The Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen

The Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen

Following the defeat in the World War I, the Treaty of Versailles limited the tonnage of the German Navy to 144 thousand tons. Moreover, the treaty stipulated that new warships could only be built to replace the decommissioned ones. In 1921 a new law was enacted which brought about the creation of the Reichsmarine.

The few warships that Germany was allowed to keep were modernized and new ones were being built to replace the obsolete ones. Construction of light cruisers was a priority and the first of those, built to replace the Niobe launched in the 19th century, was the Emden. In 1927, during the disarmament conference in Geneva, Germany demanded equal right as far as the expansion of the navy was concerned. Those demands were rejected, therefore, the Reichsmarine drew up the “expansion plan”. It stipulated construction of new warships within the coming years, including submarines, which were forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. During the Second London Naval Conference specifications of cruisers were determined and the type was divided into heavy and light cruisers. All the signatories of the treaty had problems choosing the appropriate design that would meet all set requirements and perform future combat tasks. Heavy cruiser was optimal for that purpose. In February 1934, the Reichsmarine formulated first design requirements: new warship’s displacement should be comparable to similar vessels of other navies, it should also have long range, high speed and capacious magazines.

Two armament variants were considered – twelve 150mm guns in triple turrets or eight 203mm guns in twin turrets. In April 1934, Admiral Reader was in favour of the 203mm armament. There was also an idea of arming the ship with 190mm guns, but finally, Adolf Hitler approved the design armed with 203mm main battery. Also, different propulsion systems for new cruisers were considered and the newly built warships were supposed to have either steam turbines, diesel engines or both. Despite their various shortcomings, steam turbines were chosen to power the new vessels. On March 16, 1935, Germany introduced conscription, which was tantamount to denunciation of the Treaty of Versailles. In June 1935, the German government initiated talks with the British government concerning the tonnage of the Reichsmarine and on June 18 an agreement was reached. Germany was allowed to maintain a navy of 421 thousand tons, that was one-third of that possessed by the Royal Navy. Total tonnage was divided into categories: battleships – 153.000 tons, aircraft carriers – 47.250 tons, heavy cruisers – 51.380 tons, light cruisers – 32.000 tons, destroyers – 43.000 tons and submarines – 18.445 tons. The limit allowed for construction of five 10.000 tons heavy cruisers armed with 203mm guns. The new cruiser design was drawn up by Professor C. C. Burkhardt. On October 30, 1934, contract was signed between the Reichsmarine and shipyards for construction of two heavy cruisers designated “G” and “H”, which were later respectively named the Blücher and the Admiral Hipper. The third vessel, designated “J”, was later named the Prinz Eugen. Apart from those three, other two ships of that class were being built. “K” – Seydlitz, which was almost complete, when a decision was made to convert her into an aircraft carrier. Her superstructure was disassembled, but in January 1943, Hitler’s ordered stopped the conversion. At the end of the war her hull was scuttled at Königsberg (29.01.1945). The incomplete final vessel, designated “L” – Lützow, was sold to the Soviet Union. The heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was built by the Krupp-Germania shipyard in Kiel. The ship was laid down on 24.04.1936 under construction number 564. She was launched on 22.08.1938 and commissioned on 01.08.1940.


Standard displacement – 14.680 tons.
Full load displacement – 18.560 tons.


The official displacement was 10.000 tons, but when complete the warship displaced over 18.000 tons. The entirely welded hull was built of ST-52 steel, only the armour plates were bolted. It was divided into 14 watertight compartments instead of the planned 18. The ship was launched with a straight stem, but following the experience gathered during the voyage of the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau also built with straight stems, it was decided to rebuilt it into the so-called “Atlantic” bow. The modification, carried out by the Blohm-Voss shipyard in the summer of 1939, lengthened the hull by 4.8m.

