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After sinking HMS Hood, Bismark finishes off PoW, and returns to Germany?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by Shadow Master, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The Scharnhorst & Geneisnanu made a raid in the Atlantic - Operation Berlin. They were credited with sinking 115,000 tons of cargo ships, about 6% of the total ships sunk in the Atlantic that year. A really well planned raid with the Bismarck and one of the other ships, in combination with a submarine pack might net 200,000 tons in a few weeks.

    Using subs in combination with surface ships was a nasty trick the Germans tried several times. While convonys are the best way to protect cargo ships from subs a convoy makes it much easier for a surface raider. When the British thought the Tirpits & its consorts had sortied from Norway they ordered convoy PQ17 to disperse. Scattered and unescourted the ships of PQ17 were massacred by a submarine pack. It is possible for the Germans to pull the same thing off in the North Atlantic.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It really depends on when. Tirpitz isn't ready until 42 and Bismark is going to be under repair for several months at least. The British were already using BB as escorts for at least some convoys (I think Texas was used as well). By mid 43 there are getting to be too many planes around for a raider like Bismark to do well. Indeed even earlier there are getting to be a lot of ships with radar out there that can detect and shadow such a raider.
     
  3. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    This susposes the capitol ships can sortie. Sort of a worst case for the British. The Schanrhorst & Genisneau managed to sink 20+ cargo ships (all unescourted) a few months earlier. Another try at that makes more sense than letting them rust at anchor, where the British aircraft found them anyway.

    Personally I'd have sent the entire KM surface fleet to the Baltic in 1941 and used them to support amphibious landings in Lithuania and Estonia at the very start of Barbarosa. But then I've been trained for amphibious/littoral warfare, which the Germans dont seem to have comprehended.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Tirpitz was able to for a good part of the time until they started using Tallboys. I don't see how Bismark would be in much worse position especially if she was repaired in the Baltic.
     
  5. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    But probably not, especially if it took place in 1942. Operation Berlin was the most successful raiding cruise by any German surface ships during the entire war; together, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in a cruise lasting 60 days, sank or captured 22 Allied ships representing 113,690 tons. Most other raiding cruises by German capital ships were abject failures. Put in perspective, even the Operation Berlin cruise was pathetically wasteful considering the small number of ships sunk and that at least a quarter of them were empty. During the period of Operation Berlin, the Allies were sailing an average of over 700 ships a month from the western Hemisphere to Britain and 98 % of them were arriving intact. Sinking 5.5 ships per month per battle cruiser hardly justifies the expenditure of fuel ammo and the wear and tear on the ships. Many German U-boats were able to do as well in 1941.

    In 1942, the Allies were able to deploy many more aircraft and capital ships in the Atlantic and it's likely that any further cruises by Bismarck, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, or other surface units no matter how well planned or coordinated would have ended in disaster for the KM. In any case, both Scharnhorst and Gneisnau spent much of 1942 under repair for bomb and mine damage and weren't available for raiding cruises.

    Coordinating attacks on convoys with air, surface, and submarine assets was something the Germans tried again and again without much success. Convoy PQ-17 was one of the very few successful attempts, and then only because the British Admiralty panicked and withdrew the convoy escort prematurely. It would theoretically be possible to achieve the same sort of success in the North Atlantic, but extremely unlikely. The conditions were not anywhere near as favorable for the Germans in the North Atlantic as they were in the Arctic. In fact, it would be easier to hunt down German surface raiders in the North Atlantic than it would be in the Arctic, so it would be the KM facing the possibility of a trap, not the Allies.
     
  6. Shadow Master

    Shadow Master Member

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    Many good posts in this thread. :D

    I'm not seeing much in the way of specific ideas about what the British might try to bring about the end of the Bismark sooner rather than later, however. Still, the posts are drifting into an area that is also of interest to me.

    The thread seems to be drifting into an area that I would like to explore separately, commerce raiding, which is a bit off topic for this thread.

    Here is a picture of data I will use for the commerce raider thread(s).

    [​IMG]

    For background, I read that the Germans had at one point, during the design stage of the Deutschland's, considered whether or not it would be feasible to build the ships with the original 11" armament, and then later swap out the pair of triple 11" turrets for a pair of twin 15" turrets at a later date. IIRC, the availability of the big guns was the deciding factor, rather than the the feasibility of mounting then on such a small ship.

    One of the UK's designs that demonstrate this concept:
    [​IMG]

    When I get around to it, I'd like to separate the commerce raider threads into ones that consider replacement of the 11" turrets with big guns, a thread for replacement of 11" turrets with smaller guns, and a thread for replacing the German 'heavies' with equal tonnage in Pocket battleship tonnage.
     
  7. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    There was no thought given to the possibility of switching Deutschland's 28cm triples for 38cm twins. It would not have been possible. After the Scharnhorsts were designed, it was noticed that the 28cm triple required the same barbette diameter as a 38cm twin, and plans were eventually drawn upto make this switch. But the conversion was an elaborate one since the 38cm armament was significantly heavier than the 28cm. In the Schanrhorsts, this necessitated an increase on the ship's length totaling 10m.
    Before the Deutschland design was settled, there was consideration given to creating a coast defense ship with 38cm guns, almost like a large monitor.
     
