|Ordered:||16 November 1935|
|Laid down:||1 July 1936|
|Launched:||14 February 1939|
|Commissioned:||20 August 1940|
|Fate:||sunk on 27 May 1941|
|Displacement:||50,900 tons full, 41,700 standard|
|Armament:||eight 38cm guns in four twin turrets, 12 15cm guns in six twin turrets, 16 10.5cm guns, sixteen 3.7cm guns in eight twin mounts, 12 two-cm cannon|
|Aircraft:||six aircraft, two catapults|
Design of this ship started in 1934. During the design process, Bismarck's displacement grew to 42,600 tons, well over the 35,000 tons allowed by the naval agreement with Great Britain. Nonetheless, her keel was laid down at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg on 1 July 1936, she was launched on 14 February 1939, and commissioned in August 1940 with Kapitän zur See Ernst Lindemann in command. 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 18 May 1941. Three days later, she was spotted by Allied reconnaissance while refueling in a Norwegian fjord and was soon acquired by the patroling British cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk.
On 24 May 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, which was still being worked up. It is believed that one of Bismarck's shells penetrated the relatively thin deck armor of Hood and struck a powder magazine, though alternate scenarios are available as to the cause of the cordite fire. Hood burned catastrophically, reminiscent of the battlecruiser losses during the Battle of Jutland, and rapidly 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, but not before striking the Bismarck three times, one hit causing water to be introduced into fuel storage. Bismarck headed for France and repairs, but continued to be shadowed by Norfolk and Suffolk and Prince of Wales, but eventually broke away and Prinz Eugen detached. The result of the battle with Hood showed, most seriously, the effect of deploying a battlecruiser against a battleship, a role for which it was never designed.
Determined to avenge the sinking of the Hood and hunt down the Bismarck, the British continued to shadow with an increasing number of ships, following the Bismarck relentlessly and maintaining contact with radar. An attack was made by swordfish biplane torpedo planes from aircraft carrier HMS Victorious during the early evening of 24 May. The Bismarck sustained one hit. In subsequent maneuvering, it was able to break contact, though its crew was not aware of this, as they could detect British radar but did not know that the return signals were too weak. Bismarck was relocated, owing partially to her commander, Ernst Lindemann, foolishly transmitting a half-hour radio message. On 26 May, 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. Throughout the following night she was the target of incessant attacks by the destroyers Cossack, Maori, Piorun (Polish), Sikh, Zulu led by Captain Vian. On the early morning of 27 May 1941 she was engaged in an eighty-eight minute battle with HMS King George V, HMS Rodney, HMS Norfolk, and HMS Dorsetshire. After being struck by in excess of 300 shells and five or six torpedo hits she finally sank at 10:40 AM. Only 115 of 2,206 sailors survived.
The wreck of the Bismarck was discovered on 8 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:
- The German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen
- The German Zerstörer Hans Lody (Z-10), Friedrich Eckoldt (Z-16), and Z-23.
- The German submarines U-43, U-46, U-48, U-66, U-74, U-93, U-94, U-98, U-108, U-552, U-556, and U-557.
- The German weather ship Sachsenwald.
- The British battleships HMS King George V, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Ramillies, HMS Revenge, HMS Rodney, HMS Repulse and HMS Renown.
- The British battlecruiser HMS Hood
- The British aircraft carriers HMS Victorious and HMS Ark Royal
- The British heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk, HMS Norfolk, HMS Dorsetshire, and HMS London.
- The British light cruisers HMS Kenya, HMS Galatea, HMS Aurora, HMS Neptune, HMS Hermione, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Manchester, HMS Arethusa, HMS Birmingham, and HMS Sheffield.
- The British destroyers HMS Achates, HMS Antelope, HMS Anthony, HMS Echo, HMS Somali, HMS Eskimo, HMS Nestor, HMS Jupiter, HMS Electra, HMS Icarus, HMS Active, HMS Inglefield, HMS Intrepid, HMS Assiniboine, HMS Saguenay, HMS Lance, HMS Legion, HMS Columbia, HMS Punjabi, HMS Windsor, HMS Mashona, HMS Cossack, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Maori, HMS Tartar, HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester,, HMS Foxhound,, HMS Fury, and HMS Hesperus.
- The British submarines H-44, P-31, HMS Minerve, HMS Sealion, HMS Seawolf, HMS Tigris, HMS Sturgeon, and HMS Pandora.
- The Polish destroyer Piorun
- The Swedish seaplane cruiser Gotland
- The Spanish heavy cruiser Canarias
- The US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Modoc (WPG 46)