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Germany's "Weltflotte" & Operation Sphinx


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OK all you "what if" WW2 historians i need some assistance on a SC campaign i'm doing by the subject title. This is from the book "The Hitler Options" and is about the (hypothetical) culmination of plan z and Raeder's plan for Axis domination of the Med. It will be a short(3 years) intense campaign starting in early 1944. Currently I'm using John Ellis' WW2 fact book, "The Luftwaffe Data Book" and the previous mentioned title to develop this. Does anyone have any other reference suggestions to develop this campaign? I will be running some other ideas (esp. delaying activation/development) across the forum to help balance this campaign. Thanks to all in advance.

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Thanks Archibald,

Now a question for the forum, I need some opinions on ratings. Example: I have decided that the US Essex class CV and operational doctrine will be the highest rated in the beginning of "Weltflotte"(early 1944/late 1943). Strength of 13 with 1 experience. So let's say the second best country UK is at .7 experience and the Ark Royal class CV is strength 9. How would you rate the Graf Zeppelin or the French Bearn? Now rate the other CV classes and perhaps the CVL classes, remember things like a/c capacity, doctrine, armaments and armor count. Carrying this concept a little further, rate infantry, tanks, airfleets, etc. Also, how many ships(carrier,BBs,CA/CL,subs) should be represented by the single SC icon at strength 10.

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"In my new "Weltflotte" campaign all the participants will be getting rockets to use as artillery (level 3)."

In an abstract way this makes sense; the units aren't artillery firing 50-100-150 miles but artillery units that are assumed to be in the attacking hex. As comparatively small, specialized heavy artillery units it can be assumed that they move from one major formation to another. Good idea, the game needs something along those lines.

Unfortunately there's the problem of Britain and the U. S. being unable to transport their artillery (rocket) units and also being unable to build them outside of their own borders. This leaves Germany, France, the USSR and Italy as the only countries that can make use of them.

Also, with rockets serving as heavy artillery, what takes the place of actual German rockets? This is not overly important here because you're planning a short scenario; it's being asked in the broader sense of scenario creation.

Without getting into specific ship characteristics I just want to comment on WW II European Theater navies in a broad sense.

The United States had the best and most modern navy even prior to 1939. While the country pinched pennies with the Army it was spending a fortune on its Navy. This was an American tradition going back to post-Revolutionary times.

The U. S. matched and excelled the Brits in electronics, including anti-air radar, sonar, and gun laying radar. The ships went on frequent training maneuvers so the crews were always fit for action, though probably not quite the equal of their UK counterparts in the early part of the war due to actual combat experience.

U. S. gunnery technology was also superior to that of other nations. The American 16" guns, for example, packed almost as much punch as the Japanese 18" weapons carried on the Yamato and Musashi.

The United Kingdom As always, with her ships spending so much time at sea, Britain had the most experienced crews which were also given a high degree of training. They were quick to grasp new concepts such as naval aviation and understood that their carriers should have armored flight decks -- unlike American CVs, whose decks were primarily made of wood!

Britain was also quick to adapt gunnery radar, anti-aircraft radar and sonar (asdic).

British tactical doctrine was more polished than Germany's -- virtually the inverse of German armored doctrine to that of the UK! Two specific examples are given in the German Navy area.

Additionally, the Royal Navy exhibited great competence in it's convoy escorting role right from the start of the war. That Britain sustained such severe shipping losses was due more to German U-boat skill and a lack of sufficient resources till 1943. In 1942, for example, the U. S. Navy pulled most of it's Atlantic Fleet away from convoy duty to conduct Operation Torch and protect the resulting supply line. Not surprisingly, it was a banner year for German U-boat activity!

Germany Kriegsmarine forays were plagued by such command errors as Admiral Lutgens long transmission to Berlin while en-route to Brest -- giving his position away! And the Scharnhorst, with it's (9x) 11" guns, maneuvering itself into a position to fight the larger Duke of York (10x)14" guns plus escorting smaller vessels; the Scharnhorst had already detached itself from the accompanying destroyer escort! British naval commanders would not have committed such errors. Which is not to say the British didn’t commit glaring errors, such as sending the Prince of Wales and Repulse out to sea without air cover, though even in this instance an aircraft carrier (Hermes) had originally been assigned to accompany them, but British errors tended to be committed on a much higher level. German mistakes often involved basic tactics, such as the Graf Spee attempting to fight in two opposite directions instead of acting decisively against each cruiser force in turn.

