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german aircraft carriers...
England - South East, United Kingdom
Joined: February 05, 2008
KitMaker: 1,381 posts
AeroScale: 1,110 posts
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 02:22 AM UTC
hi all,

does anyone know why the germans in WW2 never went with aircraft carriers?
i know they partly built the Graf Zeppelin but it was never operational.

considering they were into experimentation in a big way and had some awsome battleships, that they would have had carriers.

United Kingdom
Joined: January 16, 2007
KitMaker: 1,226 posts
AeroScale: 640 posts
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 03:45 AM UTC
Others will know better than me, but here's a few thoughts.

A lot of German equipment at the start of the war was focused on short-range tactical doctrine and land-based warfare - Blitzkrieg, more or less. This is why they had no proper strategic bombers as well as no aircraft carriers, and why they didn't gear up to full war-rate production until 1941 or 1942.

Their big battleships and cruisers were designed around commerce-raiding rather than taking on opposing naval forces. Big guns were thought to be enough for that; the potential of the carrier had been understood but was percolating through at different speeds in different countries, and Germany was one of the last to take it on board. (Italy was even slower.) For commerce raiding the U-Boat was even more effective, of course, and massively more cost-effective.

By the time the Graf Zeppelin was abandoned, Germany was in a very different strategic position - about to go completely on the defensive, despite their delusions - and needed to divert resources into the army and the tactical side of the air force. Most of the navy - the units that hadn't already been sunk - was in hiding and rarely ventured out of port, the notable exception being the U-Boats. A carrier in those circumstances would have been little better than a nice new target for Allied bombers.

There would also have been an element of sheer incompetence. The German armed forces in the war have a reputation for precision and efficiency but the more I hear about them, the more I get the impression that they were as often as not successful despite themselves. Procurement was a particular viper's nest, where personal interests and feuds, as well as an alarming predilcetion for gigantomania, resulted in huge amounts of duplication and waste. I can't remember the exact details but I'm fairly sure that this got in the Graf Zeppelin's way during its development.

One thing I don't know is whether the boat would have been any good if it had it been finished. Anyone have any thoughts?
Utah, United States
Joined: December 14, 2007
KitMaker: 3,389 posts
AeroScale: 375 posts
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 05:02 AM UTC
I believe a carrier group requires a large amount of resources, readily available port facilities to return to, and it works best as an offensive option. Germany's plan of building cruisers and battleships as commerce raiders and general orders to avoid direct battle with the British home fleet would go against that philosophy. The presence of the Great Britain so close to France and the exits from the North Sea limited the operational area of a large carrier group, and by 1941 the German surface fleet was already being kept in port. Considering the position Germany was in, and how her naval forces fought, Germany would have been better off scrapping the big ships and building more U-boats.
Quebec, Canada
Joined: March 23, 2004
KitMaker: 2,412 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 05:58 AM UTC
Perhaps because they had an ally more capable of carrying out such actions?
Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Joined: October 22, 2008
KitMaker: 1,280 posts
AeroScale: 3 posts
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 06:22 AM UTC
Multiple reasons:

+ The lil Privat had told the Navy to be ready by 1946, the navy was planning for 1944. This resulted among others in a slow and deliberat building speed for the two carriers. Carrier-B was delayed to use results from Carrier-A

+ The Austrian Painter ordered a stop to all non-critical developments not ready by a certain date around 1940. Warships except destroyers where on that list.

+ Adolf had a "foxhole perspective" and did not recognize the values of the Navy. A classic example is "Cruiser-L" (a Hipper Block-B/Prinz Eugen class ship) given to the Sowjets. Hitler at that time suggested adding "Seydlitz" and even "Prinz Eugen" as well but the navy (barely) stopped him

+ Heavy shipbuilding capacity was limited. The germans had few docks/slips/drydocks that could take ships of that size. And some where blocked by the H-class BB. Same for steel production, here the submarines skimmed of quite some supplies

+ After the Bismark was sunk Hitler threw one of his Temper Tantrums and for some time wanted to break up the major warships. Even when this was prevented they received low priority

+ Dönitz with his submarines was a better Nazi and Salesman than Raeder with his battleships

Size-wise the Zeppelin was a design from the "Bismark" period and didn't suffer the problems of "ever increasing size". At 33.000tons she was around the size of an Essex but with a smaller air group and more armor like the RN's Victorious class.

A german carrier is one of the interesting "what if" things. Imagine the Zeppelin being part of the Rheinübung task force. "Cerberus" shows us what happens if Swordfish and ME-109 meet and it's not pretty for the Swordfish. Not to mention that HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk would have received a visit by some Stukas...

North Carolina, United States
Joined: June 06, 2006
KitMaker: 4,686 posts
AeroScale: 238 posts
Posted: Saturday, December 19, 2009 - 04:28 AM UTC
Not an expert either,but I seem to recall reading about infighting about the airgroup,whether it would come under Lutwaffe or Navy control,and that that would have been a big headache with goring in control.
Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Joined: October 22, 2008
KitMaker: 1,280 posts
AeroScale: 3 posts
Posted: Saturday, December 19, 2009 - 05:03 AM UTC
Well, not as much as RAF / RN. Actually "when it flies it's mine" was Goerings word and that was "the law". So the air group was Airforce. Raeder argued but not much.

Hamilton, New Zealand
Joined: February 07, 2009
KitMaker: 795 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009 - 07:29 AM UTC
Well the principal answer would be "Hitler says no"

And the reason Hilter says no was primarily his focus being on the resource rich areas of russia to his east where tanks were more useful than aircraft carriers.

Personally I think it was the right choice. In the Pacific where you had vast oceans in which to hide and vast distances that could be put between the shipyard and the enemies bombers meant the aircraft carrier came into its own. In the limited expanses of the eurpoean waterways they were only ever going to be what the battleship already was, a symbol of national strength even if a rather impotent one.

So in that view they would have been useful in 1946 when germany turned to projecting their power after the planned 1943 invasion of russia had been completed. Then they could look at sailing off to conquer new colonies or send battlefleets to patrol the Pacific or whatever took their fancy.

Unfortunately the wrong people were making the decisions on what got built and Germany's industrial wealth was squandered on a lot of greedy people and dumb ideas whilst good ideas went wanting.

But I think that speaks to Germany's true intentions in 1939 and their plans for the future.