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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. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Can a pocket battleship score hits beyond the range of an 8in gun?
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    According to the navweapons site the US 8" gun had a range of over 30,000 yards. Firing especially from a cruiser with only 6 guns beyond that range is likely to be rather problematic. Even the 6" gun had a range of about 26,000 yards. I'm not sure that one could depend on hits beyond that range especially if the target is maneuvering. Add in any sort of adverse weather and the German ship is not in especially good shape. Even if it gets some hits in I'm not sure that the German ships had the ammod to try and pound a ship in to rubble beyond 26,000 yards especially if the ship in question could still maneuver and make smoke.

    Or inclimate weather. Why does it require unlikeyl circumstances. Particularly in the case of late war US CL of the Brooklyn or Cleveland class the optimum strategy might well be to shadow during the day and close at night.
     
  3. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Actually, the Germans choose the 11" gun because they were replacing WW I dreadnoughts and they wanted the heaviest gun they could reasonably mount on a 10,000 ton ship. Besides that, the British cruisers which did engage the Graf Spee did close and do real damage to the German ship

    How are you thinking of recovering them? If they have floats, they will be quite a bit less effective against a shadowing aircraft, In any case, by 1942 Allied maritime search aircraft were universally equipped with radar which made it almost impossible for a ship to shake an air contact. A commerce raiding ship has to pretty much stay in the vicinity of a convoy, otherwise, it will have trouble maintaining contact with it's target and become much less effective.

    Your neglecting the auxiliary commerce raiders, but, in any case, vessels acting as commerce raiders (as opposed to acting as a fleet in being) were almost all destroyed by surface action and most of them were brought to book by intelligent use of radio communications and/or sigint. Air patrols were useful, but by no means decisive.

    Extremely unlikely.

    Conditions for the Arctic Convoys were different than those for the North Atlantic Convoys. U-Boats and short-range aircraft could concentrate along routes that were fixed and thus force the merchant ships to, in effect, run a gauntlet. This was especially difficult during the 24 hours of daylight during the Arctic summer. That was not the case in the North Atlantic. Moreover, the debacle of PQ-17 did not result in a suspension of Arctic convoys: PQ-18 was run in September after being postponed, and then arctic convoys were suspended until arctic daylight conditions became more favorable during the winter.

    Further, the Allies did not have to deploy fast capital ships to escort North Atlantic convoys, they had plenty of slower, but very effective, capital ships to protect the convoys while faster capital ships intercepted German raiders. The one fact that kept the German raiders from being effective against North Atlantic convoys was that they had to close with the convoys to attack them. Knowing that, it was a simple matter for the Allies to track German raiders.

    A strong German surface squadron in one of the French ports during 1942 poses some slight danger to North Atlantic convoys, but far more danger to the German squadron which would be under constant threat of air attack and subject to constant air surveillance. It could not sortie for a raiding cruise without the Allies being instantly aware of it, and taking measures to track and destroy it. In the meantime, the slower Allied capital ships would escort Allied convoys and force any German raiders attempting to attack a convoy to first deal with a strong capital ship escort.

    Under those circumstances, the Germans would be extremely foolish indeed, to risk large ships in such attempts.
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The 30.000 yards looks very theoretical, US 8" cruisers long range gunnery was not great historically, if you look at Java Sea and Komandorsky, the only long range day battles involving the 8" that come to my mind, they did not achieve a high number of hits. I can't recall a long range day action involving the late 6", Boise missed Java and Richmond was an old ship but the following quote from Morrison makes me think the 6" were no better.
    "They might have learned by mid-1943, from the experiences of Brooklin at Casablanca and from sundry naval bombardments of Munda that 6-inch rapid gunfire, though impressive in volume, was inaccurate. "
    One of the longest ranged hits in history was by a German 11" at approximatly 26.000 yards (though Sharnhorst had an improved gun over the "pockets" and probably better fire control as well) and German fire accuracy, from non exausted crews, was generally impressive.