Much of this was attributable to a lack of naval tradition. Unlike the United States, Britain, France and Japan, Germany saw its navy as a secondary branch to the army. It’s main ocean going career spanned the few decades between Imperial Germany’s Colonial ventures and it’s defeat in WW I. Deprived of a modern fleet by the Versailles Treaty, Germany had to attempt a crash course beginning in 1935.

Aside from lacking in doctrine, the Kriegsmarine also lagged in capital ship design. The Bismarck class inherited flaws that were already apparent in 1914, such as it’s exposed rudders! Additionally, much of its electronics equipment was inadequately protected. These same flaws also existed in the Heavy Cruisers and would have been passed on to the larger Hindenburg class BBs; all three ship classes sharing the same basic designs.

Germany launched two aircraft carriers in 1936, The Peter Strasser and the Graf Zeppelin. Sister ships, they were intended to carry 42 aircraft. Neither ship was completed though the Zeppelin reached 80% functionality by the middle of the war. Germany’s aircraft carrier program was hindered by the competing U-boat program and by Goering’s active opposition. He stupidly insisted that he should personally have control over all of Germany’s combat aircraft. Presumably this would have meant Luftwaffe aviators flying on carriers controlled by the Kriegsmarine. In the end this whole area was doomed to wither and die from lack of funds and politics.

The brightest area of German Naval efficiency was its U-boats. Even here, however, neither Doenitz nor Hitler saw much need to develop new submarine technologies prior to 1939; the 1939 model wasn’t significantly advanced from its 1919 ancestor! Presumably, if the Z-Plan had been carried out, this situation would have been rectified.

Assuming the U-boat and aircraft carrier programs were competing with each other, in my own Z-Plan scenario I followed the path that U-boats lost favor to CVs. This would have made sense if Germany were also building BBs and a large surface fleet. Panzer39, in his excellent Z-Plan opus, chose a different direction, assuming that Germany finished it’s two medium sized carriers, discontinued it BB program and opted for a massive U-boat fleet. As this is all in the realm of speculation all assumptions have equal validity.

The main problem with the German Navy is location. Unless we assume it’s units are already in the Atlantic and lurking till the French ports become available, we have to figure they’re in the Baltic home waters. As such, aside from the minor chore of containing or destroying the Soviet Baltic Fleet, they can only have one of two options. Either hold the Baltic (with the Luftwaffe) against UK infiltration – an unlikely British scenario – or venture into the North Sea to sink all or most of the British Home Fleet.

Though Germany might have been able to build a large, formidable fleet, I think it’s doubtful she’d have been able to pursue this second course without massive assistance from airfleets operating out of Norway and other adjacent shorelines. Which is not to say a large Baltic fleet wouldn’t have other benefits; aside from tying down British Naval units, it would be a necessary component in any Operation Sea Lion venture.

In an earlier version of his scenario, Panzer39 placed significant German U-boat forces in the Mediterranean, combined with a realistically increased Italian Navy, and the results were disappointing. Suddenly it was the Axis that became the dominant naval power. This seemed unlikely to us; had such pre-war Axis activity been conducted we need to consider countermeasures that would have been taken up by Britain and France. Probably airfleets and bomber units in Algeria and Tunisia combined with their own beefed up Mediterranean naval squadrons. I think this path leads mainly to a huge increase in units with a corresponding decrease in enjoyable game play.

One area where Germany excelled was in its gunnery radar technology. Unfortunately for their cause, in 1939 the Graf Spee was scuttled in shallow water and subsequently boarded by British naval personnel who salvaged much of this equipment, largely negating Germanys early edge in this area. In most of my campaigns I give the UK gun laying radar L=2 and Germany L=1; this is not a reflection of actual electronics, an area where Britain had no edge at all, but of overall battle efficiency combined with radar technology.

Italy and France Both countries had similar strengths and weaknesses. The French had the beginnings of a naval air arm with small, though existing carriers while Italy was hindered by Mussolini’s absurd insistence that Italy itself was the world’s largest aircraft carrier (his own phrase).

Neither country had well developed electronics, nothing like the German, British or American radar and sonar and both fleets, like the Japanese in the Pacific, were hindered by this backwardness.

Both countries possessed fine crews though the Italian navy suffered from political hacks in high places.

Italy was an early pioneer in midget subs and frogmen and were the best in both areas during the actual war. I don’t know of any way to incorporate this into SC, however.

