What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

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Panzerspitze
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What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Panzerspitze » 04 Sep 2021 08:35

By many accounts Lütjens was already behaving very conservatively during Operation Berlin, clashing with KzS Hoffmann of Scharnhorst when the latter took the initiative of trying to draw off Ramillies to free up Gneisenau's hand, in violation of existing order to avoid Allied capital units.

Then, during Rheinübung, there were multiple instances of Lütjens being aloof / clashing with the Bismarck's captain KzS Lindemann, extending to even animosity or standoffish non-communicado between the fleet staff and the ship's senior officers.

OTOH, Wilhelm Marschall showed aggressive attacking spirit during the Norwegian sorties, under similar risk-averse orders from the Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine (OKM), that ultimately resulted in his sacking from the post as Flottenchef.

So if Marschall somehow managed to continue his tenure to command Rheinübung, how would he have operated differently, from Lütjens, judging by the former's past actions? Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood? Would he have pursued the PoW? Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Etc., etc.

sons of anzac
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by sons of anzac » 05 Sep 2021 03:53

Lot of things there that are impossible to consider seeing as it would involve how much information was at hand eg Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood?

IMHO as to -
Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Probably seeing as he'd already commanded a major encounter with the enemy most commanders know fuel supply is critical to future options so topping off to maximum amount possible at any stage would be useful.

Would he have pursued the PoW? Again I think yes, take the tactical win as much as possible bearing in mind Bismarck had already suffered hits to which the full extent of damage was not known at that stage, but hit still the same. Better to try to finish off what was nearby and even have a go at the Suffolk and Norfolk too if they try t intervene.

Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Yes, I think that the most practical course of action with the events as considered. Going on with battle damage, an alerted Royal Navy, shadowing ships and Prinz Eugen hampered by high fuel consumption (plus I think she had already damaged her propellers on ice by then?) makes good reasoning to withdraw back to Norway and await future events.

O would think Bismarck and Tirpitz in Norway and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in Brest would have been a nightmare for the British almost certainly killing off any shift of capital ships, new or old, to the Far East with Japan on the move.

Peter89
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 16 Sep 2021 22:51

sons of anzac wrote:
05 Sep 2021 03:53
Lot of things there that are impossible to consider seeing as it would involve how much information was at hand eg Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood?

IMHO as to -
Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Probably seeing as he'd already commanded a major encounter with the enemy most commanders know fuel supply is critical to future options so topping off to maximum amount possible at any stage would be useful.

Would he have pursued the PoW? Again I think yes, take the tactical win as much as possible bearing in mind Bismarck had already suffered hits to which the full extent of damage was not known at that stage, but hit still the same. Better to try to finish off what was nearby and even have a go at the Suffolk and Norfolk too if they try t intervene.

Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Yes, I think that the most practical course of action with the events as considered. Going on with battle damage, an alerted Royal Navy, shadowing ships and Prinz Eugen hampered by high fuel consumption (plus I think she had already damaged her propellers on ice by then?) makes good reasoning to withdraw back to Norway and await future events.

O would think Bismarck and Tirpitz in Norway and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in Brest would have been a nightmare for the British almost certainly killing off any shift of capital ships, new or old, to the Far East with Japan on the move.
The whole operation was doomed from the beginning.

The SKL wanted to force an entry into the Atlantic to stretch British resources thin and bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Let's not forget that by this time, the Scharnhorst, the Gnisenau, the Hipper and the Scheer completed their voyages which somewhat justified the otherwise idiotic idea of a surface merchant marine raiding fleet. The Paris Protocols have been signed recently, and it was possible to cooperate more closely with the Vichy, and thus, bases from Dakar to Madagascar were possible. It was also possible to launch Felix and take Gibraltar, thus linking up with the Italian fleet. Also, the British bombing and commando raids on the French Atlantic ports were not yet serious. On the other hand, the Baltic sea was neutral and the largest German ship could not do anything useful there. Let's not forget that this happened before Barbarossa; there was almost no British merchant traffic in the Arctic waters.

Although turning back might have been the prudent choice, there were very strong incentives to keep on and pressing forward. German planners at SKL did not really take the aircraft carrier risk seriously.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Panzerspitze
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Panzerspitze » 17 Sep 2021 10:52

Peter89 wrote:
16 Sep 2021 22:51
sons of anzac wrote:
05 Sep 2021 03:53
Lot of things there that are impossible to consider seeing as it would involve how much information was at hand eg Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood?

IMHO as to -
Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Probably seeing as he'd already commanded a major encounter with the enemy most commanders know fuel supply is critical to future options so topping off to maximum amount possible at any stage would be useful.

