More nerding, part two!

So everyone’s prolly heard about the hero Achilles. He was born to a nymph mother and a mortal king father (though Dad was the king of the Myrmidons, so he wasn’t a total scrub). Story goes Achilles had everything going for him – he was studly, smart, athletic, and in some stories queerer than a three dollar bill (but that’s a nerd-out for another day). Sadly, because he was born of a flesh and blood daddy instead of a god, he was all squishy. Like the Charmin toilet paper. So Mom did what any loving, over-protective psycho would do when presented with a near perfect but not quite mini-godling: she took him to a river of death and submerged his little ass in an effort to make him less like Charmin, more like walking, talking concrete.

It was a hell of an effort, but mom made one slight error. She held Achilles by his foot when she swiped him through the River Styx, and it meant that he had a single part of his body not protected by the immortal love juice – his heel. Do NOT ask me how taking a heel injury kills anyone, but because of that single vulnerability? Achilles ended up deader than a doornail when someone shot an arrow into his squishy spot.

The moral of the story, obviously, is don’t try to outdo the gods with your perfection attempts because they will punk your ass faster than Ashton Kutcher with a camera crew. Us antlings wandering this green earth still insist upon attempting it, though, and construct stuff we comically deem ‘indestructible’.

Hi everyone, meet Bismarck.

Looking at it kinda makes me want to poop my pants a little. I mean, that thing is like death on water, yeah? It was constructed by the Nazis to utterly decimate everything on the seas during WW2. It was 1/6 of a mile long, and had 15 inch guns – wide. I’m saying 15 inches WIDE guys. Take a look at your forearm. Yeah. Longer than that across. It could blow a hole in pretty much anything.

And hey! It did! Anyone who paid attention in world history for more than twelve seconds probably idly recalls your teacher blabbing on about the English owning the European seas for ummm, hundreds of years. The royal navy has always been PRETTY DAMN AWESOME. They built fast ships, trained great seafarers (I can’t bring myself to say seamen without giggling like I’m six. Sorry Steve. I know you’re reading this), and simply outdid everyone else’s attempts at doing anything on the water ever. The Nazis were not keen on this, mostly because those pesky Brits were one of the main foils in their plan to own the world and be homicidal hosebeasts to anyone who wasn’t blue eyed and blond haired. So in an effort to overcome the might and majesty of the British Royal Navy they made this sucker, said SUCK IT ENGLAND, and dropped her in the water on May 19, 1941.

I’m gonna give you a spoiler now, guys. I know, I know, “But Hillary, I LOVE reading about Nazi warships when I have nothing better to do during the day”. I’m a disappointing diva, and I relish your tears. Anyway! The Bismarck sank at just two weeks old, so despite it being the bad assiest of the bad asses, it didn’t live very long. But. BUT. During its brief stint as the Death Star on water, it did some pretty impressive stuff. For starters, it sunk England’s best ship with a single shell. Yep, that’s right – one impact shot of those 15 inchers and the HMS Hood went under. The Bismarck looked at the best seafarers on the sea in their best ship, gave them the finger, and sucker punched them so hard, the Hood sunk in only six minutes, killing all but 3 of its 1418 crew.

Now, to be fair, some say that sending the Hood after the Bismarck was a bad idea in the first place. The Hood had a huge weakness, and that was shoddy deck armor which proved to be her undoing. But England wanted the best of the best after what they deemed the Nazi water threat and, well, they sent it. Then sorta regretted it. The death of so many sailors incited Winston Churchill so much he pretty much said FUCKIT (he actually rally cried “Sink the Bismarck!”, but FUCKIT seems more fun) and sent like, everything else he had at it to down it. It’s prolly a good idea that he did. The Bismarck was making its way toward the Atlantic Ocean to intercept war relief ships sent from the US to England. No food or supplies would eventually whittle the Brits down and make them ripe for Nazi pwnage.

Funny how an enormous ship like the Bismarck can be hard to find when it wants to be. The Brits had every available unit trailing her, trying to cut her off before she hit open waters, and she was nigh impossible to find in the winding channels of Europe. Shit luck saved the day on that one, because a random low flying plane spotted Bismarck’s oil slick in the water and was able to report to the rest of the British fleet where to find her. Commence operation HUNT-A-BITCH.

What happens next borders on comical, and is the reason for that blabbage at the top of the article about Achilles. See, England didn’t have a lot left in the tanks to send at the Bismarck then – a few smaller ships, and some aircraft, but it wasn’t really anything to write home about. They sent a bunch of cloth winged planes (Fairey Swordfish for anyone of plane nerdage) that could only carry a single torpedo to strike at her. The torpedoes did SOME topside damage? But not a lot. Until Sub Lieutenant John Moffet and his cloth-winged plane launched a torpedo RIGHT at Bismarck’s Achilles heel – its rudder. The torpedo borked the steering mechanism, and the Bismarck could only travel one direction now. Northwest. Forever.

A ship that can only go one direction is a lot easier to find, and it’s a pretty plummy target. Bombing commenced, the top of the Bismarck was torn to bits, and once the Bismarck’s guns could no longer fire, it sunk in 45 minutes. I’m going to admit to glossing over this a bit mostly because there’s some controversy over HOW the Bismarck sank. The Brits claim it was the structural damage from their bombing attempts, and the Germans insist it was scuttling (sinking one’s own ship so it doesn’t end up in the hands of the enemy). It’s a point of pride between the nations, and understandably so: the Brits lost so much trying to bring the Bismarck down, the Germans constructed one of the greatest warships in the history of man. One wants to take credit for bringing down the unsinkable, one wants to say they built the unsinkable.

Dr. Robert Ballard (of Titanic finding fame) found the Bismarck’s carcass in 1989, and if you’re interested in seeing his hunt, there’s a special you can purchase from Amazon. The only thing he says about his find is how remarkably intact the Bismarck is. The turrets up top are gone, but even the anti-aircraft guns are still attached, and there seems to be relatively no damage to the under-carriage. He thinks that the sinking occurred because of BOTH damage and scuttling. Maybe he’s trying to appease the Germans and the Brits, who knows.

Either way, more awesome stuff from history? Yus please.

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