    I think bad weather would probably have affected the beamier german ship less than than US ones.
    The shadow by day and attack by night tactic is a very theoretical scenario, I can't remember one instance where this was successfully done, the big naval guns had practically "to the visible horizon" range so keeeping out of range means risking loosing contact, WW2 fleets lost contact even in day engagements.
    The reason I said unlikely is that a raider is not likely to venture in the sort of restricted waters where most night engagements took place and a meeting in open waters is likely to start at long range.
    I do agree with you that a raider is not likely to use up the time and ammo required to finish off an opponent by long range fire unless it plans to end it's cruise shortly afterwards but it really depends from it's doctrime, WW1 German surface raiders often did engage even when they could have avoided battle, WW2 raiders, barring the Bismark episode, generally avoided combat against similar forces if they could.
     
  5. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Houston's gunnery at Java Sea was hampered by pre-existing damage; she had only six guns to fire. SLC gave a credible performance at the Komandorskis, especially considering her circumstances.
    The American 6in/47 was a notably accurate weapon. It was the extreme rapid-fire technique that fostered a low hit rate, but not all ships operated that way. The maximum range for the weapon was 26,000 yards.
     
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  6. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I know about Huston's damaged turret, both she and Salt Lake City performed very well considering the circumstances, but the fact remains that hits were few, fortunately the Japanese, especially at Komandorskis, did not do much better despite numerical superiority.
    By comparison the German initial salvos were often very accurate though they got worse in the longer lasting engagements.
    BTW did you find any day surface action by the late 6" cruisers? there must have been some but I can't find any.
     
  7. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I'm not planning on recovering them at all, neither the CAM ships nor the Italian BBs planned to recover the planes just the pilots, the idea was that the elimination of the shadower was well worth the loss of the fighter though the Italians believed it had a chance to land at a friendly field in the restricted operating area of the Med.
    As a more far fetched option it may be possible for the Germans to also carry one of the early helicopters to recover the pilot without having to stop.
    The whole idea behind commerce raiding is hit an run, a 25+ knots squadron has no problems catching a 10 knots convoy if it knows where it is.

    On purpose, air action against auxiliary commerce raiders at sea is not practical as there is too big a risk of mistaken identification. But auxilliary raiders are really off topic, they are not true warships and rely exclusively on camouflage for survival. Also, more importantly, they can never be anything more than a nuisance as they are only effecìtive against non convoyed ships.

    Look at my list, in which instances were sigint and radio intecepts decisive?

    You can read the "postponement" of PQ-18 in differnt ways, I never said the artic convoys were stopped just as even the most successful raid could only disrupt/postpone not stop the Atlantic convoys.

    Plenty is an exageration, assuming the Queen Elizabeths are left in the Med to face the Italians and nothing is sent "East of Suez" that leaves the two Nelson, and the four surving R class. While the Nelsons are scary a couple of R class are, on paper, no match for the German squadron and may give them exactly the victory they are looking for. Also adding battleships to slow convoys requires finding additional ASW escorts the British can ill afford, having the BB sail as part of the convoy and with the same freedom of manouver as a merc is just too risky in the face a U-Boats.

    The British were more than a little worried by it. While initially humiliated by the Channel dash my impression is the Admiralty breathed easier afterwards.
     
  8. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Was Nowaki sunk after nightfall?
     
  9. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Then the effective cruise of such a squadron would be over after a very short period of time. It should be noted that, in the Pacific, even high performance aircraft weren't always effective in eliminating shadowing aircraft.

    No, of course, a 25 knot squadron can easily catch a 10-12 knot, but the problem was usually knowing where to look, and 25 knots is useless when attacking a 12-knot freighter defended by a 20-knot battleship. The idea is for a raider to be able to destroy a convoy without incurring any damage itself....not so easy in practice.


