This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Monday, 26 November 2012

How to Scuttle Yourself: The Graf Zeppelin and the Nazis

It amuses me sometimes when I hear of how this country or that “saved the world from the Nazis”.
At the most they saved their own asses. Not the world.
This is because, folks, the Nazis could never have won the war. Even if they’d won every single bloody battle, they’d still have lost in the end, collapsed under their own weight of contradictions.
Here’s an illustration of why:
If you’ve seen films like Tora! Tora! Tora!MidwayThe Sinking of the Bismarck, or even (gag) Pearl Harbor (sic), you’ll have noticed the aircraft carriers liberally used by the British, Japanese and Americans – but the Germans, despite their large and powerful navy (theKriegsmarine), never had an aircraft carrier.
Well, that’s not quite true. The Germans had an aircraft carrier programme in place as early as 1935, with four carriers planned. The first, called Flugzeugträger A (Aircraft Carrier A) before its launch in 1938 and named KMS Graf Zeppelin afterwards, was scheduled to be ready by 1940 – and yet, it was never, ever completed, even though a few carriers would have given the Germans a terrific advantage at sea.
One of the main reasons why the carrier wasn’t completed was the little fact that Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, chief of the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, didn’t want anyone but his own men to operate aeroplanes. So he systematically and successfully sabotaged the plans of the German naval chief, Grossadmiral Erich Raeder, to make the carrier operational. One way of doing this was to offer only obsolete planes, the Messerschmitt Bf109E and Junkers 87 Stuka, for use on the carrier – and those in navalised versions, which, he insisted, would not be ready before the end of 1944, by which time, naturally, they would be even more museum pieces than they already were. Another way was to insist that the pilots of the planes would remain underLuftwaffe command, which means that for every operation launched from the ship, the pilots would have to receive orders from Luftwaffeheadquarters in Berlin and not from the naval officers commanding the ship!
No wonder Hitler, a man of limited imagination who was never enthusiastic about the sea in general and carriers in particular, gave up on the carrier…
So what happened to the Graf Zeppelin?
Although about 80% complete, the ship spent its time in harbour being used as a floating depot ship, while its planned sister ship,Flugzeugträger B, was scrapped in 1940 and the C and D were cancelled. In April 1945 its crew sunk it in shallow water to prevent it from being captured by advancing Soviet forces. They, however, raised it easily, towed it back to Russia, and in 1947 sank it as a target ship. The wreckage, seen here:

was finally found in 2006 by a Polish diving team.
Actually, the carrier was poorly designed, and wouldn’t have been much of a match for more sophisticated carrier forces, but that isn’t the point. The point is the fact that the Nazis were so busy in their internecine turf battles (of which I’ve mentioned just one) that they probably would have fallen apart immediately once Hitler left the scene.
All of which makes neo-Nazis today even more comical than they would otherwise be…

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