Conventional Italian submarines tended to be overly large and manned by poorly trained crews. The clear Mediterranean water often resulted in their being easily spotted and destroyed by aircraft. Italian subs operating in the Atlantic contributed little and ultimately much of the Italian submarine fleet saw useful service in a transport capacity.

USSR Oddly, the most competent branch were the submarine units, of which Russia has none in the game and are unlikely to build any! In the Baltic Russian surface vessels spent most of the war in port as moored batteries in Leningrad. The Black Sea fleet conducted amphibious operations against the Crimea late in the war. In SC Russia, as a naval factor, is trivial.

[ July 24, 2003, 03:18 PM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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Thanks for the insight JJ it will help me determine doctrinal advantages and research levels. As for the rockets deficiency for UK and USA, I hope to counter that with strat. bomber deployments. By the way I have read that the actual Z-plan was not slated for completion until 1947. If that's true then in 1944 it would only be approx. 60% complete, is that your understanding? Also one other interesting aspect of the Z-plan, there was rumor that the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were to be refitted with 15" guns and at 35K tons plus wouldn't that put them in a Battleship category? I know we don't have a battlecruiser icon so which are they closer to; an understrenghth BB or an over strength (13) CA? And what about the Panzerschiffes, what is your feel on them? I understand that 4 a year were supposed to be laid down until the projected 15 were completed. I'm trying to concentrate mainly on quality units and not quantity, without any additional starting MPPs. Through the first starting turns' intensity there should be a marketable reduction in force sizes.

[ July 24, 2003, 04:14 PM: Message edited by: SeaMonkey ]

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"Thanks for the insight JJ it will help me determine doctrinal advantages and research levels..."

As CvM likes to say, "Glad to be of assistance!" smile.gif

You're doing great work on this subject; I'm not sure how much of it can be directly applied through SC, though. For example, you can't make surface raiders normal naval units as they wouldn't sink any shipping!

"As for the rockets deficiency for UK and USA, I hope to counter that with strat. bomber deployments..."

This is good as both Britain and the U. S. were very involved in strategic bombing development.

"By the way I have read that the actual Z-plan was not slated for completion until 1947. If that's true then in 1944 it would only be approx. 60% complete, is that your understanding?"

Yes. The basic problem was Germany lacked the resources to successfully reach the Z-Plan quotas. It probably lacked the resources to even reach that 60% mark! The dilemma was Hitler wanted the Z-Plan to start his war but new he couldn't attain it without first conquering the territories with the resources he needed! It was that cycle which led to the breakdown of his diplomatic attempt to placate the West and the Soviet Union while also expanding. I've come to believe he thought he'd be able to absorb Western Poland without having to fight an all out war in the West.

Probably he felt, having initially declared war, England and France would sit out the winter and negotiate as Spring approached. With Russia occupying half of Poland the country couldn't very well be put together again, so from his view it might have seemed plausible that the Western Countries would just say "Okay, we can't do anything about you in the East, but stay clear of Belgium and Holland -- oh yeah, and Norway as well." But he hit Denmark and Norway in April, so if that were the idea he pretty much guaranteed by his own actions that such an agreement wouldn't be offered.

Having passed that juncture, he thought the war could be ended after defeating France. As we know, that didn't happen but I believe he could have achieved this through a more efficient use of Doenitz U-boats cooperating with the Luftwaffe. In other words, there's no reason I can imagine that Germany couldn't have stifled Britain economically during the second half of 1940. The Battle of Britain was an idiotic waste of crews and aircraft. The real campaign should have been directed against the convoys. U-boats sinking ships at sea and the Luftwaffe hitting them as they neared their ports.

Having done that, without conquering Britain but just forcing her out of the war, he'd have finally possessed the industry and resources needed to fulfill his original Z-Plan requirements -- except for oil, which would still have been an import despite Rumania. Pre-war Germany imported most of its oil from South America. No doubt this would have been the case again after winning in the West.

Anyway, following this path, it seems that ultimately the Z-Plan would have been implemented for wars against the United States and the USSR!

