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The Destruction of the Bismarck [Hardcover]

By David J. Bercuson (Author), Holger H. Herwig (Author) & Holger H. Herwig (Joint Author)
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Item description for The Destruction of the Bismarck by David J. Bercuson & Holger H. Herwig...

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 Gnther Ltjens, 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.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Overlook Hardcover
Pages   388
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.35" Width: 6.39" Height: 1.39"
Weight:   1.68 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 29, 2001
Publisher   Overlook Hardcover
ISBN  1585671924  
ISBN13  9781585671922  

Availability  0 units.

More About David J. Bercuson & Holger H. Herwig

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David J. Bercuson is the director of the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. A celebrated military historian, he has published on a wide range of topics including modern Canadian politics, Canadian defense and foreign policy, and military history. He has written, co-authored, or edited over thirty books, including The Fighting Canadians: Canada's Regimental History from New France to Afghanistan; The Patricias: The Proud History of a Fighting Regiment; and

David J. Bercuson currently resides in Calgary.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Germany > General
3Books > Subjects > History > Military > Naval
4Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II > General
5Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II > Naval
6Books > Subjects > History > World > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Destruction of the Bismarck?

New Insights on the Bismarck Chase  Dec 25, 2007
The authors of this book provide some new and provocative views on a subject many others have addressed. In particular, their exposition of the political imperatives behind the decision to send Bismarck into the Atlantic is quite informative. It was interesting to me to learn that Bismarck's sister -- Tirpitz -- was much nearer to completion in May 1941 than I had realized. The decision to push Bismarck ahead with only Prinz Eugen in support is even more puzzling in this context. The authors' case for U.S. collaboration, if not collusion, with the RN is interesting, but not conclusively proved.

Like other reviewers, I cannot escape from the pervasive mistakes on technical points. On page 104, we are told that Hood steamed eastward [from Scapa Flow] in pursuit of Bismarck when, of course, she steamed westward. On page 106, the reference to Charles II, as opposed to his father Charles I, is probably accurate, but not in 1630. On page 113, Adm Byng was shot, not hanged. On page 115, the QE's and the R class are said to have packed considerably less punch than Bismarck, although they all carried a main battery of 8- 15 inch guns. Frustratingly, nobody has addressed the ballistic differences in these seemingly identical guns.

The authors are also confused about what constituted a "capital ship." Heavy cruisers did not qualify -- see page 140 and 217. Additionally, the US heavy cruiser Augusta was not only not a capital ship, she was not the "newest" heavy cruiser -- Indianapolis and Wichita were newer at the time. The authors also seem to believe that the KGV class had 2, not 1 rear turrets. See pages 164 and 290. Rodney did indeed have 3 forward turrets, but the impression is left that she had some turrets aft -- another flaw. See page 290. As others have pointed out, Hipper was a heavy cruiser (a sister of Prinz Eugen), not a pocket battleship. See page 317. And the reference to "shoots" on page 288 instead of "chutes" is sloppy.

On balance, this book offers some new perspectives on a relatively well-known tale. It is a pity that the poor editing leaves errors that undermine its overall persuasiveness; so many errors ultimately leave the reader wondering what else is wrong?
Internally Inconsistant  Jan 28, 2007
I did not finish this book. Some paragraphs, such as about the radar equipment on the Bismarck, I read a couple of times before realizing that the problem was not my understanding, but contradictory statements in the writing.
The Sinking of Germany's Supership  Mar 1, 2004
In May, 1941, Germany unleashed a terror in the Atlantic; the battleship Bismarck. At over 50,000 tons and armed with 15 inch main guns, the Bismarck was the most powerful battleship afloat at the time. Germany's objective was to unleash the Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in the Atlantic through the Denmark Strait against the vulnerable British convoys making their way across the Atlantic. These convoys were usually guarded by destroyers and corvettes, which would be no match for the heavy guns of the German ships. The transports would be slaughtered.

Due to information received by Swedish spies, the British were alerted to the Germans' plans. Two British Spitfires were sent to fly over a Norwegian fijord to discover if the Bismarck was at anchor. Sure enough, the Spitfires spotted the German ships. However, the Germans were still able to proceed into the Atlantic while the British were left trying to decide how to deal with them.

The British had two cruisers stationed near the Denmark Strait, and they eventually made radar contact with the German ships. The British managed to shadow the German ships and maintain radar contact while alerting other British forces to the location of the Bismarck. Two British battleships, the Hood and Prince of Wales, set course for the Bismarck. The Hood was the pride of the British fleet. She had the same size guns as the Bismarck, but much thinner armor. The British captain made several errors which, in the end, would turn out to be fatal. Instead of allowing each ship to fight independently of one another, both were forced to move in conjunction together. This allowed the Germans to "cross the T", allowing full broadsides to bear on the British, while the British ships could only fire with their forward guns. The Germans' fire support radar was also superior to the British, and soon the Bismarck had the range. In under six minutes, the Bismarck destroyed the Hood and severely damaged the Prince of Wales. Only three men survived from the Hood.

The chase continued for several more days and several thousand miles of ocean, with the Germans losing the British, and the British finally finding the Germans again. Other units of the Royal Navy had been following the Bismarck, and finally were close enough to launch an air attack against her. The only planes the British had available were obsolete Swordfish torpedo bombers, but they bravely took off from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal to attack the Bismarck. The Bismarck put up an umbrella of anti-aircraft fire, but the Bismarck suffered a torpedo hit in her most vital area; her steering gear. Now only able to manuver in a circle, the Bismarck became easy prey for the other pursuing warships. The following day, the British battleships attacked, and soon the Bismarck was a flaming wreck. Torpedoes finally put an end to her, and she disappeared under the waves of the Atlantic.

This book gives a very good account of the Bismarck chase. From the description of the German commanders, Admiral Lutjens and Captain Lindemann as well as the British commanders Pound and Tovey, to the sinking itself, the reader is drawn in by the excitement of the hunt. Lindemann and Lutjens never got along. Lutjens was a strict by the book commander who very rarely shared any information with anyone, while Lindemann was well-liked by his crew and loved his ship and continually feuded with Lutjens, all the while saying he would not have his ship "shot out from under him". Indeed, it was Lutjens and his constant radio messages to the German command that enabled the British to find the Bismarck in the first place.

One aspect of the book that I found intriguing was the participation by the United States in the hunt for the Bismarck. I was unaware that an American coast guard cutter could have directed British torpedo planes toward the Bismarck.

The chase and sinking are presented in great hour-by-hour detail throughout the book, as well as secret manuverings between Churchill and Roosevelt. Read this book and discover the story about one of the dramatic turning points of World War II.

The Destruction of the BISMARCK  Jun 21, 2003
This book is disappointing. It has factual errors and tries to interjecta "subplot," as it were, of considerable American involvement in the BISMARCK operation. An American officer was flying a patrol plane that spotted BISMARCK, and the American Coast Guard cutter MODOC encounteredBISMARCK and pursuing British ships.Some "American involvement," huh?Let me sum up: If you know nothing at all about the BISMARCK operation, there's only two books you need to read: Battleship BISMARCK: A Survivor's Story by Mullenheim-Rechberg, and Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Battleship BISMARCK by Ludovic Kennedy.
great book  Apr 11, 2003
I have just finished this book and it rates at least 4 star.
The book covers a lot of ground including personalities, and
interesting details such as activities of secondary ships.
It informed me of some of the naval strategies and history
which added to the experience. The authors style is very readable
and I finished it in short order.

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