SHIP CLASS: Admiral Hipper-class
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (5): KMS Admiral Hipper; KMS Blucher; KMS Prinz Eugen; KMS Seydlitz; KMS Lutzow
PROPULSION: 3 x steam turbines delivering 136,000 shaft horsepower.
Detailing the development and operational history of the KMS Admiral Hipper Heavy Cruiser Warship.
Entry last updated on 7/14/2017.
Authored by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Admiral Hipper was classified as a "heavy cruiser" type vessel and commissioned in April 1939, this prior to World War 2 proper. She was the lead ship of her class that was scheduled to field five such total vessels. The KMS Admiral Hipper herself was named after Admiral Franz von Hipper who commanded a group of battlecruisers during the Battle of Jutland in1916 during World War 1 that was credited with the sinking of British battlecruisers. Of the five ships planned, the KMS Admiral Hipper was the only one completed for the KMS Lutzow was sold to the Soviet Union in 1940 as part of a treaty between the two countries while the KMS Seydlitz was converted to an aircraft carrier during her initial construction but never completed due to a shortage of raw materials. The other two ships - the KMS Blucher and KMS Prinz Eugen - were built and served in the German Kriegsmarine during World War 2 alongside with the Hipper.
Many of the Admirals in the Kriegsmarine advised Hitler early on in 1939 that the Navy was not prepared to wage a prolonged war against the British let alone the United States. When World War 2 began in September of 1939, there were no Kriegsmarine "Capital Ships" and only five total battleships along with four Heavy Cruisers and four Light Cruisers with some other vessels still under construction. In contrast, the British Royal Navy could field six Aircraft Carriers, seventeen Battleships, fifteen Heavy Cruisers and Twenty-Five Light Cruisers. Since Hitler felt that the Japanese Imperial Navy would tie up the American Navy in the Pacific, they would not become a factor in his overall war plan concerning the Atlantic and future actions across Europe. However, Hitler had been a corporal in the German Army during World War 1 and, as history would show, he did not fully comprehend the complexities of naval warfare.
The German naval construction plan (or "Z-Plan") had started in January 1939 as the Kriegsmarine believed that a war with England was still a number of years away. The German Navy had two schools of thought; one group wanted a small surface fleet and a large submarine fleet while the other felt the best mix would be a larger surface fleet of many ship types and a smaller submarine fleet - more in line with what the current British Fleet was comprised of. The German Z-Plan had planned some 800 ships partly consisting of 4 aircraft carriers, 13 Battleships, 15 Heavy Cruisers and 22 Light Cruisers. The plan was to have the fleet ready for war by 1946.
The Hipper was large but, to keep her fast, it was decided to use 8-inch (203mm) guns as her main battery with four twin mounts - these fitted two forward and two aft. Her secondary armament was to be comprised of 4.1-inch (105mm) cannons mounted in six dual mounts - three to port and three to starboard. To cause havoc inside enemy convoys, she would field 12 x 21-inch torpedo tubes and up to 160 naval mines. For anti-aircraft protection, she sported 53 x guns of varying calibers - 17 x 40mm flak guns, 8 x 37mm cannons and 28 x 20mm cannons posted throughout the top decks. She displaced 18,600 tons full and could make 32.5 knots with a crew of 1,600 officers and men.
Her range was reduced to 6,000 miles due to propulsion problems with her three Blohm und Voss steam turbines. Each was planned to deliver 136,000 shaft horsepower to her three propeller shafts. Due to the limited number of German capital ships and lacking cruising diesel engines, her powerplants were not as reliable as had hoped and the vessel broke down on more than one occasion while out on the North Sea. Her three floatplanes were used for over-the-horizon scouting and could be recovered via an onboard crane. Hipper was used for limited commerce raiding when she began fleet service early in January of 1940.
During Operation Weserubung, the KMS Hipper was assigned a squadron of destroyers that included the Z11 Bernd Von Arnim and the Z18 Hans Ludemann. The mission sent them looking for enemy convoys as they steamed towards the sea port at Drontheim on the Norwegian coast. On the morning of April 8th, 1940, HMS Glowworm was on her way to rejoin the battlecruiser HMS Renown when she encountered the German destroyers Z11 and then the Z18 in heavy fog. The Glowworm fired on the German destroyers and, they knowing the Renown was in the area, signaled the KMS Hipper for help and withdrew. The G-class British destroyer Glowworm gave chase and ultimately found the Hipper. Greatly outclassed, the Glowworm's main armament comprised of 4 x 4.7-inch guns and 8 x 21-inch torpedo tubes and displaced 1,880 tons heavy while being manned with 175 personnel. Glowworm's commanding officer Roope chose to engage the Hipper and resulted in several direct hits to the British vessel. Glowworm moved in to ram the Hipper and the two collided, leaving the Glowworm's forecastle severed. She sank with her captain and 111 of her crew while Hipper picked up 39 surviving prisoners of war. The Renown and nine destroyers headed for the last known position and arrived too late as the Hipper had already departed the area - she was damaged and in need of repair so she headed to Drontheim.
Hipper was repaired and assigned to Operation Juno on June 8th. The battlecruisers KMS Schoemann and KMS Gneisenau with the Hipper and four destroyers were to raid Norway in an attempt to force allied troops to leave the country. The German fleet sank the allied troop ship Orama, the oil tanker Pioneer and the submarine Juniper. Hipper and the destroyers were ordered to Trondheim Norway while Schoemann and Gneisenau continued the sortie alone.
Hipper was in Wilhelmshaven for repairs until December of 1940 and, when released, she was ordered to Operation Nordseetour - this being the first Atlantic sortie for the Admiral Hipper late in December. Hipper found and attacked the troop convoy WS-5A. The convoy was escorted by the British cruiser HMS Berwick and a small destroyer screen. Hipper fired on, and damaged, two merchant ships and sunk one other. HMS Berwick was heavily damaged while the Hipper herself suffered with engine problems and became low on fuel, forcing her to return to Brest. While en route to Brest, she came across the freighter Jumna without escort and sunk her. Resulting repairs to Hipper took about a month to complete.
For the next two years, Hipper made two sorties and had some of her water tanks converted to oil tanks to help increase her operational range. In December of 1942, Hipper and her sister ship, the KMS Lutzow, supported by six destroyers, went to sea to hunt enemy convoys and found JW51B in the Barents Sea. Attacking the convoy, Hipper first sighted the minesweeper Bramble and sunk her. Next, she engaged the British destroyer HMS Achates and drew her fire, eventually sinking her. Soon, the British Cruisers HMS Jamaica and HMS Sheffield appeared with their destroyer screen and forced the German assault to move away. It was then that Hipper took a direct torpedo hit while the German destroyer KMS Friedrich Eckoldt was sunk.
Hipper was again in need of repairs due to battle damage and, upon completion, was sent to Germany, arriving in Kiel in July of 1943. There she was placed in reserve and converted to a training ship in August until January of 1944. In January of 1945, Hipper took on 1,529 refugees in Gdynia, Poland along with the passenger ship, the Gustloff, also packed with refugees which was struck by a Russian submarine.
After becoming the subject of attack from British aircraft no fewer than three times, the KMS Admiral Hipper was relocated to Kiel Deutsche dock yards and was officially scuttled in May of 1945 by the British. The war in Europe formally ended that month and World War 2 ended by the end of August of that year.