Hitler Wanted a Huge Battleship and Aircraft Carrier Fleet. Here’s Why It Never Happened.

    Robert Farley


    Plan Z was destined for failure.

    Battleships represented the core of the fleet. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were the first step of the project. Armed with 9 11” guns, the two light battleships gave German builders valuable experience with large, fast ships, experience that had dissipated since the First World War. Unlike the other major powers, the Germans had no large battleships to reconstruct during the interwar period. Bismarck and Tirpitz represented the next step in the evolution, and were designed in explicit rejection of the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty. Although they carried only 8 15” guns, the Bismarcks displaced nearly 50,000 tons, well in excess of treaty limits.

    In the mid-1930s, the Nazi government began to plan in detail for the reconstruction of German naval power. The destruction of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow remained central to the mythology of German betrayal and defeat in World War I; rebuilding the fleet would be a grand achievement worthy of the Nazis, but also in accord with long-term German foreign policy goals.

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    In March 1935, Adolf Hitler announced that Germany would no longer abide by the naval restrictions established in the Treaty of Versailles, which had drastically limited German construction. Berlin and London quickly came to a new agreement, the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, which would limit German construction to 1/3rd that of the Royal Navy (RN), and would establish Washington Naval Treaty style restrictions on ship size and gun caliber.

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