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Prinz Eugen and Bismarck


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#1 Slipdigit

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:38 AM

After the Battle of the Denmark Strait, the Prinz Eugen was detached to raid on her on.

Was there ever any reason given why Adm. Lutjens detached this ship the cruiser?

Would it have been better to leave the PE to assist the Bismarck, since she was damaged as she was.

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#2 LRusso216

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 03:33 AM

I don't know if this answers your question, but this site seems to be fairly complete, and has some nice pictures as well.
The Prinz Eugen was ordered to maintain course and speed in order to draw the pursuit to herself. Between 1900-2000 the Bismarck then reduced speed and there was a short exchange of shots with the pursuers. By this manoeuvre the fact that the German ships were parting company was concealed. The Prinz Eugen was released by the Commander-in-chief for commerce raiding in the Mid-Atlantic.
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PRINZ EUGEN history page

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#3 scrounger

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 11:59 AM

Would the Royal Navy have allowed a convoy to sail escorted only by a destroyer and a couple of corvettes all the while knowing these enemy warships were loose in the Atlantic ? When it was learned that Bismark and Prinz Eugen had broken out would convoys have been held in port until the threat were delt with ? Or possibly use the stick an older R Class battleship in the middle of the merchantmen trick ...

#4 belasar

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 12:49 PM

The German commander was probably hopeing to catch a convoy who sailed before knowledge of German Raiders got out. Even with such knowledge available there would would be the odd fast liner and hardheaded merchantman/straggler sailing alone.
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#5 Markus Becker

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 08:40 PM

PE was a mere heavy cruiser. She would have been but one more target had she stayed with BM.

#6 Marmat

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:25 AM

... Repulse and Victorious were under Admiralty orders, assigned to escort a troop convoy to the Middle East, via the Cape. They were called off, and placed back under Tovey's orders, Force H was assigned to pick this convoy up before being sent to prevent Bismarck reaching the French coast if possible. Likewise with Rodney, she left the liner Britannic to go to Tovey, Revenge and Ramillies had been sent out from Halifax, Revenge ended up with a convoy, Ramillies with Britannic.

Actually, most of the merchantmen of the Trade Div. sunk by U-Boats were travelling alone, for a variety of reasons, i.e. beyond straggling. Ships that could do better than 15 knots travelled as "Independents", which was reduced to 13 knots in late 1940. Sinkings of Independents then went up 250-300%, the minimum was increased back up to 15 knots in mid-1941. Likewise a merchant ship had to be able to maintain a minimum of 7.5 knots to be included in the convoy system. Sometimes convoy's were tailor made for the ships they contained, like the high speed 18 knot tanker convoys from the US, which would include otherwise Independents.

Edited by Marmat, 20 February 2012 - 12:52 AM.
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#7 Carronade

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 03:27 PM

In a functional sense, it was Prinz Eugen which continued her assigned mission of commerce raiding while Bismarck broke off to seek repairs in France; the flooding and loss of fuel from the 14" hit forward made it impractical to carry on. Bismarck was also able to keep the pursuing British ships with her.

It's possible PE's support might have helped Bismarck against the fatal Swordfish attack, or that some of the British pilots might have been confused by the similarity in appearance and attacked the wrong ship. It would only take one misdirected torpedo to get Bismarck safely to France. Other than that, it's hard to see what PE could have done except become another casualty.

#8 CTBurke

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 10:26 PM

re: Prinz Eugen as commerce raider: As it usually is in war, the guy that does it first usually has success, but the enemy learns, and the next guy is not so fortunate. The PE's sister ship Hipper had quite a run of successful sinkings a year earlier, but by mid-1941 the Brits had had sometime to cope and adjust. A far inferior navy like the Kriegsmarine has to have a LOT of luck and pluck to succeed. Anything "normal" will just falter in the face of the widespread naval predominance of the British.

