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

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Oct 2021 23:45

Peter89 wrote:
16 Sep 2021 22:51

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.
Peter89 wrote:
17 Sep 2021 11:43

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.
Looking at all this from the PoV of May 1941 the operation makes more sense.

1. The current strategy was to destroy the USSR, then resvisit the British question in late 1941 or 1942 at the latest.

2. The USSR was to collapse in a few moths as had France.

In that context it makes sense to start setting up for the next round against Britian. Keep the pressure on and stage things for a couple moves further along.

3. The previous sorties by the capitol ships had been a qualified success. The Graf Spee got caught by circumstances, but the other sorties had much better success. With lessons learned and all that even better opportunities could be seized.

A coordinated set of operations, including the submarines and whatever could be teased out of the Luftwaffe could be contemplated. Sure there were difficulties visible then, but there were advantages.

Several British naval codes had been penetrated. The German naval communications were well secured by the Enigma system.

After difficulties in British home waters in latter 1940 the submarine fleet was finding solid success in the mis Atlantic & the Brits seemed to becoming ineffectual.

A reasonable system for coordinating air recon, radio intel, and the spys in the UK had been worked out. Growth in that direction was anticipated.

The Japanese were becoming even more aggressive in Asia. Best case scenario they scare the Brits into shifting part of the fleet to the far east.

Rader had reason to be optimistic & take some calculated risks.

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

Post by Peter89 » 27 Oct 2021 10:12

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
26 Oct 2021 23:45
Peter89 wrote:
16 Sep 2021 22:51

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.
Peter89 wrote:
17 Sep 2021 11:43

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.
Looking at all this from the PoV of May 1941 the operation makes more sense.

1. The current strategy was to destroy the USSR, then resvisit the British question in late 1941 or 1942 at the latest.

2. The USSR was to collapse in a few moths as had France.

In that context it makes sense to start setting up for the next round against Britian. Keep the pressure on and stage things for a couple moves further along.

3. The previous sorties by the capitol ships had been a qualified success. The Graf Spee got caught by circumstances, but the other sorties had much better success. With lessons learned and all that even better opportunities could be seized.

A coordinated set of operations, including the submarines and whatever could be teased out of the Luftwaffe could be contemplated. Sure there were difficulties visible then, but there were advantages.

Several British naval codes had been penetrated. The German naval communications were well secured by the Enigma system.

After difficulties in British home waters in latter 1940 the submarine fleet was finding solid success in the mis Atlantic & the Brits seemed to becoming ineffectual.

A reasonable system for coordinating air recon, radio intel, and the spys in the UK had been worked out. Growth in that direction was anticipated.

The Japanese were becoming even more aggressive in Asia. Best case scenario they scare the Brits into shifting part of the fleet to the far east.

Rader had reason to be optimistic & take some calculated risks.
Have you had a chance to read the SKL's Kriegstagebuch? I've only been through the 1939-1942 bands, but it is hilarious in these months, having no sense of the impending defeat.
“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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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 27 Oct 2021 14:01

No, but that reflected between the lines in the broader historical record. Folks criticize the Allied leaders, but they were models of clarity and logical thinking compared to the nazi leaders.

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

Post by glenn239 » 27 Oct 2021 17:12

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
26 Oct 2021 23:45
Looking at all this from the PoV of May 1941 the operation makes more sense.

1. The current strategy was to destroy the USSR, then resvisit the British question in late 1941 or 1942 at the latest.
I seem to recall reading that part of Raeder's motive was to try and keep the navy relevant even with a war on the East?
3. The previous sorties by the capitol ships had been a qualified success. The Graf Spee got caught by circumstances, but the other sorties had much better success. With lessons learned and all that even better opportunities could be seized.
Spee and Deutschland were deployed for independent operations. One 'what if' is if they'd been deployed as a pair instead.
Rader had reason to be optimistic & take some calculated risks.
Especially with the success of Operation Berlin just a few months previously.

