Kreigsmarine (Navy)

The Kriegsmarine (German pronunciation: War Navy) was the name of the Navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It superseded the Imperial German Navy of World War I and the inter-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Die Kriegsmarine magazine
Die Kriegsmarine magazine

The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly during German naval rearmament in the 1930s (the Treaty of Versailles had limited the size of the German navy previously). In January 1939 Plan Z was ordered, calling for the construction of many naval vessels. The ships of the Kriegsmarine fought during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (as for all branches of armed forces during the period of absolute Nazi power) was Adolf Hitler, who exercised his authority through the Oberkommando der Marine.

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The Kriegsmarine’s most famous ships were the U-boats, most of which were constructed after Plan Z was abandoned at the beginning of World War II. Wolfpacks were rapidly assembled groups of submarines which attacked British convoys during the first half of the Battle of the Atlantic but this tactic was largely abandoned in the second half of the war. Along with the U-boats, surface commerce raiders (including auxiliary cruisers) were used to disrupt Allied shipping in the early years of the war, the most famous of these being the heavy cruisers Graf Spee and Admiral Scheer and the battleship Bismarck. However, the adoption of convoy escorts, especially in the Atlantic, greatly reduced the effectiveness of commerce raiders against convoys.

After the end of the Second World War, the Kriegsmarine’s remaining ships were divided up amongst the Allied powers and were used for various purposes including minesweeping.

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Battleship Bismarck – SEE PAGE on website.

Battleship Gneisenau

Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935 and launched on 8 December 1936. Completed in May 1938, the ship was armed with a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 in) C/34 guns in three triple turrets, though there were plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets.

Gneisenau and Scharnhorst operated together for much of the early portion of World War II, including sorties into the Atlantic to raid British merchant shipping. During her first operation, the two ships engaged the auxiliary cruiser HMS Rawalpindi in a short battle. Gneisenau and Scharnhorst participated in Operation Weserübung, the German invasion of Norway. During operations off Norway, the two ships engaged the battlecruiser HMS Renown and sank the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious. Gneisenau was damaged in the action with Renown and later torpedoed by a British submarine, HMS Clyde, off Norway. After a successful raid in the Atlantic in 1941, Gneisenau and her sister put in at Brest, France. The two battleships were the subject of repeated bombing raids by the RAF; Gneisenau was hit several times during the raids, though she was ultimately repaired.

In early 1942, the two ships made a daylight dash up the English Channel from occupied France to Germany. After reaching Kiel in early February, the ship went into drydock. On the night of 26 February, the British launched an air attack on the ship; one bomb penetrated her armored deck and exploded in the forward ammunition magazine, causing serious damage and a large number of casualties. The repairs necessitated by the damage were so time consuming that it was determined to rebuild the ship to accommodate the 38 cm guns as originally intended. The 28 cm guns were removed and used as shore batteries. In 1943, Hitler ordered the cessation of conversion work, and on 27 March 1945, she was sunk as a blockship in Gotenhafen (Gdynia) in German-occupied Poland. She was eventually broken up for scrap in 1951.

Battleship Scharnhorst

Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class, which included one other ship, Gneisenau. The ship was built at the Kriegsmarinewerft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; she was laid down on 15 June 1935 and launched a year and four months later on 3 October 1936. Completed in January 1939, the ship was armed with a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 in) C/34 guns in three triple turrets, though there were plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets.

Scharnhorst and Gneisenau operated together for much of the early portion of World War II, including sorties into the Atlantic to raid British merchant shipping. During her first operation, Scharnhorst sank the auxiliary cruiser HMS Rawalpindi in a short engagement. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau participated in Operation Weserübung, the German invasion of Norway. During operations off Norway, the two ships engaged the battlecruiser HMS Renown and sank the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious as well as her escort destroyers Acasta and Ardent. In that engagement Scharnhorst achieved one of the longest-range naval gunfire hits in history.

In early 1942, after repeated British bombing raids, the two ships made a daylight dash up the English Channel from occupied France to Germany. In early 1943, Scharnhorst joined the Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz in Norway to interdict Allied convoys to the Soviet Union. Scharnhorst and several destroyers sortied from Norway to attack a convoy; the Germans were instead intercepted by British naval patrols. During the Battle of the North Cape, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Duke of York and her escorts sank Scharnhorst. Only 36 men were pulled from the icy seas, out of a crew of 1,968.

 

Battleship Tirpitz – SEE PAGE on website.


Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin

German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin was the lead ship in a class of two carriers ordered by the Kriegsmarine. She was the only aircraft carrier launched by Germany and represented part of the Kriegsmarine ’s attempt to create a well-balanced oceangoing fleet, capable of projecting German naval power far beyond the narrow confines of the Baltic and North Seas. The carrier would have had a complement of 42 fighters and dive bombers.

