October 20, 1941
Brooklyn Navy Yard, N.Y.
Still deep in his thought’s Admiral Rearson was unaware of where he was walking as he began to traverse into the shipbuilding yards near several machine shops. Suddenly a horned bleeped as a heavily loaded truck whizzed by. Startled he took several quick steps backwards before falling over a pallet loaded with boxes of electrical wire.
“Are you alright Admiral?” he heard a voice say.
“Turning around he glanced up to see a short but stocky navy captain.”
“Uh yes captain I am, the only thing injured here is my pride.”
“May I help you up Admiral?”
“Thank you captain but I can manage on my own. Getting up they finally met face to face and the Navy Captain saluted and introduced himself.
“Admiral I’m Captain Nathaniel Porter, prospective CO of the battleship Iowa may I ask sir where you aware of where you were going.”
“Thought I was Captain Porter but it seems that I was perhaps pre-occupied in thought. By the way I’m Admiral Rearson.”
“Admiral Rearson, the one who managed to capture the Bismarck and was recently involved in that naval battle in the Med.”
“Guilty as charged Captain.”
“It’s an honor to meet you Admiral. I read the reports about your engagement with the Bismarck. Many including myself consider it a textbook battle. However I have not been able to get my hands on any of the reports of the Mediterranean battle.”
“I’m afraid that you won’t for sometime Captain seeing how most of them were involved in my Board of Inquiry and won’t be readily released for some time.”
“Sorry to hear about that Admiral, as some other officers that I know.”
“Thanks Captain Porter but I didn’t think that I did anything wrong except perhaps rely on the guns of my battleships. Speaking of battleships you did say that you are the prospective CO of that ship over there the Iowa.”
“Yes sir, impressive is she, can’t wait until she is finished and ready for combat. I would like to see what she could do against the Germans or the Italians.”
“What about the Japanese Captain?”
“If it comes to that Admiral then I’ll include the Japanese as well. I don’t believe that there is a ship out there that can match her in speed, firepower and protection.”
“I wouldn’t be sure of that Captain. The British are building several new classes of battleships one of which the Royal Sovereign class perhaps maybe an equal to the Iowa’s.”
“Perhaps Admiral but I would still place my bets on the Iowa.”
“And so would I Captain, but I would place my bet even further on the Montana’s which will follow this class.” Admiral Rearson would love to mention the Vermont class to Captain Porter but knew that he couldn’t, for the sake of security though Admiral King did tell him a few days after that meeting that the Navy Department purposely leaked out that an additional 6 ships of the Montana class had been authorized. The intent of this was to mislead any foreign agents who might get wind of their construction.
November 3rd, 1941
Admiral Yamamato’s Private Residence
Although it was fall and the weather was not ideal for it, being a little chilly, Admiral Yamamato was out in his garden taking a brisk walk. He tried doing this every morning when he had the opportunity to spend to spend quality time at his residence. Being one who liked working in a garden he usually found the time and inspiration during these walks to plan things such as the upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor. In this case he was planning just what type of plants he would plant and where he would place them.
On this particular day there was more on his mind then his garden, in this case he was wondering about the plan that he submitted for the Pearl Harbor attack. He still has not heard from Imperial Headquarters whether his plan was approved or not. There were many who opposed this attack including the one Admiral he had selected as Commander, Admiral Nagumo, which is why he selected him in the first place. Knowing that he opposed it would only make Admiral Nagumo work that much harder to make sure that it will succeed.