    All of those that were actually sunk while engaged in commerce raiding. nevertheless, commerce raiders were actually rendered ineffective by modern radio communications, not aircraft or radar. Aircraft and radar simply made it even more difficult for surface commerce raiders to operate with any hope of success or even survival. surface commerce raiders in WW II proved that they could never be anything more than of nuisance value whether they were regular warships or auxiliary cruisers. Auxiliary cruisers actually chalked up a better record than warships, though still not really effective against merchant ships.


    All of those that were actually sunk while engaged in commerce raiding.

    Actually what you said was that Arctic convoys were "suspended". They weren't suspended because of surface raiders; but because of the Arctic daylight conditions during the summer months.

    Not in 1942. The British could have put two squadrons of fast battleships in the Atlantic, and the US could have had at least two battleship escort groups plus another two carrier task forces on the Atlantic convoy routes for most of the year. They don't have to be a match for the German squadron; just inflicting serious damage ends the cruise of any raiding group and sends it back to it's port. Adding battleships to convoy escorts does not require additional ASW escorts; the battleships are covered by the convoy escorts. In any case, the battleships do not have to operate as close escorts, simply posing a threat to a raiding squadron will suffice to keep it away from convoys because the raider can never be sure of where the covering force is. Attacking a convoy surrenders the single most important asset of a raider.


    I'm sure they did, but the German ships never posed enough of a threat to trans-Atlantic convoys to cause the British to seriously consider even a suspension of those convoys.
     
  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    A suspension of the convoys is only likely if the Germans achieve a couple of PQ 17 or Jervis Bay like successes, that was my point from the beginning and, while unlikely, it's not beyond reasonable possibility. The allies just don't have the forces to provide heavy escorts to all convoys.

    IMO catapult launched fighters may succeed in driving off a shadower around 40% of the time, still a winning proposition considering the difficulties in reacquiring contact. The full German squadron may have around 6 planes so on average two additional successful breaks per cruise, if you add all else that can go wrong with shadower's 1942 technology it would make sense. Also a Fw 190 may play havoc with an unescorted Albacore squadron, though the risk of keeping a fueled plane on standby for that purpose is high.

    Slow battleships are not much help, I believe Sharnhorst and her consort met slow battleship escorted convoys twice during their cruises and broke contact with little difficulty, I also think Hipper had a similar experience with a British 8" cruiser that, though it had similar speed, chose to stay with the convoy rather than risking pursuing it's bigger opponent.

    IMO airborne radar and carriers are the biggest threat to the squadron, we are not talking about an isolated raider facing dozens of naval groups capable of overwhelming it like Graf Spee or the AMCs, the German squadron can both run and fight, the Allies can field two or, with US help, three fast surface groups capable of engaging it and, barring incredible luck, they will not intercept with the whole Atlantic to cover unless they can succesfully shadow or a German ship is slowed down by air attack or engine trouble, someting of the sort will eventually happen but it may take months. Radio intercepts, ULTRA and other sigint, and the RRR calls of the squadron's victims will provide a rough idea of the squadron's wherabouts but hostile naval groups have often sailed within less than a hundred miles from each other with no contact.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    My impression is that later in the war US gunnery improved significantly. Also inclimate weather can have pretty significant impacts on visibility but it and darkness are not going to have much effect on US RFC systems.
     
  12. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Well, that's just my point. The debacle of PQ-17 was a fluke that wasn't likely to happen in the North Atlantic. It came about because of the geography of the Arctic with German airbases quite close to the routes the convoys had to take, narrow choke points the U-boats could exploit without wasting time and fuel searching for convoys, and the peculiarities of the Arctic summer with 24 hours of daylight. It's only going to work for the KM if those conditions apply and the RN panics.

    Not really.

    Even if the sahdower gets driven away, the general location of a squadron would be known, and contact would almost certainly be quickly reestablished using radar-equipped aircraft. In any case, a raiding squadron will be forced to make contact with a convoy in order to attack it, so contact will be reestablished at some point.

    On the contrary, slow battleships defeated a raiding squadron on the two ocassions convoys they were protecting made contact with raiders. Their objective is not to destroy the raider but to drive it off. It was the raiding squadron which failed in it's objective and thus were defeated.

