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The Heroic Fight of the “Bismarck”

(Translated from the German by Ulrich Rudofsky and Andreas Müller)

The protracted fight of several days against overwhelming enemy forces

Wire-service report from our Berlin editorial directorate
                                        Berlin 28 May.

The Battle of Iceland that ended in the destruction of the mightiest English warship “Hood,” and in the tragedy of the “Bismarck,” readily captivates the attention of the world. The general consensus is that the accomplishments of the German ship have not been fully appreciated with respect to the extreme advantages (of the enemy), and that the English navy did not accomplish a truly valiant feat. A disproportionately large number of heavy units and numerous other warships, including torpedo airplanes, performed a cauldron’s whirl and finally slew the “Bismarck” in a less than heroic manner. It is particularly noted in the South-American press that on one side fought a single German ship, while England had deployed all available warships.

From the isolated facts available regarding the actions in the Atlantic, it is evident that the battle lasted several days, and, specifically, from May 23 to May 26. Far away in the sea sector off Iceland stood the German Fleet unit under the leadership of Admiral Luetjens. On that day, it was determined a heavy enemy cruiser intended to take a position that allowed it to shadow the German warships (editor: plural used here) from a safe distance.

The encounter between the opponents occurred on the morning of the following day. In one corner, is the largest (German) unit: the “Bismarck”, in the other, the enemy commanded the battle-cruiser “Hood” and a battleship of the King George Class. The German unit took up the fight immediately against the far superior opponent. At 0600 in the morning, at a distance of 20 Km, (we) commenced fire. The initial attack of the German navy was directed toward the strongest opponent, while the enemy combined the fire of both their battleships on the “Bismarck”. A catastrophe befell England’s Navy within five minutes. Salvo after salvo rained down on the “Hood”. They fully blanketed the enemy battle-cruiser from end-to-end. The outcome of this five-minute-long duel was that the most powerful self-propelled fortress on earth “flew into the air” (blew up), and sank into the depths with every “man and mouse” aboard.

Now the time had come for the “Bismarck” to take on the other English warship. The commander ordered a shift of targets. Shortly after several ranging salvos, a heavy strike landed on the English battleship. The enemy warship was enveloped in a large, black cloud of smoke. She retreated from further combat contact, veered off, and remained out of sight for a few hours. The accomplishments of this German ship demonstrates an unusually high level of proficiency for our naval gunnery, especially since only 93 rounds of heavy artillery projectiles were expended against a superior enemy force.

A few hours passed. Nightfall came. And once more time came for a skirmish between the two opponents. The “Bismarck’s” speed was slightly diminished by a hit in the bow area. During the night enemy carrier aircraft attacked the German battleship and achieved a torpedo strike that had only a minor effect on fighting ability of the ship. On the next day, May 25, there was no combat. In contrast, on May 26 the enemy made renewed contact with torpedo airplanes.

The English had gathered reinforcements in the meantime. During the night, another heavy cruiser arrived at full speed, although she kept at a safe distance from the German warship, which was operating at reduced mobility. Then an English carrier succeeded in closing in on the battleship. A (editor: single) torpedo airplane was sighted. It got closer to the battleship and commenced to deliver two (sic) strikes. One exploded without consequence, while the other damaged the screw (editor: singular) and steering mechanism. This happened at about 2100 hours in the evening. The lucky hit to the aft portion of the ship caused a lack of maneuverability. At that time, the Chief of the Fleet reported to the Supreme Commander of the Navy that he would fight until the last grenade (editor: shel) is expended.

Meanwhile, increasing numbers of English reinforcements arrived, and amongst them were the largest units, the “Rodney”, the “Nelson,” and others. The strength advantage was immense; however, none dared enter the contest. The enemy had to again endure the superior gunnery of the German battleship. Only after the “Bismarck” was literally encircled by three battleships, many cruisers and destroyers, and an aircraft carrier, did the enemy feel confidant enough to attempt the final destruction of the German battleship, which by then had become a victim of numerical superiority. Thus, it is demonstrated to the entire world that German warships are to be feared, and that they know how to fight. The destiny of the “Bismarck” was fulfilled, but the spirit of the (ship’s) comanders and crew will live on in the (hearts of the) German Naval Forces.

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