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

Post by Peter89 » 27 Oct 2021 18:05

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
27 Oct 2021 14:01
No, but that reflected between the lines in the broader historical record. Folks criticize the Allied leaders, but they were models of clarity and logical thinking compared to the nazi leaders.
Indeed. But for me, Raeder is not the worst. For me, Göring takes the place no. 1.
“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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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 28 Oct 2021 01:08

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
27 Oct 2021 14:01
Folks criticize the Allied leaders, but they were models of clarity and logical thinking compared to the nazi leaders.
From Keep from All Thoughtful Men:
In fact, at the
war’s end Marshall admitted that the United States had not had a strategy at
the time of the meeting, and did not really settle on one until after the
Casablanca Conference. [citing the War Reports of General George C. Marshall, 155–60.]
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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Takao » 28 Oct 2021 13:08

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
28 Oct 2021 01:08
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
27 Oct 2021 14:01
Folks criticize the Allied leaders, but they were models of clarity and logical thinking compared to the nazi leaders.
From Keep from All Thoughtful Men:
In fact, at the
war’s end Marshall admitted that the United States had not had a strategy at
the time of the meeting, and did not really settle on one until after the
Casablanca Conference. [citing the War Reports of General George C. Marshall, 155–60.]
Not saying much...

It took the US a little over a year to come up with a strategy...While Germany had been at war for over three years and still had none.

How is Germany doing better?

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 28 Oct 2021 16:06

glenn239 wrote:
27 Oct 2021 17:12
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
26 Oct 2021 23:45
Looking at all this from the PoV of May 1941 the operation makes more sense.

1. The current strategy was to destroy the USSR, then resvisit the British question in late 1941 or 1942 at the latest.
I seem to recall reading that part of Raeder's motive was to try and keep the navy relevant even with a war on the East?
A very common management motivation/strategy.

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 28 Oct 2021 16:15

Takao wrote:
28 Oct 2021 13:08
...
It took the US a little over a year to come up with a strategy...While Germany had been at war for over three years and still had none.
Arguably the US had a strategy. As in many organizations i've been in, transitioning a pre crises policy/strategy, to a early crisis strategy, to something practical that will work in your favor is difficult and can take time. I think I understand what Marshal was referring to, but would need to understand the context & some other details to have any certainty.

In general for Allied leaders 1941-1942 seems to have been a extended period of confusion as they dealt with a global situation they had weak understanding of, and the US and Britain attempted to reconcile divergent national goals into a practical strategy that would work for both.

The Germans were in the same condition, trying to adapt strategy to a altered situation. Raider had half a Navy, oriented for war on the Blue water, not the littorals of the Baltic as was relatively abruptly emerging. I've occasionally been curious about his communications with the other admirals. Not just specifically to Lutjens for Op Reinubung but in general, to understand the context and what was influencing Lutjens thinking that week.

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

Post by Peter89 » 29 Oct 2021 08:30

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
28 Oct 2021 16:15
Takao wrote:
28 Oct 2021 13:08
...
It took the US a little over a year to come up with a strategy...While Germany had been at war for over three years and still had none.
Arguably the US had a strategy. As in many organizations i've been in, transitioning a pre crises policy/strategy, to a early crisis strategy, to something practical that will work in your favor is difficult and can take time. I think I understand what Marshal was referring to, but would need to understand the context & some other details to have any certainty.

In general for Allied leaders 1941-1942 seems to have been a extended period of confusion as they dealt with a global situation they had weak understanding of, and the US and Britain attempted to reconcile divergent national goals into a practical strategy that would work for both.

The Germans were in the same condition, trying to adapt strategy to a altered situation. Raider had half a Navy, oriented for war on the Blue water, not the littorals of the Baltic as was relatively abruptly emerging. I've occasionally been curious about his communications with the other admirals. Not just specifically to Lutjens for Op Reinubung but in general, to understand the context and what was influencing Lutjens thinking that week.
The problem with Raeder was that there was no chance to fight the British toe to toe. The Second Reich, with its vastly superior resources to that of the Third Reich, couldn't really do it. It doesn't matter whether it was for political, military or economic reasons, the point was that not even the German Empire could match the British Empire, both on their heights of power.

