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Sinking Battleship Bismarck

A Survivor's Story By Baron Burkard Von Mullenheim-Rechberg
Translated By Jack Sweetman Published Naval Institute Press Annapolis, Maryland 1980

Fondness of the sea and the military history of medicine encouraged me to review this book.
It is dedicated by the author; To the memory of my fallen comrades of the battleship Bismarck and to those on the British side who lost their lives during Exercise Rhine.

The short life of the Bismarck reminds one of the sinking of the Titanic. Both like Cassiopeia were bright stars in a constellation of energy to make the biggest and the best.

At the time of the sinking of the Bismarck (May 27, 1941) African-Americans were not allowed full participation as citizens in the US Navy or other branches of the military except in the most menial of services. Changes came but it was a slow and painful progess for those wishing to serve in any branch of the US military before and after WWII.

Baron Von Mollenheim provides extensive research and knowledge of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) for an accurate account of the Bismarck sinking. The Bismarck was commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on August 24, 1940. The author quoted Kapitan Lindermanns reference to a speech by Prince Otto Von Bismarck during the commissioning ceremony "Policy is not made with speeches, shooting festivals, or songs, it is made only by blood and iron."

From a distinguished military family Von Mollenheim was a senior survivor of the Bismarck with 115 other men. More than 2000 of his comrades perished with the ship including Commanding Officer Kapitan Ernest Lindermann. The Kapitans seaman messenger also perished standing with Lindermann as he gave a salute to his 'white cap' at the starboard side of the stem as it became level.

Mollenheim provides brave and dynamic accounts of the way and manner many of the men died and his determination to survive in freezing Atlantic waters tossed like a cork waiting to be rescued by Britons in the area.

The author records many final messages sent to the Bismarck during their last night. At 0153 Adolf Hitler to crew of Bismarck: "All
Germany is with you. What can be done will be done. Your performance of duty will strengthen our people in the struggle for its destiny." The ensign of the Bismarck was not taken down as the great ship sank. It was a sign to fight to the end.

Journalist William L. Shirer provided a footnote to the sinking of the Bismarck. "The sinking of the Bismarck...climaxed the greatest naval battle in the Atlantic of the Second World War. In the running engagement that lasted an entire week, with the Bismarck most of the time pitted alone against the bulk of the British home fleet, the 42,000 ton battle cruiser, Hood, the largest and most powerful vessel in the British navy was sunk in the first engagement."

With the assistance of Russia and others the Bismarck was discovered
and explored. Visit the url of Robert M. William Deep Sea Exploration for images of the remains of the Bismarck.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

I.M. Spence-Lewis M.D.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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