Quietly so as not to disturb Admiral Yamamato, Admiral Matome Ugaki walked up to Admiral Yamamato with a gleam on his face. Turning around and noticing the smile on his aides face he asked the only question that was on his mind at the moment “Yes Matome what is it, is there news of the operation Climb Mt. Nikitaka”
“Yes Admiral Yamamato-san, it has been approved almost unanimously. There were several who opposed it or had reservations about it, such as the ones that you had brought up at our previous meeting. They’re torn between what you said and what worries them”
“They have a right to be concerned and worry Matome, between you and me I don’t think that I will live long enough to see the eventual fall of the Empire. The Americans will re-group, re-arm and drive us back here to Nihon, our people will suffer for our actions and the Emperor will lose face. But now is not the time to discuss such matters, we must now dispatch orders to the list of ships that I have on my desk, as they are the ones that I have chosen for this attack. Kido Butai will set sail from Tankan Bay on the 26th of November in order to arrive off Oahu on the 7th of December, the day I have chosen for the attack. It will be a Sunday and the base should be at a relaxed state, so they should have no warning of what is to come”
Little did Admiral Yamamato’s realize how prophetic his words would be about him not being alive when Japan would eventually fall. In an operation in 1943 called Operation Vengeance Admiral Yamamato’s plane, a Mitsubishi G4M Betty bomber, his transport would be shot down over Bougainville by a P-38G Lighting fighter piloted by a Lieutenant Barber of the US Army Air Corps on April 18th.
HIJMS Kyokuto Maru
HIJMS Kenyo Maru
HIJMS Kokuyo Maru
HIJMS Shinkoku Maru
HIJMS Toho Maru
HIJMS Nippon Maru
HIJMS Toei Maru
I-16, I-18, I-20,I-22 and I-24 each embarking a Type A Midget submarine would leave Kure Naval Base on the 25th of November
November 18th, 1941
KMS Tirpitz, Kiel Naval Base, Kiel Bay
Aboard the sister ship of the now infamous Bismarck both crew and officers were in high gear. It had been anticipated that the ship and a few others would be attempting what some are calling an impossible mission, another breakout into the Atlantic. Of course this has been rumored, scuttlebutt in almost every in the world, for the past week. The reason that some think it will be an impossible mission is because the first try had failed although a prized British ship, the Hood had been sunk by the pride of the Kreigsmarine. But most think that this time it will succeed because the Royal Navy had been severely beaten by the French at Gibraltar and as a result it was spread very thinly in the North Atlantic and North Sea.
With the breakout in force there would be not only strength in numbers but in firepower for accompanying the Tirpitz would be the famous twins Scharnhorst & Gneisenau, which had sunk the British carrier Glorious. Three other ships would join them they were the heavy cruiser Strassburg, and panzerschiffe’s Admiral Scheer & Lutzow. Together these half dozen ships were a powerful battle squadron but were ordered like the Bismarck & Prinz Eugen to avoid combat with British warships, also included now were ships of the Amerikaner navy as well. Traveling with them part way would be ten destroyers acting as escorts until they reached the area of the North Sea & Denmark Strait.
About twenty miles behind this group would be the only operational carrier in the Kreigsmarine, the Graf Zeppelin. There was one other that was nearing completion, the Peter Strasser but it would not be available in time. The Graf Zeppelin main effort during this breakout would be to provide the German battle squadron with air cover until just south of Iceland, and as such her air group consisted of only fighters, 50 in all. It was well known that the Amerikans had stationed several fighter squadrons as well as light attack bombers at two airfields on the island and it would be up to these fighters to stop any attack by the Amerikaner Air Force. Further south it would be up to the Luftwaffe flying from bases in Denmark, Belgium and France to provide air cover.
Hilter also ordered that Admiral Doenitz place at least a dozen or so u-boats along the intended course that the battle squadron would take, plus several just outside Scapa Flow. Their mission was two-fold, first and foremost they were to act as observers looking out for any activity on the part of the British & Amerikaner Navies. Second they were to attack any British warships that came within range of the battle squadron. To ensure the success of their primary mission & accurate coverage of the route the u-boats were separated by 50 miles from each other.
Not only would the Kreigsmarine provide an escort but the Luftwaffe as well with light and medium attack aircraft such as the Ju-88 and He-111’s which had decent range. Also flying would be long-range maritime patrol planes such as the Fw-200 Condor, which would be patrolling the area far ahead of the battle squadron. Admiral Raeder had figured that the reason that the Bismarck was so quickly targeted was that somehow the British had gotten wind of her movements from the Baltic to the North Sea. With this as a given it was almost certain that this breakout would also be observed and the information sent to British Intelligence. He was sure that the British would somehow respond but with such a large force being sent out he was unsure just how big and it what way. Even with the loss of one perhaps two ships the majority would somehow successfully make it and would be begin their mission as commerce raiders.
