Prinz Eugen and Atomic Tests in Bimini

Cruiser_Prinz_Eugen_underway_in_May_1945

Photo taken between 26 May 1945 and 29 May 1945 in the North Sea.   Acting as “air sentries”, aircraft of RAF Coastal Command in which many RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) men are still serving kept a watchful eye on the two German cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nurnberg whilst they were on their way from Copenhagen to Wilhelmshaven under the terms of surrender.

(photo and caption from the Australian War Memorial)

German Navy heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was still afloat after the initial tests but sprang a leak and rolled over.

Known as the “Lucky Ship” of the Kriegsmarine the ship survived World War Two in spite of dozens of hair-raising battles including the English Channel Dash (Operation Cerberus), being torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Trident, and constant air attack by huge numbers Soviet aircraft in the eastern Baltic where the the ship was providing fire support to retreating German troops in the winter of 1945.

Unable to re-ammunition and under regular air attack, Prinz Eugen sailed to German occupied Copenhagen, arriving on 20 April 1945. German Navy High Command ordered her to remain there. I imagine the officers and sailors were stunned to have survived the war and were worried about their families. Discipline was maintained and the ship surrendered without ceremony to the British on 7 May 1945 as they moved into Denmark. Germany officially surrendered on 8 May 1945 and the ship was handed over to the Royal Navy and subsequently to the US Navy.

Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser, the third member of the class of five vessels. This class was comprised of  Admiral Hipper, Blücher, Prinz Eugen. While five ships were to built, only the first three were constructed. All the ships were built with untested experimental engines which often would stop functioning at full capacity or just stop.

To the ever lasting confusion of historians, Lützow, a fourth ship of the class, was laid down and almost completed when it was sold to the Soviet Union 1940. Meanwhile, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee had been sunk during the Battle of the Rio Plata in December of 1939.

The first pocket battleship had been commissioned as Deutschland. Hitler did not like the idea of a ship named Deutschland being sunk so he had that ship renamed to Lützow.

 

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Prinz Eugen as seen from the dive boat

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/1945653

(This  picture of German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken by the photographer Spencer on 27 April 2007 and published over Panoramio. Copyright by the photographer )

 

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wreck of the Prinz Eugen

photo courtesy of

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/1945663

(This  picture of German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken by the photographer Spencer on 27 April 2007 and published over Panoramio. Copyright by the photographer )

 

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Another view of the Prinz Eugen

photo courtesy of:

http://www.divinggroup.de/wbb2/thread.php?postid=40289

 

 

 

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The Prinz Eugen anchored in the Baltic in the spring of 1941.

photo courtesy of

http://www.kbismarck.com/prinzeugen.html

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Prinz Eugen at Bimini During Atomic Bomb Tests. The ship is located on the far right in this photograph. (Photo courtesy of the National Geographic)

Following from World of Warships Forum:

“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.”

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View from the forecastle of the former German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, officially USS Prinz Eugen (IX-300). Circa March 1946

(official US Navy photograph)

Prinz Eugen, named after Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736) is the only foreign warship commissioned into the US Navy in the modern era.

The text below is from April 1946 edition of US Navy “All Hands Magazine.”

Note that the 20.3 cm guns of turret “A” (also “Graz”) have been removed for testing.

“Prinz Eugen originally had a crew of 8 officers and 85 enlisted men of the U.S. Navy supervising 27 officers and 547 enlisted men of the former German Kriegsmarine for tests. The cruiser was sailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), to San Diego, California (USA) via the Panama Canal to take part in Operation Crossroads. The German crew was gradually reduced to zero with the effect that the cruiser reached Pearl Harbor under tow on 10 May 1946, as the U.S. crew could not operate the ultra-high pressure boilers.”

 

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Prinz Eugen inverted

(photo courtesy of  williamson-labs.com)

 

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This bronze screw was salvaged from the wreck of the Prinz Eugen by the post war German Navy and is on display at the German naval memorial outside near Kiel. (Photograph by Darkone, 1. Mai 2004)

 

 

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USS Prinz Eugen (IX 300) at sea during Operation “Crossroads”
Date 14 June 1946

US Navy Archives

 

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USS Prinz Eugen passing through the Panama Canal in 1946.

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/