Would he have pursued the PoW? Again I think yes, take the tactical win as much as possible bearing in mind Bismarck had already suffered hits to which the full extent of damage was not known at that stage, but hit still the same. Better to try to finish off what was nearby and even have a go at the Suffolk and Norfolk too if they try t intervene.

Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Yes, I think that the most practical course of action with the events as considered. Going on with battle damage, an alerted Royal Navy, shadowing ships and Prinz Eugen hampered by high fuel consumption (plus I think she had already damaged her propellers on ice by then?) makes good reasoning to withdraw back to Norway and await future events.

O would think Bismarck and Tirpitz in Norway and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in Brest would have been a nightmare for the British almost certainly killing off any shift of capital ships, new or old, to the Far East with Japan on the move.
The whole operation was doomed from the beginning.

The SKL wanted to force an entry into the Atlantic to stretch British resources thin and bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Let's not forget that by this time, the Scharnhorst, the Gnisenau, the Hipper and the Scheer completed their voyages which somewhat justified the otherwise idiotic idea of a surface merchant marine raiding fleet. The Paris Protocols have been signed recently, and it was possible to cooperate more closely with the Vichy, and thus, bases from Dakar to Madagascar were possible. It was also possible to launch Felix and take Gibraltar, thus linking up with the Italian fleet. Also, the British bombing and commando raids on the French Atlantic ports were not yet serious. On the other hand, the Baltic sea was neutral and the largest German ship could not do anything useful there. Let's not forget that this happened before Barbarossa; there was almost no British merchant traffic in the Arctic waters.

Although turning back might have been the prudent choice, there were very strong incentives to keep on and pressing forward. German planners at SKL did not really take the aircraft carrier risk seriously.
I don't even think the Kriegsmarine needed to consider the risk of enemy carrier aircraft to have second thoughts on having the Bismarck pressing on further, especially with battle damages from large caliber shots. I mean the Germans must have known the entire Home Fleet was now sprung if not already, especially after the loss of the Hood. Even discounting the chances of no British capital units catching up, what about the threats of torpedoes from the the numerous destroyers or cruisers, and possibly chance encounter into hostile submarines on the longer journey to France. It just seems schizophrenic to be so risk-averse on one hand yet so foolhardy to press on now *unaccompanied* with a wounded ship.

Peter89
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 17 Sep 2021 11:43

Panzerspitze wrote:
17 Sep 2021 10:52
Peter89 wrote:
16 Sep 2021 22:51
sons of anzac wrote:
05 Sep 2021 03:53
Lot of things there that are impossible to consider seeing as it would involve how much information was at hand eg Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood?

IMHO as to -
Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Probably seeing as he'd already commanded a major encounter with the enemy most commanders know fuel supply is critical to future options so topping off to maximum amount possible at any stage would be useful.

Would he have pursued the PoW? Again I think yes, take the tactical win as much as possible bearing in mind Bismarck had already suffered hits to which the full extent of damage was not known at that stage, but hit still the same. Better to try to finish off what was nearby and even have a go at the Suffolk and Norfolk too if they try t intervene.

Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Yes, I think that the most practical course of action with the events as considered. Going on with battle damage, an alerted Royal Navy, shadowing ships and Prinz Eugen hampered by high fuel consumption (plus I think she had already damaged her propellers on ice by then?) makes good reasoning to withdraw back to Norway and await future events.

O would think Bismarck and Tirpitz in Norway and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in Brest would have been a nightmare for the British almost certainly killing off any shift of capital ships, new or old, to the Far East with Japan on the move.
The whole operation was doomed from the beginning.

The SKL wanted to force an entry into the Atlantic to stretch British resources thin and bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Let's not forget that by this time, the Scharnhorst, the Gnisenau, the Hipper and the Scheer completed their voyages which somewhat justified the otherwise idiotic idea of a surface merchant marine raiding fleet. The Paris Protocols have been signed recently, and it was possible to cooperate more closely with the Vichy, and thus, bases from Dakar to Madagascar were possible. It was also possible to launch Felix and take Gibraltar, thus linking up with the Italian fleet. Also, the British bombing and commando raids on the French Atlantic ports were not yet serious. On the other hand, the Baltic sea was neutral and the largest German ship could not do anything useful there. Let's not forget that this happened before Barbarossa; there was almost no British merchant traffic in the Arctic waters.