Armour protection

The ship was relatively well-armoured. The upper deck was 12-30mm thick, while the thickness of the armoured deck was 20-50mm. Both were made of Ww (Wotan soft) steel. Side armour was 70-80mm thick and the conning tower was 50-150mm thick. Both were made of Wh (Wotan hard) steel. The main battery turrets were protected by 60-160mm KC (Krupp cemented) armour, while the anti-aircraft guns had 17mm thick armour.

the ship had three Germania Werft turbines with designed power output of 132.500 hp and the maximum of 136.000 hp. Superheated steam at the working pressure of 73 atm and temperature of 450 degrees Celsius was produced by 12 La Mont-type boilers. The turbines were located in two and the boilers in three compartments. The fuel capacity was 3.250 tons. The range was 7850 nm at 18 knots or 3.000 nm at 30 knots. The maximum speed was 33.4 knots. The ship had three 4.15m diameter propellers. Electricity on board the Prinz Eugen was provided by 3 generators powered by 150 hp diesel engines and one 350 hp generator, 4 steam powered generators of 460 hp and one of 230 hp generator. The ship also had two 150 kVA AC generators. Total power output of the generators was 2.870 kW.

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The main battery was composed of eight 203mm SK L/60 guns on C/34 mountings in four twin turrets. Their elevation was -10 to +37 degrees, range 36.440 metres, rate of fire 4 rounds per minute. The ammunition capacity of 960 rounds was increased to 1280 rounds (160 rounds per gun). In the German navy the main battery turrets had their names, and so the foremost one was named “Anton”, followed by “Bruno”, “Caesar” and “Dora”. On board the Prinz Eugen they also had their individual names: “Anton” – “Graz”, “Bruno” – “Braunau”, “Caesar” – “Innsbruck” and “Dora” – “Wien”. The names plates were bolted to the turrets. Twelve 105mm L/65 C/33 guns on twin coaxially-stabilized C/73 mounts constituted the heavy anti-aircraft battery. Their elevation was -8 to +85 degrees, range 17.700, while the AA ceiling was 12.500 metres. The rate of fire was 160 rounds per minute and the ammunition capacity was 6.200 rounds. The medium anti-aircraft battery consisted of twelve 37mm L/38 C/30 guns on twin C/30 mounts. Their elevation was -10 to +85 degrees, range 8.500 metres and AA ceiling 6.800 metres. The rate of fire was 160 rounds per minute and the ammunition capacity was 4.000 rounds. The light anti-aircraft battery was composed of eight single 20mm L/65 C/38 on C/30 mounts. Their elevation was -11 to +85 degrees, range 4.900 metres and the AA ceiling 3.700 metres. The rate of fire was 280 rounds per minute and the ammunition capacity was 24.000 rounds. The ship also had twelve 533mm torpedo tubes in four triple mountings. The 12 spare torpedoes were stored in special containers. The G7a torpedoes were used with a warhead containing 300 kg of TNT. Their range was 5.000 m at 44 knots, 7.500 m at 40 knots or 12.500 m at 30 knots. Additionally, the warships of that class could carry up to 110 mines on tracks installed in the quarterdeck.
Fire control systems
Fire of the 203mm guns was directed by five 7-metre rangefinders and two 3-metre BG night action rangefinders. The 4-metre SL-8 directors in triaxially-stabilized cupolas controlled the 105mm anti-aircraft battery. The light anti-aircraft battery used portable 1.25m-directors.
The aircraft facilities included 3 Arado Ar 196 floatplanes launched from the 12-metre long FL 22 catapult.

