Late in the morning of May 27th, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck was sunk by an overwhelming British armada in a fierce battle that lasted ninety minutes. Admiral Günther Lütjens, Captain Ernst Lindemann and 2,206 men of her crew were lost; only 115 survived.
Five days earlier, at 5:00 p.m. on May 22nd, an RAF reconnaissance plane flying low off the coast of Norway spotted four large warships in the sea below. At 32,000 tons apiece, the sight of the battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau was shocking enough; even more so was the sight of the 42,000-ton sister ships— the pride of the German navy—Bismarck and Tirpitz, ships shrouded in myth, awesome and mysterious behemoth's of destruction. Their purpose in these waters was obvious and chilling: the German navy was sending this powerful four- battleship task force to seize control of the North Atlantic sea lanes. What was at stake in the late spring of 1941 was nothing less than the survival of a free Britain. With almost all of Europe under Hitler's thumb, and the United States still frustratingly neutral, Britain alone was left to fight Germany. The only hope lay in the convoy route across the North Atlantic to the United States—the "arsenal of democracy"—and the promise of its vast industrial might and agricultural bounty. The fate of Britain and the United States—the fate of the free world—hung in the balance as the German flotilla made for the open seas. All knew that the destruction of the Bismarck would be a dramatic turning point in the war.
Noted historians Bercuson and Herwig have uncovered much new information on the Bismarck, including a close examination of the wreck itself, discovered on the ocean floor only in 1989. In addition, hitherto closed British and United States diplomatic files have been opened, revealing secret diplomatic maneuverings between Churchill and Roosevelt. This new information has allowed them to tell the full story of the Bismarck for the first time, from the key strategic decisions of the national leaders, to the gripping hour-by-hour account of the battle. This is history of the best sort, at once vivid and authoritative—the definitive account of one of the most dramatic and momentous events of the Second World War.
About David Bercuson
See more books from this Author
Published January 1, 2001
History, Travel, War.