15 FEBRUARY 2024: Mid-February folks and it's still winter! (well, not so much here in "winter quarters," but in lots of places here in the U.S. and abroad... Have faith, though, I have it on good authority (a buck toothed rodent) that spring is going to appear rather sooner than later! Fingers crossed! American football season is done and time can hang heavy til golf, boating, etc all get underway. Of course, the America's Cup is tuning up off the coast of Barcelona, so there's that to look forward to. Maybe we will offer an update on those activities in these pages in a month or so. Also some potentially exciting news on a story we posted a while back, on Amelia Earhart's disappearance. For today, however, the bizarre tale of the surrendered German cruiser, Prinz Eugen. From Slash Gear Technology:
To say the end of World War II was hectic would be an
understatement. Europe and a large portion of the Pacific Islands were left in
shambles as Allied forces scrambled to pick up the pieces and salvage what was
left to rebuild both areas of the world. On May 7th, 1945, Nazi Germany
surrendered to Allied Forces in France and surrendered to Soviet forces on May
8th in Berlin. As a result of the surrender, the former Third Reich handed over
tanks, guns, ships, research personnel and all manner of equipment to the
One such piece of surrendered equipment was the Prinz Eugen, a 697-foot Admiral Hipper Class German Heavy Cruiser named after Prince Eugene of Savoy, a 17th and 18th century Austrian general. When it was under command of the Nazi Kriegsmarine, the Prinz Eugen was fairly well known to the Allies. It had participated in the Battle of the North Atlantic, the naval engagement that saw the tragic loss of the British Royal Navy's HMS Hood and eventually the sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck. Additionally, the vessel fired its guns at Soviet targets in support of Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht operations At the end of the war, the Prinz Eugen had the distinction of being one of the few German warships that didn't become an artificial reef.
Initially, the warship was foisted upon the Royal Navy right as the war ended. But it never saw combat on the Atlantic. It was destined for something much stranger.
The former Kriegsmarine vessel was put into a warship
lottery of sorts. There it languished until December of 1945 when the U.S. Navy
won the ship. Shortly afterwards, it was given the illustrious title of
"unclassified miscellaneous vessel USS Prinz Eugen IX-300." With a
fancy warship now in the possession of the U.S. Navy, you'd think it would be
used to reverse engineer and build upon existing designs. But you'd be only
partly correct. The sonar and fire control systems were removed for testing
along with the seaplanes it carried.
But much like a Craigslist Mercedes years past its prime, the Prinz Eugen was nearly impossible to keep operational, even with a crew consisting of former members of the German Kriegsmarine who had served on the ship. The boilers that provided steam to propel the ship reportedly failed regularly and it was more pain than it was worth to keep above water. It was then that higher ups in command decided that the Prinz Eugen would end its career with a bang. It would be used for atomic testing.
Operation Crossroads was a test of nuclear weapons on a naval fleet at sea near the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific. The fleet was comprised of 90 vessels from the American Navy and captured Imperial Japanese and Kriegsmarine warships, the Prinz Eugen was inducted into the target fleet after being towed from Philadelphia. The first test was conducted on July 1st, 1946 when a 23-kiloton nuclear bomb named ABLE was detonated. Perhaps miraculously, the Prinz Eugen remained afloat.
A second weapon named BAKER, also a 23-kiloton warhead, was detonated on July 25th, 1946. Yet, despite experiencing the not one, but two nuclear blasts with yields many times greater than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end the WAR, the Prinz Eugen survived, although this time damaged.
Eventually the warship succumbed to its wounds and unceremoniously capsized on December 22nd, 1946. The official cause of the Prinz Eugen's demise was getting nuked twice. But even nuclear hellfire isn't the end of the Prinz Eugen's story.
After capsizing near a coral reef near Enubui Island, part
of the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands, the vessel was officially
offloaded to the Marshall Islands. But the saga still isn't over. As one might
expect, the citizens of the island chain weren't keen on having to deal with a
nearly eight decade old battleship full of environmentally hazardous substances
just sitting off their coast.
In 2010, the Republic of the Marshall Islands asked the U.S.
Navy for help and it was happy to oblige. By 2018, a plan was enacted to siphon
out remaining fuel from the 173 tanks onboard the Prinz Eugen. U.S. Navy Lt.
Commander Tim Emge was tapped to lead the process of removing the trapped oil
through a procedure known as hot tapping, essentially drilling multiple holes
all over the capsized vessel.
Lt. Commander Emge said of the operation: "Hot tapping allows us to safely tie into the many tanks without leakage by creating a secure opening to place the valve, hot tap tool and pipe for pumping from the highest point on the tank. We were able to successfully, and most importantly safely, conduct over a hundred hot taps throughout the operation." Overall, around 250,000 gallons of fuel was removed from the wreck.
Today, nearly 77 years after the Prinz Eugen rolled over in the shallow waters of the Pacific, it's still there. It is a popular site for recreational divers.
So, should you be a diver and find yourself in the Marshall Islands and specifically, Enubui Island, take a look. Might be worth seeing! And keep a weather eye out for posts about the America's Cup run up and the news about Earhart's plane.
Until next time,