Radar equipment

The radars on board the Prinz Eugen were divided into three categories: active ranging FuMO, observation FuMB and reconnaissance FuMB.
Active ranging radars:
Since 01.08.1940 until 06.1942 FuMO 27 – wavelength 81.5cm, frequency 368 MHz, range 13 nm, transmitter power output 8 kW,
Since 09.1942 until 07.1944 FuMO 26 – wavelength 81.5cm, frequency 368 MHz, range 14 nm,
Since 08.1940 FuMO 25 with the same specifications as the FuMO 26,
Since 07.1944 until 05.1945 FuMO 27 with the same specifications as the FuMO 27,
Since August 1940 FuMO 81 Berlin – wavelength 5.6cm, frequency 5.300 MHz, range 16 nm, transmitter power output 18 kW.
Observation radars:
Since 06.1944 until 05.1945 FuMB 1 - wavelength 60-260cm, frequency 113-560 MHz,
Since 06.1944 until 05.1945 FuMB 4 Samos - wavelength 157-333cm, frequency 87-470 MHz, FuMB 26 Tunis - wavelength 8-14cm, frequency 1.300-3.750 MHz, FuMB 9 Cypern 2 - wavelength 118-192cm, frequency 156-254 MHz,
Since 09.1942 until 06.1944 FuMB 10 Borkum - wavelength 75-200cm, frequency 100-400 MHz,
Since 08.1942 until 06.1944 FuME 1 Wespe G -  wavelength 79-83cm, frequency 361-389 MHz, transmitter power output 0.3 kW,
Since 06.1944 until 05.1945 FuME 2 Wespe G2 – wavelength 80-90cm, frequency 354-429 MHz.

Life boats

The ship carried two 11.42-metre picket boats, one 11.25-metre motor barge, one 9.20-metre motor pinnace, two 7.70-metre motor yawls, two second class 8.50-metre motor cutters, two 3.60-metre dinghies and 2.40-metre boats.
There were 1.400 crewmen on average, but the number differed throughout the ship’s career.
Length (overall) – 212.50 metres,
Beam – 21.90 metres,
Draft – 7.95 metres.
Modernizations of the anti-aircraft armament
1942 – 12x37mm/2, 8x20mm/1 , 28x20mm/4,
1944 – 12x37mm/2 , 24x20mm/4 , 32x20mm/2,
1945 – 18x40mm/1 , 24x20mm/4 , 4x20mm/2.

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Operational history

On the night of June 1/2, 1940, during the air raid against the harbour and the shipyard, the ship was hit by two aerial bombs, while she was still moored at the fitting-out berth. The damage was slight and it did not delay her commissioning date. The Prinz Eugen was officially commissioned on August 1, 1940. Until January 25, 1941, there were trials, gunner trainings and the crew was getting familiar with the ship. The final fitting-out work was also being completed. Since January 25 until April 8, 1940, the ship remained at the Deutsche Werke shipyard at Kiel. Between April 17 and 22, she took part in the joint manoeuvres in vicinity of Gotenhafen (Gdynia) with the battleship Bismarck (with Adm. Günter Lütjens on board) before their sortie in the Atlantic (Operation Rheinübung). On April 23, while the cruiser was on the way to Kiel, a magnetic mine detonated near her hull, when she was already in the Bay of Kiel. The explosion deprived the ship of electricity. The turbines received no steam as the shock jammed the valves. Shortly, the emergency parties managed to get the turbines running and the ship limped to the shipyard, where she entered the dry dock. Following