Image size: 1600 x 1405 pixel. 636 KB
Date: Saturday, 15 March 1941
Place: Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Stern view of the Deutsche Kriegsmarine Schlachtschiff (German Navy Battleship) Bismarck during sea trials in March 1941. Note men atop turret "Dora," four searchlights above turret "Ceasar" and recessed anchor. In this view, she was being pulled by a tug just off camera. Her crane is out, probably from loading two Arado Ar-196 seaplanes, the first of her complement of four aircraft. The day before, she was loaded with fuel, ammunition, food and water. On May 16, 1941, Admiral Günther Lütjens was given the signal to proceed with Operation Rheinübung (Exercise Rhine), to enter the Atlantic via the North Sea and attack Allied shipping. Successfully transiting the Denmark Straits after sinking the HMS Hood on the morning of May 24, the British lost contact with Bismarck until she was spotted by a Royal Air Force Catalina of 209 Squadron of Coastal Command two days later. Attempting to slow the ship on May 26, the stern of the ship was hit by a torpedo from a Royal Navy Fairey Swordfish off HMS Ark Royal that evening. Due to a design flaw, the explosion rattled the 150mm armor tube enclosing steering control, an inflexible compartment in the lightly armored stern that lacked redundant transverse bulkheads. The ship's smoke making equipment was wrecked, and some believe the stern collapsed onto the rudders and steering gear. The survivors claim damage control could not enter the stern. Bismarck was locked in a 12-degree turn to port. Compensating with her engines, her speed was reduced, allowing the Royal Navy to catch up and sink her the next day. When Robert Ballard located the wreck in 1989, the stern was missing, indicating the severe damage the torpedo caused.
Naval Historical Center (NH) 59672