Home · Intro · Technical · History · Additional · On-line Archive · Models · Articles · 
Guestbook · Forum · Glossary · Help us · Books · Other · 

Confidential.

Medical Field Report concerning the Mission of the Cruiser “Prinz Eugen” from 18.5.1941 to 1.6.1941

(Translated from the original German by Ulrich H. Rudofsky)

1. Brief overview of the route.
2. General state of health.
3. Accommodations.
4. Nutrition.
5. Ventilation.
6. Water supply, bathing and washing facilities.
7. Hygiene for on and off duty crew.
8. Clothing.
9. The sickbay and its equipment.
10. Medical services during battle.
11. Vermin control.
12. Special occurrences and medical experiences concerning supply ships and tankers.
13. Summary of the field report and proposals for improvements.


1. Brief overview of the route.
The mission began on 18.5.1941 with the departure from Gotenhafen and led through the Greater Belt to the North toward the northern Arctic Ocean, and thence through the Denmark Strait into the North – and Mid-Atlantic. It found its conclusion by heading into Brest on 1.6.1941.

2. General state of health.
The state of health of the crew during the duration of the mission was good despite extreme physical and mental exertion, due to the providence of preventive medical measures. About four weeks prior to the start of the mission the entire crew was submitted to an x-ray survey. The necessity of this procedure before such missions was justified by the fact that during these lung x-ray procedures two active cases of tuberculosis with early infra-clavicular infiltration were documented. This concerns Maschinenmaat Hoffmann and Maschinenmaat Menge, who were immediately disembarked, and they were sent by the office of allocation of the sick to the naval hospital in Malente [a TB spa south, close to Kiel. UR]. According to the hospital report Maschinenmaat Hoffmann already had exudative tuberculosis. Failure to conduct this complete radiological examination of the crew would have most likely have led, by virtue of the heavy physical demands and constantly changing climatic conditions, to certain exacerbation of the illness of this soldier, and in addition, have led to the danger of spreading the infection of this illness to susceptible soldiers. Thus, this danger was smothered immediately before it could take hold.

Despite the rapid traverse of various climatic zone (within 24 hours, the area from the pack-ice to the warm Mid-Atlantic was traversed) with temperature differentials of 20 degrees were encountered, there was neither an increase of colds nor sore throats and bronchitis, since orders for appropriate clothing for these zones were given in time. Also, skin diseases such as boils, and scabies [crabs] and louse infestations did not exceed the usual number of occurrences. The mandatory typhoid-paratyphoid immunizations were administered as ordered. Psychoses and depressions were not observed.

A stimulatory agent [Pervitin-metamphetamine] was administered only once to the almost exhausted radio personnel which was constantly on battle station watch; the radio personnel was particularly affected because of the extreme heat generated in the radio rooms and despite of that had to maintain a clear head. For this reason Pervitin was issued, which had the predicted invigorating effect.

After the heavy battle in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland each crew member was issued one pack of Schokakola for the strengthening of physical performance and for the elevation of mental concentrating power; its effect will be discussed further below.

Right after the start of the mission, a health inspection was performed, and its purpose to “fish” for fresh venereal diseases and cases of crabs and lice. This measure was also blessed with success. One case of gonorrhea [literally, a dripper. UR] and 16 cases of lice, several genital eczemas, and one case of severe protracted crab infestation were found as well as a case of very severe foreskin stricture, which required an operation [emergency circumcision? UR]. The health inspection of the individual divisions was preceded by a medical lecture about the importance of body care and body hygiene.

3. Accommodations.
The accommodations of the crew had to be adjusted to meet the duration of the cruise, the requirements of the combat mission, and the safety of the ship. For military reasons, the sleeping of the crew in their hammocks was not feasible, as was disrobing. The entire crew had to sleep fully dressed at their battle station sleep locations either on top of a lashed down hammock or on a blanket, i.e., in hammock netting. Health problems were not observed except for a bladder infection [inflammation] that may have been related to catching cold at the battle station sleeping accommodation. Several soldiers disregarded the order to sleep on a blanket. If they were caught, they were immediately ordered to secure a blanket to protect themselves from adverse effects to their health.