Although turning back might have been the prudent choice, there were very strong incentives to keep on and pressing forward. German planners at SKL did not really take the aircraft carrier risk seriously.
I don't even think the Kriegsmarine needed to consider the risk of enemy carrier aircraft to have second thoughts on having the Bismarck pressing on further, especially with battle damages from large caliber shots. I mean the Germans must have known the entire Home Fleet was now sprung if not already, especially after the loss of the Hood. Even discounting the chances of no British capital units catching up, what about the threats of torpedoes from the the numerous destroyers or cruisers, and possibly chance encounter into hostile submarines on the longer journey to France. It just seems schizophrenic to be so risk-averse on one hand yet so foolhardy to press on now *unaccompanied* with a wounded ship.
I don't see how it would help the Bismarck if it would turn back to Norway and Germany. They were already west of Iceland and essentially broke free to the open Atlantic. If they'd turn back the chance that they'd be subjected to aerial attacks from Iceland or the British Isles would only increase, not decrease. Also, if they'd turn back, that would bring them closer to Scapa Flow. On the other hand, the open Atlantic offered a possibility of losing their pursuers which they almost did.

In the light of the further events, however, the whole operation did not make any sense and it was typical for the SKL. If the attack of the Soviet Union was decided, then the Germans needed their ships to endanger the shortest route of supply and keep the Baltic Fleet in check, and for that, Norway and Germany was perfect.

Besides, if the majority of the air force was to focus on the SU, they could not protect the French Atlantic ports effectively. The Paris Protocols had only meaning if there was no war in the east, and if Germany focuses all of its energies to finish off the British Empire. Because without that, there would be no German base at Gibraltar, no possible linkup with the Italians in the Mediterraneaum, and no sensible possibility to bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Operation Cerberus was the admission of the defeat that the Operation Rheinübung started.
Last edited by Peter89 on 17 Sep 2021 15:06, edited 1 time in total.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Panzerspitze
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Posts: 275
Joined: 19 Aug 2009 23:53

Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Panzerspitze » 17 Sep 2021 13:40

Peter89 wrote:
17 Sep 2021 11:43
Panzerspitze wrote:
17 Sep 2021 10:52
Peter89 wrote:
16 Sep 2021 22:51
sons of anzac wrote:
05 Sep 2021 03:53
Lot of things there that are impossible to consider seeing as it would involve how much information was at hand eg Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood?

IMHO as to -
Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Probably seeing as he'd already commanded a major encounter with the enemy most commanders know fuel supply is critical to future options so topping off to maximum amount possible at any stage would be useful.

Would he have pursued the PoW? Again I think yes, take the tactical win as much as possible bearing in mind Bismarck had already suffered hits to which the full extent of damage was not known at that stage, but hit still the same. Better to try to finish off what was nearby and even have a go at the Suffolk and Norfolk too if they try t intervene.

Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Yes, I think that the most practical course of action with the events as considered. Going on with battle damage, an alerted Royal Navy, shadowing ships and Prinz Eugen hampered by high fuel consumption (plus I think she had already damaged her propellers on ice by then?) makes good reasoning to withdraw back to Norway and await future events.

O would think Bismarck and Tirpitz in Norway and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in Brest would have been a nightmare for the British almost certainly killing off any shift of capital ships, new or old, to the Far East with Japan on the move.
The whole operation was doomed from the beginning.

The SKL wanted to force an entry into the Atlantic to stretch British resources thin and bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Let's not forget that by this time, the Scharnhorst, the Gnisenau, the Hipper and the Scheer completed their voyages which somewhat justified the otherwise idiotic idea of a surface merchant marine raiding fleet. The Paris Protocols have been signed recently, and it was possible to cooperate more closely with the Vichy, and thus, bases from Dakar to Madagascar were possible. It was also possible to launch Felix and take Gibraltar, thus linking up with the Italian fleet. Also, the British bombing and commando raids on the French Atlantic ports were not yet serious. On the other hand, the Baltic sea was neutral and the largest German ship could not do anything useful there. Let's not forget that this happened before Barbarossa; there was almost no British merchant traffic in the Arctic waters.

Although turning back might have been the prudent choice, there were very strong incentives to keep on and pressing forward. German planners at SKL did not really take the aircraft carrier risk seriously.
I don't even think the Kriegsmarine needed to consider the risk of enemy carrier aircraft to have second thoughts on having the Bismarck pressing on further, especially with battle damages from large caliber shots. I mean the Germans must have known the entire Home Fleet was now sprung if not already, especially after the loss of the Hood. Even discounting the chances of no British capital units catching up, what about the threats of torpedoes from the the numerous destroyers or cruisers, and possibly chance encounter into hostile submarines on the longer journey to France. It just seems schizophrenic to be so risk-averse on one hand yet so foolhardy to press on now *unaccompanied* with a wounded ship.
I don't see how it would help the Bismarck if it would turn back to Norway and Germany. They were already east of Iceland and essentially broke free to the open Atlantic. If they'd turn back the chance that they'd be subjected to aerial attacks from Iceland or the British Isles would only increase, not decrease. Also, if they'd turn back, that would bring them closer to Scapa Flow. On the other hand, the open Atlantic offered a possibility of losing their pursuers which they almost did.