The original idea was that once the ships succeeded in evading any British or Amerikaner naval forces the squadron would breakup into two separate groups for maximum firepower and protection. The Tirpitz would be accompanied by the Admiral Scheer & Deutschland, while the Scharnhorst & Gneisenau would be accompanied by Lutzow. Each group commander would only know where their destination would be once they separated. Another plan was to separate into three groups with the Scharnhorst & Gneisenau in the first group, the Admiral Scheer & Lutzow in the second and the Tirpitz & [/I]Strassburg[/I] in the third. Of the two plans the second was what was chosen if for no other reason than to give mutual support to another ship if and when needed.
Even with the sortie of the battle squadron Admiral Raeder still had plenty of warships at his disposal either in commission or soon to be if needed. Two battleships were scheduled to join the fleet within 3 months with another two 6 months later, two modern & powerful battle cruisers were already in commission and would be joined by another two in 4 months. Along with the battle cruisers there was 1 carrier, 4 new heavy cruisers, 3 new light cruisers and at least 18 new destroyers not to mention 1 aircraft carrier that joined the fleet within the past year joining already those in commission. Another carrier was just weeks away from commissioning. There were also plans to build several ships of the latest successful French design but finding the money and resources to do so was becoming difficult. At this point in order for any of these ships to be built relied heavily on a successful outcome on the Eastern Front and in the North African campaign. Still there was still enough material lying around to get at least two of the ships started.
“Admiral all is progressing as ordered sir. All departments report manned and ready. We are fully provisioned, our fuel tanks have been topped off and our ammunition magazines are fully loaded, standing by for further orders.”
“Gut Korvettenkapitan Kaufmann, are the other ships ready as well?”
“Yes Herr Admiral. All ships are now standing by for your orders to raise anchor.”
“What of the Luftwaffe are they ready as well?”
“The last report that I have received was they were awaiting for the fleet to enter the Denmark Strait before taking off.”
“Gut send this message to Fleet Headquarters. All ships are manned and ready to sail, awaiting further orders”
It took several hours for a response to the message but when it did the reply was clear.
“Admiral we’ve received a reply to our earlier message. It is from Admiral Raeder with an endorsement from the Fuehrer himself.”
“What does it say?”
Unfolding the message Korvettenkapitan Kaufmann read the message as asked.
DATE: NOVEMBER 19th, 1941
FROM: FLEET ADMIRAL RAEDER
TO: ADMIRAL RICHTER
SUBJ: OPERATION ARTIC STORM
1) YOU ARE ORDERED TO DEPART KIEL NAVAL BASE AND PROCEED INTO THE ATLANTIC VIA THE DENMARK STRAIT.
2) BEFORE YOU PROCEED IN ENTERING THE ATLANTIC YOU WILL PROCEED TO BERGEN, NORWAY TO TOP OFF YOUR FUEL TANKS.
3) YOUR FORCES WILL BE SUPPORTED BY U-BOATS AND THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER GRAF ZEPPELIN AS FAR AS POSSIBLE.
4) IN ADDITION TO OTHER NAVAL UNITS AS STATED IN NOTE (2) THE LUFTWAFFE HAS BEEN INSTRUCTED TO PROVIDE AS MUCH AIR COVER AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.
5)FURTHER YOU WILL AT ALL TIMES ATTEMPT TO AVOID ANY ENGAGEMENT WITH THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN NAVIES DURING THIS BREAKOUT.
6) ONCE OUT INTO THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ATLANTIC OCEANS YOU WILL PROCEED WITH YOUR FINAL ORDERS.
7) THE FUEHRER PERSONALLY WISHES YOU SUCCESS WITH YOUR UPCOMING MISSION FOR THE FATHERLAND.
