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DEBRIEFING REPORTS FROM BISMARCK SURVIVORS

This document was translated from the German by Ulrich H. Rudofsky, and edited/reviewed by José M. Rico. Notes by the editors are noted and placed in square brackets [...].


Preliminary hearing of Matrosengefreiten Manthey, Herzog, and Höntzsch concerning the sortie of the Battleship "Bismarck".

Cruise with "Prinz Eugen" through Baltic Sea, Greater Belt, Kattegat, Skagerrack, [and] Bergen into the Denmark Strait.

There is a rumor onboard that the ships’ departure was broadcast by a Swedish or Danish steamer.

23 May

1700 Heavy cruiser in sight; forced off; keeps contact during the night.

24 May

0500 three smoke trails in sight; “Hood”, “King George”, one heavy cruiser.

0505 Fire is opened. Apparently, battery fire distribution: forward turrets for “Hood”, and aft turrets for “King George”.

0513 "Hood" sank after three salvos (more or less). Announced by ship's command: Hostile heavy cruisers are firing at each other. Apparently, 86 38 cm rounds were expended during these fights. Two fires noticed aboard "King George". Hits aboard Bismarck:

    1. Penetrating hit to the battery deck area, exiting on the ‘tween deck. Apparently did not detonate. Compartments XXI and XXII are flooded. Forecastle is submerged up to the railings.
    2. Penetrating hit through launch, entered the water.
    3. Apparently, hit in compartment 13-17.
    4. Apparently, also a hit below 15 cm forward port side (oil bunker).

Generating machinery [electric plants] 1 and 2 were apparently disabled by hits [this must be referring to the port electric plant No 4 which was flooded due to an underwater hit in compartment XIV. The power plants No 1 and No 2 in compartment VII were not damaged during the engagement with Hood and POW. JMR].

“Hood” had apparently shot three salvos during this battle. The hits on “Bismarck” apparently originated from “Hood” or the heavy cruiser. Oil was pumped forward [sic, UR], [and] the holes in the forecastle were welded tight by Oberleutnant (Eng.) Richter. Pursuit at 24 knots.
Second smoke stack is clearly visible, but is not identified.

25 May

1200 Speech by the Chief of Fleet (King George keeps up surveillance.)

1300 Surveillance aircraft (flying boat “Consolidated”, “Swordfish”)

2300 Air raid by 3 squadrons of torpedo aircraft (possibly 1 bomber squadron).
The weather was heavily overcast. Twilight.
Ship’s command announces: 5 shoot-downs, 18 torpedoes dropped, 1 downing by turret “A”, 1 (torpedo) trail apparently stopped by secondary battery. Aircraft drop [their torpedoes] in close proximity (100 m) Angular shot [required] [could mean severe angle or difficult shot.UR]
1 hit at the catapult level detonates on the armor. Oberbootsmann [Kurt Kirchberg] killed.
According to certain reports [there were] no further incidents.

After the air attack, “King George” [is] in sight, brief artillery battle.
Award of the Knight’s Cross to Korvettenkapitän Schneider, Kapitänleutnant Knappe and Mihatsch is announced by the First Officer [Fregattenkapitän Hans Oels].

26 May

Apparently a surveillance [vessel or aircraft].
No remarkable events.
According to radio signal, start of aircraft [attack is] apparently detected.

2030 Air raid alarm. Aircraft are apparently rendezvousing above the ship.
As announced by the ship’s command: Attack by 35 aircraft. 22 torpedoes dropped. 7 shoot-downs, 1, or possibly 2 heavy hits at the stern section of the ship (rudder machinery compartment).
Rudder stuck hard to starboard. Ship sails in circle at 24 knots. 1 hit probably [in] compartment VIII or VII. Rudder failure cleared after approximately ½ hour, 17-24 knots at that time. After the attack, the ship is low in the water. Continuing to advance at 24 knots.

2300 Alarm. Attacks by destroyers repelled by heavy artillery, secondary artillery, and antiaircraft guns.
One [torpedo] track? Light projectile shooting by the destroyers, 1 light projectile [hit] forward (small fire).
Announced by ship’s command: 1 destroyer sunk, 1 destroyer on fire, 1 additional destroyer probably also on fire.
Appearance of aircraft (dive bomber) was repulsed.
Ship sailed zig-zag course during the night, in rain squalls defensive course [A.K. =Abwehrkurs? Defensive course. UR]

27 May

Half an hour pause in battle after the attacks by the destroyers.

0630 Alarm. All off-duty officers to the ship’s chart room.
Announced by ship’s command: “King George”, heavy cruisers and destroyers in sight.
The ship stops 5 minutes after the alarm, white smoke from the funnel and [steam] blowing from the safety valves.
Defensive firing from the heavy and secondary artillery.
Opponent slowly zeroes in. Ship is apparently completely surrounded, the ship fires to all sides. Many hits in the superstructures.
1 heavy hit in the portside aft, the poop settles very deeply, at [the time the] abandon-ship by crew [order is given] turret D is submerged in water up to the barrels.
No fires.
Gradually, the secondary artillery stops firing.
Destroyers approach very closely (people are recognizable) and fire. The other vessels also race up more closely. Apparently, it is transmitted by the antiaircraft telephone: disconnect telephones, break out life vests.
Inflatable boats were made ready on the upper deck. At approx. 0730-0800 hours sailors left the ship together in another boat.
The [enemy’s] turrets continue undiminished firing.
The ship rapidly disappears from [our] sight, still firing. The sinking was not observed. Gray smoke clouds. Towards night at about 0100 hours, a lot of water was observed on the battery deck, the canteen was off limits [not permitted to be entered].
Ventilators and bulkheads were severely buckled by the air pressure [shockwaves] of the 38 cm [guns] and from the [force of the] seaway on the water that had entered the ship. One inflatable boat was probably picked up by the destroyer(s).
Water is present in the engine rooms.

Signed:

Manthey   Herzog   Höntzsch

Signature: Oberleutnant zur See

Addendum from Group West: The data on page(s) 1 and 2 have been adjusted as to applicable time course by Group West.


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