"Also one other interesting aspect of the Z-plan, there was rumor that the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were to be refitted with 15" guns and at 35K tons plus wouldn't that put them in a Battleship category? I know we don't have a battle cruiser icon so which are they closer to an under-strength BB or an over strength (13) CA? "

I’m not sure whether the nine eleven inch guns in three triple turrets would have been replaced with a matching fifteen inch gun configuration, or if it would have turned into six fifteen inch guns in three double turrets; probably the latter. That being the case they might have been able to maintain their 32 knots maximum speed. If it was to be nine fifteen inch weapons I’d imagine they’d have dropped to about 30 knots. Overall I’d say they’d have been weaker BBs than the Bismarck or Tirpitz but comparable to the King George the Fifth class.

”And what about the Panzerschiffes, what is your feel on them? I understand that 4 a year were supposed to be laid down until the projected 15 were completed. I'm trying to concentrate mainly on quality units and not quantity, without any additional starting MPPs. Through the first starting turns' intensity there should be a marketable reduction in force sizes."

The three original vessels of this kind were emergency measures in response to the 10,000 ton displacement restriction imposed by the Versailles Treaty. By having six eleven inch guns and still being able to attain 28 knots, they were supposed to be ideal commerce raiders. They couldn’t quite outrun anything they couldn’t outgun, even in 1925, but they were a good compromise under the circumstances. In reality the three ships, Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee, displaced 11,000 tons and earned Erich Raeder ten years in prison – the most absurd sentence of the entire war!

By 1939 they were obsolete and two of them were sent to sea with the idea of drawing British warships away from the British Isles. The only defense Graf Spee and Deutschland had was the assumption that they’d be almost impossible to locate. This was true enough and the Deutschland did make it back to Germany – with a captured Freighter as booty! But her sister ship, Graf Spee, wasn’t quite as lucky – much of the responsibility for which needs to be directly attributed to less than wise decisions made by its captain, Langsdorff. All in all, I don’t believe Germany could have made much use of these vessels unless they’d had a secure base to operate out of in the South Atlantic.

The more modern version, which would have attained 34 knots and been armed with 15” guns, would have been another odd duck. Too lightly armored to be considered Battlecruisers and too heavily armed to be heavy cruisers! To me their main value would have been in disrupting convoy escorts, sinking heavy cruisers while chasing destroyers, leaving the freighters to be sunk by either light cruisers (6” guns@ 34 knots) or U-boats. The three earlier ships would also have been useful in that function providing the escort didn’t include a Battleship.

An interesting historical juncture, to me, is that Hitler should have helped Franco with one single condition right from the start: upon taking power, Franco would transfer control of the most well developed Canary Island to Germany. Such an act would have provided Germany with the distant safe-haven, naval base, repair facility and air base it needed for its war against the British convoys. Looking at it this way it’s almost safe to say Hitler lost the war in 1936!

Regarding quality over quantity, I generally like to combine smaller elements into a single unit. For example, the Peter Strasser and Graf Zeppelin combine for one aircraft carrier unit with a normal capacity of 90 planes. I’d advise something similar regarding things like surface raiders, should you choose to include them.

Many of these things, as we both realize, don’t quite fit into the basic mechanics of SC.

Panzer39 also offered a great deal of information on this in the Z-Plan Thread, which I’ll URL beneath this entry.

Scroll up one posting from where the URL takes you, which is the second entry. The first will have some very good diagrams provided by Panzer along with useful information.

< Panzer39s German Z-Plan Thread >

[ July 24, 2003, 05:56 PM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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Well I'm sure glad the Forum historian is back posting and you seemed have added some 6th sense also as you have mentioned Spain as an Axis participant. Spain is the first part of Operation Sphinx or at least the attack on Gibralter. It seems Raeder knew that further operations in North Africa/Mid. East were dependent on the Med. being closed to the UK. His plan was to operate German support forces (mainly large caliber artillery)and air to Spain, while the Spanish supplied the infantry. By attacking across the bay from Algeciras his estimate was that Gibralter would fall in three to six weeks. This will open the Med to German naval assets in SC and simulate their use of the Canarys. I'm hoping that the initial deployment of surface vessels (to protect subs) and subs to the Atlantic by Germany, along with the immediate availability of US naval forces will be the catalyst for an Atlantic battle. The Axis will have to maintain a strict timetable to take Gibralter as eventually the Allied naval forces will overwelm them. Anyway that is the jist of the opening phase of "Weltflotte", getting it balanced will be the trick.

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The Oxford Companion to World War II has a table which gives the projected size of the Kriegsmarine under the Z-Plan on a yearly basis.

