KMS Hipper class heavy cruisers
The Hipper Class heavy Cruisers [Admiral Hipper and Blucher] were allowed to be built under the Anglo-German treaty, the London Naval agreement. These cruisers became known as Treaty Cruisers. They were meant to be built to a displacement of 10,000 tons which was exceeded in secret to over 14,000 tons. Products of Germany's race to rearm in the late 1930s, heavy cruisers of the Admiral Hipper class were, for their time, among the world's most formidable and revolutionary warships. In World War II they participated in the battle for Norway and Operation Cerberus, and were part of anti-convoy operations and Baltic patrols.
The five ships of the Admiral Hipper Class of heavy cruisers were laid down from 1935 to 1936. At the time German ships were not restricted by weight. Therefore the Admiral Hipper Class ships were comparable with heavy Japanese cruisers and actually displaced more than the Deutschland Class pocket battleships. Of the Hipper-class heavy cruisers, one was sold to the Soviet Union and another was set aside for conversion to an aircraft carrier. The Admiral Hipper fought in World War II, taking part in the battle for Norway and anti-convoy operations; the Blucher was sunk in April 1940 off Norway; The Prinz Eugen took part in Operation Cerberus and patrols in the Baltic; the Seydlitz was never completed; and the Lutzow entered Soviet service in 1940, taking part in the defence of Leningrad.
The Admiral Hipper Class cruisers carried eight main guns but did not have very strong armor protection. Contemporary British heavy cruisers mounted guns of comparable calibers, displaced less and yet had better armor protection. The Admiral Hipper Class disadvantages could partly be traced to the Kriegsmarine's lack of experience after World War I, and partly to the designers' intentions of constructing the class so that it resembled the Bismarck Class battleships. This scheme paid off during Operation Rheinübung when HMS Hood mistook KMS Prinz Eugen for KMS Bismarck.
Prinz Eugen was a welded-steel vessel incorporating substantial aluminum internal construction. It was 692 feet in length, with a 71.2-foot beam and a 24.8-foot draft, and displaced 19,553 tons standard. The vessel carried a complement of 830 crew. The armament consisted of eight 8-inch/55 caliber guns in four turrets; twelve 4.1-inch antiaircraft guns; twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes in triple deck mounts; six 40mm Bofors AA guns; eight .30 caliber guns in four twin mounts; and twenty-eight 20mm flak guns mounted as two quads and ten twins. Prinz Eugen carried three AR-196 spotter aircraft in a hangar between the stack and mainmast. The planes were launched from a single catapult and recovered by cranes on either side of the hangar.
The ship was armored with 3.15-inch-thick vertical nickel steel side armor, with 2-inch armor on the bridge and 20mm of armor on the rangefinder positions. The turret barbettes were protected by 3.5-inch-thick steel armor; the turrets themselves were covered by two to six inches of armor. The vessel's three shafts were powered by geared steam turbines reportedly rated at 80,000 shaft horsepower at 32 knots. The three complete sets of main turbines consisted of a high, intermediate, and low pressure turbine, with astern turbines installed in the casings of the main I.P. and L.P. turbines. The main reduction gears were single reduction. The engines were powered by high pressure, Lamont forced circulation watertube boilers. The ship's electrical power was provided by six turbo generators and four diesel emergency generators.
According to wartime issues of Jane's Fighting Ships, "internal arrangements of these ships [were] reported to be decidedly cramped and badly ventilated." Prinz Eugen's capacity was rated at 1,049 crew by Jane's. In many respects, Prinz Eugen resembled the battleship Bismarck, its "big brother" and running mate: according to German officers from both, even trained observers had difficulty telling the two ships apart at a distance when their relative size could not be assessed.
KMS Prinz Eugen
The Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser, famous for partnering with the Bismarck when she sank HMS Hood during World War II. She was not, as some people mistakenly believe, a sister ship to the more famous and much larger Bismarck. The Prinz Eugen's main armament were eight 8-inch guns, housed two-apiece in four turrets, and its combat displacement was just over 19,000 tons. By contrast, the Bismarck's main armament consisted of eight 15" guns, and it had a combat displacement of approximately 51,000 tons.
