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KMS Bismarck Battleship (1940)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/28/2014

When commissioned in 1940, the battleship Bismarck was the largest ship of her type in the world.

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The KMS Bismarck is undoubtedly one of the most famous sea-going vessels of the 20th Century. The Germany super battleship was single-handedly responsible for tying a good portion of the British Royal Navy who dedicated themselves and their available resources to the hunting down and sinking of Hitler's most powerful symbol of supremacy. Packed with an astounding array of guns and armored to the core, the Bismarck took a good licking before succumbing to her damages in 1941. The design was in some ways a throw-back to the designs of the First World War and were highly based on the "pocket battleship" design lessons taken from that conflict.

The KMS Bismarck - a product of Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Germany - was a giant leap forward in the rebuilding of the Germany Navy following the tight restrictions set forth on military build up following the First World War (of which Germany was the loser). With Adolf Hitler's finagling of the Versailles Treaty, the KMS Bismarck was born (along with her sister ship, the KMS Tirpitz) as a 50,000 ton monster - well above the treaty's limitations. Though strangely in tune with the preceding war's design methodology, no expense was spared in making this class a truly potent force on the high seas.

Of particular note were her massive batteries of 15" guns of which eight were positioned in four heavily armored turrets - two guns to a turret. Two turret emplacements were positioned forward while the remaining two were held aft. Assisting the main guns were a collection of 12 x 5.9" cannons positioned around the midship superstructure, three turrets per side with two guns each. The guns were aptly named Anton, Bruno, Caesar and Dora from front to rear. 105mm and 37mm cannons complimented the main gun array and anti-aircraft defense was augmented by a plethora of 20mm quadruple and single-mounted cannons. The midship section was of a wide berth area containing the superstructure, masts, communications equipment, life boats and a two-way catapult. The Bismarck also carried up to four Arado-type Ar 196 floatplanes for reconnaissance and patrol duties though a full load of six aircraft could be carried if need be.

Armor was the key to the Bismarck's survival. Such attention was dedicated to the component that nearly half of the vessels overall weight constituted protection of the vital areas from shelling, bombing and torpedo hits. Vast amounts of armor were devoted to the belt and decks along with the hull and the aforementioned turret assemblies. The armor was a step behind her contemporaries serving in the American and British navies but was formidable by sheer thickness.

Power for the massive ship was derived from Blohm & Voss 3-shaft geared steam turbines generating an impressive 138,000 to 150,000 shaft horsepower. The Bismarck had a listed top speed of 31 knots from its three massive shafts which spun three-blade propellers. The turbines were fed by no fewer than 12 x Wagner brand high-pressure steam-heated boilers which were set amidships for maximum protection and were fitted into six watertight compartments as an added measure.


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Specifications for the
KMS Bismarck
Battleship


Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1940
Operators: Nazi Germany


Crew: 2,192


Length: 824 ft (251.16 m)
Beam: 118 ft (35.97 m)
Draught: 32 ft (9.75 m)
Displacement: 50,900 tons


Machinery: 3 x three-shaft Blohm & Voss geared steam turbines generating 138,000shp - 150,000shp; 12 x Wagner high-pressure steam-heated boilers.

Surface Speed: 30 kts (35 mph)
Range: 9,320 miles (14,999 km)


Armament:
8 x 15" L47 main guns
12 x 5.9" L55 SK-C/28 guns
16 x 105mm L65 SK-C/37 / SK-C/33 guns
16 x 37mm L83 SK-C/30 cannons
12 x 20mm L65 MG C/30 anti-aircraft cannons in single mounts
8 x 20mm L65 MG C/32 anti-aircraft machine guns in quadruple mounts


Air Arm: 4 x Arado Ar 196 floatplane aircraft


Ship Class: Bismarck-class
Number-in-Class: 2
Ships-in-Class: KMS Bismarck; KMS Tirpitz