the inspection, it turned out that the propeller shafts bearings were fractured. Also damaged were the artillery directors and other fire control systems. The Prinz Eugen left the shipyard on May 2 and returned to Gotenhafen to complete preparations for the Atlantic sortie.The operation was prepared following the success of an earlier Atlantic sortie of the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which managed to sink 22 Allied ships sustaining no losses. It was expected that sending larger warships would mean greater success. On May 18, tugboats lead the Prinz Eugen out of Gotenhafen and the turbines were engaged in the roadstead, as there were fears that the pumps might draw in dirty water from the harbour basins. Until 21.00, the ship was manoeuvring in the roadstead and then she headed for the Danish straits, via a route leading north of Bornholm. On May 19, at about 11.25, near Cape Arcona, she met the Bismarck, which departed Gotenhafen at about 02.00. Both ships continued their journey together and on May 20, at 13.00, they were spotted by the Swedish cruiser Gotland. On May 21, both ships traversed Bergen and entered Korsofjord. On the way the German ships were being observed by Norwegian agents, who transmitted their reports to the British Admiralty. During their stay both ships bunkered fuel and then, at 19.30, put out to sea under escort of the 6th Destroyer Squadron. On May 22, at 04.20, the escort was sent back to Trondheim. A few hours later a report was received, which informed the Germans, that the British made an air raid on the area where the ships had been bunkered. Due to excessive fuel consumption the ships slowed down to 24 knots. At noon, in dense fog, the German task force approached the coast of Iceland. On May 23, at 19.22, observers on board the Bismarck spotted a silhouette of an unidentified ship. At 20.44, the cruiser Suffolk, for she was the aforementioned stranger, opened fire on the Prinz Eugen, but scored no hits. On May 24, at 02.28, yet another cruiser was spotted, it was the Norfolk. At 05.43, the observers on board the ship spotted the battlecruiser Hood. Ten minutes later the British task force (Hood and Prince of Wales) opened fire at the Germans. The British mistook the Prinz Eugen for the Bismarck and as a result the Hood fired on the Prinz Eugen, while the Prince of Wales concentrated on the Bismarck. During the artillery duel, the Bismarck scored a hit on the Hood starting a fire on board of the British battlecruiser. At 06.00, a salvo from the Bismarck hit the Hood. One of the shells penetrated the deck between the second funnel and the mainmast and exploded in the magazines. The British battlecruiser went down and only 3 seamen of her entire crew survived. Then, the Bismarck concentrated her fire on the Prince of Wales, scoring a hits on her navigation bridge. A few minutes later the British battleship was hit by three more shells fired by the Prinz Eugen and four by the Bismarck. However, the German battleship was also damaged, receiving three hits. One of those was especially unlucky.

