HistoryCast 5000: Sink the Bismarck!


HistoryCast 5000: Sink the Bismarck!

We’ve launched the HistoryCast 5000, a reoccurring segment in which Sean and Allen examine the historical accuracy of movies and other media.

To break in the machine, we have selected a movie widely considered to be one of the most historically accurate films ever made: Sink the Bismarck!

Yes the movie has an exclamation mark at the end of the title. But we’re also excited.

Show Summary


  • Introducing the HistoryCast 5000
  • Brief summary of the events the movie was based on

Broad Summary of the Movie

  • Edward R. Murrow cameo
  • Captain Shepard, made up guy
  • Anne Davis, made up lady
  • They tie in the HMS Ark Royal using a made up son
  • Timeline for spotting the Bismarck
  • Minutia of engagements and chase, ships and aircraft
  • Details of the sinking

Top Level Issues

  • Admiral Lütgens was not so Nazi
  • Norwegian spy drama largely dramatized
  • Omitting Churchill’s micromanagement
  • Underplaying the weather
  • Classified omissions: broken codes and the secret Americans
  • Ignoring the rescue controversy
  • Overall positives of fleet movement details

Beat by Beat

  • Edward R. Murrow and the newsreel footage
  • Did Commander Richards really love sandwiches?
  • Unnamed “First Sea Lord” and other top brass
  • “Crete business”
  • Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, best buddies
  • The spy spotting the Bismarck was not so dramatic
  • Air force recon and “two days of bad weather”
  • Lütgens and Lindemann presented as caricatures
  • Shepard’s alleged lost ship
  • HMS Hood and the HMS Prince of Wales
  • Weak spot of the HMS Hood
  • Churchill was a jerk
  • Guessing where the Bismarck is going
  • Birthday wishes from Hitler
  • Magnetic versus contact torpedo exploders
  • The HMS Rodney, or Sir Not Appearing in This Film
  • Bismarck’s rudder frozen
  • U-556 helplessly watched the Ark Royal’s second strike
  • Aircraft losses in the film versus history
  • The “Solent” seems to be made up
  • The absent Polish ship
  • Lindeman was defeated, Lütgens unravelled
  • The aborted rescue of Bismarck hands
  • Bismarck sunk at 9:00 AM? Not on my watch

Final Takeaways

  • The movie’s bread and butter is tracking the fleet movements
  • Points for using real ships and fairly accurate models
  • The weather issues were very understated
  • The leadership on the Bismarck was presented as one-dimensional
  • The Solent didn’t exist in real life
  • The Rodney seemed to not exist in the movie
  • Fuel issues and other complex maneuvers alluded to, but heavily simplified

HistoryCast 5000 Results

  • Machine calibrated
  • Results: 85% accurate
  • Florida weather: Sunny with scattered thunderstorms


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