DKM Bismarck

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DKM Bismarck was the lead ship of the WWII German two-ship Bismarck-class of battleships. With four turrets of two 15" naval guns each, she was slightly undergunned compared to the 16" and 18.1" guns of U.S. and Japanese ships, but she was fast and had excellent survivability.

Commissioned in 1940, she had her only operational sortie, in company with the light cruiser DKM Prinz Eugen, in May 1941. Adm. Günther Lütjens, Commanding Heavy Ships, German Fleet, was in tactical command of the task force; Capt. Ernst Lindemann was commanding officer of Bismarck.

Once the British became aware of the sortie, they put heavy ships on each possible approach. In the Battle of the Bismarck Strait, the German unit encountered the large battlecruiser HMS Hood (1920) and the new battleship, HMS Prince of Wales while the latter was still in shakedown with shipyard technicians aboard. Hood exploded and sank with only three survivors; PoW was severely damaged. Prinz Eugen returned home.

Most of the British Home Fleet gave chase. Torpedo bombers from HMS Ark Royal (1938) damaged her rudder and left her steering in circles in the Bay of Biscay. Heavy ships of the Home Fleet engaged her, and, while she was left sinking from battleship gunfire and torpedo hits from cruisers, chose her own end when the crew scuttled her.

Bismarck demonstrated very bad, and very good, aspects of safety and survivability of naval vessels. Her rudder was unprotected, and key control and communications cables ran on the deck and were quickly cut. Nevertheless, her watertight compartmentation was superb and she took immense damage before sinking.