In the light of the further events, however, the whole operation did not make any sense and it was typical for the SKL. If the attack of the Soviet Union was decided, then the Germans needed their ships to endanger the shortest route of supply and keep the Baltic Fleet in check, and for that, Norway and Germany was perfect.

Besides, if the majority of the air force was to focus on the SU, they could not protect the French Atlantic ports effectively. The Paris Protocols had only meaning if there was no war in the east, and if Germany focuses all of its energies to finish off the British Empire. Because without that, there would be no German base at Gibraltar, no possible linkup with the Italians in the Mediterraneaum, and no sensible possibility to bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Operation Cerberus was the admission of the defeat that the Operation Rheinübung started.
Yeah, I don't like the orchestration by the Kriegsmarine leadership on this operation at all, much like later the sacrificial final sortie by the Scharnhorst in Dec. 1943, especially with the assorted restrictions cast on the flotilla commanders.

However, by turning back (and accompanied by Prinz Eugen), wouldn't the Bismarck stand a better chance of getting within range of Luftwaffe air cover (Luftflotte 5 in Norway and whatever Küstenflieger units available in the Reich)? Forget about suitable anchorage for a moment, dash for the Arctic coast of Norway, get in range of Luftflotte 5. Even if crippled in steering as it happened in history, wouldn't it be more realistic for "uboats and [whatever other units] on the way" typically promised to arrive on the scene, even on one-way suicide missions, to rescue the biggest capital ship of the Kriegsmarine?

On the subject of Operation Cerberus, I'm amazed that nobody got court-martialed for the failure to unload munitions from the drydocked Gneisenau, which ended up getting wrecked.

Peter89
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 17 Sep 2021 15:05

Panzerspitze wrote:
17 Sep 2021 13:40
Peter89 wrote:
17 Sep 2021 11:43
Panzerspitze wrote:
17 Sep 2021 10:52
Peter89 wrote:
16 Sep 2021 22:51
sons of anzac wrote:
05 Sep 2021 03:53
Lot of things there that are impossible to consider seeing as it would involve how much information was at hand eg Would he have opened fire on Hood and Prince of Wales sooner? Would he have chosen to concentrate on the PoW rather than the Hood?

IMHO as to -
Would he have topped off Bismarck in Norway? Probably seeing as he'd already commanded a major encounter with the enemy most commanders know fuel supply is critical to future options so topping off to maximum amount possible at any stage would be useful.

Would he have pursued the PoW? Again I think yes, take the tactical win as much as possible bearing in mind Bismarck had already suffered hits to which the full extent of damage was not known at that stage, but hit still the same. Better to try to finish off what was nearby and even have a go at the Suffolk and Norfolk too if they try t intervene.

Would he have opted to return to Norway after the Denmark Strait, in light of Bismarck's damages? Yes, I think that the most practical course of action with the events as considered. Going on with battle damage, an alerted Royal Navy, shadowing ships and Prinz Eugen hampered by high fuel consumption (plus I think she had already damaged her propellers on ice by then?) makes good reasoning to withdraw back to Norway and await future events.

O would think Bismarck and Tirpitz in Norway and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in Brest would have been a nightmare for the British almost certainly killing off any shift of capital ships, new or old, to the Far East with Japan on the move.
The whole operation was doomed from the beginning.

The SKL wanted to force an entry into the Atlantic to stretch British resources thin and bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Let's not forget that by this time, the Scharnhorst, the Gnisenau, the Hipper and the Scheer completed their voyages which somewhat justified the otherwise idiotic idea of a surface merchant marine raiding fleet. The Paris Protocols have been signed recently, and it was possible to cooperate more closely with the Vichy, and thus, bases from Dakar to Madagascar were possible. It was also possible to launch Felix and take Gibraltar, thus linking up with the Italian fleet. Also, the British bombing and commando raids on the French Atlantic ports were not yet serious. On the other hand, the Baltic sea was neutral and the largest German ship could not do anything useful there. Let's not forget that this happened before Barbarossa; there was almost no British merchant traffic in the Arctic waters.

