Whore’s Underwear Worn on U-Boats

A DIRTY, SWEATY AND FOUL ENVIRONMENT

Untrimmed beards were the mark of U-Boatmen who had been long at sea. 

Freshwater was rationed and while possible to shave in salt-water few men wanted to take the time to do that. U-Boats such as the Type VII depicted in Das Boot, were not designed for the long range operations they were compelled to undertake so there were few comforts for the men.

crew watching fellow sailor dancing in scene from director’s cut 1997 of Das Boot

Water for drinking was rationed. While the men were given one cup of fresh water every day for personal use such as brushing teeth or washing, most drank the water instead of using it for anything else since they barely received enough water as it was.

Men Wore Black Underwear: Whore’s Undies

Because storage space on a U-Boat was extremely limited, U-Boat crewmen could only bring aboard one change of clothes and two pairs of underwear for an entire war patrol which could last as long as two and occasionally three months. In order to make the dirt less obvious, the men wore black underwear which they referred to as “whore’s undies.”

US Navy fleet submarine USS Gato 1944. Fleet submarines were designed for the long range patrols required in the Pacific and had far more comforts for the men and necessities such as bathing facilities. Not washing for a long period of time is unhealthy for the skin. These boats could make 21 knots on the surface vs the German surface speed of 15/16 knots.

Unlike US Navy fleet submarines, German U-boats were not air conditioned nor did they have heat except for a handful of electric heaters. The boat took on the temperature of the water so if you were in very cold water the interior was very cold and if you were in the warm even the hot water of the tropics, the inside of the boat was hot and steamy.

It would have been like working in a steam room. Crewman often wore nothing but their underwear in conditions like this when the temperature in the boat could go above 100 degrees. (The warmth of the water combined with the heat generated by the diesel engines and other equipment in the boat).

The equipment and torpedoes were the priorities. Crewmen had to squeeze in wherever room could be found for a bunk. Except for the officers and senior petty officers, the crew “hot bunked” that is once a man woke up and went on duty an off-duty man climbed into that bunk and slept. 

No washing facilities

U-boats did not have facilities for the men to wash themselves or their clothing. The best that could be done was to wash yourself and/or your clothing in a bucket of seawater using special salt water soap issued by the UBoatwaffe.

In memoirs, veterans of the UBoatwaffe often mention that one thing they could never get used to was how badly the boat smelled. In fact, when boats came in from war patrols and docked, flotilla engineers who went aboard often threw up. That’s how bad the smell was.

These U-Boat crewmen are probably rendering honors to another ship as they come into port. Beginning in 1942, however, the crew were mustered on deck coming into port because more and more U-Boats were being sunk by striking magnetic mines.  Therefore, most of the crewmen would be saved if the boat sank. These magnetic mines were constantly being dropped into the approaches to German U-Boat ports on the French Channel coast such as Lorient by RAF Coastal Command. 

Armourers “bombing up” an RAF Coastal Command Liberator with 250-lb Mark VIII depth charges. 50% of German U-boats were actually sunk by aircraft, not by Allied escort ships.

U-boat kommandant (identified by his white cap cover) looking down through the main hatchway from the bridge into the conning tower where the helmsman sat, controlling the rudder with push buttons. In the conning tower, there was another watertight hatch.

Ventilating the Boat

Ventilating the boat to replace the foul air was difficult. On occasion, the kommandant would allow the two hatches in the conning tower to be opened and all the interior hatches–which were watertight as well— to be opened and the outboard air intakes in the diesel compartment closed. This would cause the diesel engines to start drawing air from through the open hatches and ventilate the boat. This wasn’t highly effective but it did change the air within the boat.

When proceeding on the surface in an area where they could be attacked, most of the interior hatchways would be closed or a sailor stationed close by would have the duty of immediately closing the hatch. Normally, the hatch to the engine room and beyond that the hatch E-motor compartment would be closed and dogged shut, that is they would be sealed and waterproof.

Theoretically, everyone who served in the UBootwaffe was a volunteer but we know from memoirs, post-war interviews, and wartime interrogation reports that this was not the case.

 

Nazi Ship Now USCG Eagle

US seized Kriegsmarine Sail Training Ship Horst Wessel As a Prize of War

 “The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle laying at a shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany being rigged and outfitted for her voyage to the United States. The square-rigged sailing vessel was the former German Training ship ‘Horst Wessel’. The bombed buildings of Bremerhaven are in the background.” Photo dated 16 April 1946. (Official USCG photo)

USCGC Eagle under sail in 2015

derelict sail training ship which was to become USCGC Eagle in Bremerhaven immediately after World War Two.