The projections for 1944 were as follows:

Battleship Type H - 6

Battleships Gneisenau and Bismarck - 4

(It was intended to upgrade the armament of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in 1941-2)

Pocket Battleships Type Deutschland - 3

Battle Cruisers Type P - 3

Aircraft Carriers - 2

Heavy Cruisers - 5

Light Cruisers Type M - 4

Scout Cruisers - 9

Destroyers - 47

Torpedo Boats - 54

Atlantic U-Boats - 133

Coastal U-Boats - 39

Special Purpose U-Boats - 22

You'll find useful information about each of these ship types here.

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By the way I'm toying with the idea of u-boat "ruse" units in the Atlantic, initially deployed to impede and confuse the Allied task forces. Germany will be at level 4 subs and these ruse units will have a strength of 1 or 2. Can anyone think of any consequences, other than the experience gain for the Allies, that could be detrimental to the game. Would allowing the Axis player to edit the campaign by initially changing the deployment positions of the "ruse" units be to complicated?

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Appreciated -- very enjoyable and imaginative project.

The idea sounds very sound and interesting. Panzer39 has given a lot of thought to the placing of understength U-boats throughout the Atlantic and hopefully he'll have something to add on the subject.

The whole Spanish idea sounds interesting. I think Gibraltar was one of the strategic keys to the war and Spain's failure to join the Axis was certainly one of the nails in its coffin. Possessing Gibraltar would probably have sheilded Italy and prevented the invasion of Sicily and subsequent Italian Campaign.

Torch would probably have been impossible. In it's place there might well have been a British or Anglo-American landing against Spain itself, which is what Franco feared. In 1940 he felt the Spanish population might turn on him if the country were fought over so soon after it's Civil War. He might have felt a little less apprehensive in 1944 although even then he'd have had only five years of peaceful administration.


That looks like an excellent source book, thanks for placing that link.

I noticed in the carrier section that they listed the Peter Strasser as B so it's possible the ship was never officially named.

I've seen this photo, taken in 1936 shortly after the launching, labelled as both Peter Strasser and Graf Zeppelin! In the path properties it's listed as Zeppelin. As is evident by the relative size of the tugboats it wasn't a very large vessel and was probably intended more for design testing and the training future aviators than for actual combat duties.


One of the two eventually wound up in Leningrad where it was used as a floating storage facility and eventually scrapped; the other sank en-route. For some odd reason, with two unfinished carriers sitting in ports, the Germans toyed with the idea of converting the unfinished Heavy Cruiser Seydlitz into a small aircraft carrier. Like so many other naval projects, it never went much further than the hull stage.

[ July 24, 2003, 10:20 PM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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According to the Webpage of the (actual) german navy ("Marine") the Z-plan from 1939 should end in 1948 with:

10 Capital ships (including Gneisenau/Scharnhorst)

12 Pocket battleships (20.000 ts)

3 Pocket battleships (10.000 ts)

4 CV (20.000 ts)

5 CA (10.000 ts)

16 CL (8 000 ts)

22 Scout cruisers (5 000 ts)

68 DD

90 TB

27 "Oceanic" SS

62 SS Typ IX

100 SS Typ VII

60 SS Typ II (Coastal Sub)

and 300 additional vessels (Minelayer, Minesweeper, Speedboats, Escorts, Sub-hunter etc.).

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Interesting list and a lot of it does look pretty feasable even without major conquests.

Hitler's original guidline was for the Air Force, Army and Navy to be tripled by the time he started his big war. He cited different dates to different people. The Italians were told they should be prepared by the end of 1941. Different generals were told either 1942 or 1944. It's likely that Hitler himself didn't have the concept very clear even in his own mind.

Originally he was angry with the Navy because neither Raeder nor Doenitz thought big enough for him! They revised their list prior to the war and he became much happier.

During the war Hitler made lists of ships he wanted to have by certain dates, especially after the fall of France, when he began thinking (dreaming) in earnest about controlling the Atlantic. Eventually he had people drawing plans for Battleships that would have dwarfed Japan's 65,000 ton, 9x18" Yamato class BBs (the specifics of which he was ignorant of).

Whether any of that could have been realized, even by 1948, is open to question.

I think most of these lists are best taken with a little skepticism. Much of it, like the designs for super cities and giant tanks, was only put on paper to placate Hitler.

Having said that, I go back to my opening statement to say the one you posted does look feasable.

