Graf Zeppelin

 

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The History
The Construction
16. November 1935 The building contract was placed with the Deutsche Werke Shipyard in Kiel, as Flugzeugträger (aircraft carrier) "A". It was Construction No. 252 at the Deutsche Werke Shipyard.
28. December 1936 Keel was laid on slipway 1 at the Deutsche Werke Shipyard.
8. December 1938 Flugzeugträger (aircraft carrier) "A" was launched. It was christened Graf Zeppelin by Countess Hella von Brandenstein-Zeppelin, the daughter of Count Zeppelin which the ship was named after. The launch took place on the 24th anniversary if the Battle of the Falklands.
September 1939 Graf Zeppelin was about 85% complete. Soon after the outbreak of the war the work on the carrier started to slow down and stopped in July 1940.
12. July 1940 Escorted by Minesweeper Nautilius (M-81) the carrier Graf Zeppelin left Kiel heading for Gotenhafen (Gdynia).
18. July 1940 Graf Zeppelin and her escort, the Minesweeper Nautilius (M-81) reached the roadstead of Sassnitz. Here the carrier was equipped with two twin 3,7 cm guns to strengthen its air defense during the voyage to Gotenhafen (Gdynia).
16. June 1941 Due to the planned German attack against the Soviet Union on 22. June 1941 it was decided to move Graf Zeppelin further west due to risk of Soviet air attacks.
19. June 1941 Towed by he two tugboats, Danzig and Albert Forster, Graf Zeppelin left Gotenhafen (Gdynia) heading for Stettin (Szczecin).
21. June 1941 Graf Zeppelin arrived at Stettin (Szczecin) and was moored at Hakenterasse (today Waly Chrobrego).
10. November 1941 The German army had now penetrated into the Soviet Union far enough to lift the threat of air attacks against Graf Zeppelin. The carrier left Stettin (Szczecin) to head back to Gotenhafen (Gdynia).
17. November 1941 Graf Zeppelin arrived in Gotenhafen (Gdynia). She was now going to be used as a floating warehouse for hardwood.
16. April 1942 On a meeting in Hitler's headquater, the Wolfschanze, it was discussed to restart the construction of Graf Zeppelin. Due to a necessary upgrade of the air facilities it was estimated that the completion of the carrier would not be possible until the winter of 1943-44, as the earliest.
13. May 1942 The decission was made to resume the construction of Graf Zeppelin. Along with finishing Graf Zeppelin it was decided to convert 4 other ships to aircraft carriers by the end of 1944. It was the heavy cruiser Seydlitz and the passenger ships Europa, Gneisenau and Potsdam.
30. November 1942
Operation "Zugvogel"
After a delay due to increasing air threat Graf Zeppelin left Gotenhafen (Gdynia) with the help of the three tugboats, Eisbaer, Capella and Passat. She was escorted by the three minesweepers, M 3, M 14 and M 37 from the 1st Flotilla and six auxiliary vessels, Spree, Stolpe, Brake, Dahme, Nogat and the Pregel, from the 3rd Submarine Training Flotilla. Before the beginning of the operation Graf Zeppelin had three double 3,7 cm guns and six quadruple 2 cm guns were installed along with four AA searchlights to protect the ship from air attacks during the tow.
3. December 1942 Graf Zeppelin and her escorts arrived in Kieler Förde (fiord) where the carrier anchored at the roadstead of Heikendorf.
5 December 1942 Graf Zeppelin was put into the floating dock of the Deutsche Werke. Graf Zeppelin was now back in Kiel to be completed. The objective was to complete the carrier in the fall of 1943.
30. January 1943 Hitler ordered to put all the capital ships out of service and to cancel the construction of those not yet completed.
2. February 1943 Construction on Graf Zeppelin was stopped for good.
15, April 1943 The German Naval High Command (OKM) ordered Deutsche Werke shipyard to prepare the Graf Zeppelin to be moved to Gotenhafen (Gdynia). Again the three double 3,7 cm guns, the six quadruple 2 cm guns and the four AA searchlights and two barrage ballons where installed to protect the ship from air attacks during the tow.
