"Thank God many lifes have been saved in this way."

Absolutely, I couldn't agree more.

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Postby Matthias » Sat Jan 14, 2006 1:29 pm

;)
"Wir kämpfen bis zur letzten Granate."



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Postby Karl Heidenreich » Wed Oct 25, 2006 5:19 pm

turlock:

Bismarck herself is a myth. The legend was made by the crew.


I agree with Bismarck as a myth. But it wasn´t a myth built by her crew but by their enemies. At the end it was the British reaction after the Hood was sunk that brought the famous Churchill order: "Sink the Bismarck" which sound too cool.
That and the image of a lone ship defying the world´s greatest naval power.

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Postby RF » Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:10 am

The Bismarck classe was only a stepping stone to the H-Classe battleships so were not intended as the most powerful ships in the Kriegsmarine let alone the world.

Bismarck/Tirpitz at the time probably had the best overall combination of armour, speed and firepower, although as Tiornu says the firepower was adequate but not spectacular; in fact the firepower was probably the biggest detraction from their claim of being the most powerful battleship.
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Postby Tiornu » Thu Oct 26, 2006 9:31 am

I don't think we can go with the idea of the Bismarcks as a stepping stone. They were designed to equal the most powerful units in the prospective enemy's arsenal, the Richelieus. Design inflation became an inescapable fact early in the Dreadnough Era--Dreadnought herself was an example of it--but I don't think we want to label each class as simply a stepping stone to the next, larger class.


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