The shell pierced the fuel tank and the leaking oil allowed the British to track down the Bismarck.. Due to the damage, Adm. Lütjens, commanding the German task force, decided to cancel the operation. The Bismarck would head for St. Nazaire, while the Prinz Eugen would continue the sorite as part of Operation Hood after  refuelling and resupplying from either the Belchen or the Lothringen. The first attempt to change the course, undertaken at 15.40, failed. The cruiser Suffolk noticed the Bismarck’s manoeuvre. For the second time, at about 18.14, the Bismarck turned south. During the manoeuvre, she fought a short artillery duel with the Suffolk and the Prince of Wales. The Prinz Eugen took advantage of that fact and managed to break away from the enemy. On May 26, at 06.20, she met with the tanker Spichern and refuelled. The operation lasted from 08.33 until 22.00. On the following day the cruiser searched for convoys, but found none. Due to the search for the Bismarck, the British Admiralty ordered all convoys in the vicinity to change their course. On May 27, radio operators on board the Prinz Eugen received report concerning the final battle and the sinking of the Bismarck.In that situation Captain Brinkmann, commanding officer of the Prinz Eugen, had a choice of either cancel the operation and head for Brest or continue the sortie with help of the supply vessels Ermland and Friedrich Breme. The message received from the headquarters of the Group West informed that “5 battleships steaming at high speed” had been spotted by Italian submarines operating in the Atlantic. The information convinced the German commander to head for Brest. On May 28, after refuelling from the Esso Hamburg, the cruiser steamed for the Bay of Biscay. Between May 27-29, the ship was plagued by numerous powerplant breakdowns, but on June 1, at 19.50, she finally called at Brest. The battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had already been there. The fact that such a strong force stayed there triggered numerous British air raids. Consequently, all the German ships suffered heavy damage. At the turn of 1941/1942, the British, in fear that the German warships may attempt to escape the harbour unnoticed, dispatched seven submarines to patrol its entrance and attack any large vessels from a cruiser up. The vessels were called back at the beginning of January and the air force took over, patrolling the possible routes which the German could use to escape Brest. The Atlantic sortie was improbable, as still in 1941, the British Admiralty took action to eliminate the German supply vessels. Without them the German warships would have been unable to undertake any successful operations. There was a possibility that the squadron would try to force its way through the English Channel, but it was considered highly improbable. However, just in case, the British prepared a plan (Operation Fuller), which would prevent the German warships from taking that route. Admiral Ramos, commander of the operation had 6 motor torpedo boats at Dover, 6 motor torpedo boats at Ramsgate, 6 old destroyers at Harwich, 300 bombers (the number was later reduced to 100) and 6 Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers at his disposal. The fate of the German warships was decided by Adolf Hitler himself, as he was obsessed with the vision of the Allied landing in Norway. He demanded that the warships take the shortest route back to Germany and then proceed to the bases in Norway. Despite Admiral Reader’s protests, Hitler ordered the preparation of the Operation Cerberus under command of Admiral Ciliax. The German warships were being prepared for the passage through the English Channel. As strong attacks of the enemy air force were expected the anti-aircraft armament was reinforced. The Prinz Eugen received five quadruple 20mm guns. Also a strong air cover was prepared en route between Le Havre and Calais. The escort would also be reinforced as the squadron entered further into the Channel, thus increasing its ant-aircraft efficiency. To mislead British agents, a party was held in Paris at the Group West headquarters for the commanders of the warships and the base’s high ranking officers. A similar party was held at the base for the officers and sailors of the warships stationed there. Some crew members were also granted leaves. To mislead the British even more, tropical uniforms were ordered for the crews of the German warships. The beginning of the operation was planned for February 11, 1942, at 19.30, but due to an air raid, it was postponed until 21.48. After putting to see, the German warships passed Ushant and entered the English Channel. The battleship Scharnhorst led the formation, followed by the Gneisenau with the Prinz Eugen in the van. The escort was provided by 6 destroyers and 3 torpedo boats. On February 12, at 01.00, the crews were informed about the true objective of the operation. At 10.42, two Spitfire fighters accidentally flew over the German task force, but they reported the fact only after landing at 11.03. At 12.14, six Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers took off to attack the Germans. At 12.18, the German task force found itself within the range of 228.6mm guns of the coastal batteries located near Dover, at the narrowest section of the Channel. It fired at the ships, but since they were hidden in the smoke screen, no hits were scored. Thirty minutes after noon, a motor torpedo boats squadron from Dover, under command of Captain Pumprey, attacked the Scharnhorst and the Prinz Eugen, but the torpedoes missed the German warships. At 12.44, the Swordfish torpedo bombers under command of Captain Esmond attacked the German task force, but due to strong anti-aircraft fire all the planes were shot down and their torpedoes scored no hits. Later, in vicinity of Vlissingen, the Scharnhorst struck a mine
. At 15.47, the destroyers which remembered the days of World War I, launched their attack and despite the German fire, they managed to launch their torpedoes. However, all of them missed. Fire from the Prinz Eugen damaged and immobilized the destroyer Worchester, which was later towed back to base. Repeated British air strikes had no effect. Of a total of 242 aircraft only 39 managed to locate the German task force, despite terrible weather, limited visibility and heavy squalls. Fifteen of those machines were shot down. At 19.55, in vicinity of Tershelling Island, the Gneisenau struck a mine which seriously damaged her bow. The unlucky Scharnhorst struck another mine near the Frisian Islands. On February 13, at 08.35, the only undamaged German warship – the Prinz Eugen called at Brunsbüttel. On the night of February 20/21, the cruiser departed for Norway with the heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer, as part of the Operation Sportpalast. Incidentally, she took on board holiday makers who were returning to their units in Bergen or Trondheim. The cruisers were escorted by 5 destroyers and 3 torpedo boats. On February 21, the German observers spotted a reconnaissance aircraft, but the ships continued their journey. On the following day, at 08.15, pilots boarded the ship, to help her steam through the internal passage leading through the fjords to Bergen. Shortly thereafter, the ship was attacked by two British bombers, but none of the six bombs scored any hits and one of the bombers was shot down.

The heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, starboard view. [3D by Waldemar Góralski] caption

At 13.00, the German task force anchored in Grimstadfjord (near Bergen) and began bunkering fuel. At 20.40, the ships steamed on their way to Trondheim. On February 23, at 07.00, near the entrance to the fjord leading to Trondheim, two explosion tossed the Prince Eugen. These were the torpedoes launched by the British submarine Trident. Shock of the explosions extinguished all lights and the turbines stopped. The damage reports were soon received. The stern broke off, the rudder was lost along with the steering engine. However, only 11 crewmen were killed and 25 wounded. After 11.00, the port side turbine was started. To lighten the flooded stern, the ammunition was transferred from the aft magazines. At 19.40, the Prinz Eugen traversed Trondheim, where 3 tugboats came to her aid. On February 23, at midnight she dropped anchor alongside the battleship Tirpitz. Repairs began on February 25, when the repair ship Huascaran anchored at her side. The damaged stern was removed and the opening was closed with a bulkhead. The Germania shipyard at Kiel was contracted to rebuilt the stern and install new rudders. The repair work lasted for two months. Only on April 21, the supply ship Karntchen delivered new rudders. Meanwhile, the British air force launched two air raids (on April 28/29 and on April 29/30) and as the result the Prinz Eugen suffered some minor damage. On May 9, the installation of the rudders were finally completed and the cruiser steamed to Beistadfjord on her own, where she performed steering trials. They were successful and ship was able to steam at 18 to 20 knots. On May 16, escorted by 2 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats, the Prinz Eugen headed for Kiel (Operation Zauberflote). While changing the heading, both rudders jammed and the ship turned towards the nearby rocks at high speed. Only “astern full speed!” command prevented her from being seriously damaged. On May 17, after 20.00, an air raid conducted by 27 torpedo bombers and 19 horizontal bombers, escorted by 8 fighters took place. The aircraft belonged to 86th Squadron RAF. Heavy anti-aircraft fire and evasive manoeuvres helped the ship avoid any hits. The second wave of 22 aircraft from the 42th Torpedo Bomber Squadron also failed to score any hits. On May 18, the cruiser anchored at Kiel and was drydocked for further repairs. On July 31, the command of the cruiser was taken by Captain Hans-Erich Voss, who replaced the promoted Captain Brinkmann. On October 18, there was a tragic accident. A boat carrying some of the cruiser’s crewmen was rammed in the fog by the tugboat Najade. Thirty-three men lost their lives. On October 20, the cruiser began loading ammunition and on the following day, upon the completion of that task, she put to sea heading to base in Gotenhafen, where further repairs were made. The equipment was supplemented and exercises were performed. On January 6, 1943, the Prinz Eugen bunkered fuel and on January 9, along with the battleship Scharnhorst with Adm. Schniewind on board and the escort of 3 destroyers, she departed for Norway (Operation Fronttheater). On January 13, the information was received that the task force had been detected. In fear of aerial strikes, Admiral Schniewind decided to turn back to Gotenhafen. The Prinz Eugen again dropped her anchor in the Gothenhafen roadstead on January 12. On February 23, another attempt was made to break through to Norway (Operation Domino), but the German task force was detected again and returned to Gotenhafen on February 27. Following Admiral Dönitz’s suggestion, Adolf Hitler consented to attach the cruiser to the training squadron. On March 15, 1943, Captain Voss was replaced by Captain Werner Ehrhardt, who became the cruiser’s new commanding officer. In order to make room for cadets, 450 crewmen were landed. On April 1, 300  navigation and artillery department cadets were embarked, plus 150 cadets of the engineering department. The training lasted until September 30. Since October the cruiser was reassigned to combat duty and became the flagship of the surface task force. Until the end of the year