Book Review-‘Battleships of the Bismarck Class’ by Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke
This is not a new book. Originally published in Germany in 1990 as part of a series on the technical features of Kriegsmarine capital ships, it was brought out in English in a hardback translation in 1998 by the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis and most recently in paperback in its current version. In the process, no editorial or substantive changes were made to the work except for the addition of several photographs, perhaps in part because its principal author, Gerhard Koop, a veteran of Germany’s pre-1945 navy, had died in the meantime. In short, this book’s bibliography has not been refreshed in 25 years and no recent research has been incorporated into the narrative or into the charts and tables.
Still, if readers do not yet own this work, they can expect solid value for their investment. The numerous, stunning, rare and frequently full-page black-and-white photographs and occasional artistic reconstructions detail the technical aspects of the Bismarck and the Tirpitz from the moment their keels were laid down to their last agony in the vast reaches of the Atlantic and in a remote Norwegian fjord, respectively. Gerhard Koop is primarily responsible for the brief historical narrative that accompanies Klaus-Peter Schmolke’s superb line drawings and for the technical tables that allow readers to appreciate the capacities of these mighty ships and judge them vis-à-vis those of other navies and of different times. In short readers should not expect an operational history of these vessels, nor point-by-point comparisons to battleships of other nations, but instead an exhaustive listing of the structural and technical data of this class of battleships and a discussion of their wartime performance, along with some critical commentary where such performance fell short of expectations…