Prinz Eugen was laid down on April 23, 1936 by the Krupp Germania Werft Yards, Kiel, Germany; launched 20 [22?] August 1938; and commissioned in the German Navy 1 August 1940. The Prinz Eugen was named after 'The Liberator of Vienna', Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was a 18th Century officer of the Holy Roman Empire. Prince Eugenio of Savoy (1663-1736) fought France and the Ottoman Empire during various wars. The name Eugene is pronounced YOU-jeen in many languages. The name Eugen is pronounced oy-GEN in German.
Like most of the major German fleet units in WWII, the Prinz Eugen was never allowed to fulfill her potential because of Adolf Hitler's reluctance and lack of enthusiasm for surface ship operations. Hitler had an expressed fear of ship sinkings and the loss of prestige for the Reich that would come with it.
The Prinz Eugen is mostly noted for its sortie with the Bismarck into the North Atlantic in May 1941 to make combined attacks on Allied shipping, code-named 'Operation Rheinübung'. The two ships departed from Gotenhafen on May 18, and entered Korsfjord, near Bergen, in the morning of May 21 for refueling. The Prinz Eugen and Bismarck departed that night under the cover of darkness.
For the next two days, as the British frantically searched for the two ships, the Prinz Eugen and Bismarck steamed for the Denmark Strait and the opening into the North Atlantic shipping lanes and the vital British supply lines. On May 23, at 7:22 p.m., the two ships were sighted by HMS Suffolk, which radioed a position report and shadowed the German ships, while keeping enough distance from them so as to not appear too inviting a target for gunfire. On May 24, at 5:37a.m., the British battleship, Prince of Wales sighted the German squadron, and at 5:43 a.m., another British Battleship, Hood, radioed an interception report. The stage was set for the Battle of the Denmark Strait, at that point just minutes away.
At 5:52am, the Hood and Prince of Wales opened fire. On the Hood, Vice-Admiral Holland had misidentified the lead ship as the Bismarck, when in fact it was the Prinz Eugen, and ordered the Hood to fire against 'the ship on the left.' It wasn't until two minutes into the battle that the mistake was realized. However, on the Prince of Wales, Captain Leach had correctly identified which ship was the Bismarck and concentrated his fire accordingly. At 5:54 a.m., Admiral Holland ordered the gunners on the Hood to shift fire to 'the ship on the right.' This order was apparently never executed, as the Hood continued to fire at the Prinz Eugen until the moment the Hood was sunk. During this same minute, Captain Lindemann on the Bismarck gave the order to fire, and at 5:55 a.m. the German ships opened fire for the first time since the start of the battle.
At 5:56 a.m., Prinz Eugen scored a hit on Hood, which started a fire amidships aft. At almost the same moment, the Bismarck was hit by fire from the Prince of Wales. The hit impacted on the bow and ruptured a fuel storage bunker and as she steamed, Bismarck was leaving an oil trail. At 5:57a.m., Bismarck scored its first hit on Hood. Prinz Eugen was still firing on Hood. At that point, Bismarck was hit by Prince of Wales for the second time. At 5:58 a.m., Bismarck took a third hit from Prince of Wales. Prinz Eugen fired a final salvo at Hood, and then shifted fi re to the Prince of Wales.
At 5:59 a.m., Prinz Eugen continued firing at the Prince of Wales, while both Prince of Wales and Hood continued to engage Bismarck. The Bismarck continued to concentrate its fi re at Hood. At that point in the battle, British Admiral Holland on the Hood ordered a 20-degree course change for the Hood and Prince of Wales. At 6 a.m., as both ships executed the turn, Hood received a fatal hit from Bismarck and exploded. A 15-inch shell from Bismarck's fi fth salvo against the Hood penetrated the light upper armor and touched off a 4-inch powder magazine, which in turn touched off a 15-inch magazine. The resulting explosion broke the Hood in half. The Prince of Wales had to change course quickly to avoid the remains of the Hood.