  8. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Whether the Germans could have mounted 15" guns on their large cruisers is largely irrelevant, nothing but an historical footnote to a failed concept. Commerce raiding, that is attacking the enemy's merchant ships, in an attempt to cripple the enemy economically has, historically, seldom been a winning strategy for a navy. It was marginally effective in World War I, and proved almost completely ineffective in World War II. As I've pointed out, utilizing large, expensive, and valuable battleships, battle cruisers, and large cruisers to sink a handful of merchant ships is about as wasteful a use of capital ships as it is possible to imagine.

    During WW II, the most successful raiding cruise of such naval vessels was Operation Berlin (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau), which, in 60 days, accounted for 22 merchant vessels sunk or captured. This amounts to 5.5 merchant vessels destroyed per ship per month, a figure often bettered by much more economical U-boats during the war.

    The most cost-effective surface merchant raiders in WW II were the German auxiliary cruisers converted from merchant vessels and operated along remote shipping routes where convoys and protective escorts were scarce or non-existent. Even at that, the most successful German auxiliary cruiser, the Pinguin, sank or captured only 32 Allied ships over a period of 320 days. The days of the successful commerce raiding cruisers were over by the end of 1942. In the end they had managed to inflict pinpricks against Allied logistics and cause some minor anxiety, but they never came close to a decisive contribution to the German war effort. They did force the deployment of cruiser groups to hunt them down and kill them, but that was exactly what Allied cruisers had been built to do.
     
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  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Not sure I agree with this. The USN did a pretty good number on Japan in WWII and the allied blockades of Germany in both world wars certainly had major impacts.
     
  10. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    There is a difference between commerce raiding and a complete blockade of an enemy coast. Germany engaged in commerce raiding, the US and Britain imposed a complete blockade.

    Perhaps, I should have said that commerce raiding, as a strategy of a weaker navy, historically has seldom been successful
     
  11. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

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    I would say it wouldn't have made much of a difference, as the British planes would still have found the Bismarck, because they British would have sent planes to look for the survivors of the PoW.
     
  12. Shadow Master

    Shadow Master Member

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    Hmmmm, could you possible give me a link to a source? If not, it's not a big deal.:)

    And it is possible that I have in fact confused the Deutschlands with their larger cousins, and certainly would not be the first time I have done something (dumb) like that, lol.

    I have to say I agree totally with you about the surface ship commerce raiding being as outmoded a concept as the German's could have come up with, and done to the extent they attempted it, it was useless (A bigger, better effort, with better planning, and better designed ships, might have hurt the British more thru 41, but not enough to really change the overall course of the war. Still, I find it a topic of interest and will pursue it this weekend). One of the key questions I will pose is, would up-gunning the Deutschlands have been the way to go for better commerce raiders? Or would mounting fewer, and smaller, guns have been a better option to increase range?
     
  13. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    You might wish to pick up: Fleets of World War II by Richard Worth; ISBN 0-306-88116-2 (username "Tiornu"). I suspect he has his source for that position listed in his book, since the bibliography is extensive.

    Bet it's in there!
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The "pocket battleships" were pretty good designs as they were, IMO they were a lot more balanced ships than most first generation treaty 8inch cruisers that were not all that smaller. Had they had a couple more knots of speed, so that they could keep up with a fast carrier, and a DP secondary instead of the anacronistic secondary and tertiary battery of 149 and 105 mm guns they would have been by far the best pre war cruisers including the German ones that were actually larger than the Deutschland.
    As to the inneffectiveness of commerce raiding IMO it's the only viable strategy for a weaker navy. No navy can afford to give all convoys an escort strong enough to defend against a major squadron even if it has 10 times as many capital ships as it's opponent and the wear and tear of convoy escort is quickly going to cut it down to size if they attempt it. And despite long range aircraft and radar, that were still round the corner when the Deutchland was designed, catching a fast squadron that wants to refuse battle was mostly matter of luck until recon satellites appeared, you not only have to spot it you also have to keep in contact for the time needed for your heavy forces to intercept. The KM, without carriers and without any hope of getting a working one within WW2 timeframe may have to resort to an expedient like the CAM or Italy's Re 2000 to provide some air protection to it's squadron, half a dozen Fw 190 adapted for catapult launch would probably be enough to deal with shadowers and without air shadowers interception by surface forces is really difficult to achieve so the German squadron would be a creditable threat until late 1943 when the Allies could spare two or three decent carrier TFs for the Atlantic. BTW all the above is obviously diseregarding ULTRA, if you give the Allies advance notice of when the squadron is going to sail or of it's exact objectives the picture changes completely:D.
     
  15. Shadow Master

    Shadow Master Member

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    I have to agree with you, that given the options the German navy was faced with, commerce raiding was the best option they had if they wanted to actually use their surface ships in a combat role (coastal bombardment, or fleet actions being the other two), and at least this way, they got some use out of these ships.

    On the other hand, the very few ships they had made it impossible for them to make much of a dent in allied shipping. I was going to wait for the weekend, but I guess I'll just go ahead and make my "Commerce Raider" thread tonight.
     
