Office of Naval Operations [SKL]
Subject: War Diary Cruiser "Prinz Eugen" of 18.5 – 1.6.41.
Attached is the position statement taken by the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K] to the war Diary of "Prinz Eugen" for the period of 18.5 – 1.6.41
I take the following position to the explanations by the commander [Kapitän zur See Brinkmann]:
The fact is, that on 21 May an English radio message ordered the English air force to lookout for 2 heavy ships and 3 destroyers which had been observed on a North course. It became known that the ships, off Bergen, had sighted 4 aircraft in the West, that the mooring area of the ships in the Kalvanes Bay had sustained a bombing attack, although after their departure, and that on the same day after departure from Bergen, on 22 May, an aircraft was seen again.
Any doubts that the departure of the ships and their continuation of the cruise along the Norwegian coast were detected, can, therefore, not be accepted.
In this situation there were two possibilities:
b) Entering Trondheim, that is, standing into the North Atlantic and waiting long enough for a new seamless air recon - unfortunately the air recon of Scapa started on 23 and 24 May yielded no results because of impaired visibility – thus, a clear picture of the whereabouts of the heavy forces sighted in Scapa on 22 May was not available.
I do not know the thoughts of the Chief of Fleet [Admiral Lütjens] who, based the breakout on favorable weather conditions influenced by his ignorance regarding the appearance of English radar instruments that, until the present, had not been mounted on their big ships, had decided to continue the cruise. I cannot make a judgment on this matter.
The retrospectively obtained facts show that waiting for a renewed air recon would probably have been more correct.
Already during the return cruise of the "Gneisenau" and "Nürnberg" from Trondheim to the homeland, mines were snagged and cut by the pre-positioned minesweeping flotilla.
The mines, having a depth setting of 15 meters, are positioned in the barrier gaps. These formations had equipment which was subject to severe depth fluctuations. Unless all mines are to be removed in time from the barrier gap, equipment with braided lines need to be deployed in the future.
4.) Conduct of Prinz Eugen during the battle.
Although the cruiser had an armament of 20cm guns, with which the artillery officer fired remarkably well and also achieved damaging the opponent, this ship is so poorly armored that it belongs to the light units despite its designation as "heavy cruiser". Every 35 cm or 38 cm hit would have made this ship probably a prize of the pursuing English units or would have forced "Bismarck" to assume extremely unwanted responsibilities for protecting the heavily damaged ship.
In fact, the ship fired a closed salvo, which according to the commander would have hit without fail, but the ship had to maneuver coincidentally to avoid a torpedo from "Hood". Although the ship did not receive an order from the chief of fleet to position itself into the lee side of fire [of "Bismarck"], he should have and must have done this on his own, according to the valid tactical procedures in force, by reporting his intention to the chief of fleet, since at this stage there was no battle and the cruiser had not been fully engaged.
I do not know the thought processes of the chief of fleet here either for holding the cruiser in the line of battle, not only to engage "Hood" but also against the "Prince of Wales".
b) The cruiser did not receive a signal for fire division – indeed no battle signals were given at all – although this is unusual, it can be explained that the Chief of Fleet either considered the placing of the cruiser into the fire lee as self-evident and did not feel a fire division signal was not required or that the situation was so clear that a fire division signal was superfluous.
c) A still unexplained question concerns the failure of the cruiser's deployment of torpedoes.
The presence of such types of far-reaching and accurate position-fixing instruments aboard English ships, as can be assumed with certainty according to the report by "Prinz Eugen", reveals a very unpleasant surprise.
It is not known what initial data input the Englishmen are using for their radar equipment. The individual ships probably use as the initial entry data, just like we do, of optical or electronic range measurements and bearings or they may use instead of bearings, the [angles] of deviation. When ships are operating as a unit, naturally, the possibility exists to utilize the distance between them as a base for position-fixing. However, this depends on the proposition that spacing [distance] and bearing of the collaborating ships is determined accurately and continuously. The use of optical range finding for determining the measured baseline distance between two ships, is not recommended, because of its inherent difficulties. However, these difficulties can be overcome with an accurate electronic range measurement. The bearing of the opponent can be taken by both ships stationed at the endpoint of the measured baseline, and this can be done by optical, electronic or sound-detection instruments. Whether the Englishmen use sound-detection equipment for taking bearings, is very questionable, since the required degree of accuracy cannot be attained. It is particularly unlikely that the English had performed such long-distance bearings, with ships separated by a small base interval, since in such cases especially great bearing accuracy is requisite. However, regardless of the method of taking bearings, there are similar great difficulties in transmitting these bearing to the other ship.