By 6:10 a.m., the Battle of the Denmark Strait was over. The Hood was gone, having sunk in only three minutes after the explosion, leaving behind only three survivors out of a crew of 1,500. The Prince of Wales, badly damaged by gunfire from both the Prinz Eugen and the Bismarck, had laid down a smokescreen and managed to escape from the fight. Bismarck headed for port, but British ships followed the oil trail she was leaving and would catch her for another fight.
Detached from Bismarck 24 May under orders from Admiral Lutjens, she was operating in mid-Atlantic when British aircraft sank Bismarck 27 May. After an unsuccessful search for enemy targets off the Azores, she returned to her base at Brest, France, 1 June, for overhaul. While at Brest, an Allied air strike destroyed her damage control center and her main gunnery control room, killing 52 of the crew 2 July 1941. Still vulnerable to Allied air attacks upon Brest, she escaped from that port with battle cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst 11February 1942, and returned via the English Channel to Germany, arriving on the 13th.
Commencing operations in Norwegian waters in February 1942, she was entering Trondheim Fjord, Norway, when her stern was heavily damaged by a torpedo from British submarine Trident. After the removal of 40 feet of her stern and the installation of two temporary rudders, she departed Trondheim Fjord 16 May, fought off a sizeable air attack, and arrived without further damage at Kiel 18 May for completion of repairs.
The next notable action of the Prinz Eugen was the famous 'Channel Dash', dubbed 'Operation Cerberus'. On Feb. 11, 1942, Prinz Eugen left Brest with the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. They were escorted by six destroyers for a dash through the English Channel.
After expending over 5,000 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition and some heavy shells, she reached Brunsbüttel undamaged on the morning of the 13th. For the next two years, the Prinz Eugen was involved in a series of minor operations, and was twice laid up for repairs. The first time was after being torpedoed in the stern by the British submarine Trident on Feb. 24, 1942. Repairs were not completed until Oct. 1942.
Ready for battle by 1943, she served as a training ship, and then patrolled with Scharnhorst. From March 1943 to March 1944, the Prinz Eugen was used as a training ship in the Baltic. In October 1943 she became flagship for German forces in the Baltic Sea. She provided fire support for Panzer operations against the Russian Army at Tukums, Gulf of Riga, 19 August 1944. The second time the ship was laid up for repairs was after she collided with the German light cruiser Leipzig on Oct. 15, 1944. Repairs took two weeks and included the replacement of her bow. During the remainder of the war, she provided fire support for German ground forces along the Baltic coast.
Prinz Eugen's final actions of the war came during the period of March 10 to April 4, 1945. She engaged in shore bombardment operations against Russian troops off the Gulf of Danzig to buy time for the retreating German Army. The ship fired on land targets around Tiegenhoff, Ladekopp, Zoppot and Danzig. On April 10, 1945, after expending all her ammunition, the Prinz Eugen left the Baltic for Copenhagen where she arrived on the 20th. On May 7, 1945, at 4 p.m., the battle flag was lowered and the ship surrendered at Copenhagen with the light cruiser Nürnberg. The war was officially over for the Prinz Eugen.
The next day, the vessel was handed over to the British, who in turn awarded it to the Americans. On Jan. 5, 1946, Prinz Eugen was put into service with the U.S. Navy as the USS Prinz Eugen (IX-300). With a mixed crew of Germans and Americans, the ship sailed for Boston on Jan. 13, arriving on the 20th. Shortly afterward, she was moved to Philadelphia. There, the barrels of the forward main turret were removed for testing. In May of 1945 she was surrendered to the Allied forces.
