A Clash Between German and Japanese Battleships Would Have Been Mighty
War Is Boring

What was “archaic” about the Bismarck’s armor?

Apparently the author doesn’t really know that she was a different kind of battleship than the American and Japanese ones.

American and Japanese battleships were designed for long range combat on the relatively calm Pacific waters and their armor was set up to protect from long range plunging fire, coming from above.

The Bismarck was a short range brawler, designed for the North Atlantic and its bad weather. In the North Atlantic you can’t really rely on being able to do long range artillery duels. Low visibility and rough seas make long range shooting next to impossible too often.

So the Bismarck’s armor was set up to protect from horizontal short range fire, with a socalled “Turtleback” armor setup.

Just because American and Japanese ships had different armor, designed for a different kind of combat, doesn’t mean the Bismarck’s armor layout was “archaic” or worse.

Fact is that Yamato was sunk by a tiny faction of the fire power that was needed to cripple the Bismarck and the amount of damage the Tirpitz survived over the years is prove that it wasn’t a fluke that a small British fleet had to pump hundreds of 14 and 16 inch shells into the Bismarck and she still was scuttled by her own crew.

The hits that ripped the Yamato in half were puny in comparison.

This hypothetical scenario has to take into account that…

A: you’d have two very different kinds of battleships fighting each other there and

B: that the armor of the Yamato was thick, but made of low quality steel.

The quality of their steel was a constant problem for Japan during the war. For example the Germans gave the plans for their rocket powered interceptor, the Me-163 Komet to the Japanese and they tried to copy it with their Mitsubishi J8M, but they never were able to reproduce a combat ready copy of the German rocket engine, because they couldn’t produce a high quality steel that could have sustained the temperatures.

When they built the Yamato and the Musashi, they collected scrap metal, including old bells from temples and farming equipment to melt and make a pretty wonky steel out of that and the performance of the Yamato’s armor when tested in combat shows that it wasn’t good.

The same can’t be said about the Bismarck’s and Tirpitz’s armor. They took an ridiculous amount of hits.

When you look at pictures of the Bismarck’s wreck, you’ll notice that she looks weirdly intact. All the “soft” stuff, like the smoke stacks, the AA guns, the antennae and so on, was blown off or has rusted away on the ocean ground, but the actually armored parts look strangely unharmed, especially when you read up on how much stuff the Royal Navy threw at her.

When you look at the wreck, the theory that the crew scuttled the ship to get the Brits to stop shooting, so they could evacuate, after they had lost all means to signal surrender, makes a lot of sense.

It probably is backlash to many people glorifying the Bismarck after the war that in recent years so many people talk about how the Bismarck “wasn’t that great” and “overrated” and how she was outdated and so on, but it is just a fact that no other battleship came even close to surviving as much enemy fire as the Bismarck and the Tirpitz and no other battleship actually sunk an equal and won a fight against 2 other battleships.

People often try to play down the victory the Bismarck won against the Hood and the Prince Of Wales by saying “The Hood was only a battlecruiser, not a battleship” and “The Prince Of Wales was brand new and its crew wasn’t used to it yet.”

But those two points are really bad.

The Hood started as a lightly armored battlecruiser, but was up-armored between the wars. The version of the Hood that met the Bismarck in battle was bigger and heavier than the Bismarck and had thicker armor. It was the biggest, heaviest and most powerful ship the Royal Navy had and it was a battleship in all but name.

And the “it was new and the crew was unexperienced” defense for the Prince Of Wales makes no sense, because the Bismarck was almost as new (commissioned 4 months before the Prince Of Wales) and its crew was probably even less experienced. It was the Bismarck’s very first mission, its first time in the Atlantic and its very first battle too. Considering the history of the “Kriegsmarine” and of the Royal Navy, it is a pretty safe bet that there probably were more experienced officers and sailors, who had served on other ships before, on board of the Prince Of Wales than there were on the Bismarck.

The achievements and feats of the Bismarck and the Tirpitz are just undeniable and so is the fact that no other battleship, including the supposedly mighty Yamato or any of the American battleships, came close to doing or surviving what the two German ships did and survived.

If it was crap, as so many keyboard admirals nowadays claim, then why did they do so much better than any other battleship that actually was tested in battle?

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