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Nazi monster that never fired a shot

Discussion in 'Surface and Air Forces' started by PzJgr, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    I will agree that it was the single worst feature of the carrier. But I think it was precedented, albeit not on a carrier. I'm led to understand it was quite similar to the trolleys the Japanese used to move seaplanes around the decks of cruisers and battleships. They worked fairly well for seaplanes, and might even have been the direct inspiration. Japan was quite jealous of her secrets (Shinshu Maru, oxygen torpedoes, and indeed carrier doctrine), so Kongo might have been about as close to a carrier as anything Japan would let a German board. Further, Germany's only maritime aviation experience would have been with the catapult ships mentioned above, so it only makes sense they were the pattern. Furious was pretty darn weird girl when she was first converted too. And quite hard on aircrews indeed.

    And I believe that Aquila was proposed with a quite similar catapult system. After all, where else were they going to turn? On the Yahoo NavalWargames group there was a quite long thread about GZ that also concluded she was an extravagant waste of money. Inside this thread it was suggested the Italians actually bought German arresting gear before realizing it didn't work quite as advertised and throwing it out to develop something or other in house.

    Per Wikipedia: "Two German-supplied Demag compressed air-driven catapults" . . . "were installed parallel to each other at the forward end of the flight deck. These were originally intended for Germany's own 'Carrier B', Graf Zeppelin's incomplete--and eventually scrapped--sister ship."

    That said, they were a darn bad idea for a carrier. And one inexperienced navy repeating the mistakes of another inexperienced navy doesn't make them less so.
  2. CTBurke

    CTBurke Member

    Jan 9, 2012
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    There is certainly a cadre of folk out there that feel that Germany was WAY AHEAD of everyone in engineering competence, but they certainly had their ineptitudes and shortcomings. It is hard for me to believe that no naval Germans had seen or had any experience with OBSERVING American or British systems of cataupulting, and could not recognize the need for a "clear deck" forward to be able to launch (especially defensive fighters) quickly. With all the convoluted trappings of their overly-complicated launching system and the weird bow configuration making rolling takeoffs dicey, one wonders if anyone was thinking AT ALL! Obviously the Graf Zeppelin was a "training carrier" that would test out concepts, and of course since no Japanese carrier was ever fitted with a catapult, they were of no help, either. Seems like simple observation of other countries' carriers, and a little forethought would have nixed the complicated catapult system of the GZ. But was there some Teutonic sense of "superiority" that made them go their own way on the catapult thing for their own carriers??
  3. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    The U.S. Navy, the British Royal Navy, and the Imperial Japanese Navy were all reasonably familiar with one another's operations up to about the beginning of the treaty era because of long cooperation and naval missions to one another. I'm not sure Germany would have had much opportunity to observe anyone's carriers in operation, and once you're out of the loop it can be quite difficult to even guess how the other party does it. After the break in the treaty system and the end of direct exchanges U.S. and British information on Japan was consistently flawed.

    I can't imagine the Royal Navy or U.S. Navy would ever have allowed German observers aboard an operational carrier. The Japanese were remarkably secretive about what they did, even to Germany. It strikes me as entirely feasible that Germany truly had no idea about little niceties like ready fighters and deckload strikes. (Note: If I recall correctly even Britain did not initially adopt deckload strikes. Japan got the idea from some very careful and systematic intelligence gathering on U.S. Naval exercises and in fact developed it further into a more consistent doctrine than the U.S. Navy did until mid to late 1942.)

    If you haven't come to the conclusion that you need rolling takeoffs, why would you feel the need for a clear deck? forward? Everyone was willing to sacrifice a clear deck forward to parking spaces in the name of faster recovery. Which on paper looks absolutely nuts until you think about the tactical implications of doing anything else. Until you come to the bright idea that your landing strip needn't follow the keel. Seems pretty simple, that one, but thousands of experienced aviators and hundreds of naval architects missed it for . . . what . . . thirty years? I can easily believe that a handful of German naval architects that have barely designed a major warship in decades, and have no experience at all with carriers could foul it up.

