Kingfish wrote:Wargames wrote:Do you have a position on her purpose of design?
Yes, to influence, via offensive action, the outcome of naval warfare, and by a larger extent naval strategy, in Germany's favor.
I think one can get much more specific than that with just two words added:
"To influence, via offensive action, the outcome of naval warfare, and by a larger extent naval strategy, in Germany's favor against France."
But, for me, that's still too general. Ship designers are given specifications for their designs to meet that include speed, firepower, range, armor, and displacement. In most cases, one can get an idea of what the designed purpose is just by looking at these specifications. For example, knowing just those specifications would allow you to spot a battlecruiser design from a battleship design or you can spot a commerce raider versus a coast defense ship just by looking at range. Other factors such as freeboard and bow design will give you an idea of the weather conditions the ship is designed to operate in. In the case of Bismarck, nothing stands out in her design specifications to indicate her intended purpose except that Scharnhorst could not fullfill it. In that regard, Bismarck is simply Scharnhorst with 15" guns (bigger/better).
One could argue Tirpitz's presence in Norway had a direct influence on the RN's deployment, but I would counter that Germany's goal wasn't to influence RN deployment, but instead to disrupt or even sever the Arctic convoys. In that regard we (AFAIK) can only point to the spooking of PQ-17 and it's subsequent mauling as directly attributed to the threat from Tirpitz.
I would agree that this was Germany's goal in Norway and for which reason Scharnhorst was added to Tirpitz. But the ships were not purpose designed for North Atlantic operations. Both Scharnhorst and Tirpitz were originally designed with what I call a "Pacific" bow and then had "Atlantic" bows added. With it's low freeboard, Scharnhorst was an inferior North Atlantic design and frequently suffered storm damage and was being severely impacted by weather the very night Duke of York tracked her down. If one accepts Tirpitz as an up gunned Scharnhorst designed originally with a similar bow, then both ships were designed to operate in more southerly regions which makes the intended opponent of both ships France. The conclusion being that Scharnhorst's 11" guns had been outclassed by French armor so the Germans countered with 15" guns. The failure to include North Atlantic bows as part of the orginal design of Bismarck and only building two ships of the class pretty much rules out Britain as the intended opponent.
As soon as France is out of the war the intended purpose of Bismarck and Tirpitz "to influence, via offensive action, the outcome of naval warfare, and by a larger extent naval strategy, in Germany's favor" against Britain is clear as mud. The German Navy clearly was thinking of moving these warm water/mild weather ships to Brest as commerce raiders. Commerce raiding was a bad idea for the Bismarck because she was fuel inefficient (i.e. expensive to operate). And the British could/should use aircraft carriers to track her down, making it more likely of the British finding the Bismarck than the Bismarck finding a convoy. Barring these possible problems, she was, admittedly, good for about a 90 day cruise and I'm going to guess she maybe/might sink 15 ships in that time before returning to Brest which is another bad idea because Brest was chosen without any regard for British bombers and British submarines. Brest would soon prove to be such a bad idea as to force the three German ships there to make the famous "English Channel dash" just to get out of it. Indeed! It was suicide for the Bismarck to steer for Brest. Her admiral knew he'd be cut off by the British, yet had German high command orders to go there anyway. Which brings us back to Germany having second rate surface officers as compared to the British. The fact that Hitler, a fifth rate surface officer, met with the Bismarck's/Prinz Eugen's admiral May 5 probably made already second rate thinking into third because its probably a safe bet Hitler was telling him what to do.
So what do you do with Bismarck/Tirpitz? I think it's pretty much agreed that sending Tirpitz to Norway was about the best thing that could be done with her and that was in an anti-commerce role. By extension, the best use of Bismarck would also be in an anti-commerce role (Since she's not going to sink the British Navy) but I think her best role in that is to escort other commerce raiders past the British picket ships. Bismarck successfully got the Prinz Eugen past Hood and Prince of Wales and then drove off both British cruisers to preven them from followng Prinz Eugen. Time for Bismarck to go home and come back another day to do it again. It's not a misuse of the ship's design IMO.