Book Review: BISMARCK: The Final Days of Germany's Greatest Battleship


by Niklas Zetterling & Michael Tamelander

Philadelphia: Casemate Pub, 2009. Pp. 320. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1935149040

A fresh look at the life and death of the most famous German warship of World War II, by the authors of the well-regarded TIRPTZ: The Life and Death of Germany's Last Super Battleship (2009).  Although written from the German perspective, the book by no means distorts the story of the ship or her adventures, and the British side of the events is well covered. 

Bismarck opens with a short, critical look at German's naval policy and the inner workings of the Kriegsmarine, as well as some interesting comments on the ship's design and construction.  Then there is a very good overview of the events leading up to the ship's May 1941 sortie into the Atlantic, fitting her mission into Germany's strategy of strangling British commerce.  The long sea chase that followed and the ship's two great sea fights, the first that saw HMS Hood lost with virtually all hands and Prince of Wales seriously damaged, and the second that ended when Bismarck herself slipped beneath the waves after a horrendous pounding, are well told, and nicely integrated into the broader events unfolding in the Atlantic at same the time.  This narrative benefits from the recollections of many of the ship's surviving crew.  The authors avoid the silly argument that the Bismarck wasn't sunk by the British, but scuttled by her crew, their account making plain that the ship was doomed. 

Although it suffers from occasional poor wording, due certainly to poor translation, Bismarck: The Final Days of Germany's Greatest Battleship makes a very good read for anyone interested in naval operations.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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