    To look at a similar problem from an insider's pespective, I should mention that I've worked as a stagehand for twenty years now. I have seen with my own eyes what happens when experienced professional architects that don't know theatre design theatres. You end of with light shops that can only be reached from the house, or dual height grids, or road houses with stages above or below street level. You can look at the plans to a theatre all day and not really know what any of these things are. You can even read about them in books and not get it. Seeing a theatre is one thing. Knowing how one works is another. As in certain other institutions you quite literally have to know the ropes before you have any business designing one. I would have to assume that carriers are much the same. I've seen them. I've read all about them. If I designed one I'm sure I'd miss important things. And I'm quite comfortable I have a better idea how they work than any German in 1935, since I've had access to plenty of declassified material from all the major carrier navies.

    Die Deutschern no doubt believed that whole Uber Alles thing. Most nations do, to one extent or another. But you can chalk this one up to sheer ignorance and not complex arrogance.
  4. CTBurke

    CTBurke Member

    Jan 9, 2012
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    Not only did it never fire a shot in anger, it never launched or recovered a single aircraft!!

    >I can't imagine the Royal Navy or U.S. Navy would ever have allowed German observers aboard an operational carrier.<

    Maybe true, but a German ship sailing on the high seas NEAR a US/Brit carrier, with some sailors looking through a competent pair of binoculars, could learn a lot. Also an observant German with a notebook standing on the "pri-fly" of a Japanese carrier could learn a thing or two, too!

    For all the pride in protecting the Royal Navy from German/Italian threats, the British disdained to bother bombing it, even when it was within range. What does THAT say about its danger potential? It was *NEVER* a viable threat.

    Despite my love of fantasizing about potential naval battles (I am "Admiral Furashita" with my own alternate-history website on fictitious navy ships of the world-- Admiral U. Furashita's Fleet ), the Graf Zeppelin was a poorly-conceived and poorly-constructed "aircraft carrier".
    Marmat likes this.
  5. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    Oh, I don't doubt that the Germans actually did focus their Carl Zeiss lens trains down on Allied carriers. Probably even snapped a few souvenirs to take home to Papa Raeder. Graf Zeppelin looks like a carrier, after all. At a glance she looks more like a carrier than Glorious. But I don't see the German's getting close enough when a carrier as at flight quarters and I surely don't see them observing Allied flight operations. No CO is going to allow potentially hostile observers (or even most friendly observers) within the screen of his escorts unless they're being really sneaky and trying to look through a periscope, and I believe any CO would be well within his rights to open fire on whatever happened to be connected to said periscope if he should happen to see it. And of course the periscope won't get you a very good picture of the flight deck. Which is to say I really don't think the Germans would legitimately have been in a position to make any observations more useful than a subscription to Jane's would get them.

    I've walked away from books like Kaigun and Rising Sun with the impression that the Japanese were pretty jealous with their carrier operations. They guarded the oxygen torpedoes so jealously that they barely used them in exercises and collected all test fish when they were done. I wouldn't say as a certainty that the NK would have kept the KM off the flight deck, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit. It may well be that observant Germans requested a spot on "pri-fly" and were politely asked to walk back to the pier by the nice man with the Nambu.

    Incidentally, I love your page, Adm. Furashita. Great and deeply amusing work.
  6. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

    Nov 15, 2009
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    Good old Herman Goring can take 90% of the responsibility for the lack of anything that Graf Zepplin did. Goring questioned the Navy's juristiction, feeling that anything that flew belonged to the Luftwaffe, even if it was a ship! This red tape interference from 'Fattie' was typical of the power games played by senoir Third Reich office holders, desk bound and power hungry, they sought to widen their influence at all times within the sphere. How Herman ever expected the Luftwaffe to get any operational benefits from something so alien to their experience is beyond me, but, Third Reich power games were played right up until the collapse of the Berlin Bunker, so it should not suprise anybody that Herman was activly moving toward control of this as well.

    When you consider the good use a fleet of carriers might have been put to for Germany, and the success of the Japanese in doing just that, it boggles the mind that any military hierarchy is going to win victory in a conflict when having to deal with pointless squabbling such as this.The outward face of busy efficiency they put to the rest of the world was pure bluff.
    firstnorth likes this.
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Jul 24, 2007
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    Actually considering the utility Germany was likely to get our of a carrier not building her was probably the best choice.
  8. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5

    May 8, 2011
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    CA Norte Mexico, USA
    I wanted to share this and will check it's validity later. If anyone refutes the information here please let me know. An interesting back story on the Nazi rivalries that permeated The High Command and the demise of Graf Zeppelin.NAZI AIRCRAFT CARRIER GRAF ZEPPELIN NEVER USE AT WAR - YouTube


    A scarcely known story:
    Hitler's heavy aircraft carrier
    By NÚRIA PUYUELO GISPERT | December 2012


    The German Kreigsmarine never really embraced the use of aircraft carriers
    in WW2. Hitler showed little interest in this type of Naval vessel and its
    operation. The chief of the Luftwaffe, Herman Goering, was a lw ays jealous
    of his command over all forms of aircraft, and did all in his considerable
    power to stymie Admiral Reader's plan to build up to four aircraft carriers.