Construction on Graf Zeppelin began on 28 December 1936, when her keel was laid down at the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel. Named in honor of Graf (Count) Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the ship was launched on 8 December 1938, and was 85% complete by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. Graf Zeppelin was not completed and was never operational, due to shifting construction priorities necessitated by the war. She remained in the Baltic for the duration of the war; with Germany’s defeat imminent, the ship’s custodian crew scuttled her just outside Stettin in March 1945. The Soviet Union raised the ship in March 1946, and she was ultimately sunk in weapons tests north of Poland. The wreck was discovered by a Polish survey ship in July 2006.


Heavy Cruiser Admiral Graf Spee – See Page

Heavy Cruiser Admiral Scheer

Admiral Scheer was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser (often termed a pocket battleship) which served with the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II. The vessel was named after Admiral Reinhard Scheer, German commander in the Battle of Jutland. She was laid down at the Reichsmarinewerft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven in June 1931 and completed by November 1934. Originally classified as an armored ship (Panzerschiff) by the Reichsmarine, in February 1940 the Germans reclassified the remaining two ships of this class as heavy cruisers.

The ship was nominally under the 10,000 long tons (10,000 t) limitation on warship size imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, though with a full load displacement of 15,180 long tons (15,420 t), she significantly exceeded it. Armed with six 28 cm (11 in) guns in two triple gun turrets, Admiral Scheer and her sisters were designed to outgun any cruiser fast enough to catch them. Their top speed of 28 kn (52 km/h; 32 mph) left only a handful of ships in the Anglo-French navies able to catch them and powerful enough to sink them.

Admiral Scheer saw heavy service with the German Navy, including a deployment to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where she bombarded the port of Almería. Her first operation during World War II was a commerce raiding operation into the southern Atlantic Ocean; she also made a brief foray into the Indian Ocean. During the operation, she sank 113,223 gross register tons (GRT) of shipping, making her the most successful capital ship surface raider of the war. Following her return to Germany, she was deployed to northern Norway to interdict shipping to the Soviet Union. She was part of the abortive attack on Convoy PQ 17 and conducted Operation Wunderland, a sortie into the Kara Sea. After returning to Germany at the end of 1942, the ship served as a training ship until the end of 1944, when she was used to support ground operations against the Soviet Army. She was sunk by British bombers on 9 April 1945 and partially scrapped; the remainder of the wreck lies buried beneath a quay.

Heavy Cruiser Admiral Hipper

Admiral Hipper, the first of five ships of her class, was the lead ship of the Admiral Hipper–class of heavy cruisers which served with the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. The ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1935 and launched February 1937; Admiral Hipper entered service shortly before the outbreak of war, in April 1939. The ship was named after Admiral Franz von Hipper, commander of the German battlecruiser squadron during the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and later commander-in-chief of the German High Seas Fleet.

Admiral Hipper saw a significant amount of action during the war. She led the assault on Trondheim during Operation Weserübung; while en route to her objective, she sank the British destroyer HMS Glowworm. In December 1940, she broke out into the Atlantic Ocean to operate against Allied merchant shipping, though this operation ended without significant success. In February 1941, Admiral Hipper sortied again, sinking several merchant vessels before eventually returning to Germany via the Denmark Strait. The ship was then transferred to northern Norway to participate in operations against convoys to the Soviet Union, culminating in the Battle of the Barents Sea on 31 December 1942, where she sank the destroyer Achates and the Minesweeper Bramble but was in turn damaged and forced to withdraw by the light cruisers HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica.

Disappointed by the failure to sink merchant ships in that battle, Adolf Hitler ordered the majority of the surface warships scrapped, though Admiral Karl Dönitz was able to convince Hitler to retain the surface fleet. As a result, Admiral Hipper was returned to Germany and decommissioned for repairs. The ship was never restored to operational status, however, and on 3 May 1945, Royal Air Force bombers severely damaged her while she was in Kiel. Her crew scuttled the ship at her moorings, and in July 1945, she was raised and towed to Heikendorfer Bay. She was ultimately broken up for scrap in 1948–1952; her bell resides in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Heavy Cruiser Lützow

Deutschland was the lead ship of her class of heavy cruisers (often termed a pocket battleship) which served with the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II. Ordered by the Weimar government for the Reichsmarine, she was laid down at the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel in February 1929 and completed by April 1933. Originally classified as an armored ship (Panzerschiff) by the Reichsmarine, in February 1940 the Germans reclassified the remaining two ships of this class as heavy cruisers. In 1940, she was renamed Lützow, after the Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser Lützow was handed over to the Soviet Union.

The ship saw significant action with the Kriegsmarine, including several non-intervention patrols in the Spanish Civil War, during which she was attacked by Republican bombers. At the outbreak of World War II, she was cruising the North Atlantic, prepared to attack Allied merchant traffic. Bad weather hampered her efforts, and she only sank or captured a handful of vessels before returning to Germany. She then participated in Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. Damaged at the Battle of Drøbak Sound, she was recalled to Germany for repairs. While en route, she was torpedoed and seriously damaged by a British submarine.

