The Bismarck was Germany's first true Battleship since World War I; she and her sistership the Tirpitz would become the heaviest capital ships ever completed by a European nation.

The keel for Battleship F, destined to become the Bismarck, was laid down on July 1, 1936 at the Blohm and Voss Shipyard in Hamburg and launched on February 14, 1939. Launched with a straight stem, the Bismarck was altered during outfitting to include a redesigned 'Atlantic Bow', a feature being incorporated into Germany's other Cruisers and Battlecruisers.

The Bismarck was commissioned on August 24, 1940 and three weeks later on September 15, 1940 she departed Hamburg for trials. After some further outfitting in Hamburg during the winter of 1940-1941, the Bismarck departed the Blohm and Voss shipyard for good on March 6 and headed to Gotenhafen (Gdynia) for further working up and exercises in the Baltic with the Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen, in preparation for a joint sortie into the Atlantic. After a short visit by Adolf Hilter on May 5, 1941, the two ships were readied for their break-out into the Atlantic.

Rheinübung - Exercise Rhine - launched on May 19, 1941 as the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen steamed out of Gotenhafen enroute to the Atlantic. Upon reaching Norway, the Bismarck anchored in Grimstadfjord and painted out her Baltic camouflage stripes while the Prinz Eugen anchored in Kalvanes Bay and refueled. Later that same evening, May 21, both ships weighed anchor and steamed on a route around the northern coast of Iceland into the Atlantic.

The British Battleships Hood and Prince of Wales intercepted the two ships just south of Iceland, after the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen had been discovered and tracked by the British Cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk. The Hood opened fire on the Prinz Eugen, apparently confusing her for the Bismarck while the Prince of Wales realized the error and concentrated her fire on the Bismarck. The Bismarck and Prinz Eugen focused their fire on the Hood, and in just a few minutes had registered several hits. Just six minutes into the Battle, the Hood exploded and immediately sank, leaving only three survivors. The Prince of Wales, struggling to keep her main turrets in action, decided to break off and turn away after the German vessels scored several more hits on her.

The Prinz Eugen was undamaged, but the Bismarck had suffered three hits, two of which were serious enough to impact the continuation of Rheinübung for her. One shell pierced completely through the ship in the forward compartments XX and XXI without exploding, but caused the loss of nearly 1,000 tons of fuel oil. A second hit struck the ship in the side and exploded against the torpedo bulkhead in compartment XIV, eventually resulting in the loss of turbo-generator room 4. The Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen maintained their heading into the Atlantic. Later that evening, the Prinz Eugen was dispatched to conduct independent raiding in the Atlantic while the Bismarck would head for France for repairs. By looping back upon her wake in a large circle, the Bismarck was eventually able to shake lose her pursuers - it seemed as if the Bismarck might make France without further contact after all.

However, enroute to France, some 35 hours later the Bismarck was rediscovered by a Catalina aircraft. In just a few hours, the British Cruiser Sheffield was tracking the Bismarck from astern. The Ark Royal, in terrible weather, launched an airstrike on the Bismarck which struck the ship with at least two torpedoes, one of which destroyed the steering gear on the ship, making it impossible to hold a steady course toward France. The Bismarck could only steam slowly on an erratic course into the wind, away from France.

Early the next morning, May 27, the Battleships King George V and the Rodney steamed into view and began the final battle with the Bismarck. After almost two hours, the Bismarck capsized and sank leaving hundreds of crewmen in the water, only 115 of whom were eventually rescued.