I think the Japanese might have "missed the boat" in not using similar "commerce raiders" in the vast, airplane-less reaches of the Pacific. Their predilection for disdaining merchant warfare, even with subs, allowed nearly a "free pass" for American supplies plying the Pacific to its far-flung bases. There is more than an Atlantic ocean between, say, Panama and Tahiti, where island chains start to become numerous (for maritime patrol/attack). Seems like a grand opportunity passed up.

#9 Volga Boatman

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 01:12 AM

Carronade is on to something Mr Digit...

Eugen could easily have been mistaken for Bismark and attacked by aircraft. Who knows, she might have taken the tin-fish that stuffed Bismark's rudder. Eugen should have escorted Bismark most of the way home BEFORE she was detached for cruiser warfare. Lutjens was disobeying orders at this point, for it was stressed upon him the maximum need to bring his ships home, rather than getting caught up trying to fight battles like Denmark Strait.

Prinz Eugen was actually built with just these issues in mind. Her shape and general sillouette were made to resemble Bismark's. It was an attempt at shipbuilding illusionism, and was only clear to most observers when these two ships were operating relatively close together. Lutjen's forgot all of this when he detached Eugen with Bismark still days away from port. The fundamental role of a heavy cruiser, after all, is just that, an escort for the larger vessel. The military advantages accrued by bringing Bismark into safely home far outweigh anything that could be gained from merchant victims sunk by Eugen's guns, (and I believe she sank nothing anyway).

'Exercise Rhine' was a fairly workable operational plan. Gunther Lutjens was, unfortunately, not the right Captain for this type of mission. Both ships should have sailed for Cherbourg, (Or St Nazaire, wasn't it?) immediately after 'Hood's' demise, and this is not just hindsight, it was the safe thing to do given Bismark's damage and distance from port.

Imagine the sheer number of RAF bombers that would be attracted to St Nazaire/Cherbourg. It would have been a major operation on both sides, and a rough target to keep going back to night after night. Sounds like Lutjens saved a LOT of RAF aircrews.

Edited by Volga Boatman, 29 May 2012 - 01:19 AM.

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#10 lwd

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 07:00 PM

Eugen could easily have been mistaken for Bismark and attacked by aircraft. Who knows, she might have taken the tin-fish that stuffed Bismark's rudder. Eugen should have escorted Bismark most of the way home BEFORE she was detached for cruiser warfare.

If she does so her chance of surviving goes down dramatically while not improving Bismarck's by much.

Lutjens was disobeying orders at this point, for it was stressed upon him the maximum need to bring his ships home, rather than getting caught up trying to fight battles like Denmark Strait.

Between the tactical situation and mis Id'ing the British ships there wasn't much he could do to avoid Denmark Straits. He did indeed get lucky there though.

Prinz Eugen was actually built with just these issues in mind. Her shape and general sillouette were made to resemble Bismark's. It was an attempt at shipbuilding illusionism, and was only clear to most observers when these two ships were operating relatively close together.

Any sources for this?

Lutjen's forgot all of this when he detached Eugen with Bismark still days away from port. The fundamental role of a heavy cruiser, after all, is just that, an escort for the larger vessel. The military advantages accrued by bringing Bismark into safely home far outweigh anything that could be gained from merchant victims sunk by Eugen's guns, (and I believe she sank nothing anyway).

But the odds were Eugen wasn't going to help Bismarck much. Indeed if Lutjen had realized he'd shaken the persuit he would probably have made it home. However as he got closer to France he was going to run into more and more RN and RAF assets and the odds of Eugen successfully detaching dropped dramatically.

'Exercise Rhine' was a fairly workable operational plan. Gunther Lutjens was, unfortunately, not the right Captain for this type of mission. Both ships should have sailed for Cherbourg, (Or St Nazaire, wasn't it?) immediately after 'Hood's' demise, and this is not just hindsight, it was the safe thing to do given Bismark's damage and distance from port.

Given the RN distribution of the time I think this means she runs into KGV, Rodney, and a CV fairly soon.