Repairs were completed by March 1941, Lützow returned to Norway to join the forces arrayed against Allied shipping to the Soviet Union. She ran aground during a planned attack on convoy PQ 17, which necessitated another return to Germany for repairs. She next saw action at the Battle of the Barents Sea with the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, which ended with a failure to destroy the convoy JW 51B. Engine problems forced a series of repairs culminating in a complete overhaul at the end of 1943, after which the ship remained in the Baltic. Sunk in shallow waters in the Kaiserfahrt in April 1945 by Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers, Lützow was used as a gun battery to support German troops fighting the Soviet Army until 4 May 1945, when she was disabled by her crew. Raised by the Soviet Navy in 1947, she was subsequently sunk as a target in the Baltic.

Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen

Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser, the third member of the class of five vessels. She served with the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) during World War II. The ship was laid down in April 1936 and launched in August 1938; Prinz Eugen entered service after the outbreak of war, in August 1940. The ship was named after Prince Eugene of Savoy, an 18th-century Austrian general.

Prinz Eugen saw extensive action during Operation Rheinübung, an attempted breakout into the Atlantic Ocean with the battleship Bismarck in May 1941. The two ships engaged the British battlecruiser Hood and battleship Prince of Wales in the Battle of Denmark Strait, during which Hood was destroyed and Prince of Wales was severely damaged. Prinz Eugen was detached from Bismarck during the operation to raid Allied merchant shipping, but this was cut short due to engine troubles. After putting into occupied France and undergoing repairs, the ship participated in Operation Cerberus, a daring daylight dash through the English Channel back to Germany. In February 1942, Prinz Eugen was deployed to Norway, although her time stationed there was cut short when she was torpedoed by the British submarine Trident days after arriving in Norwegian waters. The torpedo severely damaged the ship’s stern, which necessitated repairs in Germany.

Upon returning to active service, the ship spent several months training new officer cadets in the Baltic before serving as artillery support to the retreating German Army on the Eastern Front. After the German collapse in May 1945, the ship was surrendered to the British Royal Navy before being transferred to the US Navy as a war prize. After examining the ship in the United States, the US Navy assigned the cruiser to the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. After surviving both atomic blasts, Prinz Eugen was towed to Kwajalein Atoll where she ultimately capsized and sank in December 1946. The wreck remains partially visible above the water approximately two miles north-west of Bucholz Army Airfield, on the edge of Enubuj. One of her screws was salvaged and is on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial in Germany.

Cruiser Köln

Köln was a light cruiser, the third member of the Königsberg class that was operated between 1929 and March 1945, including service in World War II. She was operated by two German navies, the Reichsmarine and the Kriegsmarine. She had two sister ships, Königsberg and Karlsruhe. Köln was built by the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel; she was laid down in August 1926, launched in May 1928, and commissioned into the Reichsmarine in January 1930. She was armed with a main battery of nine 15 cm SK C/25 guns in three triple turrets and had a top speed of 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph).

Like her sister ships, Köln served as a training ship for naval cadets in the 1930s, and joined the non-intervention patrols during the Spanish Civil War during the latter part of the decade. After the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, she conducted several operations in the North Sea, but did not encounter any British warships. She participated in the attack on Bergen during Operation Weserübung in April 1940, and she was the only member of her class to survive the operation. In 1942, she was modified to carry a Flettner Fl 282 helicopter experimentally. Later in 1942, she returned to Norway, but did not see significant action. She remained there until early 1945, when she returned to Germany; in March, she was sunk by American bombers in Wilhelmshaven. She remained on an even keel, with her gun turrets above water; this allowed her to provide gunfire support to defenders of the city until the end of the war in May 1945.


E-Boat

E-boat (German: Schnellboot, or S-Boot, meaning “fast boat”) was the Western Allies’ designation for fast attack craft of the Kriegsmarine during World War II. The most popular, the S-100 class, were very seaworthy, heavily armed, and fast – capable of sustaining 43.5 knots (50 mph) and briefly accelerating to 48 knots (55 mph).

These craft were 35 metres length (114′ 10″) and 5.1 metres beam (16′ 9″‘), half again longer and much sleeker than any of the Allied PT boat.Their diesel engine propulsion, had substantially longer range (approximately 700 nautical miles) than the gasoline-fueled American PT boat and the generally similar British Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB).

As a result, the Royal Navy later developed better matched versions of MTBs using the Fairmile ‘D’ hull design.


Naval Guns

 

Oerlikon 20 mm Cannon

The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original German 20 mm Becker design that appeared very early in World War I. It was widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others, with various models employed by both Allied and Axis forces during World War II, and many versions still in use today.

Germany bought many of them before the war, and gave them the name 2 cm Flak 28 and 29 (The Flak 28 used a 15-round clip magazine and the Flak 29 used a large drum magazine with 60-rounds). First they were mainly used in the german navy, but later – and expecially during the war, when many of them got captured – they were also used in other units. The 2cm Oerlikon Flak 28 and Flak 29 apt in the Sockellafette 40 pedestal mount were intended by the Kriegsmarine for installation on ships.The 2cm Oerlikon Flak 28 was the first light automatic Anti-Aircarft weapon to reach the units in 1928 and it was installed on a mobile wheeled carriage.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History