OPERATION RHINE EXERCISE, MAY 18-27, 1941.
The Bismarck combat group's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to attack British convoys in the northern Atlantic--Unternehmen RHEINUBUNG (Operation Rhine Exercise)--was, for the Germans, an operation; in U.S. terms, a major operation. Although the main German forces consisted of only one battleship and one heavy cruiser, planning for the operation was conducted from the operational-strategic to the tactical level of command.
For most of the interwar years, the Germans considered France and Poland, and possibly Soviet Russia, to be their most likely opponents in a future war; they did not consider war with Britain a serious possibility. In April 1933, the new chancellor, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, stated that Britain's Royal Navy never again would be considered a potential adversary of the German navy. In line with this, Admiral Erich Raeder (1876-1960), commander in chief (CINC) of the Kriegsmarine (German navy) from 1928 to 1943, built a fleet that was not intended to challenge Britain again unilaterally, but instead to complement Germany's policies on the continent. (2)
By 1937, however, German naval strategy had shifted toward the offensive. Raeder envisaged energetic employment of German naval forces to exert strategic pressure on the enemy's superior forces; a more favorable balance of forces was to result. This became the basis for the Kriegsmarine's operational thinking. (3) On February 3, 1937, in his meeting with Hitler and Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg (1878-1946), the then minister of war and CINC of the armed forces, Raeder explained the Kriegsmarine's strategy in the case of a war. He stated that what he called Atlantikkriegfiihrung (Atlantic warfare) and war in distant ocean areas would be part of the larger war effort. The objective would be to secure control of sea communications by hitting the enemy decisively, thereby contributing to the overall strategic objective. (4)
A major change in German foreign and military policy came on May 24, 1938, when Hitler reversed his earlier, more benign views on Great Britain. (5) He issued instructions to consider the country a possible enemy, in addition to France and Soviet Russia. (6) In June 1938, Raeder directed his staff to explore the implications of a war with Britain. (7) This staff study on German naval warfare then served as the basis for combat instructions issued later in 1938. (8) In the summer of 1938, the Seekriegsleitung (Naval Warfare Directorate) (SKL) produced a memorandum that concluded that, in a future war with Britain, owing to Germany's unfavorable geographic position and the likelihood of British naval superiority, Germany should focus only on commerce warfare on the high seas. Such a war would be conducted with Panzerschiffe (armored ships popularly referred to as "pocket" battleships), cruisers, and U-boats. The Germans harbored some doubts that a successful outcome was even possible. (9) High naval officials also studied the employment of battleships, with contradictory results: all participants agreed that battleships were necessary, but reached no consensus regarding their employment. (10)
Admiral Raeder believed that if a major war broke out, Germany should concentrate all its forces against Britain. The construction of U-boats and the production of aircraft must receive unconditional priority. In his concept, the Luftwaffe would mine the approaches to British ports and destroy transportation facilities, so the Kriegsmarine could conduct trade warfare using U-boats and surface ships, supported by naval aircraft. Raeder also believed that trade warfare could not be limited to belligerents but must include attacks on neutral shipping. (11)
The Germans were aware that, as things stood, in the case of a war at sea with Britain their position would be inferior. But Hitler wanted Germany to have a much larger navy, one that could be used as a global instrument of power. So early in 1938, Hitler directed that a formidable force of battleships be built. Raeder therefore revised the existing naval construction program. The result was the so-called Plan Z, which envisaged a Kriegsmarine that was numerically and qualitatively much larger. Hitler formally approved Plan Z in January 1939. The projection was that by 1946 the Kriegsmarine would have in service six new-class fifty-thousand-ton battleships (with diesel engines and 406 mm guns), three newclass ten-thousand-ton pocket battleships, four twenty-thousand-ton aircraft carriers, five ten-thousand-ton heavy cruisers, sixteen eight-thousand-ton light cruisers, twenty-two five-thousand-ton scouting cruisers, sixty-eight destroyers, and ninety torpedo boats. Initially, Plan Z envisaged construction of around 250 U-boats (twenty-seven of two thousand tons, sixty-two 750-ton Type IXs, one hundred five-hundred-ton Type VIIs, and sixty 250-ton Type lis). (12) In the summer of 1939, the number of U-boats planned was increased to three hundred. (13)
On August 4,1939, the SKL directed that in the case of a war the Kriegsmarine was to cut off enemy sea communications by using all available forces. Enemy naval forces were to be attacked only if that would contribute to the war on enemy commerce. (14) The day before Germany's September 1 invasion of Poland, Hitler's Directive Number 1 ordered that if Britain and France declared war the Kriegsmarine was to concentrate on commerce destruction, especially against Britain. (15) The Luftwaffe was directed to prepare to conduct air attacks against shipping carrying imports to Britain. (16)
Yet when war began with Britain and France on September 3, 1939, the construction for which Plan Z called barely had started, and the Kriegsmarine was unprepared to carry out a protracted war at sea, especially on the open ocean. Britain's naval power was overwhelming compared with that of Germany. At that time the Kriegsmarine had in service six heavy surface combatants: two battleships (which sometimes were referred to as battle cruisers), three pocket battleships, and one heavy cruiser. These were the only units capable of conducting sustained operations on the open ocean. The remainder of the fleet consisted of six light cruisers, twenty-two destroyers, and twenty torpedo boats. Under construction were four battleships, two aircraft carriers, four heavy cruisers, sixteen destroyers, and ten (destroyer-size) torpedo boats. Out of fifty-seven U-boats, only twenty-two were suitable for employment in the Atlantic. (17) Raeder later wrote that the Kriegsmarine was, from the beginning of war, numerically inferior to the naval services of its enemies. The Kriegsmarine lacked aircraft carriers and sufficient escorts for its large surface combatants. It did not have an adequate number of long-range reconnaissance aircraft. Germany also lacked advanced naval bases overseas. In Raeder's view, only unity in planning operations and decisiveness in their execution could neutralize the enemy's advantages. (18)
Initially, Germany conducted its war on Britain's maritime commerce almost entirely with U-boats. June 1940 brought great improvement to the U-boat situation owing to new bases obtained in Norway and France. Use of the French bases reduced the U-boats' transit distance to their operating areas by some 450 nautical miles. At the same time, British antisubmarine (A/S) defenses were weak. But the Germans could not exploit these advantages, because the number of U-boats at sea was small. Between June 1,1940, and March 1,1941, seventy-two U-boats entered into service, while only thirteen were lost. Yet between November 1940 and February 1941 only some twenty-four boats were operational, and only about ten were in the operating area at any time. (19) At the end of February 1941 the number of frontline U-boats was only twenty-two; many of the remaining U-boats were undergoing training. (20) However, despite their numerical weakness, the U-boats were highly successful in destroying enemy shipping. From June 1940 to March 1941, U-boats sank 381 ships of over two million Bruttoregistertonnen (gross registered tons) (BRT). (21)
In March 1940, the Germans started to employ auxiliary cruisers in distant ocean areas. (22) By the end of March 1941, the seven auxiliary cruisers then in service had sunk or captured some eighty ships, of 494,291 BRT. Yet in contrast to the U-boats, the tonnage of enemy ships the auxiliary cruisers destroyed was of secondary importance; their principal purpose was to tie down enemy forces in distant areas, thereby relieving enemy pressure in home waters. (23)
Admiral Raeder's views on employing heavy surface ships were influenced greatly by his personal experiences during World War I. The leaders of the former Imperial German Navy had been criticized heavily for their failure to employ the battle line actively during the war, and Raeder was determined that under no circumstance would an analogous situation develop in the employment of heavy surface ships during any new war. The German principal objective in employing heavy surface ships against enemy maritime traffic was to destroy enemy merchant ships. This required that German heavy surface ships remain undamaged for as long as possible. Hence, they had to avoid encounters with equally strong or superior enemy forces. (24)
The Kriegsmarine was unable to begin using its heavy surface ships against British shipping during the spring and summer of 1940 because it was focusing all its attention on supporting the campaign in Norway and preparing to carry out Plan Seelowe (Sea Lion), the invasion of England. In September 1940, the Germans attempted for the first time to employ one of their heavy surface ships, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, to attack British traffic in the Atlantic. However, that attempt failed when the ship developed engine problems. (25) Engine malfunctions also delayed the next attempt, a sortie by the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. Finally, on October 29, 1940, Admiral Scheer left Gotenhafen (Gdynia today) in the Baltic Sea for the Atlantic. It operated in the Caribbean Sea and the Indian Ocean. (26) When it returned to Kiel on April 1 after around 160 days, it had cruised 46,000 nautical miles and sunk seventeen ships of 113,233 BRT. (27) Admiral Scheer also forced the enemy to assign large forces to protect his convoys. In the meantime, Admiral Hipper made a foray into the Atlantic from November 30 to December 27, 1940. It returned to Brest, France, because of repeated engine problems. (28) In its second foray, Admiral Hipper left Brest on February 1 and returned to Kiel on March 28. During this cruise it sank seven ships of 32,896 BRT and heavily damaged two other ships of 9,899 BRT. (29)
While Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper were at sea on January 22,1941, the SKL sent battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau out into the Atlantic to attack enemy shipping (Operation BERLIN). Their two-month cruise was highly successful. Some twenty-two ships of 115,622 BRT were either sunk or captured. (30) This number included sixteen enemy ships, of eighty thousand BRT, that had been sailing independently. Both battleships returned to Brest on March 22. (31)
From July 1940 to March 1941, German heavy surface ships sank or captured forty-seven ships of over 250,000 BRT. (32) During that same period, Luftwaffe bombers sank almost the same tonnage. (33) Yet this put the performance of both categories far behind that of the auxiliary cruisers. However, by the spring of 1941 Germany had battleships, heavy cruisers, and auxiliary cruisers operating in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. (34) Admiral Raeder believed that good opportunities existed in 1941 to destroy enemy shipping in the Atlantic by using surface ships in coordination with U-boats. (35) And indeed, British shipping losses from enemy action rose steadily as 1941 unfolded: during February some 403,600 tons of shipping were lost, 529,000 during March, and 687,000 during April. Most of these losses occurred in the Atlantic. (36)
To Admiral Raeder and the SKL, the results from employing heavy surface ships during the fall of 1940 and the winter and spring of 1941 confirmed that their concept was valid. They had high hopes for even greater future successes after the entry into service within a few months of Bismarck and Tirpitz, the strongest battleships in the world. At the same time, Raeder and the SKL had no illusions; a day would come when operations with heavy surface ships in the Atlantic would become prohibitively risky. For instance, they considered it only a matter of time before the United States entered the war. (37) Hence, their intent was to intensify the employment of their heavy surface forces while it was still possible to do so. (38)
The area in which the opposing forces operated encompassed rather a large part of the eastern North Atlantic. Prior to combat, the Bismarck group moved from Gotenhafen across the southeastern part of the Baltic, through the Danish straits, and along the Norwegian coast up to Trondheim. Almost all the combat actions took place in the area between latitudes 45 and 67 degrees N and between longitudes 10 and 40 degrees W. This area is bounded by Iceland and Greenland to the north, Ireland and Scotland to the east, and the Faeroe and Shetland Islands to the northeast.
The climate in the northeastern Atlantic, the British Isles, and Iceland is influenced greatly by the remnants of the Gulf Stream, the Icelandic Low in winter months, and the North Atlantic Subtropical High. These factors result in mild, rainy winters and relatively dry summers. (39) The North Atlantic is well known for its bad weather; fair weather is rare. (40) In general, clouds cover the area up to 70 percent of the year, mostly with low-altitude formations. (41)
In the eastern Atlantic, winds generally blow from the west. While they decrease in the summer, winds higher than force 4 prevail at least 65 percent of the year. (42)
In the northeastern Atlantic, storms are fairly frequent, especially north of the British Isles. The most dangerous are large storms that stall over the central North Atlantic. They sweep the area with strong southwesterly winds, creating heavy seas for long periods. These extratropical cyclones (large-scale low-pressure weather systems that occur in midlatitudes) are most prevalent during the winter months. Off the west coasts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, winds are strongest from October through March, with December and January the roughest months. (43)
In the northern part of the North Atlantic, field ice appears in January and lasts until April. (44) Harbor ice may occur from December to May; during the period in question, it generally prevented the use of ports in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. (45) Pack ice and icebergs are carried down the east coast of Greenland through the Denmark Strait. Between mid-August and November or December there is little ice in the Denmark Strait; navigation is more restricted during the rest of the year, especially from March to June, when ice covers most of the strait. However, ice seldom is found within the hundred-fathom line, owing to a warm, northward-flowing current. (46)
The North Atlantic itself is too deep for laying mines; however, mines could be laid in the Denmark Strait, off the coasts of Iceland and Britain, and in the Iceland-Faeroes-Shetlands passages. (47) Iceland's entire coast is fronted by an extensive 110-fathom shelf that extends forty to sixty miles offshore. In January 1941, the British laid some two thousand mines between Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, more mines in February, and 6,100 more in March. On April 26, mines were laid off the northwest tip of Iceland, with the minefield extending some fifty miles in a northwesterly direction. (48) Reportedly, the Germans were aware of this minefield. (49)
The duration of the day in the operating area greatly affected the employment of guns, torpedoes, and aircraft. Among other things, long, bright nights in the summer made it difficult to conceal the movement of ships. For example, on May 24, 1941, sunrise at latitude 67 degrees N and longitude 27 degrees W was at 0710, sunset at 0419. Thus, the duration of daylight was twenty-one hours, nine minutes. On the same day, sunrise at latitude 48 degrees N and longitude 42 degrees W occurred at 0258, sunset at 1830; the duration of the day was fifteen hours, thirty-two minutes. Conversely, long nights encompass a large part of the area from late fall to early spring. This heavily constrained the effectiveness of air reconnaissance. Long nights also limited the duration of aircraft contacts and the employment of torpedo aircraft and bombers from carriers and land bases. This greatly increased the likelihood of U-boats attacking successfully. At higher latitudes, long daylight during the summer months made it easy to observe and destroy supply ships. For the Germans, the most favorable time for breaking out into the northern Atlantic was from November through February; the most unfavorable, from May through September. (50)
The area of operations for the German naval forces and the Luftwaffe stretched from the Polish and German coasts in the Baltic Sea to Denmark and Norway's occupied southwestern and western coasts. The most important bases were at Gotenhafen and Danzig (Gdansk today) and the Bergen area and Trondheim in Norway. The British Royal Navy used a relatively large number of naval/air bases in northern Scotland and the Orkneys. On Scotland's eastern coast, the most important naval bases were at Cromarty, Invergordon, and Inverness. The Firth of Clyde (near Glasgow), Loch Ewe, Liverpool (in northwest England), and Pembroke (in southwest Wales) were the largest bases on Britain's western coast. (51)
Scapa Flow was the main base for the Royal Navy's Home Fleet. It is the best anchorage in the Orkneys, offering ships an almost landlocked shelter. Depths range up to 118 feet, while tidal currents within the harbor are almost negligible. (52) The distance from Scapa Flow to Trondheim is 795 miles.
The British ships and aircraft based in northern Scotland operated from a central position in relation to any hostile force trying to break out through the Denmark Strait and the Iceland-Faeroes-Shetlands passages. Hence, they benefited from divergent and relatively short lines of operation. The distance between the Pentland Firth (a strait separating the Orkneys from Caithness, in northern Scotland) and Reykjavik is about 790 miles. Similarly, the British forces that patrolled the Denmark Strait or were based in Iceland were located in a central position and hence also had short and diverging lines of operation. In contrast, the German surface ships approaching the British blocking positions had to traverse long and converging lines of operation.
Operational Command and Control
One of the most critical elements in the planning and successful execution of any military action is command and control (C2). Sound command organization or structure is one of the prerequisites for successful C2. Optimally, command organization should be centralized but at the same time allow for sufficient freedom of action by subordinate commanders. This combination can be accomplished by having intermediate levels of command and by applying faithfully, at all levels of command, the German-style mission command. Command organization should delineate clearly the authority and responsibilities among commanders at all levels.
Germany's Kriegsmarine was a highly centralized organization. Raeder argued (correctly) that high headquarters has all the information, the necessary communications facilities, knowledge of enemy radio traffic, and full control of the supply organization. (53)
Raeder was CINC of the navy, head of the Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command), and chief of the SKL. The SKL was responsible for planning and conducting naval warfare beyond home waters. It consisted of several departments, with the 1st, or Operations, Department (l./SKL) being the most important. (54)
The Flottenkommandant (fleet commander) was a four-star admiral. As in the Imperial German Navy, the fleet commander was the highest operational commander for surface forces. He was embarked aboard a flagship. (55) Subordinate to the fleet commander were various type-force commanders. The fleet commander's position was weakened greatly when Marinegruppekommandos (naval group commands) were established, the first being Naval Group Command East, established in Kiel, Germany, in November 1938. It was disbanded in August 1940 and merged into Naval Group Command North on August 8, with headquarters in Wilhelmshaven-Sengwarden. (56) Naval Group Command North was responsible for all Kriegsmarine activity in the Baltic Sea, the German Bight, Denmark, and Norway. (57) Naval Group Command West was established at Wilhelmshaven-Sengwarden in August 1939. Initially it was responsible for operations in the German Bight, North Sea, and Atlantic Ocean. Its headquarters was moved to Paris in August 1940. The responsibilities of Naval Group Command West for operations in the German Bight and the North Sea were transferred to Naval Group Command North. Naval Group Command West retained operational control in the Atlantic and became responsible for operations in the English Channel, Bay of Biscay, and Southwest Approaches (to the British Isles). (58) The establishment of naval group commands transferred ashore the operational control of seagoing forces, in essence reducing the fleet commander to a tactical commander in combat. (59) During the Bismarck operation, the commander of Naval Group Command North was Admiral Rolf Carls (1885-1945), while Naval Group Command West was commanded by Admiral Alfred Saalwachter (1883-1945). (60)
The German U-boat arm was established officially on September 27, 1935. After January 1936, U-boats were led by the Fuhrer der Unterseeboote (leader of U-boats), with a rank of navy captain; on October 17, 1939, the position was elevated to Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote (commander of U-boats) (B.d.U.), with a rank of rear admiral. (61) At the time of the Bismarck foray, the B.d.U. was Admiral Karl Donitz (1891-1980). He was directly subordinate to the SKL.
