The Graf Zeppelin was Nazi Germany's
only serious attempt to build an aircraft carrier
. Although the majority of the ship's construction was completed, the Graf Zeppelin was never to enter the operational theatre or ever see battle
The keel for Graf Zeppelin was laid in 1936 at the Deutsche Werke Kiel AG shipyard. She was to be the first of a planned four aircraft carriers called for in Plan Z, the 1939 white paper mapping out the reconstruction of the Kriegsmarine. Graf Zeppelin's design was conventional, following the pattern of contemporary British and Japanese designs.
The ship, thusfar known only as "Aircraft Carrier A" was launched in December 1938, and was christened Graf Zeppelin by Countess Hella von Brandenstein-Zeppelin, the daughter of the original designer of the zeppelin airship, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
Although afloat, Graf Zeppelin still had yet to receive her aircraft, as well as much of her anti-aircraft and secondary armament. Not wanting to allow the development of an autonomous naval air wing, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering stalled development of carrier-borne aircraft. With the outbreak of World War II, work on Graf Zeppelin slowed due to both political and economic reasons. In mid-1940, construction on Graf Zeppelin came to a complete halt, as materials were diverted to the construction of U-boats. Construction would resume two years later -- presumably after the successes of the Japanese carrier fleet at Pearl Harbor -- but stalled again after a year's work.
Any plans to complete Graf Zeppelin as an aircraft carrier had been abandoned by early 1943, due in part to the depletion of Germany's surface fleet and to the intensified Allied bombing campaigns. Tenative plans were struck to convert Graf Zeppelin to another role, likely a surface raider, but modifications were not begun. Graf Zeppelin was shifted from port to port to escape Allied bombers and reconnaisance planes throughout the remainder of the war.
After the tide of the war shifted against Germany and the Red Army began to encroach on Germany's Baltic Sea ports, it became evident that Graf Zeppelin was doomed. The decision was made to scuttle her, and the order was carried out at the port of Stettin on 25 April 1945. The Soviets managed to refloat the ship in 1946, and she was used as a barge to transport booty back to the Soviet Union. The grossly overloaded ship struck a mine and capsized, and was later used for torpedo practise.
Length: 820'(waterline) 850' overall.
Displacement: 28,000 tons
Armament: (none installed)
Aircraft complement (projected):
12 Me 109
30 Ju 87
The Graf Zeppelin - http://members.tripod.com/EFaust/grafzepp.htm
The building of the first German aircraft carrier - http://www.kriegsmarine.net/grafzeppelin.htm
Graf Zeppelin - http://www.expage.com/shipsge8
Air complement of the Graf Zeppelin - http://www.mircx.com/cgi-bin/forum.cgi?forum=whites&message=330