“Sink the Bismarck” by Johnny Horton
The Bismarck was an impressive vessel which set sail in 1939. Actually it was a German battleship and, as implied by the aforementioned year, was therefore active in World War II. Also concerning its impressiveness, it was actually amongst one of a pair which served as not only the biggest battleships in German history but also that of the entirety of Europe.
And to note, those are both distinctions that the Bismarck still holds as of the as of the writing of this post. So as we already know from the Titanic, when these famous, large-scale vessels go down it can sometimes be akin to a major historical event. And this tune gives an account of the sinking of the Bismarck, in a folk song kinda way.
So after Horton sets the stage in 1941 and notes how big and fast the Bismarck was, then comes the beef. And that was primarily with a British battle cruiser known as the Hood.
The crew of the Hood, seeing that they possessed the opportunity to sink the mighty Bismarck, proceed to try to capitalize on it. So they initiate an attack. But this decision proved fateful, as the Bismarck proceeded to down the Hood instead.
This pissed the powers at home off, including UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) himself. So the British navy proceeds to put all ships available in pursuit of the Bismarck, obviously looking to exact vengeance. But beyond that, it is also perceived as a powerful weapon in the hand of the enemy which must be destroyed.
So finally, after pursuing it for a week, the Bismarck is spotted and in range of attack. This was while it was “10 hours away from homeland”, which we will presume is a reference to Germany, though more specifically it was headed towards Nazi-occupied Vichy France to get repairs from its battle with the Hood. But either way the British proceed to flip and do in fact “sink the Bismarck”.
In the End
So ultimately, as presented this song is meant to serve as a celebration of that victory. Taking down the Bismarck, due to its size, power and history, was a big deal to the British, and we will presume the Allied forces in general.
And whereas neither one of the writers of this song were from the UK they did come up during the mid-20th century – i.e. actually living through WWII – and being Americans were likely sympathetic to the anti-German/pro-Allied cause.
Facts about “Sink the Bismarck”
The writers of the song are the late John LaGale Horton and the late Tillman Ben Franks. Horton was as an American country music, honky tonk and rockability singer known for winning the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording for his hit single “The Battle of New Orleans”. Franks on the other hand was an American bassist and songwriter. He was Horton’s manager as well as many other country music artists.
Donald Law (the late) produced this song. He was an English-American record producer and music business executive.
“Sink the Bismarck” is a Country Music song.
It was released in 1960 and was based on the movie “Sink the Bismarck” which tells the story of the German Battleship “Bismarck” that sunk during World War II.
The Famous German Battleship Bismarck
As one of the two Bismarck class battleships, the Bismarck was named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. It was officially launched in February 1939 and was commissioned into the German fleet in August 1940.
Bismarck was one of the two largest battleships ever built by Germany. It was used for 8 months and its commanding officer was Captain Ernst Lindemann.
Bismarck was attacked by 16 Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal; one scored a hit that rendered the battleship’s steering gear inoperable.
In her final battle, the already-crippled Bismarck was engaged by two British battleships and two heavy cruisers. She sustained incapacitating damage and heavy loss of lives. The ship was scuttled to prevent the British from boarding and to allow the ship to be abandoned so as to limit further casualties.
Most experts agree that the battle damage would have caused her to sink eventually. Years later, when Robert Ballard located the shipwreck, he found out that the Bismarck battleship’s massive plated armor deck was found virtually intact and the torpedoes launched at it were virtually ineffective.