THE FLEET WILL DEPART KIEL NAVAL BASE AT 1730 HOURS.
FLEET ADMIRAL RAEDER
“Excellent inform all ships that we will raise anchor in two hours and proceed as ordered into the North Sea and then the Atlantic.”
“Ja Vohl Herr Admiral.”
November 19th, 1941
Headquarters British Naval Intelligence
Standing the noon watch for the fourth day in a row the junior petty officer was in a rut, it seems that he was getting board as nothing out of the ordinary was happening. So far all of the German radio traffic that was being intercepted was pretty much routine. That was until just a few minutes ago. Listening carefully and slowly deciphering the now familiar German code he became aware of messages indicating ship movements. With standing orders to report any and all such radio traffic he immediately contacted the duty officer.
“Yes what is it Petty Officer Jameson?”
“Sir I have deciphered a number of radio messages indicating ship movements in the Baltic.”
“How many messages?”
“Three so far sir”
“Any indication of what type of ship movements or number of ships?”
“No Leftenant but I did get a time sir, 1730 hours.”
“Has any of this been verified?”
“Not yet Leftenant.”
“Very well Petty Officer Jameson attempt to verify these messages with other sources while I pass what we have on so far.”
November 19th, 1941
Headquarters Royal Air Force
Like their naval counterpart the Royal Air Force was receiving messages from sources within the occupied countries of an unusual amount of aircraft movements. One agent in Northern France reported a number of FW-200 being assigned to one of the bases. Another agent in Norway reported the same type of activity. Several more assets also reported the redeployment of German medium bomber squadrons including several He-111 & JU-88’s into Denmark and Belgium. Singularly this didn’t mean much but taken as a whole it meant that something was up, something big. Like with the Royal Navy all of this information was passed up the chain of command.
November 19th, 1941
With the destroyers Z.14, Z.10 & Z.6 in the lead the small German fleet began to transverse the Store Baelt. Immediately behind the destroyers came the heavy cruiser Strassburg followed by the panzerschiffe’s Admiral Scheer & Lutzow. Behind this group at a distance of 500 meters were the Tirpitz, Scharnhorst & Gneisenau, and the destroyers Z.4, Z.16 & Z. 7. Trailing behind the battle squadron by a distance of 10 miles was the carrier Graf Zeppelin escorted by the destroyers Z.16 & Z.1.
In an attempt to mislead any Danish or eventually Norwegian underground units the battle squadron would at first steam in a northerly direction after leaving Bergen before heading out to sea to change course southwest. This deception was so that it would seem that the battle squadron would enter one of the large fiords along the Norwegian coast, which they then would use as a springboard to attack one of the Convoy’s.
At the narrowest point in the strait were several temporary observation points operated by the Danish underground. It was not until 1805 when the first of the approaching German ships were spotted by the lookouts. Taking care not to give their position away the lookouts began the task of counting and identifying the ships as they past. By 1845 both groups of German ships had past the last of the observation posts on the islands of Funen & Zeeland. Aware of the possibility of discovery by German radio tracking units that were known to be in the vicinity the underground operators waited nearly half an hour before transmitting their first message.
Back in England astounded radio operators asked several times for the messages to be repeated knowing that by asking so meant endangering the underground operators but they had no choice it was imperative that the information be confirmed. So risking discovery and possible capture the underground operators repeated the message two more times 15 minutes apart. After sending the message for the third time most of the lookout posts were abandoned and the operators moved their equipment to alternate locations.
No sooner had the first message had been received then it started off a chain reaction throughout the British government & military structures as key personnel and departments were immediately notified. Several individuals remembered the earlier information and started putting the pieces together; the Germans were attempting another breakout but this time in force. Quickly several plans were drawn up in response to this threat as resources were identified to counter this threat. On paper it wasn’t much.
By 1920 the German battle squadron was well clear of the Danish Islands and were now in the Kattegat, they would maintain this northerly heading for a couple of hours before changing course to one of a southwesterly direction. They would maintain this course for several hours more before altering course again to take them to Bergen.