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The opening and ending onscreen cast credits differ slightly in order. Noted newscaster Edward R. Murrow, who was based in London during World War II, appears as himself in the film. As described in the film, the Bismarck was a powerful German warship that escaped a British naval blockade to break out into the Baltic Sea in May 1941, thus threatening the entire British convoy system. After a massive effort, the British were finally able to sink the Bismarck on May 27, 1941.
The film opens with actual newsreel footage of Adolf Hitler launching the Bismarck on February 14, 1939. According to a February 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, C. S. Forester, the author of the book on which the film was based and a noted navy chronicler, was initially assigned to write the script. The extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined, however. Studio publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library reveal that the Royal Navy loaned an aircraft carrier to Twentieth Century-Fox for the making of the picture. The publicity materials add that Werner Lust, who worked as a technical advisor on the German sequences, was an actual Bismarck survivor. The film's producer, John Brabourne, was the son-in-law of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty.
On June 8, 1989, Dr. Robert Ballard, who had found the R.M.S. Titanic in 1985, discovered the wreckage of the Bismarck approximately 600 miles west of Brest, Belorussia. A television special, James Cameron's Expedition: Bismarck, broadcast on the Discovery Channel on December 8 2002, used modern technology to explore the sunken remains of the Bismarck. An unsubstantiated conclusion of that exploration was that the Bismarck was scuttled by its crew in order to avoid having the vessel fall into enemy hands.