Although turning back might have been the prudent choice, there were very strong incentives to keep on and pressing forward. German planners at SKL did not really take the aircraft carrier risk seriously.
I don't even think the Kriegsmarine needed to consider the risk of enemy carrier aircraft to have second thoughts on having the Bismarck pressing on further, especially with battle damages from large caliber shots. I mean the Germans must have known the entire Home Fleet was now sprung if not already, especially after the loss of the Hood. Even discounting the chances of no British capital units catching up, what about the threats of torpedoes from the the numerous destroyers or cruisers, and possibly chance encounter into hostile submarines on the longer journey to France. It just seems schizophrenic to be so risk-averse on one hand yet so foolhardy to press on now *unaccompanied* with a wounded ship.
I don't see how it would help the Bismarck if it would turn back to Norway and Germany. They were already east of Iceland and essentially broke free to the open Atlantic. If they'd turn back the chance that they'd be subjected to aerial attacks from Iceland or the British Isles would only increase, not decrease. Also, if they'd turn back, that would bring them closer to Scapa Flow. On the other hand, the open Atlantic offered a possibility of losing their pursuers which they almost did.

In the light of the further events, however, the whole operation did not make any sense and it was typical for the SKL. If the attack of the Soviet Union was decided, then the Germans needed their ships to endanger the shortest route of supply and keep the Baltic Fleet in check, and for that, Norway and Germany was perfect.

Besides, if the majority of the air force was to focus on the SU, they could not protect the French Atlantic ports effectively. The Paris Protocols had only meaning if there was no war in the east, and if Germany focuses all of its energies to finish off the British Empire. Because without that, there would be no German base at Gibraltar, no possible linkup with the Italians in the Mediterraneaum, and no sensible possibility to bring the battle into the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Operation Cerberus was the admission of the defeat that the Operation Rheinübung started.
Yeah, I don't like the orchestration by the Kriegsmarine leadership on this operation at all, much like later the sacrificial final sortie by the Scharnhorst in Dec. 1943, especially with the assorted restrictions cast on the flotilla commanders.

However, by turning back (and accompanied by Prinz Eugen), wouldn't the Bismarck stand a better chance of getting within range of Luftwaffe air cover (Luftflotte 5 in Norway and whatever Küstenflieger units available in the Reich)? Forget about suitable anchorage for a moment, dash for the Arctic coast of Norway, get in range of Luftflotte 5. Even if crippled in steering as it happened in history, wouldn't it be more realistic for "uboats and [whatever other units] on the way" typically promised to arrive on the scene, even on one-way suicide missions, to rescue the biggest capital ship of the Kriegsmarine?

On the subject of Operation Cerberus, I'm amazed that nobody got court-martialed for the failure to unload munitions from the drydocked Gneisenau, which ended up getting wrecked.
The SKL planned to set up U-boat traps for the British fleet, but it didn't work for many reasons.

I am more familiar with the air units, however; at this particular time, there were three principal bomber units experienced in anti-shipping operations: KG 26, KG 30 and KG 40. The KG 26 and the KG 30 was redirected to the Mediterraneum and the KG 40's Condors were incapable of hitting warships (their contemporary tactics was low-altitude flights on merchant ships that lacked proper AA). Other than that, on the long-range fighter department, only the Me 110 could come into play. In short, the Luftwaffe had little chance to annihilate the pursuers, even if they'd come into range, and I very seriously doubt that the RN would stop chasing the damaged Bismarck if they would come into range of the Luftwaffe: they did not stop to come into the Luftwaffe's range near Crete.

Although Lütjens could not know it, but the British set up a light cruiser screen in both passages of the Denmark Strait; it was unlikely that the Germans could slip through there unnoticed. Also, the Home Fleet moved in an inner defensive line, and thus could intercept the Germans at some point. Also not forget about the aerial units based on Iceland and the northern British Isles. And the Germans were already through the Denmark straits, the battle took place west of Iceland. The vast opennes of the Atlantic was a much safer place to be, especially because the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen could outrun most of their opponents. I think both sides made correct decisions in this fight, and the British narrowly won with a bit of luck. But on the longer haul, the Bismarck was doomed. I see little chance that it could make the Channel dash unharmed, and even if so, it could do next to nothing in the Arctic waters, just as you pointed out.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Panzerspitze
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Panzerspitze » 20 Sep 2021 06:35

Peter89 wrote:
17 Sep 2021 15:05
The SKL planned to set up U-boat traps for the British fleet, but it didn't work for many reasons.