And for commerce raiding, big warships like battleships and battlecruisers were not good options. The cost and upkeep of those units, as well as their vulnerability to torpedoes and mines made them unsuitable for the task. The pocket battleships / heavy cruisers were a bit better options, but they were only good against quasi-unescorted convoys or single merchantmen. The fundamental problem was, again, that the disparity between German and Allied shipbuilding capacities, as well as the convoy system spelled disaster for them.

The cost-effective option could have been, as in WW1, the auxiliary cruiser fleet. Had there been more of those, they could have been effective and operate in distant regions for minimal costs. That is, of course, until the Allies can properly organize their convoys and patrol the seas. But by then, any inferior navy would be nothing more than a fleet-in-being, so...

In my opinion, Raeder and the SKL was right in the broader context of the war, which you were referring to. The Allies integrated their strategy, not simply on occasions or simply in military terms, but in political terms, production and logistics as well. Raeder realized that against this, Axis victory is impossible if they could not join forces with their allies, and thus, they could achieve victory at the very least against Britain and her European allies, or worst case scenario, they could establish a solid defense in depth that could hinder an Anglo-Saxon invasion practically forever. He also realized that fighting in the Med does not worth a dime if Gibraltar was in British hands.
“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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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by glenn239 » 29 Oct 2021 17:50

Peter89 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 08:30
The problem with Raeder was that there was no chance to fight the British toe to toe. The Second Reich, with its vastly superior resources to that of the Third Reich, couldn't really do it. It doesn't matter whether it was for political, military or economic reasons, the point was that not even the German Empire could match the British Empire, both on their heights of power.
Raeder's surface navy spent much of the war relegated to secondary status, while the British had a very large fleet.
And for commerce raiding, big warships like battleships and battlecruisers were not good options.... The fundamental problem was, again, that the disparity between German and Allied shipbuilding capacities, as well as the convoy system spelled disaster for them.
"Allied" shipbuilding capacity being the issue, in that when Bismarck sailed when Britain stood alone and convoy raiding might make sense. But tip the scales with US production and the outcome seems assured.
The cost-effective option could have been, as in WW1, the auxiliary cruiser fleet. Had there been more of those, they could have been effective and operate in distant regions for minimal costs. That is, of course, until the Allies can properly organize their convoys and patrol the seas. But by then, any inferior navy would be nothing more than a fleet-in-being, so...
There was plenty of room to improve on the combined arms coordination front too though. For example, above you mention convoys being the bane of the U-boats (and AA made air attack problematic), but for battleships convoys were targets. With PQ-17, the threat of battleship attack broke up the convoy, which in turn allowed air and submarine attacks to score heavily.
In my opinion, Raeder and the SKL was right in the broader context of the war, which you were referring to. The Allies integrated their strategy, not simply on occasions or simply in military terms, but in political terms, production and logistics as well. Raeder realized that against this, Axis victory is impossible if they could not join forces with their allies, and thus, they could achieve victory at the very least against Britain and her European allies, or worst case scenario, they could establish a solid defense in depth that could hinder an Anglo-Saxon invasion practically forever. He also realized that fighting in the Med does not worth a dime if Gibraltar was in British hands.
Speaking of which, do you have any books that cover Raeder's thinking during the war? I'm drawing a blank.

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

Post by Peter89 » 29 Oct 2021 20:15

glenn239 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 17:50
In my opinion, Raeder and the SKL was right in the broader context of the war, which you were referring to. The Allies integrated their strategy, not simply on occasions or simply in military terms, but in political terms, production and logistics as well. Raeder realized that against this, Axis victory is impossible if they could not join forces with their allies, and thus, they could achieve victory at the very least against Britain and her European allies, or worst case scenario, they could establish a solid defense in depth that could hinder an Anglo-Saxon invasion practically forever. He also realized that fighting in the Med does not worth a dime if Gibraltar was in British hands.
Speaking of which, do you have any books that cover Raeder's thinking during the war? I'm drawing a blank.
First of all, thank you for this phrase (I had to google for the meaning), I didn't know it, and I love it very much! :milwink:

Second, my favourite is Keith W. Bird's Erich Raeder: Admiral of the Third Reich. It clarifies Raeder's affilitation to the Nazi party (he shared the megalomania and the sense of superiority, and were prone to be corrupted - thus, the Kriegsmarine was not at all an ideologically "clean" service branch), and it very nicely details Raeder's desperate - and sometimes foolish and unrealistic - attempts to shift Hitler's attention towards the long term danger.
“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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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by Peter89 » 29 Oct 2021 20:30

glenn239 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 17:50
Peter89 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 08:30
The cost-effective option could have been, as in WW1, the auxiliary cruiser fleet. Had there been more of those, they could have been effective and operate in distant regions for minimal costs. That is, of course, until the Allies can properly organize their convoys and patrol the seas. But by then, any inferior navy would be nothing more than a fleet-in-being, so...
There was plenty of room to improve on the combined arms coordination front too though. For example, above you mention convoys being the bane of the U-boats (and AA made air attack problematic), but for battleships convoys were targets. With PQ-17, the threat of battleship attack broke up the convoy, which in turn allowed air and submarine attacks to score heavily.

The disaster of PQ17 could easily have been otherwise, and required a series of misfortunes and misjudgements for and from the Allies.

Tovey could have devastated practically the whole Kriegsmarine at that time, especially combined with Hamilton. The fact that the Allies could deploy a stronger force to escort a convoy than the entire German navy underlines my skepticism against the useful deployment of German battleships against convoys.

I guess the story is the same as with FW 200 Condors; the British made a wrong decision to remove low-altitude AA guns from merchant ships, and in general, they didn't have sufficient numbers of those. But as soon as it was fixed, the Condors were first useless and then became suicidal by 1943. I see no chance that by 1943 the Germans could protect anything else from the air but their home waters - and the closed seas (Baltic, Adriatic, Ligurian & Tyrrenian seas). The USN aircraft carriers sent attack waves more numerous and more trained than the entire German air fleet arm.
“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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Re: What if Adm. Marschall was in charge of Operation Rheinübung on board Bismarck?

Post by glenn239 » 30 Oct 2021 14:31

Peter89 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 20:15
Second, my favourite is Keith W. Bird's Erich Raeder: Admiral of the Third Reich. It clarifies Raeder's affilitation to the Nazi party (he shared the megalomania and the sense of superiority, and were prone to be corrupted - thus, the Kriegsmarine was not at all an ideologically "clean" service branch), and it very nicely details Raeder's desperate - and sometimes foolish and unrealistic - attempts to shift Hitler's attention towards the long term danger.
Thanks!

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

Post by glenn239 » 30 Oct 2021 14:43

Peter89 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 20:30
The disaster of PQ17 could easily have been otherwise, and required a series of misfortunes and misjudgements for and from the Allies.
Yes, the British made mistakes, but not the point. Combined arms warfare, (air, surface, submarine, mine) principles applied to the naval war, in that the strengths and weaknesses of each played into making commerce defense more difficult. But, the Axis failed to exercise such a strategy.
Tovey could have devastated practically the whole Kriegsmarine at that time, especially combined with Hamilton. The fact that the Allies could deploy a stronger force to escort a convoy than the entire German navy underlines my skepticism against the useful deployment of German battleships against convoys.
On the Artic route the Allies could send one convoy at a time and cover it amply with surface forces, similar to when they sent convoys to Malta. But in the Atlantic there might be 20 convoys at sea at once. There was no way to provide adequate cover, (well, at least until the US Navy started to weigh onto the scales after 1941).
I guess the story is the same as with FW 200 Condors; the British made a wrong decision to remove low-altitude AA guns from merchant ships, and in general, they didn't have sufficient numbers of those. But as soon as it was fixed, the Condors were first useless and then became suicidal by 1943.
Masses of US Jeep carriers with fighters didn't help either.
I see no chance that by 1943 the Germans could protect anything else from the air but their home waters - and the closed seas (Baltic, Adriatic, Ligurian & Tyrrenian seas). The USN aircraft carriers sent attack waves more numerous and more trained than the entire German air fleet arm.
Once the US entered the war, the Atlantic campaign's ultimate outcome was not in doubt. But, the U-boats fought effectively up to May 1943, so it does not stretch the imagination that this period could have been extended by some amount.

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