Prinz Eugen at Bikini
In January of 1946 she was headed to the US where she was refitted in preparation for the Nuclear Tests at Bikini Atoll. Plans were made to use the ship as a target ship in the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Prinz Eugen departed Philadelphia for the naval base in San Diego in March of 1946, and transited through the Panama Canal. On May 1, the last German crew members left the ship, and she sailed for Bikini Atoll.
The vessel was sacrificed as part of the target array for the Atomic Bomb blasts at Bikini during Operation Crossroads in 1946. Of the original array of target vessels, 21 ships (counting eight smaller landing craft) were sunk in Bikini Lagoon during the Able and Baker atomic bomb tests of July 1 and 25, 1946. The German cruiser Prinz Eugen survived both Bikini test blasts.
The ship was in position for atomic test Able on July 1. At 9 a.m., a B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb from 29,000 feet. It detonated 518 feet above the surface of the lagoon. Prinz Eugen was 1,194 yards from ground zero, bow on, and suffered no appreciable damage other than scorched paint and a split mainmast. In addition, two hammocks had been blown up onto the main mast and much of the ship's rigging went down.
The PRINZ EUGEN was outside the effective range of the explosion during Test A. There was no damage to machinery of this vessel during Test A. The effects peculiar to the Atom Bomb are the presence of radioactivity, range of the radiant flash heat, and the range and duration of the air blast. All the machinery that was operable before the test was operable after the test. The pressure wave approached the ship from about 340 degrees relative. Blast pressure has wrecked the sliding cover for the hangar, dished some light doors and sheet metal structures in exposed locations, and blown off or distorted 5 pound M.S. windshields on the bridge structure. Air blast from the same general direction as the heat wave caused most of the damage to electrical equipment. This is indicated by the damage to the 60 inch searchlight and to the navigational and telephone equipment on the vessel. Although the lighting fixtures in the airplane hangar and the gyro-compass register on the 03 deck were damaged by hull distortion, the primary, cause of this hull distortion was the air blast, the electrical damage being secondary in nature. The effects on electric6l equipment and ship control were very slight. Spares were available for the lamps that were broken The naviagation instruments knocked from their mountings were still operable. The searchlight lens was the only item of electrical damage. Personnel might have suffered casualties due to the radiant heat and due to the air blast. These casualties would have been limited to those exposed directly to the blast. There might also have been personnel casualties as a result of radioactivity, however, the extent of such casualties is not known. The only effect on habitability would be radioactivity.
July 25 was 'Baker Day'. That morning, LSM-60 lowered an atomic bomb to a depth of 90 feet in the lagoon. Detonation took place at 8:35 a.m. The underwater nuclear explosion caused heavy hydrodynamic shock and severe radiological contamination of the surrounding water. Prinz Eugen was 1,990 yards from the point of the explosion, and again was relatively undamaged. Due to the highly contaminated seawater that had rained down on her after the Baker blast, salvage and inspection crews did not board her until eight days after the bomb test. It was discovered that there was flooding and leaking from rudder bearings, and piping and fittings. But the flooding was controllable, and in late August, plans were made to move the ship to Kwajalein Atoll for study.
Now designated as the USS IX-300 she was towed to Kwajalein for decontamination and study. The ship was towed from Bikini to Kwajalein Atoll. The move was completed in early September. Certain structures inside the Prinz Eugen weakened over the next few months, and what had been controllable leaks turned into major flooding below decks. On Dec. 21, 1946 she was observed to be listing and down in the stern so it was decided to beach her. In order to prevent the cruiser from sinking and blocking the shipping lanes in the lagoon, tugboats attempted to beach the ship against Carlson Island. There was a storm raging at the time, and the tugboats lost control of the cruiser. Overnight, the ship developed a 35-degree list to starboard, and driven by a northerly northerly wind, ran onto the reef near Carlson where she turned turtle and sank in shallow waters in Kwajalein Atoll Lagoon.
When the Prinz Eugen sank, she rolled onto her starboard side, crushing the superstructure to one side against the lagoon floor. Mostof the sights to see on the wreck areon the port side, which faces thelagoon. The center screw, rudder, port screw, and part of the sternare exposed above the water, and the starboard screw lies just below the surface.
