How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

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Thoddy
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Thoddy » 15 Aug 2017 10:28

Conclusion of the USN regarding construction og Bismarck class battleships
Technical Report Number 224-45 Latest German Battleships put into Service - Bismarck-Tirpitz Hull Construction

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"Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!"

Nautilus
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Nautilus » 18 Sep 2017 14:49

Terry Duncan wrote:Prior to the stern torpedo hit, Bismarck was supposedly still in good fighting condition, and that hit was by most accounts the last she took other than a few light hits from destroyers before the final battle. At dawn on 27th Bismarck is down to at best 1/3 of her top speed, very low in the water, and unable to control gunfire effectively because of this. What caused this to come about? The torpedo that disabled the rudders struck outside the armoured raft provided by main belt and aft bulkhead so it shouldnt have been just that hit that led to the ship being so low in the water. The evidence of Bismarck in action shows she was put out of action quite easily for her size.
Tirpitz, built to the same basic plan, withstood the huge penetrating power of the Tallboy bomb on September 15, 1944, and she could sail under her own power afterwards. During the air attacks of April to September 1944 she experienced similar destruction in the hull and superstructures, massive flooding up to 2000 tons of water aboard, yet she wasn't "silenced" - fire control systems and turrets could and did return fire.

Bismarck took a few hundreds of shells of all calibers, yet she didn't score hits on the attackers. All main turrets were lost in 30 minutes.

Neither did Hood score any hits on Bismarck on May 24, 1941. But both vessels were trying to outmanoeuver each other at 28 knots. This poses a lot of problems even for guided munitions of the modern age. During the last battle, Bismarck was almost stationary and yet it didn't score hits.

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Polar bear
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Polar bear » 18 Sep 2017 21:24

hi,
Nautilus wrote:During the last battle, Bismarck was almost stationary and yet it didn't score hits.
True. However, two factors should be mentioned :
a. With her slow speed and being nearly unsteerable, she moved in the heavy seas with sudden rolling and pitching movements, quite a problem for modern artillery, too.
b. Her crew suffered from terrible fatigue and seasickness, which may create, judging from my own seafaring experience, a "I don't care any more" state - not a good state to fight a battle with.

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Nautilus » 19 Sep 2017 08:34

Her crew suffered from terrible fatigue and seasickness, which may create, judging from my own seafaring experience, a "I don't care any more" state
Rather weirdly, and a bit ridiculously in the "What If" section of the forum, people waste a lot of time wriggling around the supposed quality of the ship and how it withstood or not impossible odds.

Actually, judging with a cool head, Bismarck performed before the torpedo hit just as expected from a battleship in a classic naval battle. Multi-layered armor or not, she did her job brilliantly. She did not fail from some hidden fault in the hull or machinery, she failed from awful strategy.

Basic plan for Operation Rheinübung, as written by Admiral Raeder himself, had 2 objectives:

1- "not to defeat enemies of equal strength, but to tie them down in a delaying action, while preserving her combat capacity as much as possible"
2- "enemy warships will be engaged only when that objective makes it necessary and it can be done without excessive risk"

As a ship in being, Bismarck drew the enemy's attention enough to tie down the entire friggin' Home Fleet in her pursuit. Which meant 68 warships, out of which 9 capital ships. This meant Objective #1 had been met even as she steamed out to the sea, before the first shell had been fired. There were practically no modern warships available for convoy escort once the alert had been sounded.

Lütjens did not replenish the fuel store while at anchor in Norway. Which put the vessel, renowned already as a great fuel hog at speed, to considerable risk. This sapped Objective #2. Further in the Atlantic, he did not to refuel from tanker Weissenburg. Which was, as before, an excessive risk. He did not pursue Prince of Wales and sink her. Which was a piece of cake. The British vessel had 3 to 5 guns still able to fire out of 10, her superstructure was a smoking wreck, Captain Leach was wounded, part of the qualified officers on deck were dead. Desperate as the British commanders were, they still broke the engagement, which meant they fully understood they couldn't resist another gun duel. She could be sunk with no excessive risk according to Objective #2. And then abort the mission and dash at full speed to the French coast, avoiding any more contacts with the enemy. This was a disobedience of orders, but in practice it meant little. 2 capital ships were 22% of the entire squadron of capital ships in Home Waters, at a rather minor cost for the Kriegsmarine. Such hammer blow to the British could not be unrewarded, orders or not. The Führer, confronted with such propagandistic victory, was to cover the captains and crew with medals and rewards.