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I'd highly recommend The Oxford Companion to World War II, it's arguably the best one volume reference there is.
I Second this. This is, bar none, the most comprehensive single volume. A must for all those interested in the greatest conflict in this planet's history.

As a side-bar does is anyone else crying out for a game editor which affords the enthusiast total and complete control over every facet of the data so allowing the creation of many 'what-if" scenarios which the present SC campaign editor is unable to accomodate ?

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Originally posted by JerseyJohn:

I've seen this photo, taken in 1936 shortly after the launching, labelled as both Peter Strasser and Graf Zeppelin! In the path properties it's listed as Zeppelin...

... One of the two eventually wound up in Leningrad where it was used as a floating storage facility and eventually scrapped; the other sank en-route.

Graf Zeppelin was laid down on December 28th 1936, scuttled by German forces in Stettin (April 25th 1945). Raised by Soviet Navy, analyzed by Soviet technicians and scuttled near Leningrad / finnish gulf (June 18th 1947, position 55° 48' north and 18° 30' east) with torpedoes, 13 cm shells from a type-7 Gnevnyj destroyer, there are rumors that the soviet navy tested some new developed weapons as well (source: Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseeum, Bremerhaven. Btw.: Bremerhaven would have been the berth / harbor for both german CV).

CV B was laid down in autumn of 1938, but construction was stopped at the beginning of World War II. 1940-42 the ship was scrapped in the shipyard.

JJ, check your picture, date 1936 can't be possible. And because CV B never left the shipyard it shows the Graf Zeppelin, probably late 1938 or even 1939

There were many rumors about what happend with CV Graf Zeppelin after the russians raised it (i have found at least 10 different while googling through the web, one of them is the "sank en-route" story).

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100% agree!

I don't think that this z-plan would have ever been possible till 1948, and even if the 3rd Reich would have been able to spare these gigantic ressources only for lunatic fleet dreams, every other nation with navy-traditions (UK, USA, France) would have reacted, making these enormous amounts of time, man-power and raw materials a complete waste.

Just read that the Scharnhorst / Gneisenau often suffered heavy damage only from heavy sea (poor construction), and even the upgrade with an an improved so-called "atlantic-bow" offered no help. A BATTLESHIP with nearly 30.000 ts, receiving heavy damage from WAVES :eek: , oh boy, oh boy...

[ July 24, 2003, 11:26 PM: Message edited by: xwormwood ]

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"A BATTLESHIP with nearly 30.000 ts, receiving heavy damage from WAVES :eek: , oh boy, oh boy..."

:D Incredible! Imagine what a decent Pacific typhoon would have done to them.

Thanks for the info on those German carriers; I like your dates better as it makes more sense that were put down in the late thirties and subsequently unfinished during the war. Without an aviator training program I guess there was little rush to finish the carriers! :D

I've also seen a lot of different accounts concerning the two carriers and have to agree with you, many of them do conflict with one another. One, from the Internet, actually described the Strasser as a sort of floating platform that was sunk in action during 1945!

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II lists them as having been laid down in 1936 then gives the December, 1938 date afterwards -- presumably that was when the Graf Zeppelin was actually launched. Yes, that makes a lot more sense as it would have hit the water about the time Hitler decided to switch his attention to U-boats. Jane's also lists the Peter Strasser as having been laid down at the same time as Zeppelin but it isn't clear whether that ship was also launched in December of 1938.

I've got no idea why the Peter Strasser is listed specifically in Jane's yet referred to simply as B in the other source.

It reminds me of Operation Sea Lion, a lot of confusion over something that never went anywhere! :D

Great take on Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. German warship designers had a lot of catching up to do and must have made some pretty bad guesses in trying to meet Hitler's production schedule. It's little wonder they proceeded with the Bismarck and Tirpitz and the heavy cruisers knowing they all had inherited flaws; Hitler would never have understood the need for further testing -- a boat is a boat!

Despite the flaws, though, as you say they were still heavy ships and both Bismarck and Scharnhorst withstood tremendous punishment before going under. Gneisenau seems to have been less sturdy. In the Channel run she struck a mine and, after reaching port, never again put to sea! Combining that with your info about the two ships being damaged by rough seas -- it seems the very areas that should have been strongest had the greatest vulnerability.