#11 lwd

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 07:02 PM

... I think the Japanese might have "missed the boat" in not using similar "commerce raiders" in the vast, airplane-less reaches of the Pacific. ....

I'm not sure they had the fuel or the ships for it and by 43 the US could afford to start attaching CVE's to a lot of convoys.

#12 Volga Boatman

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:44 AM

Good Afternoon Lw....

"If she does so, her chance of surviving goes down dramatically whilstnot improving Bismarks by much."

This is speculation. Look at what Bismark and Eugen DID achieve whilst still paired, taking on and beating the pride of the RN and it's newest BC. Splitting Eugen for cruiser duties makes Bismark more vulnerable, no question about it. Bismark's torpedo hit was a very lucky shot; who knows, Eugen may have taken on the RN alone whilst Bismark dashes for home. The only sure thing you can say is that the two German vessels made a better team and a greater threat, and increased their own survivability.

"....there wasn't much Lutjen's could do to avoid Denmark Straits..."

Granted, but the decision to detach Eugen came after. It must have been obvious to Lutjens that he had been lucky, yet he throws caution to the wind, assuming that the guerre de course element of Ex.Rhein is still either attainable or necessary. As it happens, Bismark is as unlucky to receive her torpedo hit as she was lucky to sink 'Hood' in a few salvos, so the presense of Prinz Eugen may well have been very necessary to getting Bismark home at all!

Source for silouette of Prinz Eugen? Jack Greene's "BISMARK", by Avalon Hill. Jack's eye for historical detail came through in all of his designs. 'Bismark' was his tour de force....all you needed were miniature vessels and a large blue playing surface for the perfect WW2 naval wargame.

"But the odds..."

Any odds of getting home went out the window after a lucky torpedo hit. Prior to this, Bismark was making it back to some kind of port. The presense of the extra AA weapons of Eugen could, conceivably, have meant the difference between Bismark making it to France, and the historical result of her slipping to the bottom.

The rest is debatable depending on relative positions etc etc.....
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#13 Volga Boatman

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:57 AM

Any task force including the Rodney would have to have Bismark run straight over them to catch the speedier German vessel(s)......they would all be travelling at Rodney's speed.....slowly....
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#14 lwd

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 01:57 PM

"If she does so, her chance of surviving goes down dramatically whilstnot improving Bismarks by much."
This is speculation.

So was your comment. Based on what happened historically and the RN forces and deployments though it is quite reasonable IMO.

Look at what Bismark and Eugen DID achieve whilst still paired, taking on and beating the pride of the RN and it's newest BC.

I have taken a look at that and come to the conclusion that they were very lucky to do so even taking into consideration the problems the British were operating under. Hood may have been the pride of the RN and the newest BC but she was a BC and not armored to fight against battleships especially newer ones nor had she recieved the planned and needed upgrades. PoW was still working up, indeed she was still under construction and not completely functional.

Splitting Eugen for cruiser duties makes Bismark more vulnerable, no question about it.

Oh but there is. For one thing do they manage to loose the British cruisers? or do the British manage to continue to shadow the pair? The presence of a second ship makes it easier to track them.

Bismark's torpedo hit was a very lucky shot; who knows, Eugen may have taken on the RN alone whilst Bismark dashes for home.

Indeed but given a number of hits the odds on one being lucky goes up quite a bit. Then there's the fact that Eugen can't take torpedos like Bismarck can. The fact that the pair are traveling together may prevent the mistaken identities that lead to an attack on a British cruiser if so the possiblity exists that additional torpedo attacks vs the pair may take place.

The only sure thing you can say is that the two German vessels made a better team and a greater threat, and increased their own survivability.

No. They may have constitued a greater threat but it's not clear how much greater and it's not at all clear that pairing them increases the survivability of the pair let alone the individual ships.

... yet he throws caution to the wind, assuming that the guerre de course element of Ex.Rhein is still either attainable or necessary.

