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					The Pursuit and Sinking of the


                 CDR John Sorenson
                      12 OCT 2007
• Keel was laid on 01
  July 1936 at Blohm &
  Voss Shipyard in
• Commissioned 24
  August 1940
The Pride of the German Fleet
                    General characteristics

Displacement:                    41,700 tonnes standard
                                 50,900 tonnes full load
Length:                          251 metres (823.5 ft) overall
                                 241.5 metres (792.3 ft) waterline
Beam:                            36.0 metres (118.1 ft) waterline
Draft:                           9.3 metres (30.5 ft) standard
                                 10.2 metres (33.5 ft) full load
Propulsion:                      12 Wagner high-pressure;
                                 3 Blohm & Voss geared turbines;
                                 3 three-blade propellers, 4.70 m diameter
                                 150,170 hp (121 MW)
Speed:                           30.8 knots
Range:                           8,525 nm at 19 knots
Complement:                      2,092: 103 officers 1,989 men (1941)

Armament:                        8×380 mm/L48.5 SK-C/34 (4×2)
                                 12×150 mm/L55 SK-C/28
                                 16×105 mm/L65 SK-C/37 / SK-C/33
                                 16 × 37 mm/L83 SK-C/30
                                 12×20 mm/L65 MG C/30 (Single)
                                 8×20 mm/L65 MG C/38 (Quadruple)

Armor:                           Belt: 145 to 320 mm
                                 Deck: 50 to 120 mm
                                 Bulkheads: 220 mm
                                 Turrets: 130 to 360 mm
                                 Barbettes: 342 mm
                                 Conning tower: 360 mm
Aircraft carried:                4×Arado Ar 196 A-3, with 1 double-ended catapult
Operation Rheinuburg Overview
   May 21, 0800,
 British spy reports
 sighting two large
 German Warships
  off the Swedish
   coast heading
through the Danish
 Straights towards
May 21, Bismarck was
Spotted in Grinstad Fjord,
south of Bergen by British
Spitfire Recon planes.
            The First Plan
• Send Bombers from Coastal Command to
  attack the Bismarck that night (May 21).
• Send Torpedo planes over at dawn to
  attack while the Bismarck is at anchor in
  the Fjord.
• Low clouds and fog prevented the
  bombers from finding the Bismarck.
Bismarck last seen early afternoon in
Grinstad Fjord in German controlled Norway.
Weather is poor visibility.

What would you do?
Admiral John Tovey’s Response:
Dispatched battle squadron consisting of 2 battleships
(HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales) to intercept
Bismarck, which was assumed to be making a break for the
open sea.
                                       The HMS Suffolk and
                                       HMS Norfolk were
                                       patrolling the gap
                                       between Greenland
                                       and Iceland. The
                                       Suffolk had radar.
     First Ship to Ship Contact
• During the evening of May 23rd, the HMS
  Suffolk made RADAR contact with the
  Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen.
• Short Gun Fight until Norfolk and Suffolk
  backed off, out of range, to shadow the
  Bismarck until larger British ships arrived.
             Hood Gets Sunk
• At 0530 on May 24th, the HMS Hood and HMS
  Prince of Wales caught up to the Bismarck and
  Prinz Eugen.
• The British initially concentrated their fire on the
  Prinz Eugen. This error was soon corrected.
• Gun battle at ranges of 10 to 12 miles.
• Hood sunk in 3 minutes, only 3 survivors
• Bismarck was hit and (unknown to the British) it
  leaked oil (fuel) and its RADAR was broken.
• Water was leaking into one of Bismarck’s fuel
  tanks, contaminating the fuel.
• With the Hood
  sunk and the
  Prince of Wales
  on the run the
  decided not to
  pursue the
  Prince of Wales.
• Bismarck’s
  orders were to
  attack merchant
  convoys, not to
  risk Naval
• Bismarck was
  leaking fuel oil.
• Bismark’s speed
  was reduced to
  20 kts.
May 24, Bismarck sends Prinz Eugen south
      to get fuel from German oiler.
                  HMS Victorious Attacks
•   British (Suffolk, Norfolk, and Prince of Wales) shadow Bismarck for
    remainder of day, May 24.
•   HMS Victorious launches Swordfish torpedo bomber biplanes to attack
    Bismarck during the evening of May 24. No substantial damage.
             Lost Contact
• British had to zig-zag because of German
  Submarine threat.
• At 0300 on May 25, the Bismarck turned
  east then southeast during a British turn,
  which caused the British lose their contact
  with the Bismarck.
• The Germans did not know that the British
  had lost their track.
• Germans broke radio silence.
• British HQ determined Bismarck position
  and sent calculation input data to HMS
  King George V.
• The Navigator on the King George V
  miscalculated the Bismarck’s position and
• British fleet mistakenly headed North in
  search for the Bismarck.
• Bismarck headed southeast for Brest,
• Shore based planes form Coastal Command in
  Northern Ireland, not mislead by the fleet’s
  miscalculation, spotted the Bismarck on May 26.
• Adm. Tovey ordered a recalculation of the
  positioning fix for the Bismarck and discovered
  their mistake.
• Tovey determined that they would not be able to
  catch up the Bismarck unless torpedo bombers
  from the Ark Royal could slow it down.
May 26, 1941