The highest British naval authority was the Admiralty, led by First Lord of the Admiralty Albert V. Alexander (1885-1965). (His position was the equivalent of todays Secretary of the Navy in the United States.) The Admiralty itself consisted of five sea lords plus four other high officials. The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff was Admiral Dudley Pound (1877-1943). He was the highest naval official responsible for naval operations. In contrast to the Air Ministry, the Admiralty's responsibilities included operational planning and execution. The most important Admiralty divisions were Plans, Operations, Trade, and Intelligence. The work of the Plans and Operations Divisions was coordinated closely with the Intelligence Division. (62)
The Naval Staff was created in 1917. The Plans Division was responsible for making strategic and operational decisions. The Operations Division controlled deployed naval forces in home waters and overseas. It was also responsible for worldwide naval dispositions and day-to-day, even hour-to-hour, movements. Naval area commands and overseas commands enjoyed almost total independence. Yet the Admiralty remained a focal point for the direction of fleet operations. The principal maritime theater for the British was the northern Atlantic. (63)
The Home Fleet, created in 1902, represented the largest operational level of command in the Royal Navy. Its operating area was the waters around the British Isles. The Home Fleet was organized into a number of type-force commands, with a flag officer leading each one. In September 1939, the main components of the Home Fleet were the 2nd Battle Squadron; the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron (BCS 1); the 18th Cruiser Squadron (CS 18); Rear Admiral, Submarines (2nd Submarine Flotilla, 6th Submarine Flotilla); Vice Admiral, Carriers; 6th and 8th Destroyer Flotillas; and the Orkneys/Shetlands force. Another element that played a significant role in the operation in question was Force H, established in June 1940. It was based at Gibraltar and operated mainly in the western Mediterranean. It consisted of one carrier (Ark Royal), one battle cruiser (Renown), one light cruiser, and six destroyers. (64)
Another major element was Western Approaches Command, which was led by a CINC, a four-star admiral. It was established in Liverpool, England, on September 9, 1939. The Combined Operations Headquarters was moved from Plymouth, England, to Liverpool on February 17, 1941. The main responsibility of Western Approaches Command was the defense and protection of the transatlantic convoys and coastal shipping in the Western Approaches.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) Coastal Command was established in 1936. It became the RAF's only maritime arm after the Fleet Air Arm was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1937. The main responsibility of the Coastal Command was to defend the British (and later Allied) convoys from U-boat and Luftwaffe attacks. In 1941, the principal subordinate commands of the Coastal Command deployed on the British Isles were Number 15 Group, with headquarters in Liverpool; Number 16 Group, at Chatham, in Kent, southeast England; and Number 18 Group, at Pitreavie Castle, near Rosyth, Scotland. (65)
The Opposing Commanders
The two highest commanders of the opposing seagoing forces in the operation were the German fleet commander, Admiral Gunther Lutjens (1889-1941), and the British CINC of the Home Fleet, Admiral John Tovey (1885-1971).
Lutjens was considered to be one of the ablest German admirals: highly intelligent, deliberate, and levelheaded in his assessment of situations and people. (66) He was dedicated, single-minded, stoical, and austere. There was no doubt that he was a man of great personal courage and integrity. (67) He was not a Nazi believer. (68)
Lutjens entered the Imperial Navy in April 1907 and graduated from its naval academy. During World War I, he spent most of his time in torpedo boats, took part in a series of raids against Dunkirk, and by 1917-18 was a torpedo flotilla leader. During the 1920s, Lutjens commanded a battleship and a torpedo boat flotilla. (69) He was promoted to captain in July 1933 and served in the Naval Personnel Office. Through the rest of the 1930s, Lutjens commanded a light training cruiser, served as chief of the Naval Personnel Office, and was Commander of Torpedo Boats (which included destroyers). (70) He was promoted to rear admiral in October 1937 and vice admiral in January 1940. He was Commander, Scouting Forces and deputy to the fleet commander, Admiral Wilhelm Marschall (1886-1976). In March 1940, Lutjens commanded the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during the invasion of Norway in April-June 1940. (71) He also was briefly acting fleet commander during the campaign in Norway, when Marschall fell sick. (72) In July 1940, Lutjens became fleet commander. On September 1, 1940, he was promoted to four-star admiral. (73) Lutjens led a highly successful foray with two battleships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) in January-March 1941 (Operation Berlin). Admiral Raeder had high confidence and trust in Liitjens, greatly valuing his broad and diverse professional experience. (74)
Admiral John Tovey entered the Royal Navy at the age of fifteen. He was commanding officer of the destroyer Onslow in the battle of Jutland in 1916, during which Onslow "single-handedly" attacked the German cruiser Wiesbaden; Tovey successfully brought his badly damaged ship back to port. (75) He spent most of his subsequent career in destroyers. Tovey served as Rear Admiral, Destroyers, Mediterranean Fleet in 1938, and then as Vice Admiral, Light Forces in 1940. He was considered a natural leader. (76) He was aggressive and acted with a great deal of initiative. Admiral Andrew Cunningham (1883-1963), CINC of the Mediterranean Fleet--known as a strict disciplinarian--had a high opinion of Tovey s professional abilities; however, Admiral Dudley Pound, the First Sea Lord, had a more ambiguous, if not a negative, view. Pound considered Tovey "difficult at times and not overburdened with brains." (77) Tovey did what he thought was right; he refused to kowtow to superiors; and he hated yes-men. (78) Tovey had an awkward initial interview with Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965) that almost cost him the job, but in the end he became CINC of the Home Fleet largely because of the support of First Lord Alexander and Admiral Pound. (79) Later Churchill found Tovey stubborn and wanted to get rid of him. (80)
Tovey took command of the Home Fleet on December 20, 1940. His appointment broke with tradition because he was a junior vice admiral; normally, the CINC of the Home Fleet was a senior four-star admiral or admiral of the fleet. (81) Tovey immediately began intensive training in night fighting, both in conducting air attacks and in defending against enemy air attacks. (82)
Vice Admiral Sir James F. Somerville (1882-1949) was in command of Force H. His naval career as a commissioned officer began with service in the armored cruiser Sutlej. He became a specialist in wireless telegraphy. During World War I, Somerville served in the battleship Marlborough, battleship Queen Elizabeth, battle cruiser Inflexible, and cruiser Chatham. He was promoted to captain in 1921. Throughout the 1920s, he served as Deputy Director of Signals at the Admiralty, next commanded the 4th Battle Squadron and the battleship Benbow, and then returned as Director of Signals. In 1931, Somerville commanded the cruiser Norfolk in the Home Fleet. Somerville was promoted to commodore in 1932 and a year later to rear admiral. He served as Flag Officer, Destroyers in 1936. After being promoted to vice admiral in September 1937, he became CINC, East Indies in July 1938. Because of illness Somerville retired in early 1939, but was recalled to active duty late in the year. He was deputy to Admiral Bertram Ramsay (1883-1945) during the Dunkirk evacuation. Somerville was appointed commander of the newly established Force H on June 22, 1940.
In 1941, British signal intelligence (SIGINT) was not yet fully developed, and the penetration of German codes was still in its infancy; in 1940, priority had been given to cracking the Luftwaffe's codes because they were readily accessible. Also, the Battle of Britain, not war in the North Atlantic, was the most immediate threat. The Kriegsmarine was very careful in coding its radio messages, and used a very sophisticated, almost impenetrable version of the Enigma machine. The British did not achieve even isolated breakthroughs in Kriegsmarine radio traffic until 1940, and the most important breakthrough was achieved in June 1941--after the sinking of Bismarck. Until then, British SIGINT contributed only direction finding (DF) of German naval radio transmissions and some traffic analysis. (83)
This SIGINT was supplemented with air reconnaissance of German naval bases and shipyards. The Royal Navy did not have land-based reconnaissance aircraft to reconnoiter German naval bases in the Baltic such as Gotenhafen, so it depended on the RAF to perform that function. However, the RAF generally was reluctant to divert any resources from its strategic bombing efforts; it did not want to risk its aircraft on naval targets. Therefore photoreconnaissance contributed little to the operational intelligence available. (84)
The British Special Intelligence Service (SIS) had an extensive network of agents, mostly resistance fighters and Western sympathizers in German-occupied countries. SIS agent reports provided critically valuable information on enemy naval movements. (85) The British apparently had many agents in Norway who reported on German military activities. They used shortwave transmitters to communicate with their contacts in London. (86)
The Germans' principal sources of information on British forces and their movements were the Kriegsmarine's naval intelligence radio-intercept service, known as B-Dienst, and the Luftwaffe's reconnaissance aircraft. B-Dienst teams also were deployed aboard major surface combatants, including those of the Bismarck group. By September 3, 1939, B-Dienst had broken the major British merchant and naval operational codes, and thus was able to track British naval movements. However, changes to the British codes in August 1940 reduced B-Diensts effectiveness in this area. Still, by October 1940 B-Dienst could read some 30 percent of British signals, and by January 1941 it again had mastered the British code system. (87)
Photo and visual air reconnaissance was the responsibility of the Luftwaffe; however, it generally was not very receptive to Kriegsmarine requirements. Its aircraft lacked the endurance to conduct long-range missions--few Luftwaffe aircraft could fly over British bases. Luftwaffe personnel also lacked the training necessary to conduct visual recognition of naval targets. (88)
THE GERMAN OPERATIONAL CONCEPT
The SKL and Naval Group Commands North and West prepared a number of studies on the employment of heavy forces in the conduct of Atlantikkriegfuhrung. These studies served as the basis on which the SKL and naval group commands drafted operative Weisungen (operational instructions); a fleet commander issued Operationbefehle (operations orders).
On April 2, 1941, Admiral Raeder issued operational instructions to the fleet commander, the commanders of Naval Group Commands North and West, and the Commander of U-boats on the conduct of war in the Atlantic. He pointed out how tactical successes in the North Atlantic could have strategic effects on the war in the Mediterranean and the southern Atlantic. The most decisive effect on the war in the Atlantic would come from cutting off traffic between North America and Britain across the North Atlantic.
Raeder recognized that the numerically inferior German forces could not achieve sea dominance over the North Atlantic readily; however, he hoped the Germans could obtain local and limited control, and thereby gain sea dominance gradually. Raeder believed the enemy would be forced to strengthen significantly the defenses of his convoys, at the price of weakening his position in home waters and the Mediterranean or reducing the frequency of convoys. (89) Employing Germany's heavy ships over a wide ocean area would force the enemy to fragment his naval strength. This, in turn, would allow the Germans to mass forces against enemy weak points. (90)
However, Raeder's concept was deeply flawed. Even if the Germans were able gradually to obtain sea control in the North Atlantic, they could not maintain it for very long.
In his operational instruction issued on April 2, Raeder envisaged the employment of four battleships against enemy shipping in the Atlantic: Bismarck and Tirpitz from Gotenhafen and Gneisenau and Scharnhorst from Brest. (91) They would join up in the North Atlantic and operate against convoys. The assumption was that the British would be forced to suspend convoys, and even might be forced to withdraw their battleships from the Mediterranean. (92) These hopes were crushed when Gneisenau was torpedoed on April 6 and Scharnhorst experienced such serious machinery problems that it would not be available until the end of June. The British air raids on Kiel led to further delays in repairs to Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper; Admiral Scheer would not be available until the end of July, Admiral Hipper until August. The first German aircraft carrier, the 33,550-ton Graf Zeppelin, was eight months away from completion. (93) Tirpitz was undergoing sea trials and would not be operational by May 1941.
Raeder made a difficult decision: to employ Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen alone. As a result, instead of being a part of a much larger effort, Bismarck's foray became an isolated operation. This, in turn, greatly increased the risk, because the enemy would be able to concentrate all available forces against the Bismarck group. (94)
The SKL issued the final operational instruction for RHEINUBUNG on April 14, 1941. At his meeting with Hitler on April 20, Admiral Raeder pointed out that the first, similar operation in the North Atlantic, conducted by the battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in January-March 1941, had been a significant tactical success. Moreover, it had considerable strategic effect in the Mediterranean and South Atlantic. (95) He also claimed that commerce warfare was proceeding successfully. (96) Raeder informed Hitler that the next battleship operation, by Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, would be conducted in late April. The Pan-American Security Zone would be respected. (97) Hitler, while not rejecting the plan, had great misgivings about it; yet he left it to Raeder to make the final decision. (98) Raeder emphasized to Hitler that dangerous conditions existed at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, and at Brest as well, where German ships went for repairs after their forays into the Atlantic. Hence, Brest shipyard would be used only in exceptional cases; it was important to acquire use of the Spanish port of El Ferrol. Hitler promised to secure that port for German ships in the fall of 1941. He also asked Raeder to explore whether Organisation Todt could be used to build a large dry dock at Trondheim quickly. (99)
Admiral Lutjens issued his operations order on April 22, 1941. Four days later, Lutjens had a meeting with Raeder to discuss the timing of the operation. Lutjens argued that the operation should be delayed until the damages Prinz Eugen had suffered when it ran into a mine were repaired. (100) He also suggested that Bismarck might sail out alone, to be followed by Prinz Eugen, or that both ships delay sortieing until the next new moon. (101) Lutjens further believed that the operations chances of success would be much greater if the combat group's sortie was delayed until either Scharnhorst was repaired or Tirpitz became fully operational; the latter had been commissioned in February but, as mentioned, was still undergoing sea trials. He presciently told Raeder that any employment of Bismarck alone would trigger a massive response from the enemy, reducing the chances of success. Lutjens and Raeder also discussed the use of Brest after the completion of the operation, with Raeder stating that any stay at the French port should be short, only to embark munitions and supplies. If Bismarck were heavily damaged, it should steer to Saint-Nazaire instead; for a longer pause or overhaul, Bismarck should head directly for home port. Lutjens stressed the importance of air reconnaissance of the Denmark Strait to locate the ice boundary and any enemy patrols. He also requested that Raeder assign a larger number of aircraft and U-boats, plus fishing steamers, to support the operation. Raeder concurred, and gave corresponding orders to his chief of staff, Vice Admiral Otto Schniewind (1887-1964). (102) Raeder later praised Liitjens for being so open with him, even though the fleet commander did not accept Raeder's reasoning entirely. (103) Liitjens had a premonition that Bismarck's foray would end badly. After meeting with Raeder, he stopped briefly in the office of the future rear admiral Hans Voss and reportedly said, "I'd like to make my farewells. I'll never come back." He added, "Given the superiority of the British, survival is improbable." (104)
Raeder's operational instruction of April 14 stated that the aufgabe (task) of the fleet commander was to attack the enemy supply traffic in the Atlantic north of the equator. (105) The situation would determine the duration of the operation. (106) The primary aim was to destroy the largest volume of enemy shipping, particularly that destined for British ports. (107)
The operations order that Liitjens issued on April 22 stipulated that the group's tasks were to sail through the Belts (the Danish straits) and the Arctic Ocean into the Atlantic, then attack shipping traffic in the northern Atlantic. Afterward, the group was to sail to a French port to replenish ammunition and supplies. If longer repairs or an overhaul were needed, the ships were to return to home port in Germany. (108) Originally, the operation was planned to start on April 28, to coincide with the new moon; however, it was delayed until May 18 because of the mine damages to PrinzEugen and to conduct crane repairs on Bismarck. (109)
The forces initially assigned to support the operation consisted of several Luftwaffe squadrons and several U-boats, plus a number of logistical support ships. The commander of the 5th Air Fleet, General Hans-Jurgen Stumpff (1889-1968), was informed about RHEINUBUNG, and that all available aircraft in Denmark and Norway were to provide continuous fighter cover and a close A/S defense screen, as well as reconnaissance of the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the limits of the various aircrafts' effective ranges. They also were to reconnoiter the British naval base at Scapa Flow. Air Leader Stavanger assigned the responsibility for reconnaissance to 1st Squadron, 120th Aufklarungsgruppe (Reconnaissance Group) (designated 1. / F 120), reinforced by one squadron of the 121st Reconnaissance Group (F 121), which flew Junkers (Ju) 88s. Also deployed in support of the Bismarck group were naval flying boat squadrons and Heinkel (He) 115 squadrons; these were based in Norway, concentrated in the Skagerrak-Trondheim area. Two reconnaissance squadrons of Ju-88s and 1. / F 120 monitored Scapa Flow continuously. They also provided continuous coverage of the North Sea and the Arctic. Parts of the 30th Kampfgeschwader (Battle Wing) (KG 30), flying Ju-88s, and the 26th Battle Wing (KG 26), flying He-11 Is and based in Denmark and Kristiansand and Gardermoen, Norway, were put in combat readiness. Fighter protection was provided by Fighter Leader Norway. (110)
But air support of the Bismarck group during its movement from Bergen to the Denmark Strait turned out to be very inadequate. The Luftwaffe lacked sufficient numbers of reconnaissance aircraft to provide comprehensive coverage in an area as distant as the Denmark Strait or the Iceland-Faeroes passage. In contrast, the Luftwaffe provided gap-free reconnaissance of the central and northern parts of the North Sea. It also envisaged full air cover for the Bismarck group during its operational deployment from Gotenhafen to Grimstadfjord (an inlet in the Korsfjord, near Bergen). (111) The North Atlantic west of longitude 30 degrees W was free of German aircraft, except for sporadic reconnaissance aircraft; however, Luftwaffe aircraft covered the entire sea area east of longitude 30 degrees W. (112) Generally, on a daily basis one or more Focke-Wulf (FW) 200s from Bordeaux or Stavanger conducted reconnaissance of the sea area northwest of Ireland out to approximately longitude 20 degrees W. (113) Coastal reconnaissance was conducted from bases at Brest and Hourtin, France (some thirty-two miles northwest of Bordeaux), out to longitude 11 degrees W, or variously out to two hundred nautical miles, with He-11 Is; extension out to longitude 20 degrees W using He-11 Is and Blohm & Voss 138s was in preparation. Additionally, two reconnaissance ships (Gonzenheim and Kota Penang), plus some U-boats, were deployed some three hundred nautical miles south of Cape Farewell, Greenland, the southern entrance to the Denmark Strait. (114)
Initially, four U-boats were assigned to cooperate with the Bismarck group. (115) One was assigned to conduct weather observation in the area between latitudes 55 and 60 degrees N and between longitudes 20 and 25 degrees W. (116) Admiral Lutjens's April 22 operations order stated that activity in the operating area would include some U-boats operating on the north-south convoy route and four others on the HX convoy route (which ran from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to U.K. ports) after the end of May, plus two reconnaissance ships and five tankers. (117)
Available to Naval Group Command West were one supply ship; three requisitioned tankers carrying fuel, munitions, and food; and three tankers in reserve. (118) Assigned for logistical support of RheinObung were two supply ships (Ermland and Spichern) and four (originally five) tankers (Lothringen, Belchen, Esso-Hamburg, and Friedrich Breme). (119) The support ships were deployed in waiting positions in the North Atlantic: one supply ship (Ermland) between the Azores and the Lesser Antilles, and the other (Spichern) four hundred nautical miles west of Faial, Azores; and the tankers Belchen and Lothringen some 120 and 200 nautical miles, respectively, south of Cape Farewell. One tanker (Esso-Hamburg) was deployed some 450 nautical miles (nm) northwest, and another (Breme) about seven hundred nautical miles southwest of Faial. (120)
