Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bismarck Saga -- The Prinz Eugen

Prinz Eugen

Accompanying the Bismarck on her ill-fated sortie was the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, named after Prince Eugene who collaborated so effectively with the British general Marlborough in the 1700s.

The Prinz Eugen was a very large heavy cruiser, displacing over 16,000 tons, making it over half again as large as the British "treaty' heavy cruisers it was likely to face. It was also much more modern than British counterparts such as the Norfolk and Suffolk, being 10 years newer.

The Prinz Eugen was well-armored, with a 3-inch belt, 1.25-inch deck and over 6 inches on the turret faces and conning tower. It's firepower wasn't especially powerful considering the great size of the ship, with just 8 8-inch guns like the British heavies -- considerably fewer than the main batteries of many Japanese and American heavy cruisers. It did have the advantage of the excellent German optics however. The secondary armament comprised a dozen 4.1-inch guns.

One interesting aspect of the design was that it was deliberately made to resemble the German capital ships and it especially resembled the Bismarck at a distance. This seemingly minor point would play a significant role in the upcoming operation. Compare the appearance of the Prinz Eugen, above, with the silhouette view of the Bismarck, below, taken from Prinz Eugen.

Unlike the Bismarck, which had a remarkably short active career, the Prinz Eugen was a fortunate ship and survived World War II. It was finally expended as a target during atomic testing after the war. Much of what we know from the German perspective comes from the Prinz Eugen, including several dramatic photographs from the Battle of the Denmark Straits.

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