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It's the most complete--and immensely readable--operational history yet published of the German Navy's seven great World War Two capital ships: the Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, Admiral Graf Spee, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Bismarck, and Tirpitz. Even greatly outnumbered by the Royal Navy, these fast, powerful, well-armored and armed ships created havoc. Researched from the original German sources and from postwar Allied analyses and reports, profusely illustrated with line drawings, maps, and photographs, the technical chapters cover planning, design, construction, and modifications.
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MJ Whitley is the author of numerous naval titles (DESTROYERS OF WORLD WAR TWO, GERMAN CAPITAL SHIPS OF WORLD WAR TWO, and many more), and the acknowledged expert on the ships of the Second World War. He died in 2000.Review:
Focussing on the battleship, battlecruiser and "pocket battleships" of the German navy this volume looks at the origins of the types, the design history, the actual construction and the service history. Many photographs and drawings illustrate a well written text. The account of each battle is written from the point of view of the ship involved. For example the Battle of the Barents Sea is described from the point of view of the Admiral Scheer; for the view from the Admiral Hipper or the destroyers you will need to read the other two books in the series. But this is no bad thing, as the focus of each book is on one type of vessel. If you have an interest in the WWII German Navy you should own this book. --David Kirk
German Capital Ships of WWII is better telling the problems with Raeder's Kreigsmarine than most other books about the Kreigsmarine. Basically, the Luftwaffe did a fine job of meeting the needs of the Kreigsmarine. The trouble is the Kreigsmarine never really knew what it wanted with the regards to capital ships. The Graf Zeppelin would have been a fair aircraft carrier, about the equal of the US Independence class, but the Kreigsmarine never took their building programs as seriously as either the Brits nor the Americans. Indeed, the Luftwaffe had two squadrons of BF109T (T = Tragger = Carrier) and JU87T converted for carrier use. The Kreigsmarine never used them and they were converted back to standard by late 1942. The Germans had a 15 years gap, from about 1919 to 1933, where they were really not allowed to build warships free of treaty limitations. The Treaty limiting the Germans ship tonnage did its job well. While the Deutschland class "pocket battleships" were a wonder of engineering the bottom line trouble is they were trying to fit a gallon into a quart pot. The Deutschland class only had armor of a beefed up cruiser. Indeed, it could be argued that the Deutschland class was actually a revisit of the old pre-WWI armored cruiser. An Armored Cruiser was considered a semi-capital ship. Now, the Deutschland class ships were equal of a WWI era dreadnought in firepower, the German 280 mm guns were quick on reloads. Still, the fact can't be ignored that the Deutschland never could take on a battle cruiser nor a fast battleship. The new KGV class could have matched the Deutschland in speed or even run down the pocket battleships. The Germans had got into the game of modern battleships too late by the mid-1930s. Admiral Raeder told his Kreigsmarine that they were not ready for war in 1939 and the German fleet would have been ready by 1944 if the war had waited that long. The Scharhorst class battleships were about the same tonnage as the USS North Carolina class. However, even if the ships had been up gunned it would have only had 6 x 15" guns vs 9 x 16" for the US Navy. That is hardly a great design. The Bismarck class was a huge ship by any measure. It was not quite the equal of the USS Iowa class with 8 x 15" guns vs 9 x 16" and the US had the benefit of making a super heavy 16" shell that simulated the hitting power of the Japanese 18" guns. So, in reality even if the Germans had ever managed to have their Bismarck or "H" class ships fight against the US Navy they would have been fighting Iowa class ships with much better guns staffed by extremely experienced crews. Indeed, the British KGV class with their moderate sized 14" guns were always more than equal to the task of beating the German ships. The British never lost a gun on gun capital contest with the Germans. The German Navy had many design problems. The Hipper class cruisers had an unrealizable engine plant. The steam plants in the Bismarck class was based on the Hipper and was little better. The Scharnhorst class had engine mount problems due to high RPM (torque) of the turbine transmissions. The Deutschland class diesel engines had to be constantly rebuilt and - with the exception of the Admiral Scheer - were more trouble than they were worth. The Deutschland class all cost as much as two American New Orleans Class cruisers and American labor was not cheap even back in the 1930s. The German light cruisers were all failures. They were unseaworthy and ended their days as expensive training vessels for the Kreigsmarine. Now, this book give a good operational history of the pre-dreadnoughts, the panzerschiffes, the two light battleships, the carrier, and the Bismarck class. The Scharnhorst class gave Germany the most value for their money and sank many ships in their raids. --By William A. Hensler
All ww2 era capital ships above cruisers are covered in detail. the construction details,objectives,and operational history are covered in considerable detail. Whitley has again given me the details I am looking for at reasonable cost. He also has good books on ww2 battleships,cruisers and destroyers. Whitley has an excellent track record of bringing data on German warship designs to the English reader. If there's a weakness in this volume, it's in its relatively small size. Also, it fails to pinpoint certain details of the Bismarck and Graf Spee designs which remain elusive even now. But Whitley succeeds in presenting a concise account of the design histories and operational histories, and he does it in a highly affordable package. Apart from the massive and expensive Garzke and Dulin work, this is the best single-volume treatment of the subject. --By Richard Worth
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