    No, what we are talking about is a small squadron without good intel or recon facing numerous hostile surface and air forces, and having to put itself in harm's way just to approach it's target.

    The German squadron can run, but in order to fight it must be prepared to accept serious damage, the end of it's cruise, and very possiibly the end of it's existence. A single raiding cruise, even if successful, does nothing to win the war; the KM has to be able to continue to launch raiding cruises again and again. That is why a raider cannot stay and fight even weaker forces.

    The bigger and more powerful the raiding squadron, the more vulnerable it is. Sooner or later, it will approach an escorted convoy and be damaged or pick up shadowers which it cannot shake and which will call in a force capable of destroying it. Given the disparity between the Allies and the KM, a raiding squadron cannot win.

    In reality, it would probably never make it to sea, given the British bombing of French ports, problems with machinery, equipment, supplies, training, lack of escorts, and general mismanagement that the KM had to contend with. IMO, If the Bismarck should by some miracle escape the British dragnet in 1941, the rest of it's war will unfold pretty much as it did historically for the rest of the KM fleet.
     
  13. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I think we all agree the KM cannot win, and even the survival of Bismark will not change the war if not in some details. We disagree on how and when the (hypotetical) German squadron is going to meet it's end but as it never happened and chance played a huge part in WW2 naval warfare at the single engagement level it's really impossible to get an answer.
    My point is quoting the two "slow battleship" episodes was that the British di not manage to keep contact despite sighting by a major force, calling such a "no match" a victory for either side makes little sense, at the end of the encounter both were exactly in the same situation as before and the Germans still free to search for easier prey. During "Berlin" S&G actually encountered 3 British slow battleships (Ramilles, Malaya and Rodney) but still managed to sink over 100.000 tonns of shipping.
     
  14. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    The purpose of deploying the slow battleships wasn't to destroy German commerce raiders, but to make sure the convoys got through. They accomplished that goal, and thus their objective was fulfilled. The purpose of Operation Berlin wasn't to hunt convoys, but to sink them. They did not accomplish their objective. Since one side accomplished it's objective and the other side didn't, it's fair to say one side won and the other side lost.

    However, if you want to claim that sinking 100,000 tons of shipping was sufficient for the Germans to claim a victory, I would hasten to point out it was a very costly victory compared to other methods. It took two battle cruisers two months, and the expenditure of much fuel oil, much ammunition, and much wear and tear on the ships, to sink 5.5 ships, many of them empty, per month per raider. U-boats could, and did, frequently accomplish similar or better scores with much less effort and expenditure of resources.

    Since Operation Berlin was the most successful German surface raider sortie during the entire war, I think it's accurate to say the Germans were unlikely to ever do any better, and it would be a foolish waste of resources to attempt further surface raider missions. In fact, British counter-raider methods proved effective and the KM was never able to assemble a formidable surface raiding squadron again.
     
  15. spaced_monkey

    spaced_monkey Member

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    you never really understood the damage that PoW took retreating from the Germans that day do you. in the one documentary (made in the USA) pointed out that the PoW took several major hits from the Bismark that knock out her bridge. sad fact is the German Admiral wouldn't let them follow her because the PoW was not a mission specific target . ( lets not also point out it was his idea to send the coded message with ships log that allowed the home fleet to regain contact after the captin of the Bismark pulled the wool over there eyes and doged the entire enemy fleet)


    oh ya and if you read the survivors accounts from Bismarck you will read that after only 11 hour or so that the ship was capable of doing flank speed again, when it comes to info on a ship rely on her crew rather then propaganda from enemy countries.
     
  16. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Actually, I do know. I know exactly what damage Prince of Wales gave Bismark and also took. I know why PoW had gunnery malfunctions and what they were. I also know that the Germans were more interested in escaping further action as Bismark was not in pristine shape any more either.
    As for actually breaking contact, the Germans only managed that for short periods as there were several British cruisers shadowing them that had radar.


