anchor chain


Line drawing of Odin

Adapted from line drawing of Michael Emmerich, with permission
Displacement 47,000 tons
Armament 2 x 2 15" Main
Heavy and light AA
Speed 28 knots
VTS Rating(s)   (2)   5   5 (1)

Odin was an attempt to create the "ultimate" commerce raider, though arguments raged over what that should be. To deal with unarmed merchant ships, six-inch or eight-inch guns were plenty enough firepower . The 11" guns of the Graf Fitti and even the Dutch Molucca were more than adequate, and could presumably take care of cruiser escorts as well. Of course, aircraft alone might just do it, too. (After Posen was built, Göring insisted on air capability for any ship not part of the proposed "Home Fleet" of large battleships and purpose-built aircraft carriers.) A ship on the high seas also should be speedy enough to utilize the effectiveness of hit-and-run tactics regardless of gun size. As guns get larger, they need more room, resulting in a larger, wider ship that would lose speed unless given a larger power plant which needs more room, etc. So how does one reconcile the conflicting requirements? The Germans worried that speed alone might be insufficient for an under-armed raider to escape a fast enemy gunship equipped with large-caliber guns. A "real" commerce raider should therefore be built to have at least a chance against such a ship, so their reasoning went. Several ever-larger designs of the "Grossflugdeckkreuzer" were introduced that tried to create the ideal blend of big guns and aircraft, but none could do it with conventional designs. A designer named Emmerich came up with the clever idea of having the flightdeck angled away from the keel-line, thus "solving" the problem of aircraft having to take off over forward turrets that induced turbulent wind vortexes at the critical juncture of lift-off. The angled deck also "solved" the problem of forward elevators hindering flight operations and creating a weak point in the deck. The main elevator would be tucked right behind the funnel on the starboard side, offset to the line of flight. A secondary elevator could be slightly offset in the port rear of the ship. Fifteen-inch guns might be overkill against merchant ships, but at least only a few shots would be needed to sink one. Large Diesel engines would be the preferred means of propulsion to keep a wide cruising radius, but for a given size ship the top speed would probably diminish slightly compared to turbines. The compromise worked out consisted of a Bismarck-sized ship with twin 15" turrets up front and about twenty-four planes in an armored hangar. The short angled deck and elevator setup made for speedy recoveries but slow launchings due to the neccessity of using catapults.

Odin had just finished working up in the Baltic in July 1939, when she was ordered to head for South America immediately. Thus when war broke out, Odin was off the Plate estuary and was spotted by British carrier aircraft from the trade-protection carrier Venerable. An exchange of airstrikes found the British CVL in sinking condition when Odin approached to finish her off with her guns. Odin's captain wondered why the light cruiser accompanying Venerable was hanging around until he realized that the CL was stalling for time while heavy gunships in the area converged. The Odin broke off combat as the French battlecruiser Dunkerque appeared over the horizon. Here was the situation that the French relished and the Germans feared--a faster ship with all guns forward chasing a slower ship with all guns forward. If Odin tried to stall the closing of range by running, she was unable to shoot aft at her adversary whilst her adversary could shoot with all her main armament. If Odin turned to bring her guns to bear, the range would diminish quickly and the increased firepower of the eight French 13" guns might soon overwhelm her. Since the choices seemed to be to die fighting or die fleeing, the Odin turned towards Dunkerque and the fight began in earnest. Dunkerque was hit, but not mortally. Odin, however, was hit repeatedly until her belt was pierced and her engine rooms flooded. The Dunkerque then manuvered around to the rear to mask the guns of Odin and finished off the "Grossflugdeckkreuezer".

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