The good results of our sound-detection installations during cold and homogeneous properties of the water, are known. Nevertheless, every sound-detection system is subjected to natural limitations that even the English, with perhaps better equipment, cannot overcome. It can be assumed that, under favorable conditions, the limit is about 20 –25 nautical miles, but certainly they do not reach the extreme ranges that "Prinz Eugen" suspected.
The possibility that the radar instrument's emissions can give away ones own position ['can become a betrayer'], has already been taken into account by all sides by deployment restrictions. The continuous change of frequencies to heighten security, is technically impeded by difficulties; however, it must be considered a military priority.
The conditions are similar in the use of the VHF instrument. Here, too, greater security for listening-in, by changes in wavelength or by other measures, must be achieved. As long as no 100% security is achieved, use of VHF remains restricted to emergency use.
6.) Choice of tankers in the North, respectively, the South.
The remaining minimal fuel stores still present at the meeting with the oiler rekindles with all clarity the question, already addressed in detail regarding "Admiral Hipper", concerning the small radius of action of these ships and the associated danger.
Here, it is again viewed as mandatory that the tankers report at regular intervals; this has been already discussed at the time of issuance of the position paper on the War Diary of "Admiral Hipper". I share the apprehension of the commander that under certain conditions the tanker may be intercepted by the enemy and cannot make a radio report or that this report is not received due to interference by the enemy or atmospheric conditions. [This may allow the enemy to use the tanker as a decoy. UR]
7.) American aircraft
8.) Report of the 1st Artillery Officer.
Particularly from an artillery officer who must answer the opponent effectively, an accurate identification of the opponent's types is a prerequisite, since the choice of shells, and in some cases for outcome of the battle itself, depends on his decision.
In the present case, no adversity resulted. The armor-piercing shell would not have been effective against heavily armored ships. In the present case, it was required to finish off as many superstructures and as much equipment as possible. Base fuze and point fuze shells were capable of this.
Therefore, there is no objection to the choice of the base fuze detonator shell.
According to the report of the commander, the shooting was exquisite. For this I proclaim my recognition to the 1st Artillery Officer as well as the participating artillery personnel.
Decision of the commander after oil replenishment.
The dangers of the conduct of war in the Atlantic in the summer that are brought about by lack of cover of darkness, i.e., nightless times, is recognized. It does not require further explanation.
It was the first mission of the commander and his new ship.
This mission found a tragic end with the loss of "Bismarck".
"Bismarck" is lost, but "Prinz Eugen" lives.
This is due to the merit of the commander to whom I express my appreciation.
The experience will benefit the ship in its new mission.
Office of Naval Operations [SKL]
Attached, the position of the Commander of Cruisers (B.d.K.) regarding the War Diary (KTB) of the Cruiser "Prinz Eugen" from 18.5 to 1.6. 1941 is presented.
It is noted:
On 1.) 3rd sentence.
Regarding the judgment of the situation, there were further options:
b) The engagement of "Prinz Eugen's" artillery in this battle was in any case correct. "Prinz Eugen" achieved strikes and incendiary effects. This could have been very important. She forced the opponent to divide his fire. This could have been a decisive action.
One cannot think only according to rule and must take chances in the exposure to danger. Dangers here do not always refer to incurring losses or annihilation.
Of primary effect was the deployment of "Prinz Eugen's" torpedoes. This failed, and it was a serious shortcoming!
The criticism of the assumption by the 1st Artillery Officer is not warranted, namely, that at very far distances of the opponent, particularly at sharp angles, the identity of a ship's type, even with the most accurate knowledge, cannot be demanded with absolute certainty.
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