Germany - Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser
Until the early thirties, the German Navy had been restricted in their shipbuilding abilities by the Treaty of Versailles. For cruisers, that meant a displacement of 6000t and a resulting caliber of 150mm. That also meant that Germany had not been involved in the arms-race in the construction of so-called ‘Washington-Cruisers’ between other nations. With some relaxations of the Versailles Treaty and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, the way was paved for heavier ships in the cruiser category. The Agreement allowed for a total tonnage of 51380t of heavy cruisers – five ships of 10000t each. The higher-ups in the German Navy, including Erich Raeder, were not really convinced of the usefulness of a heavy cruiser, but the presence of this type of ship in other navies that a corresponding ship would be needed, or else the current German cruisers were left in an inferior position.
The early designs began as a ‘heavy light cruiser’, a 10000t ship with twelve 150mm cannons, and slowly increased to 190mm cannons to 203mm cannons. The desired speed of 33kn originally (faster than the French Dunkerque
-class was finally reduced to 32kn, with power coming from high-pressure, high temperature steam engines. Diesel engines had to be disregarded, as they were capable of only 27kn and required a lot more room. The displacement had climbed in the meantime to 14000t, a fact that was kept a closely guarded secret, of course.
began as its existence as cruiser ‘H’, together with Blücher
(cruiser ‘G’) and replaced the two aging Bremen
-class cruisers Hamburg
. Despite being the second ship in the budget (letter H), Admiral Hipper
was laid down July 6th, 1935, and launched on Februrary 6th, 1937. Construction was heavily delayed due to the whole re-armament and shipbuilding program in these years. Other delays were caused due to heavy reconstructions when the originally planned boiler rooms proved too small when the original boilers were replaced with new ones. Admiral Hipper
finally entered service on April 29th, 1939.
was the only ship of her class to enter service with the old, vertical bow form. By that time the German Navy had realized the disadvantages of this bow form in the conditions of the Atlantic and decided to equip the new cruisers with an Atlantic Bow. However, adding the bow on Admiral Hipper
would delay the cruiser further, something that the leadership did not want in these rather troublesome times. The plan was to add the bow later during normal maintenance shipyard session.
As the first ship of her class that included serveral new technologies, Admiral Hipper
underwent a long series of trials. The failures in the contruction soon became obvious: The flat funnel made smoke a problem on several platforms, the vertical bow caused considerable wetness and the open admiral's- and navigation bridge were inadequate. Returning to the drydocks in July 1939, those flaws were corrected. However, due to time contrains, Admiral Hipper
only got the 'cheap' version of an Atlantic bow. A slanted addition starting from above the waterline without a third anchor. When the war broke out in September of 1939, Admiral Hipper
still underwent sea trials.
The winter of 1939/1940 caused Admiral Hipper
(like many other German ships) to be stuck in the harvours and when she finally moved again on January 31st, 1940, she was still far from ready. Travelling from Hamburg to Wilhelmshaven, she was eqipped with a FuMO-22 radar on her tower mast rangefinder. On February 18th, 1940, Admiral Hipper
left together with Scharnhorst
on Operation 'Nordmark': The target were the British shipping lines around the Shetlands isles. The operation wasn't successful (no targets sighted), but gave Admiral Hipper
's crew valuable experience. On March 20th, Admiral Hipper
was moved to Cuxhaven in preparation for the invasion of Norway. For that, to additional 20mm single flak were installed on turrets B and C. Those were not the usual Navy flaks but land-based mounts.
For Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway, Admiral Hipper led Warship Group II with the target of Trondheim, together with four destroyers (Z5 Paul Jakobi
, Z6 Theodor Riedel
, Z8 Bruno Heinemann
and Z16 Friedrich Eckolt
) and five supply ships (Sao Paolo
). The heavy cruiser herself carried 1700 soldiers for the invasion. Leaving on April 6th, the ships joined up with Group I. April 7th and 8th all ships had to fight with heavy weather, casuing the fleet, especially the destroyers, to disperse. One of the destroyers of Group I, Z11 Bernd von Armin
, encountered the British destroyer Glowworm
, herself escorting the Reknown
, which was mining the Norwegian waters. Bernd von Arnim
called for reinforcements and Admiral Hipper
responded. The British destroyer proved to be no match for the cruiser and was left to fend for herself when a hit destroyed her radio installations. After missing with all torpedoes and failing to escaped, the British commander attempted to ram Admiral Hipper
. The German commander recognized the plan and attempted to evade the smaller ship, but the heavy sea slowed down the reaction of the bigger ship. Glowworm
hit Admiral Hipper
below the starboard anchor and ripped up the hull until the forward torpedo tubes, destroying them as well in the process. With the British destroyer sinking, the battle was over, Admiral Hipper
could rescue 31 British sailors from the sea.
The cruiser had taken heavy damage, lost around 253m³ of oil and had to be partially flooded to counter the listing. Firepower-wise, however, Admiral Hipper
was still in almost full strenght and continued towards Trondheim. The only futher combat was a short exchange of shots between a coastal battery at Hysnes and Admiral Hipper
, which quickly went in the German's favour. Three of the four destroyers took on troops and occupied the battery, while Admiral Hipper
and Friedrich Eckoldt
continued towards Trondheim. With the succesfull landing of all of her troops, Admiral Hipper
had completed her mission, yet the damaged from the battle with the destroyer would require a long repair.