I am more familiar with the air units, however; at this particular time, there were three principal bomber units experienced in anti-shipping operations: KG 26, KG 30 and KG 40. The KG 26 and the KG 30 was redirected to the Mediterraneum and the KG 40's Condors were incapable of hitting warships (their contemporary tactics was low-altitude flights on merchant ships that lacked proper AA). Other than that, on the long-range fighter department, only the Me 110 could come into play. In short, the Luftwaffe had little chance to annihilate the pursuers, even if they'd come into range, and I very seriously doubt that the RN would stop chasing the damaged Bismarck if they would come into range of the Luftwaffe: they did not stop to come into the Luftwaffe's range near Crete.

Although Lütjens could not know it, but the British set up a light cruiser screen in both passages of the Denmark Strait; it was unlikely that the Germans could slip through there unnoticed. Also, the Home Fleet moved in an inner defensive line, and thus could intercept the Germans at some point. Also not forget about the aerial units based on Iceland and the northern British Isles. And the Germans were already through the Denmark straits, the battle took place west of Iceland. The vast opennes of the Atlantic was a much safer place to be, especially because the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen could outrun most of their opponents. I think both sides made correct decisions in this fight, and the British narrowly won with a bit of luck. But on the longer haul, the Bismarck was doomed. I see little chance that it could make the Channel dash unharmed, and even if so, it could do next to nothing in the Arctic waters, just as you pointed out.
All very valid points. The thing is, the Bismarck was leaking fuel, on an already half-filled tank, not to mention the supposed telltale trail the leak was leaving behind. I suppose at that point in 1941 the Germans could still get a re-supply ship or two to top off Bismarck in the middle of the ocean if the big ship could get there (given the Hilfskreuzers did), but the British (with ULTRA help or not) could very well intercept or otherwise disrupt those attempts. In the long run it seems it's just a matter of time before the Bismarck is caught with its damages (but intact steering) and for want of fuel in the Atlantik.

If turning back toward the Norwegian coast, I wouldn't expect the Luftwaffe units to sink any pursuing vessels. Just the threat of air attack ought to give British captains pauses in regards to ship-handling. I've seen Die Deutsche Wochenschau footage of He-115 flying boats, as escorts, shooting down attacking Soviet torpedo bombers over German coastal convoys. So even a staffel of those and/or Bv-138 overhead, in the absence of anti-shipping Kampfgeschwader units, could help break up attacking land-based or carrier aircraft, as well as harass the surface pursuers. Some Bf-109s apparently operated JaBo during Crete around that time, so perhaps the Me-110s could be improvised to carry 250-lb SD as well in a pinch, to help out.

Peter89
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 20 Sep 2021 10:34

Panzerspitze wrote:
20 Sep 2021 06:35

All very valid points. The thing is, the Bismarck was leaking fuel, on an already half-filled tank, not to mention the supposed telltale trail the leak was leaving behind. I suppose at that point in 1941 the Germans could still get a re-supply ship or two to top off Bismarck in the middle of the ocean if the big ship could get there (given the Hilfskreuzers did), but the British (with ULTRA help or not) could very well intercept or otherwise disrupt those attempts. In the long run it seems it's just a matter of time before the Bismarck is caught with its damages (but intact steering) and for want of fuel in the Atlantik.

If turning back toward the Norwegian coast, I wouldn't expect the Luftwaffe units to sink any pursuing vessels. Just the threat of air attack ought to give British captains pauses in regards to ship-handling. I've seen Die Deutsche Wochenschau footage of He-115 flying boats, as escorts, shooting down attacking Soviet torpedo bombers over German coastal convoys. So even a staffel of those and/or Bv-138 overhead, in the absence of anti-shipping Kampfgeschwader units, could help break up attacking land-based or carrier aircraft, as well as harass the surface pursuers. Some Bf-109s apparently operated JaBo during Crete around that time, so perhaps the Me-110s could be improvised to carry 250-lb SD as well in a pinch, to help out.
The fuel leak, although serious, could not stop Bismarck to get to the French shores with a considerable detour, at 20-28 knots. On the other hand, in case of a turning back to Norway, the Bismarck might count on the bad weather and limited visibility, that might hinder airborne operations - for both sides. But by this time, the Jan Mayen island, the Faroe islands and of course Iceland was under Allied control, so the Allies might get better weather infos in the region than the Germans.