I don't see it that way. The Germans had successfully broken out into the Atlantic a task that was becoming increasingly difficult. Making it too Brest means that the ships would survive for a while longer but it's not clear that they would ever break into the Atlantic again. At the point where they detached it's not at all clear that Eugen would add much to Bismarck's chance of survival if they stay together. Indeed if they are seperated and Bismarck evades her persuers a sighting of Eugen may be reported as one of Bismarck totally throwing off the persuit and allowing Bismarck a clear passage to France.

Source for silouette of Prinz Eugen? Jack Greene's "BISMARK", by Avalon Hill.

No sources for it being a deliberate decision by the Germans.

Any odds of getting home went out the window after a lucky torpedo hit. Prior to this, Bismark was making it back to some kind of port. The presense of the extra AA weapons of Eugen could, conceivably, have meant the difference between Bismark making it to France, and the historical result of her slipping to the bottom.

But that's using 20:20 hindsight. Again the presence of Eugen may have meant both being sunk well short of France.

The rest is debatable depending on relative positions etc etc.....


Any task force including the Rodney would have to have Bismark run straight over them to catch the speedier German vessel(s)......they would all be travelling at Rodney's speed.....slowly....

Aparently I was mistaken it wasn't Rodney and KGV. It was only KGV, Victorious, and almost a dozen cruisers and destroyers. and they are southeast of the German ships (i.e. on their best route home). In all likelyhood that means the Germans are hit by several air strikes before engageing in a surface engagement. While even in terms of battleships Bismarck is already damaged from Denmark straits and potentially damaged from the air strikes. Eugen even if undamaged is going to find her self trying to keep over a dozen (including the two shadowing cruisers) cruisers and destroyers off of herself and Bismarck. There's even a chance that POW is shadowing as well in this scenario.

#15 CTBurke

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 03:38 PM

Japanese Guerre de course:

>I'm not sure they had the fuel or the ships for it and by 43 the US could afford to start attaching CVE's to a lot of convoys.<

The "golden opportunity" for the Japanese was the first year of war. They really had to make an impression on the US (whether by carrier warfare or any other means) if they had ANY chance at all of retaining their empire by intimidation. They DID have such "Q-ships" as the Gokuku Maru that sank a few Allied vessels. Some merchant conversions a la Atlantis, or a couple of light cruisers (and, of course, submarines) with some sort of "milch-cow" support ships in the Samoa area could have disrupted our America-to-Australia supply line similarly to what the German raiders did to the British, and spread "alarm and uncertainty". If our supply situation at Guadalcanal mirrored the Japanese situation...? But sure, once 1943 comes along it is really "game over" for the Japanese as the largesse of our shipyards makes itself felt.

As far as "survivability" of the PE with or without Biz, I think it is a toss-up. I am always AMAZED that the Prinz could just steam between Ireland and England and get to Brest un-noticed!! Shades of "Operation Cerebus" later on!!

Could the Biz have done the same?? Wouldn't THAT be an embarassment to the Royal Navy if, in a confusion of identity, they chased down and sank the Prinz Eugen out in the Atlantic, whilst the Biz snuck into Brest the way PE did originally!!!!

#16 lwd

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 06:45 PM

... As far as "survivability" of the PE with or without Biz, I think it is a toss-up.

I see it as one of those cases where you change the equation enough that it's hard to tell what comes out the other end. It all comes down to the fact that war is a chaotic system and when you make small changes and are dealing with a small sample predicting the effect of those changes is very problematic.

Could the Biz have done the same?? Wouldn't THAT be an embarassment to the Royal Navy if, in a confusion of identity, they chased down and sank the Prinz Eugen out in the Atlantic, whilst the Biz snuck into Brest the way PE did originally!!!!

I wouldn't rule it out. Although with Lutgen making radio transmissions that give away his position it becomes less probable. I suspect there was something of a let down as far as alertness goes after the sinking of Bismarck. And of course a fair number of RN ships were involved in hunting down her support ships.




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