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75th anniversary of the "Rheinübung" and the german press

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by OhneGewehr, May 31, 2016.

  1. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    75 years ago, the 2 biggest european battleships sunk during Operation "Rheinübung" in the Atlantic Ocean. The german press spent a few articles on it(which you won't understand):
    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/schlachtschiff-bismarck-bis-zur-letzten-granate-14249297.html
    http://www.welt.de/geschichte/zweiter-weltkrieg/article155735462/Am-Ende-versenkte-sich-die-Bismarck-selbst.html

    Was it a topic in Great Britain?

    In the articles, Admiral Lütjens is heavily critized for scuttling Bismarck too late, he should have done it before the last fight. To safe the life of the crew. And. off course he was again blamed for the loss of the ship.

    I am naive for sure, but a battleship did not have rescue boats, scuttling her in the cold Atlantic with no german ship with Bismarck doesn't seem a clever idea to me. Regardless that the ship was still able to fight and that's what it was build for.

    Any different opinions?
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There are a number of things that Lutjens can be criticized for but the above are questionable IMO.
     
  3. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Which are?
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    May I suggest that the question is not so much what Lutjens should have done on that particular occasion as what the general practice was, or should have been. It had long been accepted that ships which could no longer fight or flee could surrender, even though they were often incorporated into the captor's navy. This happened as recently as 1905, in the aftermath of the battle of Tsushima, when Admiral Nebogatov surrendered the survivors of the Russian fleet, several of which later served under the Rising Sun.

    In both world wars there were cases of German merchant ships or blockade runners scuttling themselves when caught by Allied warships, which then picked up the survivors.

    However it had come to be considered unacceptable for a warship to do anything but fight to the bitter end. One could argue that say von Spee's squadron at the Falklands or some of the Allied ships after the Java Sea battle could have scuttled with no loss of honor once things became hopeless, but that was no longer the way of battle at sea.
     
  5. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Bismarck sunk the Hood with a few salvos and it was'nt impossible to repeat it. Unlikely, but not impossible.
    Enough ammunition, artillery wasn't damaged.
    Lütjens had no choice.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Off the top of my head one of the more glaring was breaking radio silence to wish Hitler happy birthday.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Some ships were scuttled in the Pacific from what I recall. I think the Japanese even raised a US SS and put her into service. Weren't all 4 of the IJN carriers scuttled at Midway? Several US carriers suffered the same fate.

    I would have to know a lot more about exactly what happened in her final battle before I would criticize Lutgens for his conduct there though. There's a very distinct possibility I wouldn't even then.
     
  8. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Hitler's birthday was in April.
    Yes he didn't keep radio silence but Prinz Eugen. She was still on the chase and needed fuel, i guess Lütjens wanted to keep the RN away from her. Bismarck was still too fast to be catched by the Royal Navy under normal circumstances.
    It made sense when you consider the situation.

    Kido Butai were burning wrecks when they were scuttled.
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Reverse it...Hitler wished Lutjens a happy birthday. Lutjens birthday is May 25th.

    AFAIK, Lutjens was under the impression that he was still on British radar screens, when, in reality, he had already lost his British tail.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Thanks for the correction. I remembered that he believed he was still under observation but no reason to make it easy on the British and a fairly long transmission certainly did so. Of course I doubt the Germans were aware of just how good the British radio direction finding system was.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    He was pretty sure that Eugen had already broken free. Indeed as Takao mentioned he thought he was still under observation so using the transmission as a decoy isn't the best of ideas. I'm not saying by the way that it was inexcusable just that it is a legitimate criticism.

    Most of the carriers that were scuttled were "burning wrecks" but the point is it reached the point where they were deemed irrecoverable. Of course they had also reached the point where they had little or no capability of inflicting any additional damage on their opponents and it was possible to rescue their crews which were a significant resource. Bismarck arguably didn't reach that state until at the earliest IMO when she lost her forward guns. At that point though she was heavily engaged and it's not clear when that knowledge reached her command center or if there was a possibility of bringing them back on line. At that point I am very reluctant to criticize the decisions of people who were actually there. I simply don't know enough of the details and haven't been in anything like that situation.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Lots of ships were scuttled by other friendly ships after their crews had been taken off. I couldn't read the German articles, but here we seem to be considering the case where the only likely rescue is the enemy. Moreover, the suggestion appears to be that Lutjens ought to have abandoned ship and scuttled before the final battle.

