The latest German battleship, the Bismarck, commissioned in August 1940, had completed her sea trials and was now ready for her first operational voyage. On the 5th May 1941 Hitler visited the ship and discussed the plans for a raid against convoys in the Atlantic. Burkhard Von Mullenheim-Rechberg, was a gunnery officer on board the Bismarck:
Hitler, looking somewhat pale, and Keitel, followed by Lutjens and Lindemann, reviewed the crew. The party then inspected some of the ship’s equipment, which gave the responsible officers a chance to brief the “Fuhrer” in their own areas.
Hitler remained for an especially long time in the after gunnery computer space, where an extremely capable gunfire-plotting officer, Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich Cardinal, explained how the various intricate looking devices controlled gunfire. Keitel as well as Hitler seemed to be much impressed by Cardinal’s presentation, but neither asked any questions.
After touring the ship, Hitler, Lutjens, and a small group adjourned to the admiral’s quarters. There, Lutjens told of his experiences in action against British commerce in the Atlantic with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, expressed optimism about an operation of this type with the Bismarck, and explained his immediate intentions.
He considered it an advantage that in the Bismarck, which was more powerful than the Scharnhorst class, he would no longer be forced to avoid well protected convoys. This, however, did not solve his most difficult problem: getting his force out into the Atlantic without being spotted by the enemy.
When Hitler suggested that, apart from anything else, the numerical superiority of the British fleet presented a great risk, Lutjens pointed to the Bismarck’s superiority over any single British capital ship. Her hitting and staying power were so great that he had no apprehension on that score. After a pause, he added that breaking out to the high seas would not by any means be the end of our worries. Quite clearly, torpedo planes from British aircraft carriers were a great danger that he would have to reckon with all the time he was in the Atlantic.