  16. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    The best English-language source on the design histories of the armored ships and their successors is German Capital Ships of World War Two by Whitley. Pretty much anything by Whitley is excellent. I don't know about the book's availability, but it should be easily enough tracked down via ILL.
     
  17. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I think that depends on the mission for which the Deutschlands were designed. Do commerce raiders really need 11" guns? Wouldn't five knots more speed have been more useful? Or even more range? In my view, the armament of the Deutschlands was a serious flaw in their design, not just niggling, inconsequential defects. A reordering of priorities in favor of speed, range, and a logical armament of 8-9" main and a single caliber DP secondary (like the excellent 5"/38) would have made the Deutschlands much better (and much different) ships.

    I agree that commerce raiding is more often the only viable strategy for a weaker, especially a much weaker, navy like the KM. That, however, does not render it an effective strategy. And it was certainly never close to being effective in WW II. Commerce raiders cannot approach convoys completely certain that they do not enjoy an escort. Furthermore, the very fact that convoys tended to use established routes meant that a raider was certain to put itself in jeopardy every time it came near those routes because it would be certain that enemy warships were nearby.

    It's a fantasy to think that catapult launched aircraft could allow raiders to defeat enemy air search. They might be useful for the raider's own air search, but worthless for defense against air search. In any case, it wasn't aircraft and radar that ended the days of commerce raiding, but efficient radio communications.

    Look at the historical record; surface commerce raiders sank very few ships in WW II considering the effort required to deploy them. And it was surface ships which ran them down and killed them for the most part. Yes, aircraft played a part in some cases, but it was radio communications which deprived commerce raiders of their stealth and ability to disappear into the ocean vastness.

    German commerce raiders had absolutely no chance of affecting the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic because there were too many ways for the Allies to counter them; convoys, escort carriers, aircraft patrols, surface hunter-killer groups, sigint. Historically, even the most successful raiders did no better than the more cost-effective U-boats, and the U-boats never sank a decisive amount of tonnage crossing the Atlantic on a moth-to-month basis.
     
  18. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The reasoning behind the 11"" was that no 8"" cruiser would be able to successfully engage a "pocket battleship" so forcing the British to dertach cruiser squadrons to chase. If you look at what was sent to hunt down Graf Spee it worked and the theory that 11" would enable her to damage a cruiser sufficiently to make it unable to close and do real damage to the raider was sensible. The larger 8" armed Hipper would probably overcome a British 8" cruiser but not without risking damage that would amount to a "mission kill" for the Brits. Also 11" presents the British commander the same dilemma Admiral Troubridge had against Goeben a lucky long range hit by the Germans that slows down the British ship gives them a chance for a no risk victory by sinking it with unopposed long range fire. I would also generally prefer being able to outgun rather than outrun my opponent.
    I'm not thinking of search but shadowing, the CAM ships were pretty effective agaist the Fw Condors so why would a catapult launched Fw 190 not be against a Sunderland or B 24 overloaded with fuel? I you manage to drive off the shadower it will be pretty difficult for your opponent to regain contact.
    That depends on how you read it ;) ....
    Graf Spee: Scuttled after a surface engagement.
    Bismark: Sunk by air and surface action.
    Tirpitz: Sunk in port by aircraft.
    Sharnhorst: Sunk by surface action.
    Gneisenau: Damaged by air attack in port and never recommissioned
    Lutzow: Sunk in port by aircraft.
    Scheer: Sunk in port by aircraft.
    Prinz Eugen:survived the war
    Hipper:Survived the war
    A strong German squadron at Brest in late 1941 or early 1942 may have forced a temporary suspension of Atlantic convoys like the Artic ones were suspended for a while after PQ 17, IMO this is the best result for the KM considering the forces available. There is little doubt that with average luck Bismark, Sharnhorst and Gneisenau may have wiped out a convoy or two, the RN could field at the most two fast squadrons capable of carring out a successful intercept and that's not enough to cover all the convoys and before mid 1942 the USN had no fast BBs to spare for the Atlantic. An R class is able to scare off the 11" S&G, as happened on a couple of occasions, but would be a tempting target for the 15" Bismark. Eventually the German squadron would be cought and destroyed but it could do a lot of damage.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It worked at the time they were built and against British cruisers however the Spee or one of her sisters would likely have been in real trouble if it faced a US CA or even one of the big US CL especially later in the war.
     
  20. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    To have a good chance against a longer ranged opponent you have to be able to survive minutes of unopposed long range fire before you can answer back, I think nothing short of Salem has a high chance to be able to still close the range after taking a couple of 11" hits and the Germans are likely to get them in daytime. And if you are slowed down to a speed comparable to the pocket battleship it can pound you into wreckage without excessive risk. This was the scenario Admiral Troubridge was worried about and what happened to the WW1 Emden. A night action that starts at closer ranges will nullify this advantage and actually favour the faster firing 6" ships, that was the reasoning behing the Southampton's armament as it could fire a heavier total amount of shells per minute than the British 8" cruisers, but when dealing with a surface raider a night action requires some pretty unlikely circumstances.
     

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