Bismarck

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German battleship in World War II, named after Otto von Bismarck.

Design of this ship started in 1934. During the design process it turned out that the standard displacement was 42,600 tons, which was well over the allowed 35,000 tons, as laid down in a naval agreement with Great Britain. The ship's keel was laid down at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg on July 1, 1936; the vessel was launched on February 14, 1939 and commissioned in August 1940. Her sister ship, Tirpitz, was commissioned in February 1941.

Because of the British numerical superiority in battleships, Hitler ordered the Kriegsmarine to target allied merchant shipping. Bismarck set off on this mission on her maiden voyage, leaving port on May 18, 1941. Three days later, she was spotted by allied reconaissance while refueling in a Norwegian fjord.

On May 24, 1941, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, she was engaged in battle by the British battlecruiser HMS Hood and the newly commissioned battleship HMS Prince of Wales. It is believed that one of Bismarck's shells penetrated the relatively thin side armor of Hood and struck a powder magazine. Hood exploded and sank, taking all but three of the 1,418 crewmembers with her. Prince of Wales, half its guns out of action, escaped under a smokescreen. Bismarck headed for France, in need of repairs, but was hit by a torpedo from a plane from the aircraft carrier [[HMS Victorious|HMS Victorious. She managed to escape her pursuers for the next 36 hours before being discovered by a reconnaisance plane. On May 26, at dusk, she was attacked by British Swordfish torpedo planes from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. One torpedo hit jammed her rudder and steering gear, and she was rendered unmanoeuvrable. On the early morning of May 27, 1941 she was engaged in an eighty-eight minute battle with HMS King George V, HMS Rodney, HMS Norfolk, and HMS Dorsetshire. After several shell hits and five or six torpedo hits she finally sank at 10:40 PM. Only 115 of 2,206 sailors survived.

The wreck of Bismarck was discovered in June 1989 by Dr. Robert Ballard, the marine archeologist also responsible for finding the S.S. Titanic. Bismarck rests at depth of approximately 4,700 meters (15,500 ft.) at about 650 kilometers west of Brest, France. Analysis of the wreck showed extensive damage by shelling and torpedo hits, but also indicated that the Germans scuttled the ship to hasten its sinking.

Nearly a hundred ships of all kinds were deployed to operate with, against, or because of Bismarck.

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