Naval Group Command North would exercise control over the Bismarck group until it crossed a line running from the southern tip of Greenland to the northern tip of the Hebrides, when control would pass to Naval Group Command West. (121) Thereafter Naval Group Command West would control the entire operation, with tactical control residing in the hands of Admiral Liitjens aboard Bismarck. (122)
Admiral Liitjens was responsible for the movement of reconnaissance ships, supply ships, and tankers during their presence in the operating area. If breakout into the Atlantic was detected too early, the operation was to be shortened or aborted, depending on the situation. In such a case, either Naval Group Command West or the fleet commander would issue the order. If a sudden change in the situation required withdrawal to the Arctic, Naval Group Command North would make preparations for the arrival of the Bismarck group. (123)
Several U-boats (two at a minimum) would be deployed off Freetown, Sierra Leone. Beginning in mid-June, up to four U-boats would be employed along the eastern part of the HX route between longitudes 30 and 45 degrees W. Both groups would be subordinate to B.d.U., but if an opportunity arose for direct cooperation, the fleet commander had authority to give orders directly to the U-boats. (124)
RheinuBUNG was to consist of five distinct phases: (1) movement from Gotenhafen to Grimstadfjord; (2) movement from Grimstadljord to the Denmark Strait; (3) breakout into the North Atlantic; (4) attack on enemy shipping; and (5) return to home base. The SKL instruction issued on April 14 directed the Bismarck group to sortie from Gotenhafen in the afternoon of April 28. It would advance through the Belts/Skagerrak, then to the Arctic. (125) During the transit of the Belts, defense against mines would be provided by Sperrbrecher (mine breakers) and the 5th Minesweeper Flotilla. (126) During the groups transit through the Skagerrak, several destroyers would provide A/S protection. (127)
Lutjens s operations order provided a very precise timeline for transiting the Skagerrak and the Kattegat. This was necessary to coordinate properly the mine countermeasures, A/S support, and Luftwaffe air cover. During the transit of Arkona and the Skagen barrier, in addition to mine breakers / minesweepers, four destroyers (Z-23, Z-24, Hans Lody [Z 10], and Friedrich Eckheldt [Z 16]) would provide the A/S screen for the Bismarck group. (128) By 1900 on April 30, the Bismarck group was to reach Kristiansand; at 0230 on May 1 it would reach the latitude of Stavanger; at 0630 the same day, that of Korsfjord/Bergen; and on May 2, that of Trondheim. (129)
In operational terms, the planned movement of the Bismarck group from Grimstadfjord to the Denmark Strait was an operational maneuver, followed by a tactical penetration into the North Atlantic. The breakout was considered the most difficult part of the entire operation. The aim was to enter the Atlantic unobserved by enemy patrols, but if the Bismarck group were sighted the mission still was to be carried out to some extent, in accordance with the operational instructions. (130)
The German leadership incorrectly assumed that enemy patrol forces in the Denmark Strait would consist of auxiliary cruisers. (131) However, it assumed correctly that enemy aircraft also would patrol the Denmark Strait. The Germans knew that a bright night would make unobserved breakout more difficult, whereas low visibility would facilitate breakout. They also assumed that the Luftwaffes reconnaissance of the northern part of the North Sea would be sufficient to provide an overview of the enemy situation. (132)
The ice boundary also influenced planning. Naval Group Command North suggested to Lutjens that he execute the breakout between Iceland and the Faeroes because those waters were ice-free. In contrast, the Denmark Strait is narrow to begin with, and the width of the passage available varies with the position of the ice boundary, which had the potential to make it easier for enemy ships to obtain and maintain contact with the Bismarck group. The enemy also could draw on more-southward-deployed units. Another advantage of transiting the gap was the shorter transit time, which saved fuel, whereas use of the strait would require refueling. Unfortunately, Liitjens was bound to follow SKL instructions, which stipulated an undetected breakout through the Denmark Strait into the Atlantic. Refueling would be provided by one tanker (Weissenberg), which would wait at latitude 70 degrees N, longitude 01 degree W. (133)
After the successful breakout, searching for and destroying the largest volume of enemy shipping would be the Bismarck group's primary mission. In his operational instructions, Raeder directed that combat with an equally strong enemy should be avoided. (134) The only exception was if such an engagement would contribute to the accomplishment of the ultimate objective and the risk was low. (135)
The Gneisenau/Scharnhorst foray in January-March 1941 had shown that, even when B-Dienst provided the departure date and route of an enemy convoy, detecting those convoys in the broad spaces of the ocean depended on luck; if it happened, it might be only by accident. In his operations order, Liitjens explained that enemy convoys normally were escorted by one battleship, often with two cruisers and two destroyers in addition. Bismarck would tie up the battleship, while Prinz Eugen would deal with any other ships in the convoy's screen. (136)
Sailing to a French port would be considered only if no significant repairs were required; if lengthier repairs were needed, each ship would return to its home port. (137) If needed, the general alternate port of return would be Trondheim. (138)
Bismarck and Prinz Eugen possessed an unmatched power compared with their respective enemy counterparts. However, the Home Fleet and Force H had an enormous numerical superiority, plus effective support from RAF Coastal Command. (For details, see sidebars and map 1.)
The majority of supply ships and tankers sortied about a week prior to the Bismarck group. The first to do so was the tanker Belchen from La Pallice on May 10; two reconnaissance ships sortied from La Pallice on May 17. (139) Four tankers and two supply ships would operate in the area between latitudes 45 and 46 degrees N and longitudes 32 and 35 degrees W. In the same area were deployed four weather-observation fishing steamers. (140) Two tankers sailed into the Arctic. (141) If bad weather delayed the Bismarck group breakout, one tanker was in a waiting position in the Norwegian Sea, while another tanker was at Trondheim. (142)
Prior to his arrival at Gotenhafen, Liitjens stopped at Kiel to see his predecessor, Admiral Marschall. Marschall had been removed from his post because of differences with Raeder and Naval Group Command West commander Admiral Saalwachter. During the meeting, Marschall advised Liitjens not to follow instructions received from the SKL too literally. Marschall believed the fleet commander must have a certain freedom of action in case the situation changed. (143), Liitjens responded in a tragically resigned tone: "No! Two fleet commanders have already been relieved of their commands due to the displeasure of the Naval [High] Command. I do not wish to be the third. I know what the Naval Command desires and will carry out their orders." (144)
About one week prior to his arrival at Gotenhafen, Liitjens also visited his friend and former "crew member" (classmate) Rear Admiral Conrad Patzig (1888-1975), the chief of the Personnel Office. Patzig asked why Lutjens had to go on board as the fleet commander, because the operation was minor in scale, yet the risk of losing his life was acute. Lutjens agreed with Patzig, but believed there was no alternative. (145) He did not want to question Raeder's decision. As mentioned, Lutjens apparently had a premonition of what would happen to him. He told Patzig: "I shall have to sacrifice myself sooner or later. I have renounced my private life and I am determined to execute the task which has been entrusted to me in an honorable manner." (146)
On May 12, Hitler met with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (chief of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht), and several high-ranking members of his staff visited Bismarck at Gotenhafen. Raeder was not present. Hitler inspected the ship and attended gunnery exercises. He had a long talk with Lutjens. He asked the admiral about the Scharnhorst/ Gneisenau experience. Lutjens mentioned to Hitler the threat that enemy carrierborne torpedo aircraft posed to Bismarck. (147)
Phase I: Gotenhafen-Grimstadfjord (0000 May 18-0900 May 21). In operational terms, the movement of the Bismarck group from Gotenhafen to Grimstadfjord represented the operational deployment. (148) At about 0600 on May 18, Admiral Lutjens received from naval intelligence the latest status of the enemy heavy ships. The Germans estimated that in home waters were deployed three battleships (Prince of Wales, King George V, and Rodney), one battle cruiser (Hood), and only one carrier (Victorious). One damaged carrier (Illustrious) was probably on the way to the United States. For a long time, there was no information on the whereabouts of another carrier (Argus). Force H was in Gibraltar. On the north-south convoy route were deployed one battleship (Repulse) and one carrier (Furious) (used for ferrying aircraft from Britain to Gibraltar and the Gulf of Guinea). One battleship (Nelson) and one carrier (Eagle) had left Durban, South Africa, on May 10, but it was unclear whether they were organized as a group. (149)
During the forenoon of May 18, Admiral Lutjens issued his Absicht (intent) for the pending operation. He stated that if the weather situation were favorable for breaking out (i.e., it was bad), his intent was not to stop at Korsfjord but to proceed directly to the Arctic, refuel from the waiting tanker Weissenberg, then break out into the northern Atlantic through the Denmark Strait at high speed. He hoped that if reduced visibility and fog prevailed, an encounter with the enemy cruisers or auxiliary cruisers in the Denmark Strait could be avoided. In the case of an encounter with light forces, Prinz Eugen might use its torpedoes, on order from Lutjens. (150)
At about 2130 on May 18, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sailed from Gotenhafen. They proceeded separately until they reached Arkona, where they joined up at 1100 on May 19. (151) On the order of the Befehlshaber der Sicherung der Ostsee (Commander, Security Forces, Baltic), traffic in the Great Belt and Kattegat was stopped for the night of May 19/20 and the morning of May 20, to enhance the secrecy of the Bismarck groups movement. (152)
During the morning of May 20, Luftwaffe photoreconnaissance ascertained the presence in Scapa Flow of two battleships (King George V and Rodney), one battle cruiser (Hood), one carrier (Victorious), six light cruisers, four destroyers, and two submarines. In the northern Scotland area were probably twelve cruisers that were nonoperational--under repair. (153) No enemy forces were sighted in the North Sea or the Arctic.
Around noon on May 20, the Bismarck group was in the vicinity of the Skagerrak mine barrier, to be escorted by the minesweeper flotilla; around 1600 it was escorted through the mine-free area in the Kattegat. It then was mixed with commercial vessels waiting to pass through the mine-free area in the reverse direction. (154) By evening, the Bismarck group was south of Kristiansand. (155)
At about 0620 on May 21, the 18th Air Group transmitted a message to the British Admiralty concerning the presence of two enemy battleships and three destroyers. (156) B-Dienst decrypted this message almost immediately, and Naval Group Command North and the SKL agreed that enemy agents had observed the Bismarck group in the Great Belt. (157)
The original source of the information to the Admiralty about Bismarck's transit was the Swedish cruiser Gotland. (158) Major Tornberg (assistant to Major Carl Petersen [1883-1963], head of Sweden's C-Bureau, a unit for secret-intelligence collection) passed the information to the British naval attache in Stockholm, Captain Henry Denham (1897-1993). (159) In his message the naval attache stated: "Kattegat today 20th May (a) This afternoon eleven German merchant vessels passed Lenker North (b) at 1500 two large German warships escorted by three destroyers, five escort craft, and ten to twelve aircraft passing Marstrand [in the Bohuslan archipelago, in the northeastern Kattegat] course northwest 2058/20." (160) Raeder knew from Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (1887-1945), chief of the Abwehr (Military Intelligence), that the signal from Stockholm was sent to the Admiralty on the morning of May 21; Canaris had proof positive that British agents had reported the Bismarck group's movement. (161)
German naval intelligence learned that the report on the sighting of the Bismarck group had prompted intensive reconnaissance by the 18th Air Group. This group, with headquarters near Rosyth, cooperated with CINC, Rosyth and the Orkneys/Shetlands Naval Command. The B-Dienst intercepts located enemy aircraft in the northern part of the North Sea, off the Norwegian coast, and in the Faeroes area. Yet at the same time, monitoring of the radio traffic of the Home Fleet revealed no sign of special activity. (162)
At 0900 on May 21, the Bismarck group entered Korsfjord. Bismarck anchored at Grimstadfjord, at the entrance to the Fjosanger fjord. Prinz Eugen refueled at Kalvanes Bay from a tanker. (163) Surprisingly, Bismarck did not refuel, even though it had burned some two thousand tons of oil since Gotenhafen. (164) From enemy radio transmissions, it was clear to the Germans that the enemy knew about the presence of the Bismarck group, although as noted no reaction had been detected. (165)
Coincidentally, the RAF planned to attack the Bismarck group during the night of May 21/22. It also intended to conduct reconnaissance off the Norwegian coast from Trondheim to Kristiansand on May 22. (166) However, in both instances low clouds prevented aircraft from finding their targets. (167) In the evening on May 21, British air reconnaissance ascertained that the Bismarck group had left Bergen. (168)
On May 21, Admiral Tovey decided to strengthen cruiser patrols in the Denmark Strait and between Iceland and the Faeroe Islands." (169) When the heavy cruiser Suffolk arrived at Hvalfjord, Iceland, after being relieved by Norfolk in the Denmark Strait, it was directed to rejoin CS 1 after refueling. (170) To save fuel, Suffolk would join the patrol just before the earliest arrival of the enemy. The cruiser Arethusa, due to arrive at Reykjavik, was directed to remain at Hvalfjord at the disposal of Commander, CS 1. (171) BCS 1 (Hood and Prince of Wales), plus a screen of six destroyers (Electra, Anthony, Icarus, Echo, Achates, and Antelope), sailed from Scapa Flow to Hvalfjord. (172) Vice Admiral Lancelot E. Holland (1887-1941), Commander, BCS 1, was instructed to cover patrols in the Denmark Strait and the Iceland-Faeroes passage, operating north of latitude 62 degrees N. (173) Tovey issued orders recalling Repulse from the Clyde (where it was waiting to escort a convoy to the Middle East) to Scapa Flow. (174) The cruisers Birmingham and Manchester, then patrolling the Iceland-Faeroes passage, were directed to refuel at Skaalefjord in the Faeroe Islands, then resume patrol. (175) Their assigned patrolling line was between latitude 61 degrees N, longitude 10[degrees] 30' W and latitude 64 degrees N, longitude 15 degrees W. Five fishing trawlers were on their routine patrols west of this line. Arethusa was directed to join Manchester in the Iceland-Faeroes passage. (176)
During the evening of May 21, Admiral Max K. Horton (1883-1951), Rear Admiral, Submarines, directed Minerve, then on patrol southwest of Norway, to move to a position at latitude 61[degrees] 53' N, longitude 03[degrees] 15' E, while P-31 sailed out from Scapa Flow to a position off Stadlandet (Selje, in the northwestern part of Sogne Fjord). (177)
Phase II: Grimstadfjord-Denmark Strait (2200 May 21-2000 May 22). The Bismarck group left Grimstadfjord at 2200 on May 21. Several hours afterward, enemy aircraft searched for Bismarck in the skerries (small, rocky, uninhabited islands) off Bergen. On the basis of this enemy activity, the Germans concluded that the movement of the Bismarck group was known, but apparently the enemy was uncertain about the group's exact location. At 0510, after the Bismarck group reached the latitude of Kristiansund, Liitjens released the accompanying destroyers, which would proceed to Trondheim. On the basis of reports he received, Liitjens believed that the major part of the Home Fleet was still at Scapa Flow at noon on May 22. Even if the Home Fleet sailed out on May 22, it would have to transit some 1,200 nautical miles to reach a position near Cape Farewell. (178)
At 1200 on May 22, Liitjens directed the Bismarck group to increase its speed to twenty-four knots and steer for the Denmark Strait. (179) The group was then some two hundred nautical miles off the Norwegian coast. (180) On the evening of May 22, the sky was covered with clouds and the atmosphere was misty. The meteorologist aboard Bismarck predicted that the weather would be favorable for a breakout. Liitjens intended to steer for Cape Farewell. (181) Possibly he was influenced by information he had received while at Korsfjord in the forenoon of May 21, from a Luftwaffe officer who told him there was no sign that the Home Fleet had sailed from Scapa Flow. Liitjens probably believed that he must stay ahead of the enemy. He was aware that the enemy knew about his sortie from Gotenhafen and his stay in the skerries off Bergen. (182)
At 1939 on May 22, RAF aircraft reported that the enemy battleship and cruiser, but not the merchant ships, had left Bergen. Three destroyers and one catapult ship were sighted at Trondheim. Most of the Norwegian coast was then under fog. (183)
After receiving a report at 2000 that the enemy warships had departed from Bergen, Tovey believed there were four possibilities regarding enemy activity. The first was that the convoy was carrying important military stores to northern Norway and would sail through the Leads; for some weeks there had been reports of movements of German troops to Kirkenes. The second possibility was that the convoy was carrying a raiding party, perhaps to capture an airfield to support an attack on Reykjavik or 1 Ivalfjord. Third, the enemy battleship and cruiser might try to break out through the Denmark Strait to reach the trade routes, as German ships had done in the past. However, breaking out through the passage between Iceland and Scotland could not be ruled out, especially because the enemy had stopped at Bergen. The fourth possibility was that the enemy ships already had covered an important German convoy as far as the Inner Leads, and now might be returning to the Baltic. Tovey considered the third scenario to be the most likely, and made his dispositions accordingly. (184)
At 2043 on May 22, Tovey requested air reconnaissance of all passages between Greenland and the Orkneys and the Norwegian coast, as well as any enemy forces approaching Iceland. The aim was to detect enemy ships breaking out westward. The Admiralty responded to Tovey's request by directing subordinate commands to conduct reconnaissance of the Iceland-Faeroes gap, the Denmark Strait, the Faeroes-Shetland gap, and the Norwegian coast. (185) An additional air-patrol line about 250 miles west of the Iceland-Faeroes passage also was established by CINC, Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Percy Noble (1880-1955). (186) The 15th Air Group units on Iceland were directed to provide A/S cover for Hood and Prince of Wales and to keep a close watch on the Denmark Strait. (187) The Admiralty canceled the sailing of the carrier Victorious and battleship Repulse, which had been assigned to protect pending Convoy WS8B, and put these warships at Admiral Tovey s disposal. Victorious was then at Scapa Flow, while Repulse was directed to sail from the Clyde to Scapa Flow. (188)
Phase III: Breakout to the Northern Atlantic (2000 May 22-1922 May 23). On May 23, the Bismarck group continued on a course to transit the Denmark Strait. The weather was favorable for penetration: an easterly wind, overcast skies, moderate-to-heavy rain, and moderate-to-bad visibility (650 feet or less). (189) Overall, the situation for a breakout was considered favorable. However, that same bad weather prevented Luftwaffe aircraft from reconnoitering Scapa Flow on May 23. (190) The Germans also did not have aircraft available to reconnoiter the area between Iceland and the Faeroes. (191) Lutjens ordered an increase in speed to twenty-seven knots. (192) In the meantime, Tovey's Battle Force proceeded northward to latitude 60 degrees N--far enough to be in a position to deal with either an attack on Iceland or a breakout. (193)
Also on May 23, Headquarters RAF Iceland received a message from CINC, Western Approaches via Flag Officer in Charge, Iceland to give priority to reconnoitering the Denmark Strait, especially the Akureyri area of Eyja Fjord, in north-central Iceland. A crossover patrol of the Denmark Strait from Iceland to the limit of the ice already had been ordered. (194) But only two air sorties of the Iceland-Faeroes gap were carried out, because of the bad weather, and there was no air reconnaissance of the Denmark Strait; however, Admiral Tovey did not become aware of this until much later. (195) Tovey directed Suffolk to patrol within RDF range of the ice-edge boundary in the Denmark Strait. (196) When conditions were clear inshore, Norfolk would patrol about fifteen miles abeam of Suffolk; when thick inshore, Norfolk would patrol to cover the inshore passage. (197)