Remember the old piece of advice from Sun Tzu? If you are in a position sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even if your Führer demands otherwise. (What was not formulated in words, for it was too obvious in Sun's day: victory means the Führer will reward you anyway. Just as loss means he will punish you anyway, whatever the orders were.)

A guy closer to modern age said that a clever strategist tries to plan each shot the proper way to score and set up his next shot. Or if this is not possible, to minimize the damage the enemy does when he shoots back.

It also works in reverse: a small mistake in the opening stage, if left uncorrected, draws another, and their compound draws another and then another. Which you can afford if you can take the pains of a prolonged struggle with an equal enemy. You can never afford them when you're outnumbered 9 to 1, and this in Home Waters only!

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Nautilus » 22 Jun 2018 09:17

A veteran of the Falklands-era Royal Navy wrote:The Iowa class battleships are not favourites of mine, and have a too-pretty-by-half look about them. Apparently they were designed to be fast escorts to keep up with Essex class aircraft carriers. Apart from wooden flight decks, and unarmoured hangars, which made them death-traps when an attack got through, the Essexes were very capable ships, especially as there were so many of them, but for a ship purporting to be a battleship to exist merely as an aircraft carrier “escort” is demeaning. A proper battleship seeks out enemy battleships to slug it out, ship-versus-ship, not just trail carrier task groups. As far as I can make out they never engaged in a full-on ship-versus-ship battle, and all they seemed to do after WWII was to be recalled to service, at huge expense, to shell defenceless scrubland in Korea, innocent jungle in Vietnam, or harmless desert in Arabia. I prefer the genuine bruiser battleships; battleships built to fight to the death whatever the circumstances, whatever the weather. The Iowas seem to have only ever sailed the calm blue waters of the Pacific, and never to have slugged it out with an enemy when the odds were even, or against, in dirty weather, or uncertain conditions. They are fair-weather poseurs, although it cannot be denied that they appeal to those people who choose popinjay over pugilist.
Reality Check: guess who did exactly that, slugged it out with an enemy when the odds were even, or against, in dirty weather, or uncertain conditions? :P

She lies 15,000 ft down, on the bottom of the Atlantic, about 650 km west of Brest.

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Takao
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Takao » 23 Jun 2018 11:11

Nautilus wrote:
Reality Check: guess who did exactly that, slugged it out with an enemy when the odds were even, or against, in dirty weather, or uncertain conditions? :P

She lies 15,000 ft down, on the bottom of the Atlantic, about 650 km west of Brest.
When were the odds against the Bismarck ever even?
Denmark Strait
Bismarck & Prinz Eugen vs Prince of Wales & Hood - Odds favor the British.
Last Battle
Bismarck vs 1 carrier, 2 Battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, and 6 destroyers.

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genstab
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by genstab » 24 Jun 2018 16:34

When the Iowa class were laid down in 1939, there were many battleships in Japan's fleet. Japan was the US Navy's principal opponent, The Iowa class may have been built to accompany aircraft carriers, which made the design that someone describes as too pretty by half, necessary to achieve high speed. Their armor has been detailed and their 16 inch guns firing a 2700 lb shell something to conjure with. So I'd favor these ships over the Bismarck any day.

Best,
Bill

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Terry Duncan » 24 Jun 2018 19:18

genstab wrote:When the Iowa class were laid down in 1939, there were many battleships in Japan's fleet. Japan was the US Navy's principal opponent, The Iowa class may have been built to accompany aircraft carriers, which made the design that someone describes as too pretty by half, necessary to achieve high speed. Their armor has been detailed and their 16 inch guns firing a 2700 lb shell something to conjure with. So I'd favor these ships over the Bismarck any day.