Horst Wessel was a Nazi thug and a pimp who supposedly was killed in a street fight with Communists in Berlin prior to the Nazi seizure of power. He made his living as a pimp and there is evidence to suggest he was murdered by the brother of one of his prostitutes. The ship is has a steel hull and was outfitted as a barque which is a sailing ship with three masts in which the foremast and mainmast are square-rigged and the mizzenmast is rigged fore-and-aft.

Horst Wessel about to be launched. The original ship was built by the German shipbuilder Blohm and Voss, who also built the Bismarck. You have to give it to them: they certainly built strong ships.

Sailing barque Horst Wessel:

Laid down: 15 February 1936
Launched: 13 June 1936
Commissioned: 17 September 1936
Decommissioned: 1939
Recommissioned: 1942
Captured: April 1945

 Horst Wessel in front of German Naval Academy Mürwik in Flensburg in 1937.

The construction of the German naval academy began in 1910. The buildings weren’t badly damaged in World War Two and became the last headquarters of the Nazi government under Admiral Doenitz. Repairs were made in the years after the war and the academy reopened in the mid-1950s when West Germany was permitted to begin rearmament.

The Naval Academy Mürwik with the Gorch Fock (sister ship of the USCG Eagle) on the Flensburg Firth, the Northernmost part of Germany. 

Prinz Eugen Becomes a Prize of War

Prinz Eugen

 German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken as a prize-of-war by the US Navy and designated the USS Prinz Eugen, an unclassified miscellaneous vessel. This is the only foreign warship commissioned into the US Navy since the days of sail.

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Prinz Eugen (centre) under repair in the Lofjord; next to her, on her starboard side, is the repair ship Huascaran; Admiral Scheer is also moored behind anti-torpedo nets. (Imperial War Museum)

 

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Prinz Eugen at anchor still fitting out circa 1938. The swastika on the bow is meant to help German warplanes identify Prinz Eugen as a German ship. (German National Archive)

One of Prinz Eugen’s three-bladed screws on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial

 

Photo of a 10.5cm SK C/33 anti-aircraft mounting on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in US Navy service, preparing for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in 1946. Photo was taken by the US Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance on 17 June 1946 to document the ship before the nuclear tests.

 

Prinz Eugen at her launch 22 August 1938    (Bundesarchiv)

U-Boat Bunker St. Nazaire

 

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Vizeadmiral Dönitz during the opening (photo courtesy Uboat.net)

 

U-Boat Bases and Bunkers: Saint Nazaire: The U-Boat Bunker suffered thirty major raids through the war with three being extremely heavy. The 28 February 1943 raid consisted of 430 bombers, the 22 March 1943 raid consisted of 350 bombers, and the 28 March raid consisted of 320 bombers. The town was almost completely destroyed in these raids while the bunker saw minimal damage.

From Uboat.net:

“The construction work started in February 1941. The bunker, built on the western side of the basin at Saint-Nazaire, was 295m wide, 130m long and 18m high and contained 14 U-boat pens.

After only 4 months the first pens were ready and so Vizeadmiral Dönitz opened on the 30th June 1941 the bunker. U-203 under Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg was the first boat to use one section of the newly completed shelter.

Later a sluice bunker was also built, which the U-boats used to reach the sea.”

uboat.net/flotillas/bases/saint_nazaire.htm

HMS Hood at Sea

Magnificent photo of HMS Hood at the Spithead Review in 1937 to mark the ascension of George VI to the throne.

(Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224384)

 

 “The bows of the battle cruiser HMS HOOD awash as she moves at full speed through Caribbean waters during the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron. The ship on the horizon is the  HMS REPULSE, the other vessel forming the Special Service Squadron.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205090611″

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, HMS Hood made a series of cruises throughout the British Empire and the world. She was not only a beautiful ship but the largest warship afloat at the time. Unfortunately, like the empire itself, the “Mighty Hood” was a bluff. In spite of refits, she remained a museum of 1920s naval technology.

HMS Hood at sea circa mid to late 1930s

 © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224389

Worse, her insufficient deck armour, while strengthened, was never brought up to standard and this made her vulnerable to plunging fire. A German shell from the Bismarck (we think) plunged through her thin deck armour and exploded in her after magazine. This resulted in an explosion so massive the Hood almost disintegrated. She broke in half and sank in just a few minutes taking all but three of her crew to their deaths.

HMS Hood seen from battle cruiser HMS Repulse circa mid 1930s.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224383

While undergoing several brief refits, HMS Repulse was in no better shape to withstand a heavy enemy attack than the Hood. She was sunk with heavy loss of life in company with HMS Prince of Wales off Singapore by Japanese torpedo bombers.