Their heavy cruisers also seemed strangely frail, the Blucher having been sunk by shore batteries off Oslo with the Hipper also sunk in the same campaign after being rammed by the British destroyer Glowworm off the Norwegian coast. But sister ship Prinz Eugen was sailed to the Bikini Atoll after the war and survived both nuclear tests, one above and the other below the surface, and had to be sunk by naval gunfire afterwards. The fourth and last sister, Seydlitz -- yet another would-be aircraft carrier -- was never completed.

[ July 25, 2003, 04:11 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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Originally posted by JerseyJohn:

Their heavy cruisers also seemed strangely frail, the Blucher having been sunk by shore batteries off Oslo with the Hipper also sunk in the same campaign after being rammed by the British destroyer Glowworm off the Norwegian coast. But sister ship Prinz Eugen was sailed to the Bikini Atoll after the war and survived both nuclear tests, one above and the other below the surface, and had to be sunk by naval gunfire afterwards. The fourth and last sister, Seydlitz -- yet another would-be aircraft carrier -- was never completed.

Hipper survived the fight with Glowworm (poor Glowworm not, only 31 survivors). With a 40 m broad leakage Hipper continued on its mission to Drontheim. 3 days later it made it back to germany without help.

After sinking appr. 20 merchant and warships Hipper was scuttled in Kiel on May 3rd 1945.

The 5th heavy cruiser (Luetzow) was sold uncompleted to the USSR in 1940, towed to Leningrad, renamed in PETROPAVLOVSK, but never saw completation or active duty. Scrapped in the 1960's. When this ship was sold, the name Luetzow was free again, so the pocket battleship Deutschland could inherit it.

Originally posted by JerseyJohn:

In the Channel run she (edit:GNEISENAU) struck a mine and, after reaching port, never again put to sea!

14 day after the channel run Gneisenau received heavy bomb hits while docked in Kiel. After this incident Gneisenau was transfered to Gotenhafen (Baltic Sea) in order to be extended there and to be reequipped with 38 cm cannons. Due to a foaming Hitler after the miserable outcome of the battle in the Barentsea (convoy PQ 17) and of course due Gneisenaus heavy damaged condition all works were stopped in Janury 1943. Gneisenau was disarmed (some 15 cm cannons are still to visit in Denmark and Norway, parts of the main turret A are in Holland, and main turret C awaits visitors in Norway...).


And yes, it is the joke of the century that both Gneisenau-Class battlecruiser suffered so badly from heavy weather and overcoming sea (main turrets went out of action etc.).

Some operations had to be broken off, and all this without any effort of the allied enemy. :rolleyes::D

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In my process of designing a Plan-Z scenario, I took the approach of when it would have been most effective to start the war rather than when everything would have been completed. If Germany had waited till 1946, all her BB's would have been useless and her 4 or 5 carriers would not have lasted long in the Atlantic. The war in fact may have been a mute point if both the USA and Germany had developed atomic bombs. Instead I started my scenario in August 1941. Bending history by starting Germanys naval build up a little early, this date allows both Bismarck class ships, 2 carriers, and the 3 o-class BC's to be operational. I placed 2 H-class BB's in port at low strength to represent construction and also added a CA group to represent the lighter ships. Both Scharnhorst and Gnesinau were turned into understrength BB's as well.

I liked this setup up but it really did nothing to change the game. SC does not allow German Ships to commerce raid. This coupled with no way to break them out into the North Atlantic really defeats the whole point of having a large Navy.

My second and what I think is my more successful try (which is an ARR right now) took the approach of what if Doenitz got his way over Raeder. It was Raeder who wanted a balanced Battle Fleet. The original idea called for three carrier groups to be formed with the new BB's and CA's acting as commerce raider around a carrier that would provide air support and spotting (notice the low aircraft count). Novel idea but the Japanese had a better solution with the Carriers being the striking arm.

Doentiz on the other hand wanted all construction to be diverted into the U-boat arm. The Pocket BB's could draw off the faster smaller ships that would be required to catch them while the U-boats ran amuck in the English shipping lanes. Scharhorst and Gensinau could still have been built if only to tie down a force in Scapa flow in case of a break out. This idea works in SC because subs can change the flow of the game. while the Atlantic is not big enough to allow real Naval operations, the RN still has trouble hunting down wolf packs.