Repulse and three destroyers from Western Approaches Command joined the Battle Force northwest of the Butt of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, during the forenoon of May 23. (198) Tovey intended to detach two cruisers to patrol the Faeroes-Shetlands passage; however, in the end he decided to keep all four cruisers with him. (199)
By noon, the Bismarck group reached the ice boundary. (200) At 1427, the weather forecast for the area north of Iceland was for southeasterly-to-easterly winds, wind force 6 to 8, mostly overcast, rain, and moderate-to-poor visibility; in the area south of Iceland, it was for winds of force 5 to 7; cloudy to overcast; a low-pressure system east of Iceland; and warm air moving toward the Denmark Strait and the area south of Iceland. (201)
At 1700, the weather in the vicinity of the Bismarck group was snow showers, with visibility of around five thousand yards. (202) The Bismarck group sailed near the ice boundary. On its starboard side there was good visibility, while to port there was fog. (203) After entering the Denmark Strait shortly before 1900, the Bismarck group moved into an area of pack ice, with some floating icebergs, a few of which were of enormous size. Thus, on May 23, the width of the ice-free passage in the Denmark Strait was only about twenty nautical miles. (204) Both Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were zigzagging. (205)
German knowledge of the situation in the Denmark Strait and its approaches was very spotty because of the lack of sufficient FW-200 aircraft. The last report that Liitjens received was provided on May 19 by a single FW-200. The aircraft reported the ice boundary to be seventy to eighty nautical miles away from Iceland. The same day, at a distance of some fifty nautical miles northwest of North Cape, Iceland, another FW-200 had aborted its flight after encountering dense fog. (206)
At 1922, Suffolk sighted Bismarck and Prinz Eugen at a distance of 12,320 yards and steering on a southwesterly course. The Bismarck group's position was then some sixty miles northwest of North Cape. (207) At the same time, Prinz Eugen sighted what it believed to be an auxiliary cruiser at a distance of 14,200 yards. Bismarck fired five salvos but scored no hits. The enemy ship disappeared. (208) Suffolk used mist as a cover and maintained contact with Bismarck. (209) At the time of initial contact, Tovey's Battle Force was at latitude 60[degrees] 20' N, longitude 13 degrees W. It turned to course 280 and increased speed to twenty-seven knots. Tovey's intent was to reach a position from which he could intercept the enemy east of the Denmark Strait and at the same time support BCS 1. As more information was received, it became clear that the enemy intended to break out through the Denmark Strait. (210)
At 2028, Suffolk sighted Bismarck again near the ice boundary, at a distance of twelve thousand yards. Four minutes later, Norfolk also made contact with Bismarck at a distance of 10,560 yards. (211) The Admiralty received Norfolk's message at 2103, before it received Suffolk's. (212) Bismarck opened fire, but Norfolk retired safely behind a smoke screen. (213) The Bismarck group's repeated attempts to break off contact failed. (214) The B-Dienst personnel aboard both Bismarck and Prinz Eugen deciphered Suffolk's signal ("one battleship, one cruiser, bearing 330[degrees], distance 6 nautical miles, course 240[degrees]") within minutes. (215) However, they mistook Norfolk's call sign for that of King George V. (216)
Lutjens was surprised at encountering enemy cruisers in the Denmark Strait. However, for some reason he did not draw the proper conclusion: that the enemy would try to block his foray into the Atlantic. He believed the British ships were not equipped with advanced search radars; however, Suffolk had been fitted with advanced artillery radar (Type 284/285). (217) Suffolk's radar now had an effective range of 26,250 yards. (218) In contrast, Norfolk had the older-model artillery radar (Type 286M). (219) Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were fitted with search radar; however, they lacked the accurate gunfire director, and hence were unable to drive off shadowers using "blind" fire. (220)
At 2200 on May 23, the B-Dienst intercepted a message sent by a British unit, probably a heavy cruiser, reporting that it had detected in the Denmark Strait, at a distance of six nautical miles, one enemy battleship and one cruiser, both sailing in a southwesterly direction. (221) The B-Dienst also learned that CINC, Western Approaches had issued a radio warning to three convoys about the possibility of encountering enemy ships. (222) These German radio intercepts revealed urgent messages being sent to the enemy heavy units. (223)
Norfolk and Suffolk shadowed the Bismarck group throughout the night of May 23/24. The weather was characterized by rain and mist and the visibility was as low as two miles. The ships "shadowed by sight and/or RDF according to visibility." Norfolk kept farther south and east "to cover move of enemy away from ice." (224)
Phase IV: Encounter in the Denmark Strait, 0538-0613 May 24. BCS 1 (Hood and Prince of Wales) and its screen arrived at their assigned position at about 0205--sooner than Tovey had anticipated. Both ships turned to a course parallel to that of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. (225) At 0200, Admiral Holland detached his destroyers because CS 1 had lost contact with Bismarck. This was a serious error, though, because he lost the opportunity to launch torpedo attacks on the German ships." (226) During the rest of the night, Prince of Wales obtained positions by using RDF information from Norfolk and Suffolk. (227)
At 0538, Suffolk again regained contact with the Bismarck group. (228) At 0545, the Bismarck group's B-Dienst detachment identified two enemy units: Hood and a battleship of the King George V class (actually Prince of Wales). The enemy ships were at a distance of 31,700 yards and sailing at high speed. At 0552, Hood opened fire at a range of 25,000 yards. Two minutes later both German ships responded. (229) They concentrated their fire on Hood. (230) The running combat distance varied from 19,650 to 22,750 yards. (231) The fire of both Bismarck and Prinz Eugen was excellent. Hood was hit by the second or third salvo, which started fires aboard that spread rapidly. (232) At 0600, Hood was straddled again. There was a huge explosion and Hood blew up. (233) It sank in three to four minutes. (234) Hood had been able to fire only five or six salvos. (235) Out of a ship's company of ninetyfive officers and 1,324 men, only three survived. (236)
After the sinking of Hood, Prince of Wales engaged Bismarck. Both Prinz Eugen and Bismarck shifted their fire onto Prince of Wales. The firing range was reduced to eighteen thousand yards. Within two minutes, Prince of Wales was hit with four 15-inch shells and probably three 8-inch shells. Its salvos now were falling short and had a very large spread. Hence, Captain John Leach, the commanding officer of Prince of Wales, decided to break off the engagement. (237) By then the range had been reduced to only 14,600 yards. (238) At 0613, Prince of Wales turned away under a smoke screen. (239) The ship had two guns out of action and considerable damage to its bridge. (240) Yet it had performed well, even though its crew was only partly trained. (241) Bismarck had received two heavy and one light hits. It left a trail of oil from one of its tanks. (242)
At 0632, Liitjens sent a signal to Naval Group Command North informing it that one battle cruiser, probably Hood, had been sunk, while one battleship, either King George or Renown, was damaged and had withdrawn. Two enemy heavy cruisers maintained contact with Bismarck. In the meantime, B-Dienst decrypted a series of messages sent by Suffolk and Norfolk. (243)
Liitjens's Fateful Decision. Admiral Liitjens made the decision not to pursue the damaged Prince of Wales. Perhaps the main reason was that continuing the engagement would have required sailing at higher speed, resulting in higher fuel consumption. This would have had an especially negative effect on Prinz Eugen, because of its shorter range. Liitjens also was probably unsure whether he could destroy Prince of Wales as quickly as he had Hood. Moreover, his principal mission was to destroy enemy shipping, not the enemy's heavy surface ships. (244)
After sinking Hood, Liitjens could steer to Bergen, Trondheim, or SaintNazaire to attend to the damages he had suffered in the Denmark Strait. The route to Bergen ran between the Faeroes and the Shetlands, with a transit distance of 1,150 nautical miles. This was the shortest route and the fastest way to reach an area where the Luftwaffe could provide effective cover. Its major drawback was that the Bismarck group would have to sail within the effective range of many enemy aircraft and naval bases. The possibility existed that the Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow, might appear. These reasons made this route the most dangerous for the Bismarck group to take.
The route to Trondheim ran either south of Iceland (approximately 1,300 nm) or through the Denmark Strait (approximately 1,400 nm). (245) The major advantage of the route through the Denmark Strait was that the Bismarck group would sail into an area of extensive low visibility and close to the ice boundary, making the threat from enemy aircraft much smaller than on the other routes. However, the threat of encountering enemy heavy ships could not be excluded entirely. The Bismarck group needed to make only seven hundred nautical miles good toward Trondheim for the Luftwaffe to protect it effectively. This route also offered the best chance of avoiding the main body of the Home Fleet if it made a foray into the Arctic. (246)
The route to Saint-Nazaire was about 1,700 nautical miles long--making it the longest route--and more than two thousand nautical miles if the Bismarck group made a temporary swing westward. A major disadvantage of this route was that Bismarck would run the risk of encountering a large concentration of enemy forces. But the advantage of this route was that the vast expanse of the North Atlantic might make it possible to shake off the shadowers. Another advantage was that reaching Saint-Nazaire would offer Bismarck a much more favorable position for conducting war in the Atlantic. (247) A major disadvantage of this route was that the enemy could use land-based and carrier-based aircraft to detect and attack the Bismarck group, then concentrate his heavy surface ships to prevent Bismarck from actually reaching Saint-Nazaire.
Lutjens chose to steer for Saint-Nazaire. We only can speculate about his reasons. In any case, it is clear that once the element of surprise was lost the best option was to cancel the entire operation and return home. (248) Some SKL staffers and the commanders of Naval Group Command North and Naval Group Command West argued that Lutjens should have been directed to return home, but Raeder believed that such a decision should be left to Lutjens to make. (249) A better option for Lutjens would have been to pursue Prince of Wales, destroy it, then sail for Trondheim via the Denmark Strait.
THE BRITISH OPERATIONAL REACTION
Operational Concentration, May 24-25
The Admiralty broadcast CS 1 sightings of the Bismarck group on May 24. Among other things, it directed Admiral Somerville to sail from Gibraltar with Force H to join the convoy that Repulse was to have brought south of the Clyde, which now had only the cruiser Exeter as an escort. At the same time, the Admiralty added that "should reconnaissance today (24th) indicate that one or both German battle cruisers have left Brest it will be necessary you alter these instructions." The Admiralty also ordered CS 18 (Manchester, Birmingham, and Arethusa), which had been patrolling the Iceland-Faeroes passage, to join northeast of Langanes, Iceland, "in readiness to form a patrol line in event of enemy breaking back." It also arranged for air patrols with the same purpose. (250)
At 0800, the Battle Force was about three hundred miles away to the southeastward of the Denmark Strait and sailing at twenty-seven knots. (251) Tovey believed that the enemy, having sunk Hood, was unlikely to turn back. Hence, the best hope was to intercept Bismarck with the Battle Force. Tovey ordered a course change to 260, then 240. The most unfavorable situation for the Home Fleet would be if the enemy hugged the eastern coast of Greenland, then sailed toward Norway's western coast to take fuel from a waiting tanker. If that happened, Bismarck would be able to escape the pursuit by King George V. (252) The Admiralty directed Rear Admiral William F. Wake-Walker (1888-1945), commander of CS 1, to "continue to shadow Bismarck even if you run out of fuel, in order that the commander in chief [Tovey] may catch up in time." (253)
At 0801, Liitjens sent a repeat message to the SKL and both naval group commanders about the encounter in the Denmark Strait. He also reported that the free fairway in the Denmark Strait was some fifty miles wide and contained floating mines. (254)
After the engagement with Prince of Wales, the Bismarck group sailed on a southwesterly course. Bismarck tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to shake off the shadowers. Suffolk masterfully used RDF to maintain contact. (255)
In the meantime, the Admiralty made a series of tactical decisions to direct a number of ships in the Atlantic to take part in the pursuit of Bismarck. Collectively these decisions resulted in an operational concentration. Rodney had sailed from the Clyde on May 21 en route to Boston for refit, accompanying the troop transport Britannia. The Admiralty gave the position of Bismarck and directed Rodney to close in, leaving Britannia behind, with one destroyer to screen it. (256) At 1022, Rodney, then some 520 miles west of Bloody Foreland, county Donegal, Ireland, was directed to steer best course to close the enemy. Ramillies, which was escorting Convoy HX127, was then a thousand miles south of the Bismarck group; at 1144, it was ordered to leave the convoy and proceed to contact the enemy from the west. (257) At 1234, the Admiralty ordered Revenge to sail from Halifax and overtake Convoy HX128. The cruisers Edinburgh (then cruising near latitude 45 degrees N and longitude 21 degrees W) and London (escorting the 19,000-ton troopship Arundel Castle from Gibraltar) received orders to "give up their task and steer toward the enemy, husbanding fuel against future needs." (258)
At 1340, the SKL and both naval group commanders received Liitjens s message sent at 0801 on May 24. This was when they first learned about the outcome of the encounter in the Denmark Strait, the extent of damage to Bismarck, and Lutjens's intent to sail for Saint-Nazaire. (259)
At 1400, the Bismarck group's position was about 240 nautical miles north-northeast of Cape Farewell. (260) Liitjens sent a signal to the SKL and the naval group commanders that the battleship King George was maintaining contact with his group. If there were no combat, his intent was to break off from the shadowers during the night of May 24/25. (261) At 1420, Liitjens directed Prinz Eugen to maintain its present course until three hours after Bismarck's maneuver to the west to shake off the shadowers. Prinz Eugen then would refuel from a tanker (Belchen or Lothringen). After receiving the signal "Hood," it would operate independently and conduct commerce raiding. (262)
At 1440, Donitz issued an instruction to the U-boats to establish a patrol line southeast of Cape Farewell. The aim was to lure enemy ships approaching from the north. At that time, Liitjens s intent was to operate in the area halfway between Greenland and Newfoundland. The Bismarck group would carry out a swing and lure pursuing enemy forces over the U-boat patrol line. The distance of the U-boat patrol line from the British coast was about 1,400 nautical miles. (263) The depth of the patrol line would be ten nautical miles. Donitz ordered the Uboats to reach their assigned positions by 0600 on May 25. (264)
At 1445, the Admiralty requested that Admiral Wake-Walker provide information on the percentage of fighting effectiveness Bismarck retained and about his intent to have Prince of Wales reengage. In his response at 1545, Admiral Wake-Walker stated that he had no evidence that the damage the enemy had received had reduced his speed at all. Wake-Walker also believed that the enemy would not reengage but would try to avoid any combat. (265) Wake-Walker also stated that Prince of Wales "should not reengage until the other heavy ships are in contact and unless interception fails; doubtful if she has speed to force action." (266) The reason for not reengaging Bismarck was that the cruisers of CS 1 might be damaged and thereby forced to reduce their speed. This would make it impossible to maintain contact with Bismarck. Admiral Tovey believed that, under the circumstances, Wake-Walker was justified in his decision. Tovey believed that his forces were more likely ultimately to destroy Bismarck if he used the cruisers to maintain contact until the approaching reinforcements arrived. (267)
At 1455, Tovey reported that Victorious, escorted by CS 2 (Galatea, Aurora, Kenya, and Hermione), was detached to launch an aerial torpedo attack at about 2200, when within a hundred-mile range of the enemy. (268) The aim was to reduce Bismarck's speed. Tovey believed that keeping Victorious with the Battle Force until the morning of the next day (May 25) would not be helpful in locating Bismarck if it had slipped away during the three hours of darkness. The remainder of the Battle Force (King George V and Repulse) and its escorts steered an intercepting course. The aim was to bring the enemy to action soon after sunrise. (269)
At 1800, Tovey was with King George V, Repulse, Victorious, and two cruisers. (270) CS 18 (Manchester, Birmingham, and Arethusa) was returning from a point northeast of Iceland to Hvalfjord to refuel. The battleship Revenge left Halifax at 1505 to overtake Convoys HX128 and SC32. Admiral Somerville, with his Force H (Renown, Ark Royal, Sheffield, and a half dozen destroyers), was directed to join Convoy WS8B after daylight on May 26. (271)
In the meantime, the shadowers shortened the distance to Bismarck. At 1830, Bismarck opened fire on Suffolk. Prince of Wales fired several salvos at Bismarck from thirty thousand yards. However, this brief encounter did not result in damage to any of the ships. (272)
At 1842, Naval Group Command West sent a radio message in which it agreed with Lutjens's intent to release Prinz Eugen to operate independently. It informed Lutjens that preparations were under way at Saint-Nazaire and Brest to receive Bismarck. It also suggested that if Bismarck successfully broke away from its shadowers it should remain in its present isolated area. (273) However, Bismarck's reduced speed made breaking off contact more difficult. Neither Raeder nor the two naval group commanders knew whether Lutjens had considered the possibility of avoiding the enemy by moving northward, or which factors he had considered when he selected Saint-Nazaire. (274)
At 2210, nine Swordfish torpedo bombers took off from Victorious; at 2300, they were followed by three Fulmar fighters; at 2400, two more Fulmars took off. The weather was showery with squalls, good visibility, and a northwesterly wind. Sunset was at 0052. (275) At about midnight on May 24/25, twelve aircraft (seven Swordfish and five Fulmars) from Victorious carried out a torpedo attack on Bismarck; however, they claimed just one hit on the ship. This first air attack failed to inflict any serious damage on Bismarck. (276)
In the meantime, at 2331, the Admiralty sent new orders to Force H "to steer so as to intercept Bismarck from the southward. Enemy must be short on fuel, and will have to make for an oiler; her future movements may guide to this oiler." (277)
Loss of Contact with Bismarck, 0213 May 25
CS 1 lost contact with Bismarck at 0213 (Prince of Wales claimed this happened at 0126) on May 25. (278) Heretofore, despite frequent and abrupt changes in the visibility, Norfolk and Suffolk had maintained contact with Bismarck skillfully for thirty hours. (279) When Tovey received the information that contact with Bismarck was lost, he believed that the German battleship had three options: rendezvous with a tanker, possibly off the east coast of Greenland or farther south, such as near the Azores or Canary Islands; make for a dockyard on the west coast of France, or possibly an Italian port in the Mediterranean; or return to Germany for repairs. (280)
At 0300, Force H was approximately 850 miles west of Porto, Portugal. Heavy seas had delayed its progress. (281) CS 2, with Victorious and four accompanying cruisers, was directed to organize a search northwest of Bismarck's last known position. Norfolk and Suffolk, after remaining at the enemy's last known position for some time, proceeded westward to cover the southwestern sector. Rodney, with three destroyers, reported that it was steering to intercept the enemy if it showed up in the southeastern sector. Repulse had yet to be detached to Newfoundland to refuel, while Prince of Wales was directed at 0620 to join Tovey's Battle Force. The Admiralty directed London to search the area around latitude 25[degrees] 30' N, longitude 42[degrees] W, where an enemy tanker was believed to be located. (282)
At 0800 on May 25, Bismarck was some one hundred miles astern of King George V, sailing southeast. (283) At 0854, Liitjens sent a message in which he erroneously stated that the enemy ships still were shadowing Bismarck. The sending of this signal gave away his position to the British radio-intercept operators. At 1030, Tovey received from the Admiralty a series of DF fixes. They indicated that the signals appeared to come from the same ship that had transmitted several signals soon after the torpedo attack by aircraft from Victorious the previous night (i.e., Bismarck). When these fixes were plotted incorrectly on King George V, they showed a position too far north. This provided a misleading indicator that the enemy was retreating northward toward the North Sea. This information confirmed Tovey's existing belief that Bismarck was heading north. (284) This is why Tovey directed the entire Home Fleet to search to the north. King George V changed course to 055, increased speed to twenty-seven knots, and headed toward the Iceland-Faeroes passage. (285) But Tovey's decision was unsound.
