The Graf Zeppelin was Germanys only
aircraft carrier in World War II - but it was never completed and
never saw action. The ship was laid down on December 28th 1936 at
Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel as Flugzeugträger "A"
and was launched two years later on December 8th 1936. It was
projected that the ship would be completed by the end of 1940 - but
this never happened. An interesting detail is that in 1935, a German
commission visited Japan to inspect the carrier Akagi to
gain information about aircraft carrier specific construction
In April 1940 the construction was stopped as the
focus of Germanys naval construction changed to U-boats and the work
on all incomplete major surface ships was stopped. The already
installed guns were used for coastal defenses in Norway and the
ships was transferred to Gotenhafen.
In 1942 it got obvious that the German
Kriegsmarine would need aircraft carrier for further actions of the
major surface units and therefore the construction of the Graf
Zeppelin was resumed. It was projected to complete the ship by
the winter of 1943. The planned naval base for the carrier was
Drontheim, at the south end of the Faettenfjord. At the same time,
several cruise ships like the Potsdam , Gneisenau
, Europa and the Prinz Eugen class cruiser Seydlitz
were planed to be converted to aircraft carriers. In December of
1942 the Graf Zeppelin was again transferred to Kiel to
continue the construction, but after the the battle of the Barents
Sea against the convoy JW51B, the construction of all major
surface units was finally stopped, at this time, the carrier was
completed about 80%.
At this time, the 15 cm guns were removed and
transported to Norway to be used as coastal artillery ("Marine-Küsten-Batterie"
- MKB). Four were installed at MKB 6/514 in Sore Korsnes near the
Altafjord in December 1943 and got operational in February 1944. In
November 1944 those guns were evacuated to MKB 5/512 in Karlsoy and
got operational in January 1945. After the war, these guns were
installed at Grotoya near Harstad and used by the Norwegian army
until the early 1990s.
Four other guns were brought to Kap Romanov and in use since
September 1942. They engaged Russian coastal artillery in
Fiskerihalvoya and were blown up in October 1944. There are several
versions about the fate of the Graf Zeppelin after the war.
One version says that the ship was sunk after a mine hit on its way
to the Soviet Union. Another version is that the ship capsized
because of a heavy load of equipment stored in it. One possible fate
mentioned is that the ship was completed by the Soviets after the
war, but this sounds not very realistic at all.
According to new Russian sources, the Graf
Zeppelin was sunk after weapons tests in August 1947:
The carrier was moved to Stettin in April 1943
where it was sunk by its own crew on 25.04.1945. Being captured by
Russians, Graf Zeppelin was renamed to IA-101
(Floating Base No. 101) on 03.02.1947. On 16.08.1947 the carrier has
been sunk as a target ship off Swinemünde.
Graf Zeppelin sank as she "scored" 24 (!) bombs
and torpedo hits, including two 1000 kg air bombs. One of them was
mounted into the funnel; as it exploded, the funnel was completely
destroyed up to top deck, but superstructures of the island remained
intact. Two 500 kg bombs, three 250 kg and five 100 kg bombs plus
four 180 mm 92 kg shells were used on the ship. All these charges
were mounted upon the flight deck and hangar deck. Six training air
bombs dropped from the dive bombers and two 53,3 cm torpedoes from
the torpedo boat OE-503 and destroyer Slavniy
were fired on the ship. The last torpedo scored the fatal hit that
finished the destruction of carrier. 23 minutes after the last
hit, the Graf Zeppelin sunk.
The Graf Zeppelins sister ship, the Flugzeugträger
"B" was laid down at the Krupp Germaniawerft in Kiel
in autumn of 1938, but construction was stopped at the beginning of
World War II. In February of 1942, the ship was scrapped in the