    That is the totality of the damage PoW took during the Denmark Straight fight. Captain Leech broke off the action due in part to the balky guns and in part to his fuel situation.

    From the following article I wrote:

    Military History Online - Capital Ship Surface Actions World War II
     
  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Good one Sir. I have a feeling "spaced_monkey" gets his/her data from the internet alone. And even picked the most favorable to the Bismarck as a basis. The official ships logs from the Bismarck don't make any claims like the "monkey" does.
     
  18. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Terry, I gave you rep rather than a salute. Good reply. I read your article. Goes into my bookmarks folder. Thanks.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed it is too bad. Had she done so she probably would have been sunk sooner in a situation that would have allowed more of her crew to survive.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    We could start by describing the battle situation accurately; it would be Bismarck and Prinz Eugen trying to close in and finish off Prince of Wales, which at that point was trying to disengage, supported by two heavy cruisers and four destroyers. The latter had been unable to participate while Bismarck was steaming away at close to thirty knots, but they would be able to cover PofW with smoke screens and threaten or launch torpedo attacks.

    Speaking of torpedos, PE's would be the only real means for the Germans to finish off PofW. Absent some vulnerability like Hood's, it was difficult to actually sink a battleship by gunfire. Of course PE trying to close in would subject herself to engagement by Norfolk and Suffolk.

    Prince of Wales was actually a fair match for Bismarck if all of her guns were functioning, a substantial 'if' I will agree! She had a heavier broadside and thicker belt and deck armor, better arranged on the modern 'all or nothing' system. Her gunnery would benefit from not heading into the wind and sea, which caused spray to largely blind her optics. Nonetheless the British strategy would be to break off to the east, all ships engaging to the extent that the Germans forced the action.

    ....one reason being that the Home Fleet was approaching, KGV, Repulse, Victorious, four cruisers, seven destroyers, three further cruisers off Iceland which might join a prolonged action. Even if Lutjens was successful against PofW, he would still have to get through these to get home, in whatever condition Bismarck would then be. The British of course would delighted if the pursuit of PofW allowed them to draw Bismarck onto Tovey's main force.

    So the orignal topic of Bismarck finishing off PofW and getting home is very unlikely. Nonetheless, if they did, it would be a colossal embarrassment to the British (as would for that matter just getting away with sinking the "mighty 'ood"). Of course embarrassment doesn't win wars, unless coming on top of Crete and other debacles it forced a change of government. More likely the British would indeed have to look forward to a sortie of all the German heavy ships including Tirpitz. The main impact would be to compel them to concentrate forces in home waters. Rodney would probably complete her refit in the United States and be ready by the time B and T were. With Nelson the RN would have two slow but powerful ships, the faster Renown and Repulse, and KGV which could join either group. They would probably keep most of their aircraft carriers available also, Ark Royal, Victorious, Furious, and Eagle, one potential crucial advantage. Most likely the battle cruisers, with a carrier, would cover Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

    The problem for the British would be deploying forces anywhere else: things like the convoy to Malta escorted by PofW, Rodney, and Nelson in September 1941; air delivery of fighters to Malta by Force H; carriers shuttling planes to West Africa for the Middle East. The effect of Lutjens' victory in the Denmark Strait might show up in the Med, North Africa, even the Far East (someone mentioned no Force Z, though it turns out that would be just as well).

    It's also likely the United States would devote more forces to protecting its "neutral zone" which by then extended as far as Iceland. Historically we covered the Denmark Strait against a possible sortie of Tirpitz in fall 1941; that would make it easier for the British to intercept a renewed sortie by Bismarck and Tirpitz. The American public was surprisingly willing to tolerate things like escorting convoys or the sinking of USS Reuben James; I wonder what the reaction to a major naval battle - while still officially neutral - would be?

    If the situation held until the US got into the war, the Germans would largely have missed their chance - though we would face an interesting dilemma trying to send ships to the Pacific. The British by then would be getting ships like Duke of York and Indomitable, while the Kriegsmarine had nothing in the pipeline.
     

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