The Admiralty, for its part, apparently was not entirely convinced that Bismarck was sailing northward. So at 1023 the Admiralty directed Admiral Somerville and CS 1 to proceed "on assumption that enemy turned towards Brest." (286) In another signal sent at 1100, the Admiralty signaled to Somerville to "act as though the enemy is proceeding to a Bay of Biscay port." The Admiralty had great difficulty obtaining accurate information about the position of Bismarck. A DF fix at 1320 located Bismarck at a position within fifty miles of 55[degrees] 15' N, 32[degrees] W. The Admiralty transmitted this information to Tovey at 1419, and he received it at 1530. At 1428, the Admiralty directed Rodney to ignore the signal sent at 1108, which had directed the battleship to proceed in the direction of Brest, and to comply with Tovey's instructions that assumed Bismarck was proceeding to Norway via the Iceland-Scotland passage. At 1621, Tovey sent a query to the Admiralty: "Do you consider that enemy is making for Faroes." (287)
However, by the late afternoon and early evening of May 25 the Admiralty's view about Bismarck's movements had changed in favor of the Bay of Biscay destination. At 1805, the Admiralty canceled the signal it had sent to Rodney at 1428 and directed the ship to act on the assumption that the enemy was proceeding toward a French port. Finally, at 1924, the Admiralty informed Tovey and all other forces that it believed Bismarck was heading toward a French port. Tovey already had come to the same conclusion at 1810, when he decided to turn his force onto a southeasterly course, heading toward the Bay of Biscay. (288)
Final confirmation came in the evening and from an unlikely source. General Hans Jeschonnek (1899-1943), the Luftwaffe chief of staff, sent a message to the Naval High Command asking whether Bismarck would be coming into a French port for repairs. (The reason for this might have been personal: Jeschonnek's son served in Bismarck.) This message was sent in the Luftwaffe's Enigma code, and hence was readable to the British decoders. Jeschonnek's message was deciphered quickly and passed on to the Admiralty, and at 1812 was sent to Tovey as well. Tovey s error had given Bismarck a chance to escape. (289)
In the meantime, at 1320 on May 25, Raeder briefed Hitler on Bismarck's situation. He reported that during the night of May 24/25 the enemy had maintained contact with Bismarck. Because the enemy used advanced radar, Bismarck had not been able to break off contact. Near Bismarck were one battleship (King George V), two heavy cruisers, and one carrier. Lutjens reported around midnight on May 24 that Prinz Eugen had been detached for refueling in the mid-Atlantic. This maneuver went unobserved by the enemy. Lutjens intended to reach Saint-Nazaire. All available U-boats and light naval forces would be used to support Bismarck. (290)
At 1932, Naval Group Command West informed Lutjens about pending actions in support of Bismarck. Air units would be used during the approach phase to a French port. Luftwaffe aircraft would conduct reconnaissance out to longitude 15 degrees W. Bombers would be used out to longitude 14 degrees W. Long-range reconnaissance would be conducted out to longitude 25 degrees W. By 1313 on May 25, six U-boats had deployed to their assigned positions (see map 1). The approaches to Brest and Saint-Nazaire would be strongly controlled. There also was a possibility that Bismarck could return to the port of La Pallice. (291)
In the evening on May 25, Tovey still had Repulse in company with King George V. Rodney was sailing on a southeasterly course toward the Bay of Biscay. The Admiralty recalled Ramillies to rejoin Britannia and sail to Boston. At 2100, CS 1 was at latitude 55[degrees] 50' N, longitude 31[degrees] 28' W. It sailed on a southeasterly course (120) at twenty-six knots. It was some one hundred miles behind Tovey s Battle Force. However, it was low on fuel, with only fifty percent remaining. The cruiser London proceeded to search for an enemy tanker halfway between the Azores and the Leeward Islands. On the morning of May 26, the cruiser Edinburgh's fuel was at only 13 percent of capacity. That evening, Prince of Wales was directed to sail to Iceland for refueling. (292)
At 0053 on May 26, Naval Group Command West reported that four FW-200s would provide loose coverage between latitudes 43[degrees] 30' N and 54[degrees] 25' N and out to longitude 25 degrees W. With additional aircraft they would provide heavier coverage out to longitude 19 degrees W in the northern part and to longitude 14 degrees W in the southern part. Despite bad weather, the four FW-200s covered their assignment. Because of the stormy weather it was not possible to send German destroyers to the area to relieve the enemy pressure on Bismarck. (293)
Bismarck's situation worsened on May 26. That morning Bismarck was some seven hundred nautical miles away from the French coast. Some thirty-one hours had passed since the British cruisers had lost contact with Bismarck, but now three British forces were converging on Bismarck, plus several single large surface combatants. The 4th Destroyer Flotilla (Cossack, Sikh, Zulu, Maori, and Piorun) was detached from Convoy WS8B. The ships were directed to join and screen King George V and Rodney. One destroyer (Jupiter) at Londonderry was directed to join the same screen. After receiving the first enemy report on the morning of May 26, the cruiser Dorsetshire left Convoy SL74 and proceeded to join the Battle Force. (294)
In the meantime, other British forces that were unable to reach Bismarck's most probable track moved to cover its alternative possible movements. Two light cruisers (Manchester and Birmingham) of CS 18 patrolled within the Iceland-Faeroes passage, while another light cruiser of the same squadron (Arethusa) patrolled the Denmark Strait. Victorious and CS 2 were positioned to prevent the enemy from gaining access to the Iceland-Faeroes passage. If necessary, CS 2 would be detached to fuel at Hvalfjord. Prince of Wales was on the way to Hvalfjord and destroyers were directed to screen both Prince of Wales and CS 2. (295)
Flag Officer Commanding, North Atlantic was instructed to arrange air and submarine patrols to prevent passage of the Strait of Gibraltar. The battleship Nelson was recalled from Freetown to Gibraltar to reinforce the forces converging on Bismarck. The cruiser London was recalled from its search for the enemy tanker between the Azores and the Leewards and was directed to escort Convoy SL75, which was approaching the Bay of Biscay. Suffolk was sent to search in the Davis Strait (between Greenland and Canada's Baffin Island) for the enemy supply ships and tankers believed to be in the area and from which Prinz Eugen might refuel. (296)
The Admiralty's arrangement on May 25 provided for RAF commands to cooperate by conducting reconnaissance from Iceland and the Faeroes to and including the coast of Norway. Canadian aircraft conducted six-hundred-mile searches from Newfoundland. One of the American air squadrons based in Newfoundland also took part in the searches. (297) Coastal Command established two patrols across Bismarck's probable track, from latitude 52[degrees] 19' 30" N to 48 degrees N, out to longitude 23[degrees] 30' W. (298)
Contact with Bismarck Restored
Finally, at 1030 on May 26, Bismarck was detected some six hundred nautical miles west of Land's End, by a Catalina seaplane of Coastal Command based at Plymouth. (299) However, the Catalina lost contact because of antiaircraft (AA) fire from Bismarck. (300) Ark Royal launched two long-range aircraft to search for Bismarck. (301) At 1114, an aircraft from Ark Royal reestablished contact with Bismarck. Bismarck's position was latitude 49[degrees] 20' N, longitude 20[degrees] 50' W, or forty miles from the position the Catalina had reported some forty-five minutes earlier. (302) After this point, Bismarck was kept under almost continuous surveillance for the rest of the day. (303) Visibility in the area was variable, the wind northwesterly at force 7-8. (304) Bismarck steered a southeasterly course at twenty-two knots. The distance between Bismarck and Tovey's Battle Force was too great to close unless Bismarck's speed could be reduced. This could be accomplished only by a torpedo attack by Ark Royal's aircraft. At 1052, the Admiralty directed Admiral Somerville not to have Renown engage unless Bismarck already was engaged heavily with King George V or Rodney. (305)
A major and increasingly critical problem for the Home Fleet was the fuel situation, especially regarding the battleships. King George Vhad only 1,200 tons of fuel remaining, or 38 percent. Rodney had to part company at 0800 on May 27. When these ships joined the Battle Force, they had to share the A/S screen provided by only three destroyers (Somali, Tartar, and Mishona)--and those destroyers had to leave that night for lack of fuel. The British suspected that there were several U-boats in the area. They also assumed that every available enemy destroyer and U-boat in western France would be ordered to sail out as well. The Admiralty warned Tovey to expect heavy air attacks. (306)
Tovey considered it essential to have fuel reserves sufficient to allow battleships to return to their home bases. After the loss of Hood and the damage inflicted on Prince of Wales, King George V was the only effective battleship in home waters. Tovey was not willing to expose King George V unscreened and sailing at low speed to almost certain attack by U-boats unless there was a good chance to achieve results that were commensurate with the risk. Tovey's decision was that unless Bismarck's speed was reduced, King George V would leave the pursuit at 2400 on May 26 and proceed to refuel. (307)
At 1115, Bismarck reported its position some six hundred nautical miles west of Brest. In the afternoon Lutjens was directed that if the bad weather in the Bay of Biscay prevented him from proceeding to Saint-Nazaire he should steer toward Brest. Reichsmarschal Goring directed the Luftwaffe to make all efforts with the aircraft available to support Bismarck's return. (308)
At 1315, Somerville detached the cruiser Sheffield. (309) The Admiralty also directed Somerville not to engage Bismarck until other battleships arrived in the vicinity; Force Hs Renown was no match for Bismarck. (310) In the afternoon, Sheffield obtained contact with Bismarck. The first aerial striking force from Ark Royal flew at about 1450. (311) Sheffield vectored the attack in. (312) The aircraft reached Bismarck at about 1550 and carried out their torpedo attack. (313) However, all the torpedoes missed their target. (314)
At 1630, an aircraft from Ark Royal reported Bismarck's position at latitude 47[degrees] 40' N, longitude 18[degrees] 15' W. Bismarck was steering a southeasterly course (120) at twenty-two knots. Somerville directed Sheffield to maintain contact with Bismarck, while he kept Ark Royal and Renown outside the effective range of Bismarck's heavy guns. (315)
In one message from Liitjens, the SKL learned that Bismarck's loss of fuel from its ongoing leak was more serious than hitherto believed. Naval Group Command West considered sending one supply ship (Ermland) during the night of May 26/27 to refuel Bismarck. (316) By the evening the situation was considered very serious, but the SKL expected that Bismarck would be able to defend itself against torpedo attacks and in the early morning would be within the effective range of Luftwaffe aircraft. (317)
Six U-boats were concentrated not far away from Bismarck; four had torpedoes, while two were without. At 1900, one U-boat (U-48) was directed to sail at highest speed toward Sheffield, yet it never established contact. (318) At 2000, one U-boat (U-556) obtained contact with a battleship of the King George class, and the carrier Ark Royal passed within effective range, but the U-boat had no torpedoes, and it lost contact. (319)
At 1910, fifteen Swordfish aircraft flew off from Ark Royal. (320) Sheffield directed them to Bismarck. (321) Weather conditions were bad: skies 7/10 covered by low rain clouds; winds force 6; seas rolling, with a northwesterly swell; and daylight fading. (322) The first wave of aircraft attacked at 2053. (323) The British attack was not synchronized, spreading over thirty-eight minutes, and only two of thirteen torpedoes fired scored a hit. One torpedo hit the armor belt and had little effect. But the second torpedo sealed Bismarck's fate: it damaged the ship's propellers, wrecked its steering gear, and jammed its rudders. (324) This severely affected Bismarck's ability to maneuver, and therefore to continue sailing toward a French port. (325) The German AA fire was intense and accurate; Bismarck's AA guns shot down seven British aircraft. (326)
The Germans intercepted many of the British radio messages to the destroyers and Force H. (327) Observation and radio intercepts indicated that Bismarck was surrounded by at least three, possibly four, battleships; the carrier Ark Royal; two heavy cruisers; one light cruiser, and possibly a second; and the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, with many modern destroyers. (328) This spelled a situation that was hopeless for Bismarck. It was also tragic, because, except for being unable to maneuver, the ship retained its full striking power. (329) At that time, Bismarck was only four hundred nautical miles from Brest, but enemy forces in the vicinity made it impossible to bring tankers to refuel. (330) Very bad weather prevented the Germans from using their destroyers or bringing out tugs to take Bismarck in tow. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were undergoing repairs. Bismarck's only support would come from the Luftwaffe and the U-boats operating in the Bay of Biscay. (331)
Admiral Tovey decided to detach from the Battle Force all five destroyers of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla. They were directed to shadow and attack Bismarck. Their reports to Tovey throughout the night were invaluable. Tovey requested that Force H, with Ark Royal and Renown, withdraw southward to clear the way for his battleships to close with Bismarck in the morning. The heavy cruiser Norfolk also arrived in the area. (332)
At about midnight, Lutjens sent a message to Naval Group Command West: "Ship is able to defend itself and propulsion plant intact. Does not respond to steering with engines, however." (333) The weather conditions were unfavorable. The horizon was clear from northwest to northeast, but other sectors experienced rainstorms and poor visibility. Bismarck made frequent changes of course between southwest and northeast. Its speed was only ten to twelve knots. (334) Between 0122 and 0146 on May 27, three British destroyers (Cossack, Zulu, and Maori) carried out torpedo attacks on Bismarck. Each destroyer achieved one hit. (335) Bismarck's speed was reduced to only eight knots and its movements became even more erratic. Yet Bismarck still was able to deliver heavy and accurate fire. (336)
At 2400, Lutjens sent a message to Hitler: "We fight to the last in our belief in you, my Fuhrer, and in unshakable confidence in Germany's victory." At the same time he also sent a message to Naval High Command and Naval Group Command West: "Unable to maneuver. We fight until the last grenade. Long live the Fuhrer." At 0153, Hitler sent a message to Lutjens: "Thank you in the name of the entire German people." He also addressed Bismarck's crew: "All of Germany is with you. What can still be done will be done." (337)
At 0542, Naval Group Command West informed Lutjens that two FW-200s had taken off at 0330 to conduct reconnaissance from 0445 to 0515, with another three bomber groups taking off at 0530. (338) This was despite the fact that the weather was highly unfavorable for air operations. (339) Some German aircraft established contact with enemy cruisers and destroyers, but their effect on the Bismarck situation was negligible. (340)
At 0835, Naval Group Command West informed Liitjens that at about 1100 on May 27, the Spanish cruiser Canarias and two destroyers would leave El Ferrol en route to Bismarck's position, to be available to render assistance. They would proceed at twenty to twenty-two knots. (341)
In the morning on May 27, weather conditions were winds northwesterly at force 8, skies overcast, rainsqualls, and visibility of thirteen miles or so. Sunrise was at 0702. (342) Bismarck sailed on course 330 at ten knots (see map 2). At 0755, Tovey's force had the enemy on bearing 120 at twenty-one miles. Tovey directed a course change to the east (080) to close with Bismarck. (343) At 0900, King George V and Rodney turned to a southerly course (170) and opened fire with their main guns. By 0930, Bismarck was on fire and virtually out of control; however, its speed was not reduced, and its main guns still were firing. It also used its secondary armament. (344) At 0954, Norfolk joined the action. All three ships fired independently at ranges as short as 3,300 yards. By 1000, Bismarck's main guns were out of action, and ten minutes later the secondary guns stopped firing. Bismarck was now a wreck, on fire fore and aft and wallowing heavily. (345) Tovey ordered a stop to the action, and all firing ceased at 1022. The cruiser Dorsetshire (which had left Convoy SL74) had just arrived at the scene of the action. (346) Tovey ordered Dorsetshire to close in to finish off Bismarck by torpedoing. So perhaps it was Dorsetshire's torpedoes that sank Bismarck, although German sources maintain that the ship was sunk by activating scuttling charges. (347) Bismarck sank at 1037, at latitude 48[degrees] 10' N, longitude 16[degrees] 12' W. Its colors still flew. (348)
Out of 2,200 men aboard the ship, only 115 were saved. (349) The cruiser Dorsetshire took aboard eighty-five survivors and the destroyer Maori twenty-five. Then the British ships stopped their efforts because of their concern that U-boats were in the vicinity. U-74 saved three men and one weather steamer (Sachsenwald) picked up two men on May 28. (350)
