The Bismarck Battleship: A Study in Evolution

Evolution is a cruel process, one which shows no mercy to the strong or to the weak. Case in point: the dinosaurs. The last T Rex to bite the dust was probably the biggest and baddest of the breed. Nonetheless, all its strength and ferocity could not save it from the relentless forces of natural selection. In the end, both the Tyrannosaurus and the creatures upon which it preyed became extinct. At the same time, the small, furry creatures that today we call mammals began their long ascent to the top of the food chain. The same dynamic occurs throughout military history. Take battleships. At one time the terrors of the sea, these enormous floating fortresses became extinct thanks to the science of aviation. This is seen in the fate of the Bismarck, which went into its watery grave in May 1941. Built in blatant defiance of post-World War I military treaties, this 51,000 ton behemoth dealt a vicious blow to the British Navy before suffering its own defeat less than 2 days later. The Bismarck wasnamed for the man who unified the German nation-state. It stretched 823.5 feet long and held a crew of 2039 sailors. It had a range of 8100 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 18 knots. Armor along the main belt ranged from 10 ½ to 12 ½ inches thick, with sections up to 14 ½ inches thick on the main turrets. Armament included 8 15-inch guns, 12 16-inch guns, and multiple anti-aircraft guns. The main batteries could fire up to 3 rounds per minute, giving the ship an advantage over many British vessels, which could fire only once every 30 seconds. RELATED: See Photos of the 1952 Willys M38 Military Jeep The Bismarck’s main weakness was its antiquated design. The Germans had been unable to conduct open testing of their designs, forcing them to rely on World War I configurations. What the ship lacked in refinement, however, it made up for in bulk and firepower. This gave the battleship a crucial advantage in its duel with the HMS Hood on May 24, 1941. The Hood’s top deck armor was a scant 3 inches thick, leaving it vulnerable to the Bismarck’s shells which came screaming in from above. A German round breached the British ship’s magazine, setting off a devastating explosion which split the famed battle cruiser in half, sending it to the bottom of the ocean. Ever resilient, the Royal Navy vowed revenge, sending a task force under the command of acting Admiral John Tovey to hunt down and kill the Germans. The Bismarck, which had suffered a pounding from British fire during the battle with the Hood, was steaming for the relative safety of German-occupied waters off the French coast. Tovey, whose battle group included the HMS Rodney and King George V, played a deadly cat-and-mouse game with his adversaries. But elation turned to frustration when the Bismarck eluded its British pursuers under cover of night. At this point in the story, the power of aircraft to outdo warships comes into play. The Bismarck was spotted by naval pilots flying American extended-range aircraft, which has been acquired by the British under President Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease Act. Acting on this data, the Royal Navy aircraft carrier Ark Royal launched 15 torpedo bombers known as “swordfish” against the Bismarck. RELATED: Buy This High-Speed Military Catamaran For Only $180,000 Flying low to dodge the German battleship’s anti-aircraft fire, the planes struck their target with three torpedoes, one of which disabled the ship’s rudder beyond the German’s ability to repair. Crippled by the strikes, the Bismarck was a sitting duck for Tovey’s forces, which turned the once-mighty ship into an inferno. On May 27, the pride of the Fatherland was scuttled by its crew, joining the Hood in its watery graveyard. 111 German sailors were rescued, but the British were forced to vacate the area due to fears of U-boat reprisals. Ironically, this doomed countless members of the enemy’s forces, who drowned in the open waters as a result. While British ships played a role in the Bismarck’s destruction, the Royal Navy could not have prevailed without the planes that found the German ship and dealt the decisive blows. The handwriting was on the wall, and it said that naval power was no match for air power. Battleships went the way of the dinosaurs, and military evolution took a violent leap forward. From then on, the side that controlled the skies would dominate the battlefield. RELATED: GuardBot Robot Call Could be the Military's Next Drone Photo Credit: _____________________________________ Click Here to Read the Original Article on BoldRide