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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Operation Rheinubung, German Plan to Attack Allied Shipping by The Bismarck

Mar 18th, 2012
The most formidable battleship in the world was tasked to attack and sink allied shipping in the North Atlantic
The Bismarck was the most formidable battleship of the German Fleet. It was the pride of Hitler and Admiral Raeder. At over 40,000 tonnes the battleship was heavier and faster than all British Battleships. 
Hitler was keen that the noose around England be tightened and so Operation Rheinbung was planned. This was an audicious plan to break out from the confines of the North Sea and atack allied shipping in the North Atlantic. the original plan iincluded the battleship Tirptz and the heavy cruiser Prince Eugen. But the Tirpitz was undergoing a refit and hence only the other 2 ships took part in this operation.
images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTOKXD89Ma07pTMsYqHXjHThe Bismarck
Operation Rheinbung was drafted on 2 April 1941 and the plan  was to take effect from  May 19, when the Bismarck sailed out into the ocean. The ship left for its operation on 19, May 1941 and steamed out towards the North Sea. The plan was to attack allied shipping and  enforce the blockade of England.
The Royal Navy came to know of this plan from intercepted messages and had a force of 3 battleships incuding HMS Hood, Prince of Wales and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal positioned for the task to stop the Bismarck.
By May 23 the Bismarck was crossing the strait of Denmark when the British armada accosted the German battleship. This is known as the battle of Denmark strait and took place on 24 May 1941. The battle resulted in sinking of the HMS Hood with a loss of 1400 seamen. Two salvos from the Bismarck hit the Hood whose magazine blew up and the Ship sank in 2 minutes. However two shots  from the Prince of Wales hit the Bismarck and it was crippled. 
The plan to attack allied shipping thus came a cropper and the Bismarck now steamed forward with a plan to return to  port. From May 24 to May 27 the Royal Navy chased the Bismarck. The prince Eugen also was crippled and limped back towards the port of Brest in France. The Bismarck was however not so lucky, it was spotted by a RAF plane and the British ships converged on it. In a gun battle on 27 May 1941 the Bismarck was repeatedly hit by the British ships , but it did not sink. The German's now planned to scuttle the ship and accordingly it was scuttled on 27 May 1941 and sank in the North Atlantic. The royal Navy celebrated victory.
The plan to attack Allied shipping never took off and the Bismarck sank without sinking a single ship. The plan was thus a failure. One reason for this failure was the German stress on the army  and the Navy was neglected. Even in the First World War the same thing had happened.  Hitler did not learn from that mistake.