This shocked the world because HMS Hood was the well-known warship in the world and had come to symbolize the British Empire. She had spent so much time showing the flag around the globe from the mid 1920s to the late 1930s that the Royal Navy ran out of time to remove her from service and have her rebuilt. While aware of her deficiencies, the Admiralty kept her in service and the result was disastrous.

HMS Hood entering Portsmouth harbour on a grey day circa mid-1930s

 HMS HOOD (HU 108395) HMS HOOD entering Plymouth harbour. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224387

Prinz Eugen Surrenders

Prinz Eugen Surrenders in Copenhagen

 

GERMAN CRUISERS DISARM AT COPENHAGEN. 18 MAY 1945, COPENHAGEN. DE-AMMUNITIONING OF THE GERMAN CRUISERS PRINZ EUGEN AND NURNBERG. (A 28718) Shells being unloaded from the PRINZ EUGEN by German naval ratings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160053
GERMAN CRUISERS DISARM AT COPENHAGEN. 18 MAY 1945, COPENHAGEN. DE-AMMUNITIONING OF THE GERMAN CRUISERS PRINZ EUGEN AND NURNBERG. (A 28718) Shells being unloaded from the PRINZ EUGEN by German naval ratings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160053

In the last months of World War Two, German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was stationed in the Baltic and provided to fire support to German troops fighting the Soviets. In mid-April 1945, the ship had fired her heavy guns so often no more ammunition of that size was available in the Germany.

Prinz Eugen sailed for Copenhagen in German occupied Denmark arriving on 20 April 1945.

After lying in Copenhagen for the remaining three weeks of World War Two the ship officially surrendered to the Royal Navy on 8 May 1945.

Known as “the lucky ship” of the German navy, Prinz Eugen was damaged a number of times in action yet never sank and was always able to be repaired.

GERMAN CRUISERS DISARM AT COPENHAGEN. 18 MAY 1945, COPENHAGEN. DE-AMMUNITIONING OF THE GERMAN CRUISERS PRINZ EUGEN AND NURNBERG. (A 28717) Shells being unloaded from the PRINZ EUGEN by German naval ratings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160052
GERMAN CRUISER DISARMS AT COPENHAGEN. 18 MAY 1945. DE-AMMUNITIONING OF THE GERMAN CRUISER PRINZ EUGEN . (A 28717) Shells being unloaded from the PRINZ EUGEN by German naval ratings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160052

 

 

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Prinz Eugen under escort from Copenhagen to Wilhelmshaven after surrendering to the British Royal Navy. The ship was later turned over to the US Navy as a prize of war. The German officers and ratings continued to operate the ship under the watchful eyes of British Royal Navy officers and Royal Marines.

The photograph above is from the archive of the Australian armed forces. Their caption:  “Acting as “air sentries”, aircraft of RAF Coastal Command in which many RAAF men are still serving kept a watchful eye on the two German cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nürnberg whilst they were on their way from Copenhagen to Wilhelmshaven under the terms of surrender.”

 

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USS Prinz Eugen in Panama Canal 

(photo US Navy HHC)

After being taken by the US Navy, the ship was commissioned into the US Navy as the USS Prinz Eugen, the only foreign ship ever commissioned into the US Navy since the days of sail. The US Navy had to get the ship to the US. Many of the German officers and crewmen volunteered to stay aboard and assist US Navy personnel to take the ship to the US. Halfway across the Atlantic the Prinz Eugen, which had received very little maintenance in the last year of the war, broke down and had to be towed the rest of the way to the US.

 

According to the website of  the US Navy History and Heritage Command: “Prinz Eugen surrendered to the British at Copenhagen, Denmark, 7 May 1945, and was taken to Wilhelmshaven, Germany. She became property of the U.S. Navy, and was classified IX-300. In January 1946 she steamed, with an American and German crew, commanded by Captain A. H. Graubart, USN, to Boston, arriving on the 24th. Proceeding via Philadelphia and the Panama Canal to the Pacific for atomic bomb tests, she survived an atomic explosion at Bikini 25 July 1946, and was towed to Kwajalein where she began to list significantly 21 December. Despite an attempt to beach her, at Enubuj, she capsized and sank 22 December 1946. Into 1970 she remains rusting on a coral reef at Enubuj, Kwajalein Atoll.

The ship was named for Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), an Austrian general, who fought France and the Ottoman Empire during various wars.  sailed for Copenhagen in German occupied Denmark arriving on 20 April 1945. ”

USN HHC ship-histories/prinz-eugen

 

 

 

Prinz Eugen and Atomic Tests in Bimini

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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

Bikini Atoll Explosion

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.