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Why Did Germany Build The Battleship Bismarck?

Why Did Germany Build The Battleship Bismarck?

Battleships / WW2
Bismarck (German Battleship, 1940-41) Sliding down the launching ways at the Blohm & Voss shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, 14 February 1939.

Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany during World War II, ordered the construction of the battleship Bismarck as part of his plan to expand the country’s military power and assert its dominance on the world stage. The Bismarck was one of the largest and most advanced battleships of its time, and its construction was a major undertaking that required significant resources and manpower.

Bismarck (German Battleship, 1940-41) Afloat just after launching, at the Blohm & Voss shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, 14 February 1939.

Named after the 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck; who became known for his strong leadership and his role in the unification of Germany. Hitler saw the Bismarck as a symbol of German power and used it as a propaganda tool to boost morale and rally the nation behind his regime.

Hitler’s decision to build the Bismarck was influenced by a number of factors.

One was the need to rebuild the German Navy. Which had become severely limited by the Treaty of Versailles following World War I. The treaty had imposed strict restrictions on the size and capabilities of the German Navy, and Hitler saw the construction of the Bismarck as a way to rebuild and modernize the fleet.

German battleship Bismarck badge

Another factor was the growing tensions between Germany and the Western powers, particularly Great Britain. Hitler saw the Bismarck as a way to challenge the naval supremacy of the British Royal Navy, which was the largest and most powerful navy in the world at the time. The Bismarck was designed to be a formidable opponent, with heavy armor, advanced guns, and powerful engines.

For further reading on Bismarck’s armor see our piece: Battleship Bismarck & Her Armor Protection

The construction of the Bismarck was a major undertaking that required a huge amount of resources and labor.

Built at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. The project employed thousands of workers and consumed large amounts of steel, concrete, and other materials. Many felt these resources should have gone to more U-boats. However, the construction of the Bismarck was also a source of national pride, and the ship became a symbol of German industrial and technological capabilities.

Battleship Bismarck, not yet fully completed
For further reading on Bismarck’s construction see our piece: Bismarck’s Construction

Despite its impressive size and power, the Bismarck had a relatively short career.

Bismarck in a Norwegian fjord, 21 May 1941, shortly before departing for her Atlantic sortie. Photographed from the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Location is probably Grimstadfjord, just south of Bergen.

Launched in 1939, and it conducted a number of training exercises and patrols in the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Description: Aerial reconnaissance photograph taken by Flying Officer Michael Suckling on 21 May 1941 in Norway.
A crewman from heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen signals to battleship Bismarck. This photo was taken some time in May 1941 prior to Rheinübung.
For further reading see our piece: Operation Rheinubung : Bismarck’s Last & Only Mission

In May 1941, the Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen set out on a mission to attack Allied shipping in the Atlantic. The Royal Navy dispatched their legendary Battlecruiser HMS Hood which sunk in an epic battleship battle of the ages at the Battle of the Denmark Strait.

Gunnery plot of HMS Prince of Wales for the Battle of the Denmak Strait, 24 May 1941.
For further reading on the Battle of the Denmark Strait see our piece: Battle Of The Denmark Strait : HMS Hood V Bismarck
Taken from the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen on 24 May 1941, following the Battle of the Denmark Strait and before the two German ships separated. Bismarck is somewhat down by the bow, the result of hits received in her engagement with HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Hood earlier in the day. This is the next to last photograph of Bismarck taken by the Germans.

The British responded by sending a large naval force to hunt down the Bismarck, and the ship was eventually located and engaged by the British on May 27th. Of course Bismarck became handicapped by the famous Fairey Swordfish’s torpedo that took away Bismarck’s ability to steer.

The BISMARCK seen in the distance from a Fairey Swordfish from the aircraft carrier HMS VICTORIOUS just before the torpedo attack.

After a fierce battle, the Bismarck finally sunk on May 28th by a combination of torpedoes and naval gunfire.

 BISMARCK on fire in the distance taken from one of the Royal Navy warships chasing.
Survivors from the Bismarck are pulled aboard HMS Dorsetshire (40) on 27 May 1941.
For further reading wee our piece: Was Bismarck Sunk Or Scuttled?

In conclusion, the sinking of the Bismarck became a major blow to the German Navy. And to Hitler’s ambitions of building a powerful fleet. It also had a significant impact on the course of World War II. As the destruction of the Bismarck removed a major threat to Allied shipping in the Atlantic. Despite its short career, the Bismarck remains one of the most famous battleships of all time. And lastly, it continues to be remembered as a symbol of German military power and technological prowess.

For further reading on her wreck see our piece: German Battleship Bismarck Wreck : In Photos
Bundesarchiv, Bild 193-03-6-05A / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Why Did Germany Build The Battleship Bismarck?