    Bismarck's armament was intact, although her gunnery was hampered by her inability to steer a straight course; von Mullenheim-Rechberg describes her swinging up to 40 degrees each way. Still, there was a chance of inflicting damage, though no real chance of escape or survival. Ironically there was no material risk on the German side, Bismarck was lost either way, the choice was saving or losing most of her crew vs. what damage they might inflict before going down. And of course there were the intangibles of honor and propaganda.

    OhneGewehr makes a valid point that warships at that time did not carry enough boats or rafts for the entire crew, but WWII also saw the proliferation of rafts, floater nets, and the like. Apparently there was a growing recognition that ships might be sunk without a chance of immediate rescue by either friend or enemy.

    p.s. I am not aware of the Japanese using an ex-US submarine. They captured the wreck of the Sealion at Cavite, but she had been thoroughly demolished. They did use the four-piper destroyer Stewart, found in drydock at Surabaya, and several gunboats and such captured in the Philippines.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Typo on my part. My left hand was missregistered and instead of typing "DD" I hit the letter one to the left "SS". Thanks for catching that.
     
  14. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Yes exactly, before the battle. And the evil Lütjens is compared with the good Langsdorff of the Graf Spee, a ridiculous comparison. The crew of Graf Spee was safe and it was Langsdorff who attacked the 3 cruisers against his orders.

    Most of the history about the Bismarck is still based on the opinions of Müllenheim-Rechberg, who obviously needed someone to blame for the fate of his ship and that was Lütjens. Being the only officer to survive he could write almost what he wanted to.

    For example the long radio message, which was sent only a few minutes after the information that the RN had lost contact. Off course Lütjens knew that, he was on the run for 5 or 6 hours. But Prinz Eugen was about to meet with the tanker Spichern in a few hours and needed an Ocean free of enemies and reconnaissance planes. What Lütjens knew at that time: The Royl Navy lost contact to both ships but was searching them like mad. Not a comfortable situation for a ship that needs to be refueled.

    Bismarck was still too fast for the Royal Navy and air attacks proved to be ineffective, the weather conditions were still bad so he calculated the risks and benefits and made the decision to draw attention away from Prinz Eugen and the supply ships. And no survivor saw Lütjens and Lindemann during the final hour, maybe they were killed in the early stages of the battle.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I certainly wouldn't describe Lutjens as "evil". Not the most inspired man to wear stars but not evil. Langsdorff didn't have much option as far as the British cruisers were concerned particularly since they were initially ID as destroyers. He also faced what he supposed was overwhelming force and no way to make it home even if he got past the British ships.

    Bismarck was no longer in condition to out run cruisers or the KGV's by the way and the failure of one air attack certainly doesn't mean that all such will be. Do you have a source for his decision on the radio message being a deliberate attempt to draw attention away from Eugen?
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Unfortunately I don't read German - is the article actually calling Lutjens 'evil' for not doing something that nobody in any navy at that time was doing? Or would have even thought of doing? If so that is completely uncalled for.
     
  17. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    There was no need to outrun the KGVs and cruisers were nothing to worry about for a ship like Bismarck. Even if a british ship was 1 or 2 knots faster, it didn't matter, they were too far away and no match for the Bismarck. Just remember, Lütjens took Prince of Wales as the King George V, he thought the first wasn't ready. Why should he bother about any british ship as long as he still could make 28 knots?
    Hood? Gone.
    Renown? Easy prey.
    KGV? She was laying a smoke screen after a couple of salvos.

    Lütjens was known for his superior intelligence and "coolness", everything he did, he did for a reason. To draw away attention from Prinz Eugen was the only logical reason for a long radio message only minutes after he knew that the Royal Navy was searching elsewhere. It was a risk for sure. Ironically, the RN went in the wrong direction (north), so it didn't matter anyway.
     
  18. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    I use Google chrome and it translated the 2od article well enough but could not make connection to the first.

    I also read BBC.com and DW.de the German .com newspaper in English. Neither mentioned the Bismark but both had copious quantities of articles and pictures of Mohammed Ali. He was a great fighter the Anniversaries of Hood and Bismark with over 3500 great fighters dying still makes a much greater impression on me. Not being negative about Ali, just thinking differently than most in the media I guess. Of course they are not remotely comparable.

    On the subject of the Bismark I recall she managed to get a straddle on Rodney with one of her salvos. She did prove to be rather tough in her armor belt but her topsides behaved as I would have expected given the hits.

    Gaines
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  20. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Takao, thanks, worked perfectly, Google has gotten much better at translation.

    Gaines
     

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