Bismarck showed a remarkable resilience. Out of seventy-one torpedoes fired, at least eight, if not twelve, hit the ship. (351) The number of hits by 16-inch shells is unknown, but must have been very large. World War I had demonstrated the Germans' ability to build tremendously stout ships, and apparently they had not lost it during the interwar years. (352)
Withdrawal of the Home Fleet
The ships of the Home Fleet returned to their bases in northern Scotland. King George V and Rodney, with three destroyers (Cossack, Sikh, and Zulu), proceeded northward. Dorsetshire and Maori rejoined them at 1230 on May 27, and nine other destroyers rejoined at 1600 on May 28. They received several signals warning of heavy enemy attacks on that day, but only four enemy aircraft appeared. However, at 1200 on the 28th, one hundred miles to the south, destroyers Mishona and Tartar suffered heavy attacks, and Mishona was sunk. Rodney, screened by Maori, and Columbia were detached to the Clyde at 1700 on May 28. Dorsetshire was detached to the Tyne at 2316. Fog delayed the battleships, but they entered Loch Ewe eventually, at 1230 on May 29. (353)
In his after-action report, Tovey wrote: "She [Bismarck] had put up a most gallant fight against impossible odds, worthy of the old days of the Imperial German Navy." He opined that it was unfortunate that "for political reasons" this fact could not be made public. (354) Tovey praised the cooperation, skill, and understanding that all forces had displayed during the prolonged chase of Bismarck; flag officers and commanding officers invariably acted as "I would have wished before and without receiving instructions from me." (355) The Admiralty exercised excellent strategic control. The coordination of the movements and actions of the many disparate forces across a large part of the northern Atlantic was superb. Admiral Tovey wrote that "the accuracy of information supplied by the Admiralty and the speed with which it was passed were remarkable, and the balance struck between information and instructions passed to the forces out of visual touch with me was ideal." (356)
The failure of RHEINUBUNG and the sinking of Bismarck had a major effect on the future employment of German heavy surface combatants against British and Allied shipping in the North Atlantic. Admiral Raeder wrote later that prior to May 27, 1941, he had considerable freedom of action in determining the employment of heavy surface ships, as long as there were no negative effects on the actions of other services of the Wehrmacht. But because of the loss of Bismarck, Hitler in his subsequent instructions greatly limited that freedom. Among other things, he prohibited the sending of heavy ships to conduct commerce warfare in the Atlantic, and the Kriegsmarine attempted no such operations for the remainder of the war. (357)
CONCLUSION AND OPERATIONAL LESSONS LEARNED
The main reasons for the failure of RHEINUBUNG were as follows: the German surface ships' base of operations was extremely unfavorable in multiple ways; the plan was overly reliant on the ships breaking out into the North Atlantic undetected; and--perhaps most important--air reconnaissance was inadequate, and the ships were operating beyond the effective range of Luftwaffe aircraft.
The deployment and combat employment of the forces opposing RHEINUBUNG took place over the vast space of the North Atlantic. The harsh weather conditions significantly affected the employment of surface ships and aircraft and the effectiveness of their weapons and sensors. Bad weather in the Denmark Strait favored the Germans because it greatly enhanced the chances of an undetected breakout into the North Atlantic.
The German surface ships and aircraft operated from a very long and fragmented base of operations. Gaining access from the Arctic to the open waters of the North Atlantic was extremely difficult. The British not only controlled Iceland and all three passages to the Atlantic but also kept under surveillance the southern part of the Arctic and southern Norway. Any German attempt to break out to the North Atlantic was inherently a high-risk endeavor. Although the Germans were well aware that British monitoring of the northern passages had improved steadily over the course of 1941, they apparently were overconfident in their ability to use bad weather to make an unobserved breakout through the Denmark Strait.
Success in a war at sea is difficult and sometimes impossible to achieve without favorable positions for basing one's naval forces and aircraft. Disadvantages of geography can be reduced but not eliminated by having highly capable ships and aircraft. One of the key responsibilities of operational commanders and their staffs is to evaluate realistically all aspects of the operating areas. In planning a major naval/joint operation, it is critical to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of one's base of operations.
Both the Kriegsmarine and the Royal Navy were highly centralized organizations. Admiral Raeder was generally reluctant to allow full freedom of action to subordinate operational commanders. The operational, and in many cases the tactical, organization of the Kriegsmarine underwent frequent--and sometimes unnecessary--changes. The establishment of naval group commands did not simplify but instead considerably complicated the C2 of German seagoing forces. Naval group commands should not have been entrusted with operational command of fleet forces. Raeder made an unsound organizational decision by directing Liitjens, a four-star admiral, to command a single combat group at sea; by doing so, Liitjens became subordinate in some matters to a junior admiral (Saalwachter, the commander of Naval Group Command West). Perhaps such a decision would have been appropriate if the entire operation had been carried out using four battleships, as originally envisaged. The Kriegsmarine failed to move the fleet headquarters ashore. If that had been done, the fleet commander would have been a supported commander, while the naval groups' commanders would have been supporting commanders.
In the Royal Navy, the Admiralty exercised strategic, and in some cases operational, control over all seagoing forces and shore commands. It also often usurped the responsibilities of subordinate commanders by making purely tactical decisions. The Home Fleet was the largest and most important seagoing force in home waters. Like the Kriegsmarine's Fleet Command, the Home Fleet consisted of several type commands. Each of these was responsible for both administration and operations. In combat, it is far more flexible and effective to organize diverse forces into task forces/groups subordinate directly to the respective fleet commanders. Type commanders should be responsible solely for combat training and administration.
A major factor in the successful outcome of a major naval/joint operation is sound operational command organization. Optimally, unity of effort should be based on unity of command. A single operational commander should have full authority over and responsibility for subordinate tactical forces. Such authority should not be shared among two or more commanders. Prior to the planning process, higher authority should designate a single supported commander. All other commanders should support the supported operational commander fully.
Both British and German operational and tactical intelligence relied primarily on information obtained via air reconnaissance. Especially useful was photoreconnaissance. At this time the British ability to penetrate and read the German Enigma messages was not as effective as it would be later in the war. In contrast, the German B-Dienst seems to have been highly effective in decrypting British radio messages. One of the German advantages was that B-Dienst teams embarked in major surface combatants, and they usually were very quick in decrypting enemy messages. The major advantage the British enjoyed over the Germans was their establishment of a highly effective network of agents in Norway and other Scandinavian countries; perhaps the most effective of these was the British naval attache in Stockholm and his helpers within the Swedish secret service.
Operational intelligence is one of the key elements for preparing sound plans for a major naval/joint operation. It combines strategic and tactical intelligence. Operational intelligence should be based on information collected from diverse sources. Human intelligence is a critical and irreplaceable source for obtaining an accurate, timely, and relevant operational picture of the situation.
German naval operational planning was methodical and thorough. Normally, plans for a major operation were based on a relatively large number of staff studies and critical comments on these studies by the SKL and naval group commanders. The SKL and naval group commanders usually would issue broad instructions, while tactical commanders would draft operations orders for subordinate commanders. The SKL's objective was to employ the Kriegsmarine's heavy surface forces and auxiliary cruisers to complement the U-boats in their war on the British transatlantic convoys. Raeder's intent was to weaken British naval strength in either home waters or the Mediterranean, and either to increase convoy defenses or to reduce the number of convoys.
For the Germans, an almost insurmountable problem was their numerical inferiority in surface forces and a lack of adequate and reliable air support. Hence, the loss of any major surface combatant such as a battleship would have a much greater negative effect than such a loss would have on the Royal Navy. For all the high quality of its staff studies and the solid planning it conducted, the SKL made some very unrealistic assumptions about the effect that employment of battleships would have on the naval situation in the North Atlantic. Perhaps the single most important reason they were unrealistic was geography. Even if the Germans incrementally had achieved sea control in the North Atlantic, they were not in a position to maintain that control for any length of time; both the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe lacked sufficient strength and favorable bases of operations to control such a vast area of ocean.
Sea control cannot be achieved by focusing on destroying the enemy forces defending convoys. Doing so invariably will result in a protracted war of attrition. Sea control is accomplished primarily by destroying a major part of the enemy forces in a major naval/joint operation in the initial phase of the war at sea. The obtaining of sea control aims at accomplishing an operational or strategic objective; however, consolidating one's operational/strategic success by maintaining sea control also is critical--otherwise the fruits of victory will be lost.
There is no doubt that the decision Raeder faced--whether to employ the Bismarck combat group by itself in a new major operation against enemy convoys in the Atlantic--was a difficult one. The original intent--employing four battleships--probably had a much greater chance of success. Another good option would have been to delay the operation until Tirpitz, at least, was fully operational. The employment of both Bismarck and Tirpitz jointly would have compounded greatly the British problem in terms of preventing their breakouts and their subsequent attacks on the transatlantic convoys. In using the Bismarck group alone, Raeder took a high--and imprudent--risk. Everything depended on the Bismarck group breaking out undetected; otherwise, it was reasonable to expect (and not just in retrospect) that the British would make an all-out effort to destroy the Bismarck group. Even if Bismarck successfully avoided detection and subsequently attacked the convoys, it was almost certain the British would do everything possible to prevent its return either through the Denmark Strait or into a French port in the Bay of Biscay. Raeder's concept of employing heavy cruisers and auxiliary cruisers to attack enemy ocean shipping was essentially sound; however, battleships--especially those of the Bismarck class--were another matter. The risk involved in employing such major surface combatants beyond the effective range of Luftwaffe aircraft was simply too great, and hence unacceptable. The Germans were well aware of the air threat to their surface ships, yet apparently their faith in their ability to break them out into the North Atlantic undetected was too strong.
The operational deployment of the Bismarck group from Gotenhafen to Korsfjord, Bergen, proceeded uneventfully. But after the Admiralty and Home Fleet received information from the naval attache in Stockholm about the passage of the Bismarck group through the Great Belt, they acted quickly. The cruise patrol in the Denmark Strait was strengthened. A part of the Home Fleet then in Scapa Flow was put into a state of increased combat readiness. Air reconnaissance of the Norwegian ports and Arctic waters was intensified. Admiral Tovey properly evaluated the situation and made sound decisions for the subsequent disposition of his forces. Prior to the encounter in the Denmark Strait, Tovey's dispositions of the Battle Force and cruiser patrols covered all three northern passages, while keeping his Battle Force centrally positioned and able to intervene in a timely fashion toward the west or east.
The Germans suspected that British agents had sighted the movement of the Bismarck group, but Admiral Lutjens made no major changes to his plans despite his suspicions. Perhaps the chances of a successful breakout into the North Atlantic would have been greater if the Bismarck group had sailed to Trondheim instead of Korsfjord, and had remained there for several weeks. This would have kept the British in suspense about the direction and timing of the groups next movement.
Tactically, Lutjens handled the Bismarck group much better than his counterpart, Admiral Holland, handled his forces. The gunnery of both Bismarck and Prinz Eugen was superior to that of the British ships. Holland made a mistake in detaching his destroyers prior to the encounter, thereby missing the opportunity to use them for a torpedo attack on the Bismarck group. Lutjens made a sound tactical decision in not pursuing the damaged Prince of Wales; his main mission was to attack enemy convoys, not to engage enemy heavy surface ships. Bismarck had suffered damages in the encounter with Prince of Wales and their extent was not precisely known at the time he had to make his decision. Reengaging Prince of Wales might well have resulted in additional damage to Bismarck.
Why Admiral Lutjens decided on the morning of May 24 to steer for Saint-Nazaire instead of turning north and heading for Trondheim or Bergen is not known. He probably had good reason to believe that it would be possible to break away from his pursuers and make a westward swing into the open spaces of the North Atlantic. Yet he was well aware that once his group was discovered the British would make an all-out effort to destroy it. He also was much concerned with the threat that enemy carrier-borne torpedo planes posed. At the same time, the Bismarck group would operate well beyond the effective range of Luftwaffe bombers. In retrospect, it seems that after the encounter with BCS 1 the sound decision would have been to withdraw back through the Denmark Strait. If Liitjens had made the decision to do so quickly, he would have had a very good chance of not encountering enemy heavy forces on his way to Trondheim or Bergen. In addition, the Bismarck group would have reached the protective cover of Luftwaffe aircraft much sooner than on the route to Saint-Nazaire.
The British cruisers' masterful use of their search radars made it impossible for the Germans to shake off their pursuers. This was a major reason the Admiralty and Admiral Tovey eventually were able to concentrate an overwhelming force against Bismarck. The Admiralty took a high but prudent risk in detaching so many ships from convoy duty to take part in the pursuit. In the final phase of the operation, Bismarck's chances diminished steadily. Perhaps if Bismarck had not unluckily received the torpedo hit that disabled its rudder there would have been some chance for the ship to reach the safety of a French port. Whether that would have allowed Bismarck to survive is a question no one can answer for certain.
(1.) Werner Rahn, "The War at Sea in the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean," in Germany and the Second World War, ed. Horst Boog et al., vol. 6, The Global War (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon, 2001), p. 379; B. B. Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1972), p. 70.
(2.) Holger H. Herwig, "The Failure of German Sea Power, 1914-1945: Mahan, Tirpitz, and Raeder Reconsidered," International History Review 10, no. 1 (February 1988), pp. 88-89.
(3.) Gerhard Bidlingmaier, "Die strategischen und operativen Uberlegungen der Marine 1932-1942," Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau (June 1963), p. 314.
(4.) Richard Lakowski and Werner Wunderlich, Zwischen Flottenschlacht und Zufuhrkrieg: Die Entwicklung des seestrategischen Denkens im imperialistischen Deutschland in Vorbereitung des Zweiten Weltkrieges (East Berlin, G.D.R.: Militarverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1978), p. 149.
(5.) Herwig, "The Failure of German Sea Power," p. 92.
(6.) Werner Rahn, "Strategische Optionen und Erfahrungen der deutschen Marinefuhrung 1914 bis 1944: Zu den Chancen und Grenzen einer mitteleuropaischen Kontinentalmacht gegen Seemachte," in Deutsche Marinen im Wandel: Vom Symbol nationaler Einheit zum Instrument internationaler Sicherheit, ed. Werner Rahn (Munich, Ger.: R. Oldenbourg, 2005), p. 216.
(7.) Herwig, "The Failure of German Sea Power," p. 92.
(8.) Michael Salewski, Die deutsche Seekriegsleitung 1935-1945, vol. 1,1935-1943 (Frankfurt am Main, F.R.G.: Bernard & Graefe, 1970), p. 33.
(9.) Rahn, "Strategische Optionen und Erfahrungen," p. 216.
(10.) Cited in Werner Rahn, "German Navies from 1848 to 2016: Their Development and Courses from Confrontation to Cooperation," Naval War College Review 70, no. 4 (Autumn 2017), p. 35.