I also do not place large faith in Luftwaffe maritime operations at this given moment. First of all, they were not under SKL / KM's control, and thus, they could not report directly to the navy. The informations needed about a day to get through the interservice communication channels. Thus, coordinated attacks were out of the question. Second, like I said, most of the antishipping units were in the Mediterranean at this particular moment, and the navy did not ask the Luftwaffe in advance to provide cover for their most important asset. It was not like the Channel Dash, this whole issue would pop up out of the blue, in the middle of the Crete and Barbarossa preparations. Fliegerführer Atlantik did not possess more than 100 planes at this particular moment, and many of them were not operational. As for the rest, navigating over open ocean was very dangerous, as they had no training in this regard. This is especially true for single seated fighters, either with drop tanks or not. The chance to put together a team on such a short notice that would consist of a navigator vanguard and a bulk of long range fighters and others, is next to nothing.

The Germans had a network of tankers spread across the ocean, but the British wiped most of them out in the aftermath of Rheinübung.

In my opinion, the operation had to be called off in any case, and the Germans' only chance was to get to a French port, where repairs could be made. But on the longer run, the German capitals could not remain at the French Atlantic coast - they had to be moved further south, out of the reach of the British land-based bombers. But that was not possible as long as Gibraltar was not taken; and Gibraltar was impossible to be taken without gaining access (one way or the other) to Spain. But that was nearly impossible, or at least not adviseable if the Germans committed their limited resources to the East and North Africa - not to mention the Balkans, as all of these were or would be concurrent operations.

The SKL always considered Britain as its main enemy, not the Soviets, with whom, by the way, the most modern German naval technologies were shared. The SKL did not want to recognize that Hitler had committed for a "Soviet Union first" strategy, and therefore the only reasonable thing was to recall all their ships to the Baltics and Norway, from where they can support the German advance to Leningrad and harass the convoys sent to Murmansk and Archangelsk. To send the capitals to the French Atlantic ports was to seal their fate. But it is also true that their fate was sealed in the northern waters as well, as the Allies bombed or torpedoed most of them out of commission. Thus, like I wrote earlier, this operation was doomed from the start, although it was executed properly - I see little chance that another admiral could do way better. It was Lütjens' bad luck that they have been attacked so effectively by the torpedo bombers. Maybe it would have been wise to maintain radio silence until he gets ashore...
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Thoddy » 21 Sep 2021 07:29

In general the outcome of "Excercise Rhine" was anticipated in a strategy paper of the Kriegsmarine from 1938 regarding single ship raids.

They expect the complete loss of any ship (even when only lightly) damaged in a battle away from own bases, as the enemy rules the ocean having the advantage of larger forces available and shorter approach routes.

They didnt expect a battle of battleships within short range of own bases (not to say North Sea)- Because the opponent has no rational reason to seek for it.
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 21 Sep 2021 15:57

Thoddy wrote:
21 Sep 2021 07:29
In general the outcome of "Excercise Rhine" was anticipated in a strategy paper of the Kriegsmarine from 1938 regarding single ship raids.

They expect the complete loss of any ship (even when only lightly) damaged in a battle away from own bases, as the enemy rules the ocean having the advantage of larger forces available and shorter approach routes.

They didnt expect a battle of battleships within short range of own bases (not to say North Sea)- Because the opponent has no rational reason to seek for it.
Could you please point out to that document?
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Panzerspitze » 03 Oct 2021 15:27

Reading http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/4343.html brings up another "what if" that the British Home Fleet thought of guarding against: the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sailing from the French coast to the aid of the Bismarck? Why didn't they? Were they not combat-worthy? I assume there must have been some destroyer (Z) and torpedo boats available for escort duty as well by that time in occupied French ports.

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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 05 Oct 2021 09:18

Panzerspitze wrote:
03 Oct 2021 15:27
Reading http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/4343.html brings up another "what if" that the British Home Fleet thought of guarding against: the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sailing from the French coast to the aid of the Bismarck? Why didn't they? Were they not combat-worthy? I assume there must have been some destroyer (Z) and torpedo boats available for escort duty as well by that time in occupied French ports.
Destroyers:
Z4 was in Germany
Z5 was in Germany
Z6 was in Germany
Z7 was in Norway
Z8 was in France
Z10 was in Norway (escort of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen)
Z14 was in France (escorted the Prinz Eugen)
Z15 was in France (escorted the Prinz Eugen)
Z16 was in Norway (escort of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen)
Z20 was in Germany
Z23 was in Norway (escort of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen)
Z24 was in Germany
Z25 was in Germany
Z26 was in Germany
Z27 was in Germany

Thus, there were no more than 3 destroyers.