The previous ship of the class was the heavy cruiser Blücher
. Named after the military hero Gebhard Leberecht Fürst Blücher von Wahlstatt and her name predecessors in the Imperial Navy (a Bismarck
-class corvette and an armoured cruiser), she was laid down in Hamburg on August 15th, 1936, launched on June 8th, 1937 and comissioned on September 20th, 1939. Although launched with a vertical bow, she recieved a new bow during fitting out. The design, a bit shorter than the next ship, Prinz Eugen
, was nearly identical to the lead ship of the class, Admiral Hipper
After being comissioned in late 1939, Blücher
spent most the following months either on shakedown cruises or in port for additional modifications. The ice winter of early 1940 forced her to stay out of the war entirely. The modifications included an enclosed Admiral's Bridge, a funnel cap and a single FuMO-22 radar matress on top of her tower mast rangefinder. She was finally declared ready for combat duty on April 5th, 1940, just in time for the Invasion of Norway, however in practice, Blücher
would still need a months worth of further testing to be ready.
Under the command of Konteradmiral Kummetz, Blücher
led Warship Group 5 against Oslo, together with heavy cruiser Lützow
, light cruiser Emden
, torpedo boats Möwe
, minesweepers R17
and picket ships Rau 7
and Rau 8
herself was carrying around 800 German ground troops plus their equippment.
During the night of April 8th to April 9th, the warships were spotted and unseccessfully attacked by the British submarine HMS Triton
. Norwegian searchlights spotted the advancing ships, but no shots were initially fired. During the transit, most of the ground troops were transferred from Blücher
over to the accompaning ships, as the heavy cruiser was leading the charge. At 5:21 ocklock Blücher
came under heavy fire from the 280mm coastal cannons of the fortress of Oskarborg and immediatly scored crippling hits. Blücher
tried to run past the batteries, but also came under fire from the 150mm guns of Dobrak and finally a torpedo battery. She eventually got past the artillery fire, but was now crippled and isolated in the fjord. The other German ships, shocked by the inferno on the flagship, backed away as heavy artillery on Oskarborg scored a crippling hit on Lützow
's front tower.
The fires on Blücher
were further fed by the ammunition and equipped of the ground troops that had been previously onboard. The final blow came when a magzine with heavy 105mm flak ammunition exploded. As the nearly full fuel bunkers caught fire and the cruiser began to list, order was given to abandon ship. Blücher
finally sunk at 7:30 on April 9th, 1940, the numbers of lifes lost vary by source, ranging from 320 to 1000 members of both Navy and Army.
In the years after the war there were several propses to raise the wreck as it lay in relatively shallow waters (~70m depth), but none were carried out. Blücher
's anchor and screws were recovered as was a large portion of her oil and an Ar-196 floatplane in 1994. The rotting wreck had began to leak up to 50l per day into the environment from her bunkers, which had been filled to the brim when had left Germany.
Well, let's get this started. This time in the middle, with Prinz Eugen
. Laid up in in 1936, launched in 1938 and comissioned in 1940. With the Anschluss
of Austria to Germany, the Kriegsmarine became the spiritual successor to the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Originally the name was supposed to be Tegetthoff
, named after Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, an Austrian Navy commander who commanded a joined Prussian and Austrian fleet against Denmark in 1864. However
, he also soundly defeated the Italians in 1866 in the Battle of Lissa, so to not anger Germany's new ally, the name was changed Prinz Eugen
was a bit larger than her predecessors and was comissioned with some of the of the upgrades already installed, like the atlantic bow, the enclosed Admiral's bridge, funnel cap and radars. Also the hangar layout was different and larger and some of the originally planned forward rangefinders were still missing. Her armament were eight 203mm guns in twin turrets, twelve 105mm flaks in twin mounts, twelve 37mm flaks in twin mounts, eight single 20mm FlaMG and four triple torpedo tubes.
By 1941, the missing forward AA rangefinders had been installed, but not in the usual 'bobblehead' mountings, but in open platforms. Additionally, two smaller rangefinders were added near the aft superstructure. Also: Camoflage!
After her exploits with Bismarck
, Prinz Eugen
returned to Brest, joining Scharnhorst
. Of course, the British did notice the arrival of the cruiser and added her to their target list, which already included the two battleships. With further expeditions into the Atlantic becoming impossible and the increased air raids from Britain, it was decided to move the ships home to the German ports.