various exercises in group operations, shore target location and their bombardment were performed. In January 1944, the command of the Prinz Eugen was given to Captain Hans-Jürgen Reinicke. On June 19, 1944, the cruiser along with 2 torpedo boats (T10 and T-11) departed Gotehafen and headed for the Gulf of Finland to support German and Finnish forces at the Karelian Peninsula and help with their evacuation. The torpedo boats headed for Libava, while the Prinz Eugen returned to Gotenhafen. On August 19, the cruiser left the harbour again, escorted by the 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla. In the Irben Strait (western entrance to the Gulf of Riga), the task force was joined by 4 destroyers (Z 25, Z 28, Z 35 and Z 36). On August 20, at 08.00, the cruiser’s battery shelled the land targets near the town of Tubums, situated near Riga. The escort vessels also laid heavy fire directed by Prinz Eugen’s floatplanes. On the way back, the cruiser bombarded the Red Army units attacking German troops near the town of Saremaa. On August 21, the ship returned to Gotenhafen. On September 20, the task force composed of the Prinz Eugen, the Lützow, 4 destroyers and 3 torpedo boats protected the evacuation of the German troops from Finland (Kemi) The group operated in vicinity of the Ǻland Islands. They escorted a convoy on the way to Ventspil in Latvia. The task force returned to Gotenhafen on September 25. On October 10, the Kriegsmarine’s High Command planned to support the troops in vicinity of Memel (Klajpeda), sending there the 2nd Kampfgruppe which comprised the Prinz Eugen, the Lützow, 4 destroyers and 4 torpedo boats. The ships departed Gotenhafen and between October 11 and 12, shelled the designated area. A total of six hundred and thirty-three 203mm shells were fired
. On October 13, the task force returned to Gotenhafen to replenish the ammunition supplies. For the next two days the bombardment of the Soviet positions was continued expanding six hundred and fourteen 203mm shells. On the way back to Gotenhafen, approximately 2.5 nautical miles from the Hel Peninsula, the Prinz Eugen, steaming in the fog, collided the light cruiser Leipzig, ramming her amidship. The force of impact was so strong, that for the next 18 hours since the collision (20.40) the warships could not be separated. Only at 14.30, the Prinz Eugen broke free and headed to Gotenhafen, where she was immediately taken to the branch of the Kiel Deutsche Werke shipyard for repairs. The damage was assessed and Vice-Admiral Meendsen-Bohlken decided that the repairs could last until August 1945, since the U-boats repairs were a priority. The cruiser was lucky, as the shipyard’s manager Prof. Hermann Burkhardt had a soft spot for her (his son lost his life on board the ship). He obtained the permission for repairs and allotment of necessary materials. On November 7, the new bow was installed and on October 17, she put to sea for the trials. Already on November 19, the Prinz Eugen with 4 torpedo boats (later the task force was joined by 3 destroyers) shelled the Sorve Peninsula. Due to poor visibility the bombardment began at 14.05 and a total of two hundred and fifty-five 203mm shells were fired. Meanwhile, the RAF made a large scale air raid against Gotenhafen, inflicting heavy damage, sinking the battleship Schleswig-Holstein and target ship Zähringen, while the battleship Gneisenau was seriously damaged. Between January 29 and 31, 1945, the cruiser along with 2 destroyers (Z 29 and Paul Jacobi) and 2 torpedo boats (T 23 and T 33) bombarded the Sambia Peninsula and the outskirts of Königsberg, firing a total of 871 shells. On February 3, the ship returned to Gotenhafen to replenish ammunition (1.167 rounds). Meanwhile, the other warships continued the bombardment of Sambia’s coast. On March 10, the attacking Soviet army reached the area of Danziger Werder and pushed north to encircle Danzig. Vice-Admiral Rogge, commander of the task force stationed at Gotenhafen, sent his warships to support the German defence. On March 11, the Prinz Eugen shelled the area of Tiegenhof and Soviet positions on the eastern bank of the Vistula River. She performed the same duty the next day. On March 13, the