Position Statement of the Commander of Cruisers (B.d.K.), Vizeadmiral Schmundt, regarding the War Diary of the cruiser "Prinz Eugen".
(Translated from the original German by Ulrich H. Rudofsky)
Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.]
Log No. Gkdos. 37
Commander Station, 16 June 1941.
To the Supreme Command of the Navy [OKM], Office of Naval Operations [SKL]
Subject: War Diary Cruiser "Prinz Eugen" of 18.5 – 1.6.41.
Transaction: "Prinz Eugen" Gkdos 400 of 2.6.41.
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
Position Statement of the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.] regarding the War Diary of the cruiser "Prinz Eugen" for the period of 18.5. – 1.6.1941.
I take the following position to the explanations by the commander [Kapitän zur See Brinkmann]:
The ships' departures were undoubtedly known via reports from agents. It is irrelevant whether these were already made in the port of departure or by observation in the Belt, i.e., the departure of the ships may have been casually mentioned by crew members of the trailing "Gotland" after they entered a Swedish port or it was reported on purpose.
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:
a. Proceeding under the certainty of the actual observations of meeting up with an enemy guarding the southern or northern approaches of Iceland being supported in the rear probably by heavy forces,
2. Skagen barrier.
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 ship, 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.
3. Radar.Our radar instruments have repeatedly suffered from severe defects ("Admiral Scheer", "Gneisenau", "Bismarck"). Even on "Bismarck", they were susceptible to interference and at times failed. Corrective action is absolutely required.
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.
a. Although the conduct of "Prinz Eugen" during the battle against 2 heavy enemy ships is indeed very courageous, it does not meet the common [tactical] views presently in force, according to which, already during the assembly for battle, the cruisers and torpedo boats are to post themselves in the fire-lee of the main body – here undoubtedly "Bismarck".
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.
But I do agree also with the commander that a directive could be expected by him, particularly, since this is customarily always done when sailing in the line of battle.
c. A still unexplained question concerns the failure of the cruiser's deployment of torpedoes.
The chief of fleet had reserved this for himself (compare with page 1, item 4). However, I believe this reservation is related only to the deployment against merchant ships, for whose sinking the ships had sailed in the first place.
But in battle, every offered advantageous opportunity must be exploited. The ships sailed [in line] at an interval of 3,000 meters. It is impossible for the leader to supervise with certainty the torpedo-tactical situation of a ship sailing 3,000 meter distant.
The binding order of page 1, item 4, therefore, cannot have any validity in this particular situation, if an opportunity for a torpedo launch had occurred.
According to the report by the commander, he was not within reaching range of "Hood", that is, shortly before the intended torpedo launch, he had to evade a torpedo from "Hood" and, therefore, the launch had to be aborted. On the contrary, however, an opportunity for a launch against "Prince of Wales", who stood behind "Hood" and who was not at flank speed as he passed her, did indeed occur, since at that time ["PoW"] transited "Prinz Eugen" at a distance of 140 hectometers; furthermore, at that time even the heavy Flak of the ship was deployed.
The position of "Prinz Eugen" in relation to "Prince of Wales" cannot be derived from the battle sketch. It is useless and worthless. The ship is herewith directed to resubmit a new battle sketch that is based on the actual data provided by the computing station, and in the future, [PG is admonished] to pay greater attention to the preparation of battle sketches. Furthermore, the question is to be resolved, why the torpedo installations, which really had to be up and running since the time of the sighting of the opponent, took such a long time to report "all clear and ready", as is evident from the War Diary on page 23.
5. Deployment position-fixing radar and Listening installations and ultrahigh frequency instruments (page 20 – 24).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 ultrahigh frequency 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 UHF remains restricted to emergency use.
6. Choice of tankers in the North, respectively, the South.I agree with the considerations and decision of the commander.
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 aircraftAn American aircraft kept surveillance of the cruiser. It is possible that the English utilize aircraft that have been obtained from America. Since an insignia was not observed, it is not proven that these were already aircraft of American nationality. This possibility cannot be arbitrarily dismissed.
8. Report of the 1st Artillery Officer.The assumption by the 1st Artillery Officer [Korvettenkapitän Paulus Jasper] that he is facing heavy cruisers, is incomprehensible.
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 now 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 decision of the commander [Kapitän zur See Brinkmann] to sail into Brest, based on mechanical defects that reduced the ship's speed, was correct.
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.
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