(11.) Klaus Schroder, "Die Gedanken des Oberbefehlshabers der Kriegsmarine zum Kampf gegen England im Atlantik und im Mittelmeer 1939-1940," Marine Rundschau 67, no. 5 (September-October 1970), pp. 260-61.
(12.) Rahn, "Strategische Optionen und Erfahrungen," p. 218; Bidlingmaier, "Die strategischen und operativen Uberlegungen," p. 317.
(13.) Walther Hubatsch, Der Admiralstab und die obersten Marinebehorden in Deutschland 1848-1945 (Frankfurt am Main, F.R.G.: Verlag fur Wehrwesen Bernard & Graefe, 1958), p. 209.
(14.) Kurt Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen (Heidelberg, F.R.G.: Scharnhorst Buchkameradschaft, 1957), p. 137.
(15.) Friedrich Ruge, Der Seekrieg: The German Navy's Story 1939-1945 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1957), p. 49.
(16.) Ibid., p. 50.
(17.) Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen, pp. 132-33.
(18.) Anlage 2: June 1941, "Betrachtungen zur Weiterfuhrung des Atlantikhandelskrieges mit Uberwasserstreitkraften," 1. SKL, Teil C VII, Uberlegungen des Chefs der SKL und Niederschriften uber Vortrage und Besprechungen beim Fuhrer, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/182, Bundesarchiv-Militarchiv, Freiburg im Breisgau [hereafter BA-MA], p. 3.
(19.) Ruge, Der Seekrieg, p. 155.
(20.) Bernd Stegeman, "Die zweite Phase der Seekriegfuhrung bis zum Fruhjahr 1941," in Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, ed. Klaus A. Maier et al., vol. 2, Die Errichtung der Hegemonie auf dem europaischen Kontinent (Stuttgart, F.R.G.: Deutsche VerlagsAnstalt, 1979), p. 345.
(21.) Ibid., p. 348.
(22.) Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen, p. 142. Auxiliary cruisers were converted merchant vessels. Their appearance was altered with fake masts and funnels. They approached their unsuspecting victims under false flags, and with their guns and torpedo capabilities concealed. The German auxiliary cruisers (Hilfskreuzer or Handels-Stor-Kreuzer) of World War II usually were armed with six 150 mm guns, one 75 mm gun, two 37 mm and four 20 mm AA guns, and four to six 533 mm torpedoes, and carried from one hundred to more than two hundred mines. For reconnaissance they used two Heinkel He-114 or Arado Ar-196 float planes. Each was assigned a coded ship number (e.g., the auxiliary cruiser Orion's designation was Schiff 36). Gordon Williamson, Kriegsmarine Auxiliary Cruisers (Long Island City, NY: Osprey, 2009), pp. 4-7,12.
(23.) Stegeman, "Die zweite Phase der Seekriegfuhrung," pp. 351-52.
(24.) Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen, pp. 136-37.
(25.) Stegeman, "Die zweite Phase der Seekriegfuhrung," p. 353.
(26.) Ruge, Der Seekrieg, p. 163.
(27.) Stegeman, "Die zweite Phase der Seekriegfuhrung," p. 355; Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen, pp. 143-44.
(28.) Ruge, Der Seekrieg, p. 164.
(29.) Stegeman, "Die zweite Phase der Seekriegfuhrung," pp. 356-57.
(30.) Ibid., p. 358.
(31.) Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen, p. 145.
(32.) Stegeman, "Die zweite Phase der Seekriegfuhrung," p. 358.
(34.) Gerhard Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten im ozeanischen Zufuhrkrieg:: Strategische Konzeption und Fuhrungsweise der Seekriegsleitung, September 1939-Februar 1942 (Neckargemund, F.R.G.: Scharnhorst Buchkameradschaft, 1963), p. 156.
(35.) Erich Raeder, Mein Leben, vol. 2, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955 (Tubingen, F.R.G.: Fritz Schlichtenmayer, 1957), p. 263.
(36.) James P. Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet in World War II (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 83.
(37.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 258.
(38.) Assmann, Deutsche Seestrategie in zwei Weltkriegen, pp. 145-46.
(39.) U.S. Government, Sailing Directions (Planning Guide): North Atlantic Ocean and Adjacent Seas, Publication 140 (Springfield, VA: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, 2017) [hereafter Pub. 140], pp. 476-77.
(40.) J. R. Chambers [Cdr., USN], "The North Atlantic Ocean, Newfoundland, and the Maritime Provinces to the British Isles, Including Greenland and Iceland" (staff presentation delivered at Naval War College, Newport, RI, April 21, 1941) [hereafter Chambers presentation], p. 1.
(41.) Ibid., p. 2.
(42.) Ibid., pp. 1-2. Force 4 on the Beaufort scale is approximately eleven to sixteen miles per hour. Sir Francis Beaufort developed the Beaufort scale in 1805. It adjudges wind strength on a scale of 1 to 12, on the basis of observations of conditions, not numerical measurement.
(43.) Pub. 140, pp. 477-78.
(44.) Chambers presentation, p. 2.
(46.) C. R. Burgess, "Climate and Weather in Modern Naval Warfare," Geographical Journal 111, nos. 4/6 (April-June 1948), p. 244.
(47.) Chambers presentation, p. 2.
(48.) Stephen W. Roskill, The War at Sea 1939-1945, vol. 1, The Defensive (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1954), p. 390.
(49.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 16.
(50.) "Annex: Gedanke zur weiteren Kriegfiihrung," Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fiir die Atlantikoperation mit Bismarck und Prinz Eugen (Deckname Rheinubung), April 22,1941, 1. SKL, Teil C lib, WestraumAtlantikkuste-Flottenoperationen, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/132, BA-MA, pp. 78-79.
(51.) Chambers presentation, p. 4.
(52.) Ibid.; U.S. Government, Sailing Directions (Enroute): Scotland, Publication 141, 15th ed. (Springfield, VA: National GeospatialIntelligence Agency, 2015), p. 202.
(53.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, pp. 257-58.
(54.) Walter Lohmann and Hans H. Hildebrand, "Oberkommando der Marine," main chap. 3 in Die deutsche Kriegsmarine 1939-1945: Gliederung, Einsatz, Stellenbesetzung (Bad Nauheim, F.R.G.: Podzun, 1956; 15th repr. 1964), vol. 1, p. 10.
(55.) Hubatsch, Der Admiralstab und die obersten Marinebehorden, p. 202.
(56.) Walter Lohmann and Hans H. Hildebrand, "Marinegruppenkommandos Ost-NordWest," main chap. 4 in Die deutsche Kriegsmarine 1939-1945, vol. 1, under "Marinegruppenkommando Nord," p. 3.
(57.) Bodo Bullwinkel, Kooperation Luftwaffe-Kriegsmarine dargestellt am Luftkrieg uber See im Nordmeer 1942 (Hamburg, F.R.G.: Fuhrungsakademie der Bundeswehr, Abteilung Marine, January 5, 1971), pp. 23-24.
(58.) Lohmann and Hildebrand, "Marinegruppenkommandos Ost-Nord-West," under "Marinegruppenkommando West," p. 6 and map collection, "Marine-Bereichgrenzen, Stand 1.12.1943."
(59.) Jochen Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, 4th ed. (Herford, F.R.G.: Koehlers, 1960), p. 49.
(60.) Lohmann and Hildebrand, "Marinegruppenkommandos Ost-Nord-West," under "Marinegruppenkommando Nord," p. 3, "Marinegruppenkommando West," p. 6.
(61.) Walter Lohmann and Hans H. Hildebrand, "Unterseeboote (B.d.U. Bereich)," main chap. 8, chap. 2, "Operative Fuhrung--truppendienstliche Fuhrung," in Die deutsche Kriegsmarine 1939-1945, vol. 1, pp. 1-2.
(62.) Roskill, The Defensive, pp. 16-18.
(63.) Donald P. Steury, "Naval Intelligence, the Atlantic Campaign and the Sinking of the Bismarck: A Study in the Integration of Intelligence into the Conduct of Naval Warfare," in "Intelligence Services during the Second World War," special issue, Journal of Contemporary History 22, no. 2 (April 1987), pp. 211-12.
(64.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, pp. 21-22, 76.
(65.) Christina J. M. Goulter, A Forgotten Offensive: Royal Air Force Coastal Command's Anti-shipping Campaign, 1940-1945 (London: Frank Cass, 1995), p. 348.
(66.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 13.
(67.) Brennecke, Schlachtschijf Bismarck, p. 258.
(68.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 87.
(69.) David J. Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig, The Destruction of the Bismarck (Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 2003), pp. 17-18.
(70.) Brennecke, Schlachtschijf Bismarck, p. 255.
(71.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 12.
(72.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 267.
(73.) Bercuson and Herwig, The Destruction of the Bismarck, p. 18.
(74.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 267.
(75.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 15.
(76.) Ludovic H. C. Kennedy, Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck (New York: Pinnacle Books, 1974), p. 25.
(77.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 74.
(78.) Kennedy, Pursuit, p. 25.
(79.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 74.
(80.) Kennedy, Pursuit, p. 25.
(81.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 75.
(82.) Ibid., p. 78.
(83.) Steury, "Naval Intelligence, the Atlantic Campaign and the Sinking of the Bismarck," pp. 212-13.
(84.) Ibid., p. 213.
(86.) "Abschrift: Ansatz der Funkverkehr auf feindliche Agentennetze bei Auslaufen deutscher Seestreitkrafte in den Atlantik," in Rheinubung-Bi'smarcfc Operation, Band 2, Heft 4, Erfahrungs und Schlussberichte, Mai 1941-November 1941, RM 7/1701, BA-MA, p.1.
(87.) Steury, "Naval Intelligence, the Atlantic Campaign and the Sinking of the Bismarck," pp. 217-18.
(88.) Ibid., p. 218.
(89.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Operationen und Taktik: Auswertung wichtiger Ereignisse des Seekrieges, Heft 3, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941 (Berlin: M. Dv. Nr. 601, October 1942), RMD/601, BA-MA, p. 5.
(90.) SKL to Gruppe West, Gruppe Nord, Flottenkommando, B.d.U.-Op, "Weisung fur weitere Unternehmungen von Uberwassstreitkraften," April 2, 1941, in Rheinubung-Bi'smarcfc Operation, Band 1, Heft 1, Vorbereitende Weisungen und Operationsbefehle, Marz-Mai 1941, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, pp. 3-4.
(91.) Ibid., p. 5.
(92.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 12.
(93.) Bercuson and Herwig, The Destruction of the Bismarck, p. 43.
(94.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, pp. 266-67.
(95.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," June 2, 1941, in Rheinubung-Bi'smarcA; Operation, Band 2, Heft 4, Erfahrungs und Schlussberichte, Mai 1941-November 1941, RM 7/1701, BA-MA, p.1.
(96.) Vortrag Ob. d. M. beim Fuhrer am 20. April 1941,1. SKL, Teil C VII, Uberlegungen des Chefs der SKL und Niederschriften uber Vortrage und Besprechungen beim Fuhrer, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/182, BA-MA, p. 2.
(97.) This zone was established in October 1939; originally it varied in width from three hundred to one thousand nautical miles. On April 18, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt extended the zone to longitude 26 degrees W (2,300 nautical miles east of New York, and only fifty nautical miles off Iceland). Ibid., p. 3.
(98.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 268.
(99.) Vortrag Ob. d. M. beim Fuhrer am 20. April 1941, p. 3. Organisation Todt was a civil and military engineering/construction group in Nazi Germany. It was named after Fritz Todt (1891-1942), its founder and leader.
(100.) Vortrag Flottenchef bei Ob.d.M., April 26, 1941, in Rheinubung-Bismarck Operation, Band 1, Heft 1, Vorbereitende Weisungen und Operationsbefehle, Marz 1941-Mai 1941, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, p. 141.
(101.) The term new moon refers to the phase of the moon when it is in conjunction with the sun and therefore invisible from Earth, or shortly thereafter when it appears as only a slender crescent.
(102.) Vortrag Flottenchef bei Ob.d.M., April 26, 1941, pp. 141-42.
(103.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 266.
(104.) Cited in Burkard von Mullenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck: A Survivor's Story (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990), p. 61.
(105.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 3.
(106.) Ob.d.M. to Flottenkommando, Operative Weisung fur Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes Bismarck und des Kreuzers Prinz Eugen im Atlantik (Deckname rheinubung), April 14, 1941, in Rheinubung-Bismarck Operation, Band 1, Heft 1, Vorbereitende Weisungen und Operationsbefehle, Marz 1941-Mai 1941, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, p. 1.
(107.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," 1. SKL, Teil C VII, Uberlegungen des Chefs der SKL und Niederschriften uber Vortrage und Besprechungen beim Fuhrer, (anuar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/182, BA-MA, p. 133; "Anlage 1: Allgemeiner Befehl fiir die Atlantikunternehmung," Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fiir die Atlantikoperation mit Bismarck und Prinz Eugen (Deckname RheinObung), April 22, 1941, 1. SKL, Teil C lib, Westraum-Atlantikkuste-Flottenoperationen, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/132, BA-MA, p. 6.
(108.) Flottenkommando, Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fiir die Atlantikoperation mit Bismarck und Prinz Eugen (Deckname RheinObung), April 22,1941, 1. SKL, Teil C lib, Westraum-Atlantikkuste-Flottenoperationen, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/132, BA-MA, p. 2.
(109.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 5.
(110.) Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, pp. 67-68.
(111.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," pp. 135-36.
(112.) Chambers presentation, p. 5.
(113.) Ob.d.M. to Flottenkommando, Operative Weisung fiir Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes Bismarck und des Kreuzers Prinz Eugen im Atlantik (Deckname RheinObung), p. 3.
(114.) Ibid., pp. 4-5.
(115.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 135.
(116.) Ob.d.M. to Flottenkommando, Operative Weisung fiir Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes Bismarck und des Kreuzers Prinz Eugen im Atlantik (Deckname RheinObung), p. 3.
(117.) Flottenkommando, Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fur die Atlantikoperation mit Bismarck und Prinz Eugen (Deckname RheinObong), p. 40.
(118.) Versorgungschiffe fur nachste Atlantikoperation, KTB, Teil C lib, Band 1, 20.1-23.12 1941, 1. SKL, Teil C lib, Westraum-Atlantikkiiste-Flottenoperationen, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/132, BAMA, p. 36.
(119.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 135.
(120.) Brennecke, SchlachtschiffBismarck, p. 41.
(121.) Ob.d.M. to Flottenkommando, Operative Weisung fur Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes Bismarck und des Kreuzers Prinz Eugen im Atlantik (Deckname RheinObung), p. 4.
(122.) Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fur die Atlantikoperation mit Bismarck und Prinz Eugen (Deckname RHEINUBUNG), April 22, 1941, in Rheinubung-Bismarck Operation, Band 1, Heft 1, Vorbereitende Weisungen und Operationsbefehle, Marz 1941-Mai 1941, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, p. 2.
(123.) Ob.d.M. to Flottenkommando, Operative Weisung fur Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes Bismarck und des Kreuzers Prinz Eugen im Atlantik (Deckname RheinObung), pp. 4-5.
(124.) Ibid., pp. 5-6.
(125.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 133.
(126.) The literal translation of Sperrbrecher is "obstacle breaker." The mine breaker was a type of mine-defense ship that the Germans used in both world wars. It was a converted merchant ship filled with buoyant material and crewed by merchant seamen. It sailed through a minefield ahead of other ships to detonate mines in its path.
(127.) Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fur die Atlantikoperation mit "Bismarck" und "Prinz Eugen" (Deckbezeichnung: "Rheinubung"), April 22,1941, 1. SKL, Teil C lib, Westraum-Atlantikkuste-Flottenoperationen, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/132, BA-MA, p. 41.
(129.) Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fur die Atlantikoperation mit "Bismarck" und "Prinz Eugen" (Deckbezeichnung "Rheinubung"), April 22,1941, in Rheinubung-Bismarck Operation, Band 1, Heft 1, Vorbereitende Weisungen und Operationsbefehle, Marz 1941-Mai 1941, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, pp. 2-3.
(130.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 133.
(131.) Operative Weisung fur Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes "Bismarck" und des Kreuzers "Prinz Eugen" im Atlantik (Deckbezeichnung "Rheinubung"), April 14, 1941, in Rheinubung-Bismarck Operation, Band 1, Heft 1, Vorbereitende Weisungen und Operationsbefehle, Marz 1941-Mai 1941, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, p. 1.
(132.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 134.
(133.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, pp. 210-11.
(134.) Operative Weisung fur Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes "Bismarck" und des Kreuzers "Prinz Eugen" im Atlantik (Deckbezeichnung "Rheinubung"), p. 5.
(135.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 2.
(136.) "Allgemeiner Befehl fur die Atlantikunternehmung," Anlage 1 to Flottenkommando B.Nr. 100/41 Al Chefs, Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fur die Atlantikoperation mit "Bismarck" und "Prinz Eugen" (Deckbezeichnung: "Rheinubung"), April 22,1941,1. SKL, Teil C lib, Westraum-Atlantikkuste-Flottenoperationen, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/132, BA-MA, pp. 45-46.
(137.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 133.
(138.) Operative Weisung fur Flottenkommando zum Einsatz des Schlachtschiffes "Bismarck" und des Kreuzers "Prinz Eugen" im Atlantik (Deckbezeichnung "Rheinubung"), p. 6.
(139.) Bercuson and Herwig, The Destruction of the Bismarck, p. 60.
(140.) Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, p. 58.
(142.) Bercuson and Herwig, The Destruction of the Bismarck, p. 60.
(143.) Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, p. 47.
(144.) Cited in Herwig, "The Failure of German Sea Power," pp. 99-100.
(145.) Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, p. 50.
(146.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 14.
(147.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 268; Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, p. 54.
(148.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 6.
(149.) Beitrag vom 19.5-4.6. 1941 zum Kriegstagebuch Skl-Anlageheft 2/Skl/B/ (B.-Leitstelle), 2/Skl.b (3./Skl. B-Leitsteile), B-Dienst, 1. Januar 1941-31. Dezember 1941, RM 7/104, BA-MA, p. 74.