Hitler decided to move the ships through the channel, relying purely on the moment of surprise. On Februrary 11th, 1942, the three capital ships left for their famous 'Channel Dash'. Under heavy guard of destroyers, s-boats and aircraft, all of them managed to get through, mostly due to bad coincidences and simple luck. Only Gneisenau
hit some mines, but was able to reach German ports in the end.
during Operation Cerberus, this time with new camo scheme and enclosed forward rangefinders. Several 20mm quads had been added and the onboard planes removed (Those were transported over land):
After Prinz Eugen
had reached a German port, she almost immediately left for Trondheim, to support Tirpitz
. Both Scharnhorst
had been damaged during the Dash, which only left Prinz Eugen
and Admiral Scheer
as support for the battleship. Escorted by a group of destroyers, the two cruisers left near the end of Februrary 1942. After avoiding a British air strike, the convoy was intercepted by the submarine HMS Trident
. Prinz Eugen took several hits , disabling her rudder and heavily damaging her stern. Despite the damage, Prinz Eugen reached Norway and was moved to the Lofjord, where repairs could be done.
Stuck in the Lofjord without any means of steering, repairs began immediately on Prinz Eugen
, assisted by the repair ship Huscaran
. However, it soon became obvious that the damage to the stern had been too severe and would require extensive repairs in a German shipyard. A makeshift rudder was installed, which could be driven electrically or manually, preparing the cruiser for her long journey back home.
In May 1942, the repairs had been completed and Prinz Eugen moved back to Germany in an opartion called 'Zauberflöte' (magic flute
, named after the opera by Mozart). The cruiser came under attack of British bombers, but they failed to hit the ship. The repairs to replace her stern would last until October, followed by a two-month trial period.
In 1943, it was back to action, but any attempts to transfer the cruiser to Norway failed due to early enemy recon. After the repairs, the 20mm quads were replaced with the shielded model, plus two additional replacing the searchlight on the funnel platforms. The torpedo tubes now had enclosed housings for better protection. The FuMO 27 radar on the tower mast was replaced with a FuMO 26 with 'owl ear'-extensions, a FuMB 7 'Timor' passive radar was added below plus a set of four FuMB 4 'Sumatra' around the mast platform.
Plus I played around with a little bit of underwater hull shading, let me now what you think...
By 1944, it was back to the standard peace-time grey. After the focus of the Kriegsmarine shifted away from surface ships to U-boats, Prinz Eugen was used as a training ship. However, with the situation becoming worse in the east, the cruiser, like many other ships, supported the ground troops with her heavy artillery.
During 1944, Prinz Eugen got a massive light AA refit: The old 37mm twins and 20mm singles were replaced by shielded 40mm Flak 28 Bofors, 20mm twins M42 and 20mm shielded quads C/38/43. The total number was 9*1*40mm (total 9), 10*2*20mm and 6*4*20mm (total 44). The radar was changed as well, most notably with the addition of a FuMO 25 active radar on the aft mast with an additional set of four FuMB 4 'Sumatra' passive arrays. On the main mast the passive FuMB 7 'Timor' and active FuMO 26 was replaced with an improved massive FuMO 26 arrays plus an assortment of smaller passives array (most notable on the drawing are the two passive FuMB 3 'Bali-1' antennas on top) and a FuMO 81 'Berlin-S' radar dome at the top of the mast.
The last years of the war saw Prinz Eugen more and more assigned to coastal artillery support and evacuation escort in the baltic. In late 1944, she crashed with the light cruiser Leipzig, nearly taering the smaller ship apart, but both ships could be separated after fourteen hours. In November of 1944 Prinz Eugen returned to port in Gotenhafen to have her main guns re-bored, after firing over 500 shots in the previous battle.
The returned to combat in early 1945, continuing to bombard the advancing Soviet forces and was shortly later back in port after expending all of her ammunition, this time over 870 shots. After leaving for action again in march, she came under attack of British fighters in April. The accompaning heavy cruiser Lützow (ex-Deutschland) was sunk in port on April 13th, Prinz Eugen only escaping to Copenhagen by a narrow margin. There she surrendered to the British on May 7th.
By 1945 some of the 20mm had been replaced by 40mm singles.
After the war, Prinz Eugen
was given to the United States as a war prize and comissioned as IX-300 USS Prinz Eugen
. Under a joined German-American crew the cruiser crossed the Atlantic and took harbour in Boston. The cruiser was extensively analysed and some pieces of equippment removed, including the sonar which was installed on the submarine USS Flying Fish
(AGSS-229). Afterwards, the cruiser was transferred to the Pacific. The ship suffered from engine failure on the way, due to the inexpirience of the US crew with the modern high-pressure superheated steam engines and more and more German crewmembers being dismissed.
was subjected to the nuclear bomb tests in the Bikini Atoll (Operation Crossroads) in 1946. The results of the blasts on Prinz Eugen
were of particular interest, due to the fact that the cruiser was a largely welded construction. The cruiser survived both tests and was towed to the Kwajalein Atoll afterwards. However, the nuclear blasts had caused a few leaks around the screws. With the ship heavily radiated and no crew on board, the leaks were discovered relatively late. Attempts to save the ship or beach it failed and Prinz Eugen
finally sunk on December 22nd, 1946. Attempts to raise the ship were planned immediatly after the sinking, in 1973 and 1989, but abandoned each time due to residual radiation. In 1979 one of the screw was salvaged from the wreck and returned to Germany. It now on display on a plaza in front of the Naval Memorial in Laboe.