    In 1935, Hitler announced a plan for the Navy to acquire aircraft carriers.
    Two keels were laid down in 1936, and in 1938, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder
    produced his Plan Z, a grand scheme to build four Carriers and complete them
    by 1945, but in 1939 this was scaled back to just two.

    It was Naval policy to not actually name a ship until it was launched. The
    first laid down Carrier was designated Aircraft Carrier A, to be named Graf
    Zeppelin at her launch in 1938. The second, Aircraft Carrier B, was never

    Come May in 1941, Raeder informed Hitler that Graf Zeppelin, about 85%
    completed, would be finally finished the next year. But Herman Goering was
    no help, he told both Hitler and Raeder he was unable to supply the Navy
    with aircraft for Graf Zeppelin until the end of 1944.

    His delaying tactics worked: Aircraft Carrier B was abandoned, and broken

    By 1943 Adolf Hitler was not too interested in anything Navy, and the
    frustrated Raeder asked to be relieved, he was accommodated by Hitler, and
    Karl Donitz, the Submarine chief took charge. He was not at all interested
    in seeing an aircraft carrier gaining more focus than his beloved U-Boat
    arm, and all work stopped on Graf Zeppelin, notwithstanding she was 95%
    completed. The ship had her armament stripped out of her, and sent off to
    Norway for coastal battery use.



    At war's end in 1945, to ensure this ship did not fall into Russian hands,
    Graf Zeppelin was scuttled in shallow water at Stettin in Poland , on April
    25th. 1945.

    Under the terms of the Allied Tripartite Commission, Graf Zeppelin should
    have been destroyed or scuttled in deep water by August 15th. 1946. But not
    so: the Russians decided to repair the Carrier and she was refloated in
    March 1946, no doubt loaded with loot from the conquered Poland .

    It was unsure post WW2 what had been the fate of Graf Zeppelin until the
    Soviet archives were opened up.



    It appears the carrier was towed from Poland to Leningrad , unloaded and
    designated PO-101 ( ie. floating base Number 101 ) the Russians wanted to
    repair the ship at Leningrad as all the repair facilities at Stettin had
    been destroyed. But this did not happen, and again Graf Zeppelin was towed
    off to the Polish coast.

    On the Polish coast on August 16th 1947 the ill fated carrier was used as
    target practice for both Soviet aircraft and Naval ships. After taking 24
    bombs and projectiles the ship was still afloat. Finally two torpedoes did
    the job, and the carrier sank.

    The actual position of her sinking was unknown for many years, but in 2006,
    a Polish Oil Company ship Petrobaltic found a 265 meter long wreck close to
    the port of Leba . On July 27th. 2006, the Polish Navy survey ship ORP
    Arctowski confirmed the find was indeed the wreck of Graf Zeppelin, sitting
    at 264 feet below the surface.

    Crew from Polish Survey vessel ORP Arctowski identified the wreck of Graf
    Zeppelin July 27th 2006.





    The grand plan of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder never ever came to fruition,
    Germany did not produce a completed Aircraft Carrier in WW2.

    A proud ship, never destined to be commissioned, post WW2, was merely used
    as target practice by a previous enemy.

    A sad end for such a ship, once part of a scheme for the German Navy to get
    its wings.

  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

    Feb 17, 2010
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    I wouldn't refute but perhaps phrase it a bit differently. Hitler and Germany did not so much decide to build aircraft carriers as to build a balanced, conventional surface fleet which would naturally include aircraft carriers along with the Bismarck and H class battleships and all the rest. This was consistent with other major navies at the time, whose programs included battleships and carriers, but more of the former.

    In the 1930s carriers were recognized as an important component of a balanced fleet, as were cruisers, destroyers, etc., but the battleships were still the stars.

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