(150.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 12.
(153.) B.-Bericht Nr. 20/41, May 23,1941, 2,/Skl B-Berichte (Funkaufklarung), Nr. 14/41-24/41, 11. April 1941-4. Juli 1941, RM 7/734, BAMA, p. 3.
(154.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 208.
(156.) B.-Bericht Nr. 21/41, May 30,1941, 2./Skl BBerichte (Funkaufklarung), Nr. 14/41-24/41, 11. April 1941-4. Juli 1941, RM 7/734, BA-MA, p. 7.
(157.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 8.
(158.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck 21st to 27th May 1941," Pursuit and Destruction of German Battleship Bismarck, ADM 199/1188, The National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom [hereafter TNA], p. 59.
(159.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 207.
(160.) Co. N.W., War Diary, Home Commands, May 21, 1941, ADM 199/2227, TNA, p. 685; "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 59.
(161.) Kennedy, Pursuit, p. 28.
(162.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 137.
(163.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 13.
(164.) Kennedy, Pursuit, p. 31.
(165.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," pp. 136-37.
(166.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck on 27th May 1941," supplement, London Gazette, October 14,1947, ADM 1/11782, TNA, p. 2.
(167.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," enclosure to Home Fleet Letter 659/H.F.1325, May 30, 1941, ADM 199/1178, TNA, p. 421.
(168.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 9.
(169.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 60.
(170.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 421.
(171.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 2.
(172.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 60.
(173.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(174.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 60.
(175.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p.1.
(176.) Ibid., p. 3.
(177.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 421.
(178.) Seekriegsleitung B.Nr. 1.Skl (Ib) 885/41 op. Chefs, Annex "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe 'Bismarck' zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," 1. SKL, Teil C VII, Uberlegungen des Chefs der SKL und Niederschriften iiber Vortrage und Besprechungen beim Fiihrer, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/182, BAMA, p. 138; Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, pp. 13-14.
(179.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 211.
(180.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 13.
(181.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 211.
(182.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 14.
(183.) War Diary, Home Commands, May 22, 1941, ADM 199/2227, TNA, p. 685.
(184.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," pp. 2-3.
(185.) War Diary, Home Commands, May 22, 1941, p. 697.
(186.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 423.
(187.) Episode notes for "Battle of the Denmark Straits and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck," AIR 20/1329, TNA, p. 1907.
(188.) War Diary, Home Commands, May 22, 1941, p. 685.
(189.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 11.
(190.) Ibid., p. 12; Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 14.
(191.) "Bemerkungen Unternehmung 'Bismarck' und Folgerungen," July 17,1941, RM 7/825, BA-MA, p. 38.
(192.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 211.
(193.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(194.) "Battle of the Denmark Straits and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck," p. 197.
(195.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(196.) RDF was the British term at the time for radar--not to be confused with radio direction finding. The United States coined the term radar, for radio detection and ranging, in 1940.
(197.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(198.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 3/423. (Note: some documents in the British archives provide a page number for each individual document and another as part of the respective volume.)
(199.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(200.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 212.
(201.) Rheinubung-Bumarci: Operation, Band 1, Heft 3, Laufende Meldungen und Befehle, RM 7/1700, BA-MA, p. 1; Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 15.
(202.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 15.
(204.) Heinz Bonatz, Seekrieg im Ather: Die Leistungen der Marine-Funkaufklurung 19391945 (Herford, F.R.G.: E. S. Mittler & Sohn, 1981), p. 177.
(205.) Tom McGowen, Sink the Bismarck: Germany's Super-battleship of World War II (Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First Century Books, 1999), p. 19; Burkard von Mullenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck: A Survivor's Story (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980), p. 98. Subsequent cites to Battleship Bismarck are to the 1980 edition.
(206.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 15.
(207.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 61.
(208.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 15.
(209.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(210.) Ibid., p. 6.
(211.) Seekriegsleitung B.Nr. 1.Skl (Ib) 885/41 op. Chefs, Annex "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe 'Bismarck' zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 141.
(212.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 61.
(213.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 3.
(214.) Seekriegsleitung B.Nr. 1.Skl (Ib) 885/41 op. Chefs, Annex "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe 'Bismarck' zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 141.
(215.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 15.
(216.) Kennedy, Pursuit, p. 45.
(217.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 213.
(218.) Mullenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck, p. 102.
(219.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 213.
(220.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 25.
(221.) Beitrag vom 19.5-4.6. 1941 zum Kriegstagebuch Skl-Anlageheft 2/Skl/B/ (B.-Leitstelle), p. 76.
(222.) Bonatz, Seekrieg im Ather, p. 177.
(223.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 141.
(224.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," pp. 61-62.
(225.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 4.
(226.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 405.
(227.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 4.
(228.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 14.
(229.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 16.
(230.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 402.
(231.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 14.
(232.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 4.
(233.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 16.
(234.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," pp. 423-24. Hood was sunk at position 63[degrees] 20' N, 31[degrees] 50' W. "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 62.
(235.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 4.
(236.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 405.
(237.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," pp. 423-24.
(238.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 4.
(239.) "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," C.B. 04164, Official Dispatches, Pursuit and Destruction of German Battleship Bismarck, ADM 199/1188, TNA, p. 119.
(240.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," pp. 423-24.
(242.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 217.
(243.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 17.
(244.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 216.
(245.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, pp. 17-18.
(246.) Ibid., p. 18.
(248.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 216.
(249.) Cited in ibid., pp. 216-17.
(250.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 61.
(251.) Ibid., p. 63.
(252.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 6.
(253.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 62.
(254.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 17.
(255.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 4/424.
(256.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," pp. 64-65.
(257.) War Diary, Home Commands, May 24, 1941, ADM 199/2227, TNA, p. 775.
(258.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," pp. 65-66.
(259.) Rheinubung-ifemarcfc Operation, Band 1, Heft 3, Laufende Meldungen und Befehle, p. 2; Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 19.
(260.) Seekriegsleitung B.Nr. 1.Skl (Ib) 885/41 op. Chefs, Annex "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe 'Bismarck' zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," pp. 143-44.
(261.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 19.
(265.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 5.
(266.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 63.
(267.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 5.
(268.) War Diary, Home Commands, May 24, 1941, p. 775; "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 119.
(269.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 424.
(270.) War Diary, Home Commands, May 24, 1941, p. 776.
(272.) "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 119.
(273.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 19.
(274.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," pp. 15-16.
(275.) "Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck," p. 7.
(276.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 5/425.
(277.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 65.
(278.) Ibid., p. 64.
(279.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 3.
(280.) Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, p. 41.
(281.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 70.
(282.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 5/425.
(283.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 99.
(285.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 6/426.
(286.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 70; Training and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section), Naval Staff, Admiralty, London, C.B. 3081(3), Battle Summary No. 5: The Chase and Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck, May 23-27, 1941, ADM 234/321, TNA, p. 16. Another source claims that the orders were given at 1100. "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 119.
(287.) Training and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section), Naval Staff, Admiralty, London, C.B. 3081(3), Battle Summary No. 5, p. 17.
(289.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, pp. 99-100.
(290.) Ob.d.M. to Fuhrer, 1320 May 25,1941, in Rheinubung-Bi'smarcic Operation, Band 2, Heft 4, Erfahrungs und Schlussberichte, Mai 1941-November 1941, RM 7/1701, BA-MA, p.1.
(291.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 23.
(292.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," pp. 70-71.
(293.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 22.
(294.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 426.
(296.) Ibid., pp. 6-7.
(297.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 73.
(298.) "Extracts from CC Monthly Summaries, May 1941," episode notes for "Battle of the Denmark Straits and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck," AIR 20/1329, TNA, p. 53.
(299.) Bericht Nr. 22/41, June 6, 1941,2./Skl BBerichte (Funkaufklarung), Nr. 14/41-24/41, 11. April 1941-4. Juli 1941, RM 7/734, BA-MA, p. 6; "Extracts from CC Monthly Summaries, May 1941," p. 53.
(300.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 150.
(301.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 221.
(302.) "Movements Leading to the Sinking of the Bismarck," p. 74.
(303.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 21.
(304.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 150.
(305.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 427.
(308.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," pp. 21-22.
(309.) "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 120.
(310.) Bidlingmaier, Einsatz der schweren Kriegsmarineeinheiten, p. 221.
(311.) Lagebeurteilung "Bismarck," May 27, 1941, in Rheinubung-BismarcA: Operation, Band 2, Heft 4, Erfahrungs und Schlussberichte, Mai 1941-November 1941, RM 7/1701, BA-MA, p. 19; "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 120.
(312.) May 27, 1941, "Zur Eigenunterrichtung und Unterrichtung, Entwicklung der Lage 'Bismarck,'" RM 7/1701, BA-MA, p. 23.
(313.) "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 120.
(314.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 428.
(315.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 22.
(316.) Ibid., p. 24.
(317.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 153.
(318.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," pp. 23-24.
(319.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 154.
(320.) "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 120.
(321.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 413.
(322.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 428.
(323.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 101.
(324.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 413.
(325.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 25; "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 428.
(326.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," pp. 153-54.
(327.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg in Atlantik," p. 25.
(328.) Ibid., p. 26.
(329.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 155.
(330.) "Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe 'Bismarck' zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," 1. SKL, Teil C VII, Uberlegungen des Chefs der SKL und Niederschriften uber Vortrage und Besprechungen beim Fuhrer, Januar 1941-Dezember 1941, RM 7/182, BA-MA, p. 157.
(331.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 158.
(332.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 428.
(333.) Miillenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck, p. 183.
(334.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 428.
(335.) "The Sinking of the Bismarck, 27th May, 1941," p. 120.
(336.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 428.
(337.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 25.
(338.) Miillenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck, p. 184.
(339.) "Annex: Unternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck zum Handelskrieg im Atlantik," p. 159.
(340.) Ibid., p. 160.
(341.) Miillenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck, p. 184.
(342.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," p. 429.
(344.) Ibid., pp. 429-30.
(345.) Ibid., p. 430.
(347.) Levy, The Royal Navy's Home Fleet, p. 103.
(348.) Brennecke, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, p. 240.
(349.) Miillenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck, p. 230.
(350.) Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Die Atlantikunternehmung der Kampfgruppe Bismarck-Prinz Eugen, Mai 1941, p. 26.
(351.) Training and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section), Naval Staff, Admiralty, London, "Appendix B: Torpedoes Fired at Bismarck," in Battle Summary No. 5, p. 41.
(352.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 417.
(353.) "Report of Operations in Pursuit of the Bismarck," pp. 430-31.
(354.) Ibid., p. 430.
(355.) Roskill, The Defensive, p. 417.
(356.) Ibid., p. 416.
(357.) Raeder, Von 1935 bis Spandau 1955, p. 271.
Milan Vego has been a professor in the Joint Military Operations Department at the Naval War College since August 1991 and in 2017 was named a Naval War College University Professor. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he obtained political asylum in the United States in 1976. Dr. Vego has been an adjunct professor at the Defense Intelligence College (1984-91) and a senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia (1985-87), and the former Soviet Army Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (1987-89). He earned a BA in modern history (1970) and an MA in U.S. / Latin American history (1973) at the University of Belgrade and a PhD in European history from the George Washington University (1981). He holds a license as a master mariner. The most recent of Dr. Vego's ten published books is Operational Warfare at Sea: Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. (July 2017).
Caption: MAP 1 BISMARCK COMBAT GROUP'S FORAY INTO THE ATLANTIC, MAY 18-27, 1941 (OPERATION RHEINUBUNG [RHINE EXERCISE])
Caption: MAP 2 FINAL ATTACK ON BISMARCK, MAY 27, 1941
GERMAN ORDER OF BATTLE (PLANNED), APRIL 22, 1941 (F = flagship) MAIN FORCES Fleet commander: Admiral Gunther Lutjens 1 battleship: Bismarck (F) 1 heavy cruiser: Prinz Eugen SUPPORTING FORCES 6 U-boats (2 operating on north-south route, 4 operating on HX route [Halifax, Nova Scotia-U.K. ports]) 2 reconnaissance ships (Gonzenheim, Kota Penang) 2 supply ships (Ermland, Spichern) 4 requisitioned tankers (Lothringen, Belchen, Esso-Hamburg, Friedrich Breme) 4 weather-observation fishing steamers (Freese, Munchen, August Wriest, Lauenberg) 2 mine breakers (Sperrbrecher 13, Sperrbrecher 31) 5th Minesweeper Flotilla (M-4, M-23, M-31, M-201, M-202, M-205, M-251, M-252, M-253) 6th Destroyer Flotilla (Z-23, Z-24, Hans Lody [Z 10], Friedrich Eckheldt [Z 16]) 5TH AIR FLEET, AIR LEADER STAVANGER 2 reconnaissance squadrons (1./F 120 [Ju-88s] Stavanger, 1./F 121 [Ju-88As]) 2 battle wings (KG 30 [Ju-88As] Eindhoven, KG 26 [He-111 Hs] Stavanger-Sola) 3RD AIR FLEET, AIR LEADER ATLANTIC 5 battle wings (1. / KG 1 [Ju-88As] Rosieres-en-Santerre, 1. / KG 28 [He-111s] Nantes, KG 40 [FW-200s/Ju-88As] Bordeaux-Merignac, II. / KG 54 [Ju-88As] Bretigny, I. / KG 77 [Ju-88As] Juvincourt) 1 combat group (KG 100 [He-111 Hs], Vannes-Meucon) 2 coastal air groups (KG 406 [He-115s] Hourtin/Brest, KG 506 [Ju-88As] Westerland) Sources: Operationsbefehl des Flottenchefs fur die Atlantikoperation mit "Bismarck" und "Prinz Eugen" (Deckbezeihnung: "RheinObung"), April 22, 1941, pp. 40-41; Jurgen Rohwer and Gerhard Hummelchen, Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945, 2nd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1992), pp. 63-64. BRITISH ORDER OF BATTLE, MAY 18, 1941 (F = flagship) HOME FLEET CINC, Home Fleet: Admiral Sir John C. Tovey 2 battleships: King George V(f) (at Scapa Flow), Rodney (en route from the Clyde to Boston with Britannia) 1 aircraft carrier: Victorious (825 Sqdn) (at Scapa Flow, to escort Convoy WS8B) 1ST BATTLE CRUISER SQUADRON (BCS 1) Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron: Lancelot E. Holland 2 battle cruisers: Hood (at Scapa Flow), Repulse (at the Clyde, to escort Convoy WS8B) 1 battleship: Prince of Wales (at Scapa Flow) 1ST CRUISER SQUADRON (CS 1) Rear Admiral Commanding, CS 1 : William F. Wake-Walker 2 heavy cruisers: Norfolk (on Denmark Strait patrol), Suffolk (refueling at Reykjavik) 2ND CRUISER SQUADRON (CS 2) Rear Admiral Commanding, CS 2: Neville Syfret 4 light cruisers: Aurora, Galatea, Kenya, Neptune (at Scapa Flow) 18TH CRUISER SQUADRON (CS 18) Commodore C. M. Blackman 4 light cruisers: Manchester, Birmingham (on Faeroes-Iceland passage patrol); Arethusa (en route to Reykjavik); Edinburgh (on patrol off the Azores) DESTROYERS Inglefield, Intrepid (en route to Scapa Flow); Achates, Active, Antelope, Anthony, Echo, Electra, Icarus, Nestor, Punjabi (at Scapa Flow); Jupiter (at Londonderry); Eskimo, Mishona, Somali, Tartar (at sea with Rodney and Britannia) WESTERN APPROACHES COMMAND (Liverpool) 1 light cruiser: Hermione (en route to Scapa Flow to join CS 2) 5 destroyers (escorts for Repulse): Lance (at Scapa Flow); Assiniboine, Legion, Saguenay (at the Clyde); Columbia (at Londonderry) PLYMOUTH COMMAND 4th Destroyer Flotilla: Cossack, Maori, Sikh, Zulu; Piorun (Polish) (at the Clyde, as escorts for Convoy WS8B) NORE COMMAND 1 destroyer: Windsor (at Scapa Flow) FORCE H (at Gibraltar) Flag Officer Commanding, Force H: Vice Admiral Sir James F. Somerville 1 battle cruiser: Renown 1 aircraft carrier: Ark Royal (810, 818, 828 Sqdns) 1 light cruiser: Sheffield 5 destroyers: Faulkner, Foresight, Forester, Fury, Hesperus AMERICA AND WEST INDIES COMMAND 2 battleships: Ramillies (escorting Convoy HX127), Revenge (at Halifax, Nova Scotia) SOUTH ATLANTIC COMMAND 1 heavy cruiser: Dorsetshire (escorting Convoy SL74) SUBMARINES Rear Admiral, Submarines: Max K. Horton (Aberdour/north London) P-31 (at Scapa Flow); Sealion, Seawolf, Sturgeon (in English Channel); Pandora (en route from Gibraltar to United Kingdom); Tigris (at the Clyde); H44 (at Rothesay); Minerve (Q185) (French) (off Norway's southwestern coast) RAF COASTAL COMMAND No. 15 Group (Liverpool) No. 16 Group (Chatham, Kent) No. 18 (Pitreavie Castle, Scotland) Sources: Training and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section), Naval Staff, Admiralty, London, "Appendix A: Bismarck Operations; List of H.M. Ships, C.B. 3081 (3)," in Battle Summary No. 5, pp. 38-40; Schofield, Loss of the Bismarck, pp. 72-75; Air Marshal, CINC, Coastal Command, "Dispatches of CINC Home Fleet on the Sinking of the Bismarck," September 3, 1946, app. A, AIR 15/204, TNA; Mullenheim-Rechberg, Battleship Bismarck (1980), pp. 264-67; Rohwer and Hummelchen, Chronology of the War at Sea, pp. 63-64.
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|Publication:||Naval War College Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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