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German Pocket Battleships 1939-45 [Paperback]

Gordon Williamson , Ian Palmer

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Book Description

May 20 2003 New Vanguard (Book 75)
After the end of World War I, the German Navy came up with the concept of the Panzerschiffe, or Pocket Battleship, as a method of circumventing treaty limitations on the size and types of ship Germany was permitted to build. New, more modern production methods, where welded construction prevailed over the older riveting process, were combined with the development of modern engines capable of fast speeds and a very powerful armament, far superior to that on any enemy Cruisers. This book covers these three sister ships, the ‘Deutschland’, the ‘Admiral Graf Spee’ and the ‘Admiral Scheer’, which formed the core of the Kriegsmarine's fighting power at the start of World War II.

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German Pocket Battleships 1939-45 + German Heavy Cruisers 1939-45 + German Battleships 1939-45
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About the Author

Gordon Williamson was born in 1951 and currently works for the Scottish Land Register. He spent seven years with the Military Police TA and has published a number of books and articles on the decorations of the Third Reich and their winners. He has written a number of World War II titles for Osprey.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Following the end of World War One, and the abdication of the Kaiser, the government had passed a law, effective 16 April 1919, for the creation of a new, provisional navy, the Reichsmarine, to replace the former Kaiserliche Marine. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK as far as it goes... Nov. 15 2009
By Eric Husher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While this is a fair overview of the German 'Pocket Battleships,' there are three major flaws which prevent me from giving this a higher rating. First, the artwork is pretty lousy (the color plates look like they were done on a cheap CAD program more suitable for a computer game!), and second, there is very little photography of the 'Admiral Scheer' in its late war configuration (and no accurate artwork either). Finally, it would have been a good thing to include a summary piece on the relative effectiveness of the 'Pocket Battleship' concept compared to similar-sized cruisers and/or battlecruisers, since these ships were such a radical departure from everything else afloat at the time....
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too rudimentary and too focused on the three individual ships of the class March 23 2009
By Yoda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The problem with this volume is that it focuses too much on the three individual ships of this class and not enough on the actual class itself. If the book was a few hundred pages long this would have been a good strategy but when you only have 48 pages to work with (about half of which are illustration) it is the wrong approach.

Important aspects of the class, as a result, are not discussed do to the focus on the individual ships and their histories. The two most important aspects not covered but that should have been was the revolutionary nature of this ship (or so the thought was at the time) and their ability to function in their main role, commerce raiders. With respect to the first aspect, these ships, at the time, were considered "revolutionary" (in the words of Jane's review of them) because they were a new class that was faster than any class of ship that could defeat them (battelships and battlecruisers) but could defeat any ship that could catch up with them (heavy and light cruisers, destroyers). This was what made them, in Jane's words, "revolutionary". Unfortunately this aspect is not even touched upon in this volume. Related and interwined with this, there is no comparison of this class of ship with potential British opponenents and counterparts (i.e., heavy cruisers).

A second major oversight of the book is that it does not discuss the class in terms of what it was designed and intended for, commerce raiding. Did this class of ship have the needed endurance? Range? Other characterisitcs (i.e., reliable and energy efficient power plant)? None of these issues was addressed despite the fact that the class, especially regarding engine reliability, had problems. In essence, the purpose of the ship was not even examined.

For the above reasons the book is deserving of only three stars.

On the positive side there are many illustrations in the book that can be quite useful for model makers and those interested in how the ships looked.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Omits a Bit too much detail at times... Sept. 17 2004
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Gordon Williamson has written several volumes for Osprey's New Vanguard series that covers each of the main classes of warships in Germany's Second World War fleet. In German Pocket Battleships 1939-1945, Williamson outlines the technical details and careers of the three German warships of the "Deutschland" class: Deutschland (later Lutzow), Scheer and Graf Spee. William's summary is succinct, sometimes too succinct, such as omitting any attempt at discussing the relative contribution of these ships to the German war effort. Williamson also fails to notice that the Graf Spee is currently being raised and that parts of the ship were already salvaged in early 2004 - his readers might like to know that parts of the Graf Spee are already on display in Uruguay.