Dropping to the bottom aft, the cruiser stern of Prinz Eugen is intact; the rubrail curves around the fantail. Another prominent feature is the degaussing cable that rings the ship's hull just below the waterline. No lettering indicating the ship's name was noted. The vessel's fine lines are apparent; Prinz Eugen ably represents the salient characteristics of a cruiser, with a length-beam ratio of 9 or 10.5 to 1, indicating a combination of speed and cruising range with limited armor protection.
A stern capstan is seated to the deck aft, and nearby a hatch lies open with another open hatch visible leading to the next lower deck level. Along the port side of the wreck, portholes, many of them with deadlights in place, line the freeboard. Considerable damage to the hull side amidships was noted, apparently the result of capsizing and rolling over onto the reef.
In 1978, the port screw was removed and sent to Germany, and it is now on display at the Kiel naval museum. The bottom of the ship is still very much intact, except for the area around the screws and rudder. There are several places where the hull is stove in several feet, undoubtedly from the combined effects of the underwater Baker blast at Bikini Atoll and the degradation from saltwater corrosion over the years since.
It was customary for the German Navy to name the main turrets of their warships. Starting at the front of the Prinz Eugen, the turrets were named 'Anton' 'Bruno', 'Cesar', and 'Dora'. With the exception of 'Anton', the turrets have fallen out of their mounts. Forward the superstructure lies the "B" turret, which has also dislodged. The "A" turret remains seated. This turret is missing its gun tubes, which were removed in 1946 prior to the Crossroads tests. These turrets were held in place by gravity only, so naturally when the ship rolled over, they fell out. The remains of the turret mechanisms can still be seen from a safe distance and provide an interesting look at naval engineering. The two aft turrets ("C" and "D") lie partially unseated with gun barrels pointed sternward as they would be if the ship was underway. Nearby is a twin-gun house, probably for a 4.1-inch antiaircraft gun.
The superstructure, crumpled against the sand, is a fun place to explore, although there is little left inside the flag and signal bridges. The center island superstructure is intact; to port the 21-inch torpedo tube loading rails are visible. In the port midships area near the torpedo tubes there is a cabin containing rack-mounted torpedoes. Some of these torpedoes are missing their bronze propellers, likely removed by visiting divers. It is likely that the torpedoes are live.
Areas above the upper deck, including the stack, fire control radar towers, bridge, and mast are crushed; the top of the mast lies bent to port, as does one of the fire control director towers. The unique "mushroom" head director top lies detached and off the port side. The hull is flat-bottomed, with two V-shaped bilge keels. The port bilge keel is broken in several areas aft; a piece of it was found lying detached against the starboard bilge keel. Severe hull damage is noticeable along the port side amidships; a large hole has opened and plates and decking have fallen away. Hull bottom features observed included the intakes for the boilers and several other through-hull fittings. Forward on the bottom is a small housing, probably for sonar. A circular rose was observed on the port side; the hull is broken near the rose, exposing the pipes that connect it to the engineering spaces.
The hull bottom is not fouled; weld seams were readily evident throughout. Damage to the bottom is confined to the after areas, where rust holes have eaten through the shell plating, exposing the frames and intercoastals. In the port stern area the shafting, thrust bearings, and the shafts are exposed. The center propeller, which protrudes above the water, bears the marks of repeated attempts to hack pieces of it away; the edges of the blades are nicked and cut.
A four-barreled anti-aircraft gun, a 5-inch gun mount, and a fire control director for the secondary armament are the other major features in this area. Continuing past the superstructure and a nearby debris field, you can easily see the two aft 8-inch turrets, 'Cesar' and 'Dora', lying on the lagoon floor. After passing the turrets, it's an easy ascent along the side of the ship and back to the surface. This is also a great time to go check out the starboard screw, as this is an ideal place for the required three-minute decompression stop at 15 feet.