20. April 1943
Operation "Zugvogel"
Graf zeppelin left Kiel with the help of the four tubgoats, Eisbaer, Norder Taifun and Passat heading first for Gotenhafen (Gdynia), then Swinemünde (Świnoujście) and finally Stettin (Szczecin).
23. April 1943 Graf Zeppelin arrived in Swinemünde (Świnoujście). It then went on to Stettin (Szczecin) where it was berthed at a wharf in the Parnitz river about 3 kilometers from Stettin.
25. April 1945 at 18:00 The Graf Zeppelin was blown up by using depth charges. Earlier after the Soviet army had entered German territory it was decided to scuttle Graf Zeppelin and all the Kingston valves had been opened to set the ship on the bottom. The depth was only 7 meters though.
The Graf Zeppelin under Soviet Control
17. August 1945 The Soviet 77th Emergency Rescue Unit finished the examination of Graf Zeppelin. The Soviets raised the ship by pumping out the water after having sealed the underwater holes and cracks. Cracks over the water line and damaged port holes were also sealed. After the repairs the ship was towed to Swinemünde (Świnoujście).
19. August 1945 The unfinished and destroyed Graf Zeppelin was included in the Soviet Navy.
2. February 1947 Graf Zeppelin was now classified as experimental platform PB-101 (Floating Base No. 101). Orders were given to sink the aircraft carrier while testing its resistance to aerial bombs, artillery shells and torpedoes.
14. August 1947 at 14:45 Five tugboats pulled PB-101 (formerly Graf Zeppelin) onto the outer roadstead of Swinemünde (Świnoujście). From here the ice-breaker Volyniec, tugs and other vessels escorted PB-101 to the test area.
15-16. August 1947 PB-101 (formerly Graf Zeppelin) arrived at the destination. As one of the main anchor chain links failed it was not possible to anchor the ship and prevent it from drifting.
16. August 1947 In the morning a series of static tests began. Static because bombs and shells was placed on PB-101 and detonated. After the static test it was time to do a series of dynamic tests where the ship was attacked by aircraft and naval vessels. The result was fairly poor after the static test and the dynamic test with aircraft.
17. August 1947 The weather started to get worse and the carrier began to drift to the shoals. At the beginning of the tests the depth was 113 meters and now it was down to 82 meters. So there was a risk that the carrier would drift to the waters not deep enough to sink her. The Soviet navy therefore decided to quickly finish off the carrier with torpedoes from surface vessels.
18. August 1947 The torpedo boats was first to try. TK-248 was unsuccesful as the torpedo went under the keel and didn't explode. Then a torpedo fired by TK-503 hit the starboard near frame 130. An hour later the destroyers arrived and the destroyer Slavny hit the carrier on starboard again, this time near frame 180. After 15 minutes the carrier listed 25°. 23 minutes after the second torpedo struck PB-101 (formerly Graf Zeppelin) with a 90° list to starboard and 25° trim to stem sunk. The position was 55°48'N, 18°38'E (according to Polish sources) or 55°48'N, 18°30'E and the time was 18:08.
The Discovery of the Wreck
12. July 2006 RV St. Barbara, a ship belonging to the Polish oil company Petrobaltic found a 265 m long wreck close to the port of Łeba which they thought was most likely Graf Zeppelin.
26. July 2006 The crew of the Polish Navy's survey ship ORP Arctowski commenced inspection of the wreckage to confirm its identity.
27. July 2006 The Polish Navy confirmed that the wreckage was indeed that of Graf Zeppelin. She rests at more than 87 meters (264 feet) below the surface. The wreck is located about 55 kilometers (34 miles) outside the Polish harbor town of Władysławowo, near Gdańsk.


© John Asmussen 2010. All rights reserved.