Cruisers:
Hipper was in Germany
Scheer was in Germany
Lützow was in Germany

Capitals:
Scharnhorst was undergoing repairs
Gnisenau was hit by a torpedo and by 4 AP bombs, and suffered serious damage

Long story short, the Germans had 3 operational destroyers in the area. The bulk of the Luftwaffe withdrawn to other theaters, with little to no coordination with the Luftwaffe...

The SKL was really not on the top of the situation.
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 25 Oct 2021 12:37

Peter89 wrote:If the attack of the Soviet Union was decided, then the Germans needed their ships to endanger the shortest route of supply and keep the Baltic Fleet in check, and for that, Norway and Germany was perfect
SU was going to fall in 6-17 weeks though; why place strategic emphasis on Arctic supply routes to a doomed country? That's a waste.

...nearly everything about post-France WW2 (post-1940 history?) turns on Germany not taking the SU seriously.
Peter89 wrote:The SKL was really not on the top of the situation.
I struggle to think of a good decision of any consequence made by Raeder in the Nazi era.
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 25 Oct 2021 13:54

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
25 Oct 2021 12:37
Peter89 wrote:The SKL was really not on the top of the situation.
I struggle to think of a good decision of any consequence made by Raeder in the Nazi era.
What Raeder and the SKL did not want to recognize was that they are not leading and organizing the war effort. Thus, they were more interested in winning the conflict their own way than winning it at all. On the other hand, given the choices Hitler & Göring made, their choices and strategy made more sense - repeatedly. We have a saying in Hungary which translates to something like "do not piss against the wind". What actually happened was that the SKL pissed against the wind, because it did not fit in the German strategy, which actually brought a German defeat.

Raeder: we need a fleet air arm
Göring: everything that flies belongs to me
Result: no effective fleet air arm

Raeder: we need infos from long range patrols
Göring: those have to go to high ranking Luftwaffe channels
Result: no real-time coordination between LW & KM

Raeder: we need bases to fight the British and prepare for a future American invasion... let's establish bases in French West Africa...
Hitler: carry on
Raeder: ...so we can bring the battle to the South Atlantic and spread the British convoy defenses thin
Hitler: good, sign the Paris Protocols!
Raeder: this is so cool, I'm sending our one and only battleship to the Atlantic! As well as another brand new heavy cruiser!
Hitler: ...and I'm sending the Wehrmacht to the Urals with a plan that prescribes three times marching speed advance against the largest nation in the world!!!
Raeder: ...but the British... they are the main enemy-
Hitler: we'll be in the Urals in 6 weeks, every soldat will march 70kms per day if they have to
Raeder: okay I see... so how about our Basis Nord?
Hitler: you won't need it, we'll be in Nizhny Tagil in 6 weeks!
Raeder: but what if, mein Führer, you know, they shoot back?
Hitler: NONSENSE.
Result: Barbarossa failed

Hitler: you need to disrupt convoys to the SU
Raeder: we need to link up with the Italians... please, take Gibraltar
Hitler: it is called GIBraltar for a reason! One does not simply walk into Spain and take it!
Raeder: okay so I'm sending my ships back to Germany...
Result: the German capitals did not sink more merchant ships

Hitler: send help to the Mediterraneum!
Raeder: we need to take Gib... it is going to be an eventful crossing through the strait
Hitler: DO IT!
Result: the U-Boots sent to the Med suffered 30% losses in sunk and damaged submarines

Raeder: mein Führer, we are in a bad shape... we need to link up with the Italians and the Japanese
Hitler: we need one more push... just one more push!
Raeder: mein Führer, this war is not looking good... the weak point is still the Brits... could that push be around Suez?
Hitler: There, too!
Raeder: you said ONE more push
Hitler: YES, ONE MORE PUSH AND GERMANY CAN GIVE BIRTH TO THE GREATEST VICTORY THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!
Raeder: It is called VATERland for a reason... it doesn't give birth, it teaches you a lesson.
Result: disaster on every fronts

Hitler: attack the Arctic convoys
Raeder: okay can I do it in daylight?
Hitler no
Raeder: can I do it with capital ships?
Hitler: no
Result: no decisive results

Hitler: I'M GONNA SCRAP THE WHOLE SURFACE FLEET, YOU MORON!
Raeder: scrap me instead, corporal... drei Liter!
Hitler: what did you say?
Raeder: HEIL HITLER!
Hitler: fine. Get me Dönitz!
Dönitz: sieg heil!
Hitler: heil, heil. prove me I shouldn't scrap the whole fleet. Attack the Arctic convoys.
Dönitz: Jawohl!
Hitler: and Dönitz... take a capital ship with you.
Result: Scharnhorst sunk
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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