A blog post


Posted on the 18 February, 2011 at 11:43 pm Written by in Books, Research

The story of the battle ship Tirpitz is interesting, showing how some objects can become “prestige objects” in warfare, and in the background, how this is also a gendered story. The German battle ship Tirpitz was a great hope of the Nazis, but never made it as a ship of war – the performance was extremely weak, mainly, one bit of North Sea battling, and a single “disciplinary” trip to Svalbard. The German sea command was relatively new, weak, and seems to have been relatively non-nazified, and for this and various reasons including prestige, the potentially great war hammer Tirpitz was allowed to lay dormant, mainly, until the ship was destroyed by allied forces aircraft near Tromsø late in the war. A main interesting point is how something can become a fetish, even in practical warfare. Tirpitz was in fact a moderate military threat, yet all parties acted as if it was the big thug (see Tamelander, Michael; Zetterling, Niklas 2010: Tirpitz – kampen om Nordishavet, Spartacus, Oslo).

The “macho” exploits to destroy the ship may seem absurd, including one-man uboats in the Trondheim fjord, daredevil bomber flights, and other devices that lost a lot of men. They were not so strange however, considering the key importance of the convoy traffic to Murmansk and the western help to the Soviet Union. Even as a “moderate” threat, basically since Tirpitz was a battle ship and not an aircraft carrier design, it could count for much in this context. The Tirpitz evidence is interesting for showing how hard-line evidence can be mainly sensible and right, based on very real needs of the situation – and yet be wrong.