The Prinz Eugen is just one example of what makes diving at Kwajalein Atoll so unique, and unlike anywhere else in the world. The wreck provides a snapshot of an era when the world erupted in a global war, followed by a nuclear arms race. Now the ship lies quietly, serving as an artifi cial reef for the marine life that abounds on and near the wreck, making it a great dive location for history buffs and nature enthusiasts alike.
|Length Overall|| 210.4m [= 684 feet] / 690 ft 3 in |
697' 2" [723 feet must be in error]
640 feet [Hipper]
655 feet [Others]
70 feet [Hipper]
71 feet [Others] / 71 feet 0 inches
21.9m [= 71.2 ft] / 71' 6" / 71 ft 10 in
|Depth (to main deck)||26 feet 0 inches.|
16 feet [Hipper]
15 feet [Others]
23' 6" / 7.9 meters [25.7 ft]
|Draft at time of 1946 test:||
Fwd. 19 feet 3 inches.|
Aft. 23 feet 2 inches.
|Treaty displacement||10,000 tons|
|Standard displacement||14,475 tons|
|Displacement at time of 1946 test||16,390 tons.|
|Full displacement||18,400 - 19,250 tons.|
|MAIN PROPULSION PLANT|
|Main Engines|| |
|Main Reduction Gears||Single reduction, three complete sets.|
|Boilers|| Twelve main units, and one auxiliary unit.
|Main Condensers|| Three installed in ship.
|Shafting||Three main shafts are installed in ship.|
|Line shaft||O.D. = 18.2" I.D. = 12..2".|
|Propellers|| Three installed in ship. |
|Turbo Generators|| |
|speed||32 knots / 33 / 33.4 knots|
|Range||6,750 nm at 17 kts|
8 = 4 twin x 8"|
12 = 6 twin x 4.1" dual purpose
12 = 6 twin 37mm anti-aircraft
8 single 20mm
12 = 4 triple x 21" torpedo launchers
4 aircraft, 1 catapult, or|
3 Arado Ar-196A-3 float planes 2 Ar 196 floatplanes, or
|Crew||830 - 1,450|
HIPPER - Clipper bow, slanting stack added.|
PRINZ EUGEN - Same as HIPPER, save first pair of AA directors moved aft and on stack platform.
SEYDLITZ - Similar to above.
|Admiral Hipper||Feb 1937||Aug 1939||Mar 1945||Scuttled|
|Blücher||1937||Sep 1939||Apr 1940||Sunk|
|23 Apr 1936||20 Aug 1938||01 Aug 1940||Survived|
|Lützow||Deschimag, Bremen||02 Aug 1937||01 Jul 1939||---||11 Feb 1940||uncompleted, sold to USSR|
In the Norwegian campaign Admiral Hipper was rammed and damaged by the destroyer HMS Glowworm, which emerged from a smoke screen at close range but was ultimately sunk by Admiral Hipper. HMS Glowworm was burning severely after receiving hits from the Admiral Hipper, off the Norwegian coast on 8th April 1940. Hugely out-gunned and already crippled, Glowworms captain, Lieutenant-Commander Roope rammed his destroyer into the side of the Admiral Hipper, inflicting a 40 metre rip in its armour belt before drifting away and exploding. Only 38 British sailors were rescued from the sea and Roope was awarded a posthumous VC for his bravery, the first earned by the Royal Navy in WWII. Out of commission for a while, Admiral Hipper returned to sink twelve merchant ships in 1941. At the end of 1942, Admiral Hipper participated in the futile operation against the Russia bound convoy JW51B. Admiral Hipper subsequently served as a training ship in the Baltic Sea where she helped protect and evacuate the retreating German troops and refugees holed up in East Prussia in what became the largest maritime evacuation in history. In 1945, Admiral Hipper sustained heavy bomb damage from RAF bombers and was scuttled in Kiel.
