Graf Zeppelin (1938)

Graf Zeppelin in Stettin, c.1941. Bundesarchiv, Bild 134-B0676 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Nation
Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down
1936
Launched
1938
AD/BC
AD
History

Graf Zeppelin was envisioned as the lead ship in a class of four aircraft carriers to give scouting and strike potential to the newly reformed Kriegsmarine. Incomplete by the outbreak of World War II, Graf Zeppelin was intended to have an air wing consisting of navalized Bf 109 fighters and Ju-87 dive-bombers, with the new Fi 167 biplanes as torpedo bombers. Launching aircraft would primarily be accomplished by the use of a cradle system, with the aircraft loaded onto reusable metal cradles via cranes in the hangar, and then launched by the ships steam catapults. The whole process was extremely slow, and Graf Zeppelin would only have carried forty-three aircraft, comparing to most wartime light carriers in capacity. Work was suspended in early 1940, but resumed in 1942, only to be completely stopped after the poor performance of the Kriegsmarine during the Battle of the Barents Sea. Graf Zeppelin finished out the War in various Baltic ports, and was scuttled in Stettin on 25 April, 1945, to avoid capture by the Soviets. She was subsequently raised, and sunk as a target, later rediscovered off the Hel Penninsula by a Polish research team.