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In the spring of 1940, war between England and Germany was beginning to wage in the Atlantic. The allied fleets of America and England were still abiding by a disarmament treaty that limited the size of warships. But the Germans were building ships of gigantic proportions. One such ship, the largest ever built up to that time, was the German battleship Bismarck.

The Bismarck displaced 42,800 tons making it 22% larger than the most powerful ships of the allied fleets. It had eight 15” guns and some 80 smaller guns, most of which were antiaircraft. It could reach speeds of 31 knots. Its armor was so thick that no existing British torpedo could penetrate its hull. If the British did not hunt down the great battleship, she had the potential to single-handedly destroy the British fleet at the loss of countless lives.

On May 21st, of 1940, two Spitfire reconnaissance planes stumbled upon the great warship as they searched a Norwegian fiord. Because of poor weather and other problems, it was several days before the British would have a crack at sinking the Bismarck.

With some of the oldest biplanes still in service, and torpedoes that were, for all intents and purposes, obsolete, the British Navy attacked the Bismarck. One of the planes, with both men wounded and 175 holes in the plane from the Bismarck antiaircraft guns, made it back to the British aircraft carrier. Several of the other planes in the squadron were badly damaged.

The pilots reported with excitement that they were sure at least one of the torpedoes found its mark. The mighty Bismarck had taken a torpedo in the rudder. She was dead in the water, only able to maneuver in circles like a wounded fish. Once the British neutralized the battlewagon’s rudder, they had control of the entire ship. And on May 27th, the British navy converged on the Bismarck’s position and sunk her.

Hitler’s plan was to use the Bismarck to create a wake of destruction across the Atlantic, to bring the European fleets to their knees in submission and humiliation. Had the rudder not been damaged, it would have steered the great ship into battle after lopsided battle, destroying everything in its path.

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