KMS Bluecher was named for Gebhard Leberecht von BlÜcher (1742-1819) was a Prussian general field marshal and prince of Wahlstadt in Silesia. He was one of the leaders of the war party in Prussia in 1805-1806, and after the war, Blücher was looked upon as the natural leader of the patriot party, with which he was in close touch during the period of Napoleonic domination. When the war was resumed Blücher became commander-in-chief of the Army of Silesia, with Gneisenau and Muffling as his principal staff officers. The most conspicuous military quality displayed by Blücher was his unrelenting energy. The irresolution and divergence of interests usual in allied armies found in him a restless opponent, and the knowledge that if he could not induce others to co-operate he was prepared to attempt the task in hand by himself often caused other generals to follow his lead. After an incredibly severe march Blücher's army intervened with decisive and crushing effect in the battle of Waterloo.
The German military genius for maneuver warfare is well illustrated by an often overlooked operation ofWorld War II, the invasion of Scandinavia in 1940. Operation Weserübung also warrants examination because it was joint in execution and demonstrates that the German army, navy, and air force - Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine, and Luftwaffe - could fight as a team even if rivalry among the headquarters of the services made Hitler the operation's unified commander by fault. Norwegian coastal defenders put up a sharp fight in the Oslo Fjord, sinking the cruiser Blücher (with the staff of 163d Infantry division aboard) and delaying conquest of the capital by half a day. The Blücher, with a crew of 1,400 men and approximately 650 embarked Army soldiers,was torpedoed in the Oslo Fjord. The water temperature in this area was 2°C, the air temperature 0°C. The distancefrom the foundering ship to the dry land was only 300 to 400 meters, or about 20 minutes' swimming. Still, hundredsof soldiers died from fatigue or hypothermia. Oslo fell that afternoon to a few companies of troops which flew into Fornebu airport. Except at Narvik,the remaining landings met only minimal resistance.
KMS Prinz Eugen was built by Krupp at their Germania Werft shipyard in Kiel for the German Navy under the 1936 naval construction program. Laid down in 1936, Prinz Eugen was launched on August 20, 1938, in the presence of Adolf Hitler and Grossadmiral Erich Rader. The cruiser was christened by Madame Horthy, wife of the Hungarian dictator, Admiral Nicholas Horthy. Second of four Hipper class heavy cruisers (Admiral Hipper, Prinz Eugen, Seydlitz, and Lutzow), Eugen was completed in 1940 and commissioned on August 1 of that year. Constructed principally for high seas commerce raiding, Prinz Eugen spent most of WWII blockaded in port.
After shakedown exercises in the Baltic, the cruiser joined KMS Bismarck in Norway in May 1941. Prinz Eugen and the battleship made their famous breakout into the North Atlantic, where they engaged and sank the battle cruiser Hood on May 24; Prinz Eugen's shells were credited with setting the British ship afire before a hit from Bismarck detonated Hood's magazines. Prior to being met by a superior British task force that sank Bismarck after a running sea battle, Prinz Eugen escaped the battleship's fate by slipping away to the Azores. Arriving at Brest, France, for sanctuary and an overhaul in June 1941, Prinz Eugen was harassed by British air raids. While blockaded at Brest, Eugen was damaged by aerial bombing; a hit on July 2, 1941, destroyed the main gunnery control room and damage control, and killed 52 men.
In another famous breakout, Prinz Eugen, with the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau raced up the English Channel between February 11 and 13, 1942, as allied aircraft, coastal gun batteries, and ships attempted to sink them. After its escape, Prinz Eugen operated in Norwegian waters. On February 23, 1942, however, the cruiser was torpedoed by the British submarine Trident in a Norwegian fjord and lost its counter. After another harrowing run to Germany under attack by British planes, the ship was repaired and returned to service as a training ship on the Baltic in the summer of 1942. In October 1943 the ship rejoined the fleet as flagship of the German Baltic forces. In this capacity, the cruiser provided fire support for German troops and panzers in Lithuania and Latvia in 1944; Prinz Eugen spent the last months of the war on the Baltic coast, supporting ground forces retreating from the Russian advance, firing more than 5,000 rounds.