Best,
Bill
I would tend to agree. The Iowas are closer to a battlecruiser variant of the Montanas but should still defeat Bismarck. A closer match for Bismarck would be the North Carolina class but even then it would probably favour the US ship. Having said that, if the Bismarck were to meet any of the modern allied battleships in her prefered environment, short to medium ranges in average North Sea visibility conditions, she is perfectly capable of defeating all of them even if the odds do not favour her on paper.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Nautilus » 24 Jun 2018 22:57

Terry Duncan wrote:A closer match for Bismarck would be the North Carolina class but even then it would probably favour the US ship. Having said that, if the Bismarck were to meet any of the modern allied battleships in her prefered environment, short to medium ranges in average North Sea visibility conditions, she is perfectly capable of defeating all of them even if the odds do not favour her on paper.
In reality, one of the best paper battleship in active service in 1941 got pounded to death by one of the worst on paper (HMS Rodney).

Designers do not have free rein to draw the best battleship ever, full stop. They still have to take into account cost, politics, logistics, strategy of the possible opponent.

Bismarck had not been designed to fight Iowa for a long list of reasons, the smallest of which was: in 1935 Iowa did not exist, not even on the drawing boards. Had Germans actually planned to fight an US battleship with 16 inch guns, the closest to the Iowa class was H-39. But they didn't. Their most likely opponents were the British Royal Navy and the French Marine Nationale and the most likely battlefield was in the North Sea or the North Atlantic. Climate is different from the Pacific, seasonal changes are even more different from the tropics, logistics for a vessel designed to operate in small flotillas 1000-2000 miles from the home base are quite different from a full fleet action over the width of the Pacific.

Even in the unlikely case US Navy battleships took part in the hunt for Bismarck, USN Admirals were not those to send one vessel to "slug it out with an enemy when the odds were even". There should have been at least a full task force: one carrier, one BB, a screen of destroyers and a backup of cruisers.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Urmel » 25 Jun 2018 03:15

The whole discussion of 'odds were even' is just silly. The point of planning in war is to make sure you never meet your enemy when the odds are even, but only when you can bring overwhelming force to bear to be assured of victory, after you've made sure the odds are as uneven as you can make them, in your favour. You're not playing Harpoon on a screen.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Paul Lakowski » 25 Jun 2018 04:42

BY KM doctrine if a warship is unable to fight its way out it must escape at speed. Lutjens should have done an about face after HOOD and slipped away back to Norway.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Polar bear » 25 Jun 2018 09:43

hi,
Urmel wrote:The point of planning in war is to make sure you never meet your enemy when the odds are even, but only when you can bring overwhelming force to bear to be assured of victory, after you've made sure the odds are as uneven as you can make them, in your favour. You're not playing Harpoon on a screen.
I disagree. Look at German war planners from Frederick the Great to Schlieffen and Manstein.
German leaders and troops were accustomed to fights against uneven odds .. and win quite a number of them (altough not at sea).

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Paul Lakowski » 25 Jun 2018 18:17

At sea they won more battles than they lost until mid/late war , when the moral gave out.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Terry Duncan » 25 Jun 2018 22:50

Nautilus wrote:In reality, one of the best paper battleship in active service in 1941 got pounded to death by one of the worst on paper (HMS Rodney).
Rodney is one of the worst battleships? Between the wars she was one of the two most powerful battleships in the world, and faster than any other than Nagato and Mutsu, though at the time they were thought to be of similar speed anyhow. She looks unusual, and somewhat too many efforts to save weight were made (remember she was approx 1,500 tons underweight, the only treaty battleship to have the distinction of coming in under tonnage!), but nothing that could catch her would have wanted to do so until 1942.

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Urmel
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Urmel » 26 Jun 2018 15:42

Polar bear wrote:hi,
Urmel wrote:The point of planning in war is to make sure you never meet your enemy when the odds are even, but only when you can bring overwhelming force to bear to be assured of victory, after you've made sure the odds are as uneven as you can make them, in your favour. You're not playing Harpoon on a screen.
I disagree. Look at German war planners from Frederick the Great to Schlieffen and Manstein.
German leaders and troops were accustomed to fights against uneven odds .. and win quite a number of them (altough not at sea).

greetings, the pb
I think we may talk about different levels. I am concerned with operations, not strategy. At that level, Manstein's Sichelschnitt delivered superiority in numbers at the decisive points, the Ardennes and Sedan. That was also Schlieffen's plan.

That's before we get into force being made up of various factors, including numbers, but also force multipliers, such as speed, surprise, disruption, or terrain, all of which were used by Frederick the Great.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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