1. Ark Royal approaching from South, released
from convoy duty.
2. Bismarck headed for Brest
3. King George V, Repulse, and Victorious behind
trying to catch up from the rear.
             Ship Spotted, May 26

•   Swordfish from the Ark Royal spotted the Bismarck, but reported it as a
    cruiser, Prinz Eugen.
•   10 Minutes later a second Swordfish spotted it an reported it as a
    Battleship, Bismarck.
•   SWOs interrogated pilots by radio and determined that it was the Bismarck.
•   More sorties sent out in early afternoon to confirm identification of ship.
             The Chase
• King George V and Rodney were 50 mile
  behind Bismarck.
• Bismarck would reach land based Bomber
  protection by next morning (27 May)
• Tovey did not know Bismarck’s speed was
• Two chances to slow Bismarck:
  1. Destroyer torpedo attack
  2. Swordfish torpedo attack
• Destroyers were detached from protecting troop
  transport at 2 AM, May 26, to intercept Bismarck.
• Ark Royal shadow plane lost contact with
  Bismarck in clouds and fog.
• Sheffield dispatched to find and shadow
• At 1430 the Ark Royal launched all of its aircraft
  (15 Swordfish) armed with torpedoes.
• Rough weather for flight ops.
• Ark Royal plans attack Sheffield.
• Ark Royal launches 2nd attack on Bismarck at
• Adm. Luetjens felt safe as darkness approached.
         2054, May 26, 1941

Last Torpedo dropped at 2130, no apparent hits were reported.
 Bismarck Turns North After Attack
• Adm. Tovey received report of Bismarck
  turning North, did not believe report.
• Aircraft verified Bismarck heading North.
• Sheffield Verified Bismarck heading North.
• Why was Bismarck heading North, away
  from Brest and German bomber protection
  and towards British strength?
         Night of May 26, 1941
   Scout plane reported that it saw Bismarck steaming in
     complete circles.

• Conclusion: A swordfish torpedo had hit the rudders
  and/or propellers. The Bismarck was not under
  command. Tovey could close in and attack at will. He
  waited until morning’s light.
• During the night the British destroyers kept the Bismarck
  occupied with gun fire while the Battleships arrived.
• Luetjens sent message to Fuehrer at 2358, “we will fight
  to the last shell”
• Bismarck launched its 3 scouting planes with ships log
  and final letters from each sailor.
• At 0153 Bismarck received a message from Hitler, “I
  thank you in the name of the German people.”
 British Battleships opened fire on
       the Bismarck at 0847.
• Bismarck had full use of her 15 inch guns, but
  could not maneuver.
• Shortly before 1000 the Bismarck lost the use of
  her guns and all of her ability to fight back.
The British battleships were dangerously low on fuel and had calculated
that they would have to head for port at 1000. So with the Bismarck still
afloat, the King George V and the Rodney headed for port, leaving the
heavy cruisers to finish her off.
  The HMS
Dorshire fired
 2 torpedoes
   at close
  range. At
 1040 AM on
May 27, 1941
the Bismarck
was sunk and
   not seen
  again until

New Jersey

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