Prinz Eugen & 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 and the ship surrendered 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.

Prinz Eugen “Lucky Ship” of the Kriegsmarine

 

 

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German heavy cruiser, Prinz Eugen in an undated photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

She was named for Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the great captains in European military history.  The Prince had an extraordinary military career in 18th century Europe serving the Habsburg Monarchy.

 

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 Portrait of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736).

Oil on canvas painted in 1718 by Jacob van Schuppen (1670–1751). The painting was purchased in 1806 by the State Art Museum of Amsterdam where it has been ever since.

 

 

 

KMS Prinz Eugen under attack 1942

 

Hugging the Norwegian shore, the German battlecruiser PRINZ EUGEN makes her way southwards while under attack from Coastal Command aircraft on the evening of 17 May 1942. The heavy anti-aircraft barrage she put up shot down three of her attackers, and a follow-up wave was intercepted by enemy fighters and suffered heavy losses. No hits were scored by the RAF, and the ship made Kiel safely the following day. (Photo by RAF official photographer, HQ Coastal Command, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

 

Since she had survived so much combat in World War Two, the  Prinz Eugen was known as the “lucky ship” of the Kriegsmarine. She spent the winter months of 1945 providing fire support to German armies fighting in the Ost Krieg. Subsequent to that duty, she finished the war transporting refugees from East Prussia to Northern Germany. Due to fuel and ammunition shortages, as well as worn out rifling in the barrels of her main armament, she docked in Copenhagen in late April. (Denmark was still under German occupation)

The Prinz Eugen was surrendered to the Royal Navy on 7 May 1945. In the months to come, all of Germany’s naval assets were divided amongst the Great Powers. During those negotiations, she became a prize of war of the United States.

 

 

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Prinz Eugen transiting the Panama Canal in 1946.

(Official USN Photograph from the US National Archives)

 

In December 1945, she was commissioned into the U.S. Navy as the USS Prinz Eugen--the only foreign warship in the modern era commissioned into the US Navy. In order to sail the ship to the United States, the US Navy required many of the German crew to help operate the ship. They all volunteered since most had no job prospects and were paid in American dollars.

Half-way across the Atlantic, the ship broke down and had to be towed the rest of the way. The demands of the war kept the Prinz Eugen from receiving nothing but the most minimal maintenance.  Much of her equipment was worn out especially her engines.

After being studied by US Navy experts who examined her technology and design, some of it superior to the US versions, she was sent to Bimini Atoll in the Marshall Islands as one of the ships anchored there for atomic testing.  Atomic bombs were exploded in 1946 so the navy could understand the effect of an atomic blast wave on naval vessels.

 

 

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Prinz Eugen anchored at the Bikinia Atoll before the atomic tests in 1946. Official US Navy photograph,

 

The proprietors of the following company have taken extensive photographs and video of both the wrecked Japanese ships in  Kwajalein area with many of the Prinz Eugen. You can contact them here for more information:

http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/wreck/Ships.htm

 

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According to Underwaterkwaj “After surviving the tests, she was towed to Kwajalein, where she developed a leak and sank next to Ennubuj Island. Her bow is about 35 meters depth while the screws and rudder, obviously, protrude from the water. One prop (the sawed-off shaft) was removed and taken to a museum in Germany. The ship is an interesting dive, but due to the deterioration of the metal and upside down position, can be disorienting and potentially dangerous. Kwajalein Island can be seen in the background.”

photo and caption courtesy of: http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/kwaj/eugen.htm

 

 

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Alas, even in the far-off Marshalls, you cannot get away from vandals and graffiti. Those are some common Marshallese surnames painted on the prop blades and hub. The prop is also a rest stop for a noddy tern (on the prop blade) and a whimbrel (on the prop hub, with a long bill).

(Adds Charles McCain: graffiti is annoying and unsightly. Believe it or not, inside various structures in Egypt and other places where Roman soldiers went, they left graffiti which is still readable after centuries.  And its the usual kind of moronic lines people always write in a generic way relative to their time:  Maximus was here in the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.)

http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/kwaj/eugen.htm