12.11.

1944: Hitler’s Greatest Battleship Tirpitz Sunk

1944: Hitler’s Greatest Battleship Tirpitz Sunk
Photo Credit To http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tirpitz-2.jpg

Story Highlights

  • historical event:
  • Tirpitz served the Germans as a huge beast, which would be unleashed at times in order to threaten Arctic convoys, and then retreated to safety among the Norwegian fjords.

The largest warship at Nazi Germany’s disposal capsized on this day in Norwegian waters. It was the famous battleship Tirpitz, the pride of the German fleet from the year 1941. The huge Tirpitz had a full load displacement of 52,600 tons, andremains to this day the largest warship ever built in Germany. She was 251 meters long, and her main batteries were heavy 380 mm caliber guns. Those weapons could fire 800 kg shells to a maximum range of over 36,000 meters.

Tirpitz’s powerful engine had up to 163,026 horsepower, yielding a maximum speed of 30 knots (about 56 km/h). The ship’s crew consisted of over 2,000 men, of which 103 officers and 1,962 sailors. The ship had three large propellers 4.7 meters in diameter. The ship’s launching ceremony was attended personally by Adolf Hitler.

However, although Tirpitz was a frightening sight, the Germans knew that they cannot afford to risk losing such a large ship, especially after the Allied sinking of Bismarck, Tirpitz’s sister ship (still about 2,000 tons lighter than Tirpitz). So the Germans hid Tirpitz among the northern Norwegian fjords, from where she could threaten any Allied convoys heading towards Russia. Namely, the Arctic maritime route north of Norway was of extreme strategic importance to the Allies, because it was the only route for delivering help to the Soviet Union.

Tirpitz served the Germans as a huge beast, which would be unleashed at times in order to threaten Arctic convoys, and then retreated to safety among the Norwegian fjords. The Allies organized a series of naval and air attacks on Tirpitz to finally eliminate that threat. Only the operation on this day proved successful. This British operation had the codename Catechism. Tirpitz was attacked near the Norwegian city of Tromsø with the incredible force of 31 heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Huge “Tallboy” bombs, weighing 5.443 kilograms, were used in the attack. Tirpitz was hit directly with at least two such bombs (according to some sources even three) before she began to sink. The captain of the Tirpitz – Robert Weber (who held the German rank of Kapitän zur See), ordered the evacuation of the ship. The fire engulfed the ammunition magazine, so one of the main battery turrets exploded. Pieces of that heavily armored steel turret were thrown 25 meters into the air and fell on a group of German sailors swimming to shore.

It is estimated that around 1,000 of Tirpitz’s  crew members were killed in the destruction of the ship, including Captain Weber.

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