Why It Took so Many Huge Bombs to Sink This Nazi Battleship

Why It Took so Many Huge Bombs to Sink This Nazi Battleship

Warfare History Network

History, Europe


Meet Operation Catechism.

Key Point: In 1944, London ordered a special mission to take out the heavily-armored Nazi battleship Tirpitz.

April 1, 1939, was a red-letter day in the history of the reborn German Kriegsmarine for two key reasons. First, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler presented the fleet’s chief, Erich Raeder, with an ornate, icon-studded Navy blue baton of office as the first grand admiral since the days of the Kaiser Wilhelm II. This was done with great ceremony and a gala luncheon afterward aboard the new battle cruiser Scharnhorst, anchored on Jade Bay in the former Imperial port of Wilhelmshaven. Second, the Kriegsmarine christened and launched the Third Reich’s newest and most modern battleship, the Tirpitz, on the same day. The Tirpitz, the last battleship the Third Reich would build, was the sister ship to the Bismarck. But the Tirpitz was heavier than the Bismarck. Moreover, it had the distinction of being the largest warship built in Europe up to that point in time.

The name of the new battleship paid tribute to Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, who worked with the Kaiser to create Germany’s powerful and impressive High Seas Fleet, which served and protected the empire from 1898 to 1918. Tirpitz was a gruff old salt who sported a Neptune-like pointed beard. When the Kaiser refused to allow him to command the fleet during the Great War, he resigned in a huff in 1916. Turning his attention to politics, he founded the pro-war Fatherland Party and was subsequently elected to the German Reichstag as a deputy. Sadly, he was not alive to see the ship that bore his name slide into the water in 1939 for he had died nine years earlier. But his daughter, Ilse von Hassell, was present. She was on hand for the April 1 ceremony in which Hitler named the mighty vessel honoring her late father and she christened it.

Just two months before Hitler had authorized Raeder to enact his ambitious Plan Z. The plan entailed the expansion of the Kriegsmarine so that it could successfully challenge the naval power of the United Kingdom. The ambitious plan called for a naval force composed of 10 battleships, 15 pocket battleships, four aircraft carriers, 250 submarines, and more than 100 cruisers and destroyers.

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