cruiser shifted her position and cruised between Gotenhafen and Zoppot, shelling Soviet positions from Praust to Rheda. On March 28, the Germans left Gotenhafen and the Red Army forced its way into Danzig city centre. The German were still defending the Oxhöfter Kämpe, Westerplatte and the Frische Nehrung (Vistula Spit). On March 29, the cruiser was shelling the burning Danzig and fought an artillery duel with the Soviet 170mm gun battery located on the Stone Mountain in Gotenhafen. On March 30, the ship supported German defenders of the Oxhöfter Kämpe. For the last time the Prinz Eugen shelled the area of the Oxhöfter Kämpe on April 4, which marked the end of her participation in defence of Gotenhafen. Since March 10 until April 4, the ship bombarded enemy position 240 times, firing a total of two thousand and twenty-five 203mm rounds and two thousand for hundred and forty-six 105 ones. A few days after the fights in vicinity of Gotenhafen the cruiser headed for Rügen Island. On April 19, she was sent to Copenhagen, where she arrived on the following day. On May 7, following the capitulation of Germany, the Kriegsmarine’s ensign was ceremoniously lowered. On May 8, the British cruisers Dido and Devonshire under command of Rear Admiral Holt entered the harbour to formally seize the Prinz Eugen and commission her into the Royal Navy. In the following days the ammunition was landed and only the skeleton crew of 400 German seamen remained on board to help with the transit. The remaining crewmen walked back to Germany. On May 26, the Prinz Eugen and the Nürnberg steamed to Wilhelmshaven, escorted by the British cruisers. Disputes between the Allies concerning the ownership of the Prinz Eugen lasted throughout the summer. Each of the three victorious powers claimed the rights to the ship, but she was finally taken over the U.S. Navy. On December 14, she steamed to Bremerhaven harbour in the American Occupation Zone. On January 6, 1946, the Prinz Eugen was commissioned into the U.S. Navy. The name remained, but she received the designation USS IX 300. Captain A. H. Graubart became the ship’s new commander and along with him 40 officers and seamen of different specialities boarded the ship. On January 13, she departed Bremerhaven and headed for Boston, en route stopping for a few hours in the Spitehead’s Road. She called at her destination harbour on January 23. The ship was still handled by the German crew along with her previous commander. At the beginning of February (1 to 3), a number of gunnery tests were performed, which suggested that the ship would remain in commission. However, the plans were changed, a part of the German crew (276 men) was sent back to Germany. Both 203mm guns of the A turret and some anti-aircraft guns were removed. On March 11, the Prinz Eugen departed for the base in San Pedro on the Pacific coast of the United States, via the Panama Canal. There, on May 1, the final group of the German seamen (153 men) including Captain Reinicke left the ship and the American crew of 526 seamen took over. A few days later she departed for Honolulu, arriving there on May 10. Due to the boiler failure she was towed to the Bikini Atoll. There she was anchored 1 nm from the spot where the atomic bomb would be dropped. The test had three stages, on July 1, 1946, the bomb was dropped from an aircraft, on July 18, it was detonated on an anchored barge and on July 25, it was detonated underwater at the depth of 27 metres. The Prinz Eugen survived all three explosions relatively well, sustaining little damage and remaining afloat. The irradiated ship was towed to Kwajalein Atoll. On December 21, due to the defective sea valves the aft compartments were flooded. To prevent the ship from blocking the entrance to the lagoon, a decision was made to tow the ship to a nearby Enubuj Island and beach her there. The salvage vessel was not present and due to strong winds, the Prinz Eugen drifted on a reef near Enubuj Island where she capsized and sank. In 1979, the port side propeller was retrieved from the wreck and placed in the Laboe Naval Memorial in Kiel.


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3D25 PrinzEugen


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