The Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen

. 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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