Williamson begins with a short background on the Germany Navy's reduced state after the First World War and the genesis of the "pocket battleship" concept. The author then provides a summary of the main features and wartime career of each of the three ships in this class. The summaries are sometimes overly brief, such as failing to detail how many merchant ships the Graf Spee sank or captured on her 1939 cruise, and the Battle of the River Platte or Barents Sea might have rated a small map of the action. The color plates are excellent - the best selling point of the volume - and they consist of side and plan views of the Deutschland; the Graf Spee at gunnery drill in the Atlantic; side and plan views of the Scheer; a cutaway diagram of the Graf Spee; side and plan views of the Graf Spee; the Scheer engaging Russian troops; and a variety of camouflage schemes. The photographs throughout the volume are also decent, although most of the shots were taken in port. The technical details provided by Williamson cover the basic essentials, but don't even cover all the information provided in a much shorter Jane's Fighting Ships edition from the era - such as armor layout or much detail on the torpedo armament.

Germany built the "pocket battleships" for sea denial purposes, to act as commerce raiders against British convoys and thereby spread out the Royal Navy chasing down will-o-the-wisp raiders. Unfortunately for readers of this volume, Williamson makes no effort to discuss the doctrinal rationale behind these rather unique warships or to evaluate their performance in the Second World War. This summary does reveal that the pocket battleships only conducted five anti-shipping sorties (Deutschland and Graf Spee in 1939, Scheer in 1940-1, Lutzow in the 1942 Battle of the Barents Sea, and Scheer against PQ-17 in 1942) during the entire war and only one of the sorties resulted in a successful patrol where the raider returned intact to port. All told, the pocket battleships sank 28 British merchantmen of about 170,000 tons plus a single armed merchant cruiser. Why did the three highly rated pocket battleships fail to score more successes? First, Graf Spee was lost in the first four months of the war and the other two vessels spent most of the early years of the war in dockyard; Deutschland for example, was out of commission 75% of the first three years of the war and Scheer didn't make its first war cruise until October 1940. A second reason why the ships weren't more successful is that they were designed to operate in areas where the British lacked air power, but by the time the two survivors were fully operational - in late 1942 - the window of opportunity had shut. Significantly, Lutzow and Scheer sank no enemy ships after 1941 and spent the rest of the war in secondary roles for which they were poorly suited. Thus, the pocket battleship concept was obsolete early in the war.

Williamson leaves out some vital information, like the cost of the ships. Each ship in the class cost $32-36 million, which means that they were about four times the cost of a contemporary British heavy cruiser but less than half the cost of a battleship. However, the investment of $100 million and 3,300 crewmen to eliminate a couple dozen cheap British merchantmen would make it seem that Hitler did not get his money's worth with these ships. The power plant of the Deutschland class also makes one wonder about the technical quality of the pocket battleships too, since their typical speed of 25 knots was not very fast compared to other heavy cruisers. Given that an early model U-Boat that cost about $1-1.5 million and needed only a 50-man crew could go out into the Atlantic and sink as many as 10-20 merchantmen in a successful career, it seems that Hitler would have been wiser to start the war with 50 more U-Boats than a handful of "hangar queens." Apparently, Hitler realized the same thing by November 1942, when he ordered drastic reduction in the surface fleet in favor of U-Boat production. It is fortunate for the Allied cause that Hitler did not realize the poor cost effectiveness of the pocket battleship sooner.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LEAVE IT TO DER FUERER Jan. 7 2014
By Larry Thurman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hitler had no real plan for conducting war on the high seas. He knew he had to do something in order to succeed in his plans for world domination. He also knew the allies would be watching Germany as dictated by the terms of the treaties ending World War I. So, he and his pupets came up with a class of ship they thought might go unnoticed by the allies. They came up with three ships they thought would compete but would comply with the naval restrictions following World War I. They were called POCKET BATTLESHIPS by some folks. Others called them HEAVY CRUISERS and to a few, they were BATTLECRUISERS. Pick your poison on what you would call them. Each are somewhat correct.

This book does a good job of briefly descibing how these three sisters were designed and constructed and why. It goes into some of the operations in which each ship participated and their final moments. I got a sense of why the designers created and built these unusual but neat ships. I have heard many say they were never going to succeed no matter how big or strong they were designed and built. In the end, they had no chance for success. Why? Britains Royal Navy.

After reading this book, you can make up your own mind.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but short Dec 17 2013
By B. Michael Shimmin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The New Vanguard publications on different classes of ships in different navies are generally good and also good value. The Pocket Battleships are such special vessels, and had such active careers, that is difficult to do them justice in such a short publication. It makes a good effort but it not so successful as when dealing with, for example, German Light Cruisers and German Heavy Cruisers of the same period, about which most people know rather less. There is so much information available on these innovative vessels however this book is useful to those that have not studied them and has some good photographs, but I would have preferred more photographs rather than artists impressions although those depicting the paint and camouflage schemes will be of interest to modellers.

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