Carrier raystery may be solved" declared several newspapers after the Polish Navy located the remains of a large ship on the sea floor this summer.1 Underwater photography did indeed show the relatively intact Graf Zeppelin, the aircraft carrier constructed by Germany prior to World War II. But there is no mystery about the ship.
The Graf Zeppelin was part of the large shipbuilding program undertaken by Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. In her final configuration she was to have a standard displacement of about 24,500 tons and some 33,550 tons full load, with an overall length of 861 feet, making the ship slightly smaller than the U.S. carriers of the Essex (CV-9) class. But the Graf Zeppelin would have had far less capability than an Essex, which could operate more than 100 aircraft. The Graf Zeppelin—to be fitted with two catapults and arresting gear—would operate only 33 aircraft: 10 Bf 109F fighters and about 23 Ju 87D Stuka dive bomber/reconnaissance aircraft. No torpedo planes would be available. Aircraft were modified for carrier operation and the German Air Force, which controlled all military aviation, began a carrier-training program.