24 May – Today in German History

1917

  • On May 24, 1917, driven by the spectacular success of the German U-boat submarines and their attacks on Allied and neutral ships at sea, the British Royal Navy introduces a newly created convoy system, whereby all merchant ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean would travel in groups under the protection of the British navy.

    The introduction of the convoy system finally marked the beginning of a sharp decline in the scale of German submarine damage and the death of German hopes to starve Britain into submission. Between May 1917 and November 1918, a total of 1,100,000 American troops were transported across the Atlantic in convoy, and only 637 of them were drowned as a result of German attacks.

1941

  • On May 24, 1941, Germany’s largest battleship, the Bismarck, sinks the pride of the British fleet, HMS Hood.

    The Bismarck was the most modern of Germany’s battleships, a prize coveted by other nation’s navies, even while still in the blueprint stage. Hitler handed over a copy of its blueprints to Joseph Stalin as a concession during the days of the Hitler-Stalin neutrality pact. The HMS Hood, originally launched in 1918, was Britain’s largest battle cruiser at 41,200 tons)but also capable of achieving the relatively fast speed of 31 knots. The two met in the North Atlantic, northeast of Iceland, where two British cruisers had tracked down the Bismarck. Commanded by Admiral Gunther Lutjens, commander in chief of the German Fleet, the Bismarck sunk the Hood, resulting in the death of 1,500 of its crew; only three Brits survived.


    During the engagement, the Bismarck‘s fuel tank was damaged. Lutjens tried to make for the French coast but was sighted again only three days later. Torpedoed to the point of incapacity, the Bismarck was finally sunk by a ring of British warships. Admiral Lutjens was one of the 2,300 German casualties.

1943

  • Admiral Doenitz ordered a halt to sub warfare due to heavy losses to the Axis since March.
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