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I have also been toying with a scenario that puts a lot of emphasis on the Battle of the Atlantic. In it, Germany, Italy and Japan start the war with surprise attacks in 1941. Two of Germany's three carriers surprise the RN at Scapa flow and sink some of the BB's and damage the rest. Another attack is launched from the German Carrier Europa on the UK force stationed at Liverpool. The Italians launch an attack at Gibraltar which sinks the BB squadron there. The scenario actually starts with the allied move where in the UK player must decide whether to pursue the German fleet with his damaged one or to repair and wait for his carriers (which happened not to be in port ;) The Axis Player on turn two has to decide to either continue the attack or to retreat. The Med is very inviting to the Force that has just attacked Liverpool. To even the game up since the Axis will have the early Naval advantage, the USA has also joined the war since it has been attacked by Japan. However, this time around the Japanese have brought along an invasion force which means the US has no troops or ships (except the ones being constructed i.e. two understrength BB's). I have not decided yet if I want to add the USA as neutral and give all their mines/cities to the UK or have them in the war but starting with no units. This scenario is still on the drawing board but I figured I would bounce it around in the discussion. And yes while it does seem that I stole this idea from the book Third Reich Victorious (a fairly good collection of stories btw) I actually wrote an eassy on the idea for a history class several years before the book was published so it is somewhat original :D

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Input much appreciated Panzer, sounds like we're looking for the same ends using a slightly different track. Here is the premise of "Weltflotte": Germany has conquered Poland in 39 as historical, and the attack on France and the LCs has progressed to the Meuse crossings. Its at this point in 1940 that Neville Chamberlain sustains a "no confident" vote in Parliament and is replaced, not by Winston Churchill but Lord Halifax. The UK and France immediately sue for peace and gladly transfer Cyprus and Malta to the Axis, who now include an active Italy, to cease hostilities. Peace for 3+ years, but the Japanese attack USA, UK, & France and they are at war as historical. The UK and France realize that this peace in Europe is short lived and take actions in the Mid. East and N. Africa to consolidate their positions, conquering Iraq and Iran as historical, but this has the effect of driving Turkey into the Axis camp. Meanwhile back on the Iberian peninsula the treacherous Spanish are plotting to conspire with the Axis to attack Gibralter, part of Raeder's 3 phase plan Operation Sphinx 1. I forgot to mention that Goering had died back in late 1940 due to a hunting mishap, so co-operation between Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe has developed extensively. The USA is activated with fleet assets immediately available but all other forces will have to be built up as the Americans are deeply embroiled in the Pacific. The Germans,and to a lesser extent the Italians (Africa dabbling), have enjoyed 3+ years of building, training and expanding their military in comparatively peaceful conditions, while the USA, UK, and France have made considerable investments into stopping the Japanese in the Pacific and their ventures (UK & France)in the Mideast. Now as 1944 looms the Axis are ready to pounce with the USSR still hiding behind the non-aggression pact. I am leaning to not activating the Soviets initially although I would like to tailor their forces, but I need them not to be a significant contributor for about 6 months to a year. I have thought about giving them a bunch of 1 strength units but at 480 MPPs per turn, they'll probably get active to quickly. Got any ideas to accomplish this?

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I like your setup. In my scenario I start the game in August 1941 which means Soviet readiness goes up really quickly once the new year roles around. However this was not my first choice since I really wanted to edit the Soviet forces as well, giving them one or two of the huge BB's they started constructing in 1939. But the limitations of the editor (hint hint) do not allow messing with their orb. Since you put Turkey in the allied camp it would make even more sense to activate them because if you don't Germany will be able to put a lot of troops on the Turkey Soviet border before the soviets are even in the war. However, if you activate them Germany could easily set up a defensive wall in France and push into the Heart of Russia (I tried this with moderate success in a game with JerseyJohn but than Russia was at full strength). In any case it will probably be hard to balance it if you activate the USSR. When you get it going I would be happy to play test it with you in PBEM.

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You're right, I forgot about the bombing -- as you say, she was repairable even then but Hitler and Doenitz had already decided to start scrapping Germany's capital ships. I knew the two ships were frequently bombed in Brest, which was the reason they didn't foray to join Bismark and Prinz Eugen as per the original plan. Seems Goering wasn't overly concerned with protecting anchored German ships. The long range strikes against Tirpitz would have been easily warded off with a little fighter protection; the big ships, as I understand it, were only protected by AA batteries.

Interesting to find out where those guns wound up. Do you happen to know if any of the 16" guns earmarked for the Hindenburg class were ever made, and if so, where they were encased? I've read vague references to large naval guns having been installed along the Atlantic Wall but that could have meant anything from 8" on up.

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