Surrendered at the end of the European war on May 7, 1945, at Copenhagen, Prinz Eugen was taken by the United States as a prize of war. Designated IX-300 as a special auxiliary, Prinz Eugen was taken to the United States for tests and analysis in January 1946, arriving at Boston on the 24th of the month.
Selected as a target vessel for Operation Crossroads, Prinz Eugen was readied at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in February-March 1946. This work involved removing two 8-inch gun barrels from turret "A" for additional evaluation. A fire control tower was also taken from the ship at this time. Prinz Eugen then proceeded to Bikini, arriving on June 11, 1946. There it was moored between two U.S. destroyers off the port quarter of USS Arkansas, 1,200 yards from the zeropoint. The vessel was not appreciably damaged in the Able test of July 1, 1946, nor in the Baker test three weeks later, when it was moored one mile off the detonation point, but was contaminated with radioactive fallout.
The cruiser was towed to Kwajalein for decontamination along with several other vessels after the tests. The ship had a slight, but progressive leak, and on the morning of December 21, 1946, it was found listing and down by the stern. Boarding parties found the ship flooding rapidly from what was believed to be a failed sea valve. An attempt was made to beach the ship on Enubuj Island, but underpowered tugs and strong winds swung Prinz Eugen broadside to the beach, portside to shore, where the ship grounded offshore on a coral ledge at 5:00 p.m. During the night the flooding continued, with the list gradually reaching 35 degrees to starboard. At 12:43 in the morning of December 22, 1946, Prinz Eugen capsized and sank. Subsequent dives on the ship found that technically the cruiser could be raised, but radiation hazards prohibited this action being practical.
In 1973, the Department of the Interior requested that the Navy relinquish title to Prinz Eugen to allow scrapping of the ship to commence. A Navy team dove and documented the wreck, and reported in June 1974 that beta and gamma radiation could no longer be detected on Eugen, but that the vessel had suffered severe hull damage amidships, was partially imbedded in the lagoon bottom, and required removal of residual fuel oil and ordnance before salvage operations could commence. As a consequence, no action to remove the ship was taken.
KMS Lützow was named for Adolf Freiherr von Lützow, 1782-1834, a Prussian officer who commanded (1813-14) a volunteer corps, the Black Troops (or Black Rifles), in the War of Liberation against Napoleon I. Known for its daring exploits, the corps was glorified by the poet Karl Theodor Körner, one of its members. The Lützow was the fifth German Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser. As a part of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, Lützow was sold incomplete to the Soviet Union in 1939. The Soviets believed the Lützow to be important because of its new 203-mm naval guns, along with their performance characteristics. The incomplete Lützow was towed to Leningrad on 15 April 1940 in a rather less complete state than the Soviets had anticipated. Although some work was done, the German invasion of the Soviet Union prevented it being completed. On September 25, 1940, the Soviets renamed her the Petropavlovsk. She was sunk upright in shallow waters in Kronstadt Bay in September 1941, and later bombed and damaged again in April 1942. The Soviets raised the ship by September 17, 1942 and renamed her Tallinn. KMS Seydlitz, a 14,240-ton modified Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser, was built at Bremen, Germany. Launched in mid-January 1939, she was nearly complete by June 1942 when her construction was stopped. Plans to rebuild her as an aircraft carrier resulted in the removal of her guns and most of her superstructure by the first months of 1943, but no further progress was made on the conversion. The threat of allied bombing raids resulted in the ship being towed from Bremen to Königsberg in March and April 1944. In December 1944, while tied up at that East Prussian port, Seydlitz was reclassified as a hulk. The relentless advance of the Soviet Armies toward Königsberg caused German authorities to scuttle the cruiser's hull in late January 1945. Her remains were scrapped by the Soviets in the 1950s.
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