4. Nutrition.
The nutrition was sufficient and varied. The ship’s administration was given medical advice in the preparation of the menu. Fresh potatoes lasted for the entire duration of the mission. Artificial vitamins were not issued. This needs to be started only after the third week of the mission, particularly, if the fresh potatoes run out, since they contain large amounts of vitamin C. The issuance of a hearty mid-watch meal was arranged by the physician with the ship’s administrative officer. A fortified soup, i.e., with a warm sausage was handed out. For the technical personnel, which performed their duties under extremely difficult conditions, a ration of 12 grams of coffee beans per head was issued for the middle watch coffee. There were no adverse consequences. The carbohydrate graving that results from especially strenuous demands from battle station watches, i.e., on days of multiple alarms that endangered physical and mental alertness, the issuance of Schokakola met the need. In addition to the good effects on the carbohydrate metabolism, this chocolate has, by virtue of its content of cola components and caffeine, the advantage of having a strong stimulatory effect on the mind and body. I performed an experiment on myself before the start of the mission by ingesting one half of a disc, and I observed that I could not relax and fall asleep for three to four hours. This invigorating effect was also recognized during the present combat mission.

[Translator’s Note: The chocolate came in pie-shaped sections a round tin just as it does now. Also, it was laced with 0.2% caffeine, but it is not clear to me how much more theobromine (a caffeine analogue) and other cola bean substances are in the 52% cacao. https://www.scho-ka-kola.de/homepage-english.html - The half disc that Dr. Witte took was probably no more than 25 gm: if there is 200 mg caffeine/100 gm Schokakola chocolate that would only be 50 mg of caffeine or a half a cup of coffee or twice the amount in similar serving of Hershy’s chocolate. Perhaps, we don’t know the entire list and quantities of the ingredients of Wehrmacht-issue Schokakola. As far as I remember, there was military and civilian Scho-ka-kola in 1940-1945. UR]

The bread supply lasted for about 8 – 10 days out, but then it began to show rather diffuse signs mold and spoilage because of the poor ventilation of the loaded bread supply. The bread produced by the onboard bakery had the same disadvantage in that it was too damp to be issued right away. The bread did not dry properly, even so it was already four days old when it was issued. Therefore, many crew members developed stomach and intestinal disorders in the form of sour taste regurgitation and nausea as well as pain in the abdominal region and severe bloating; the latter also occurs from peacetime rations. In part, the lack of appropriate exercise induces this type of discomfort also. Minor losses of weight were observed; however, a general weigh-in could not be conducted for military reasons.

5. Ventilation.
The ventilation of the living quarters and in the cabins can be described as being sufficient. However, in various rooms such as the command center, radio room B, and the laundry and bakery as well as in the boiler and turbine compartments, the generation of heat was very great. The temperatures in the boiler and machinery compartments reached 45 degrees Celsius. But these temperature develop only after sailing into warmer regions, i.e., when the water and air temperatures exceed 20 degrees Celsius. It is probably difficult to readily change these conditions. As already mentioned, there needs to be constructed a more efficient intake and exhaust of the bread supply, if a long-term storage of the bread stores and the drying out of onboard baked bread is to be achieved.

6. Water supply, bathing and washing facilities.
The water supply was adequate for the duration of the mission. However, due to the consideration of the limited water stores and the limited production of washing water, tub baths were not feasible, only showers were allowed. Drinking water was re-supplied once from a supply ship. The chemical test was within normal limits. The drinking water produced by our own equipment was chemically and taste-wise clearly acceptable.

7. Hygiene for on and off duty crew.
Issuance of alcohol (beer, sparkling wine, wine, and liqueurs) during the combat mission was at times totally prohibited; prohibition of smoking below decks was made mandatory for each soldier. [Translator’s Note: Officers were not as severely restricted, and smoked in the ward room and cabins, and brought their own beer and booze onboard according to Korvettenkapitän Fritz Otto Busch who was on board. Permission to light up and drink was given by the senior officer with the code “Jot Dora” JD hand signal (Permission to fire!). UR] However, an awesome consumption by some individual crew members of cigarettes and cigars was observed [Kapitän Brinkmann! UR]. By continuous advice to the command by the ship’s physician regarding health measures during on and off duty, the free watches were given the opportunity for sunning and fresh air on the upper deck. Special medical orders were issued to the signal [intelligence] service; in addition, a medical bulletin concerning the behavior in occupied territories was printed and issued to each member of the crew. It contained the following instructions:

    I. Sexual abstinence is the best protection against infection with venereal diseases.
    If a soldier looses self-control, which is generally lost after alcohol intake, and insists to engage in sexual intercourse, he is permitted to engage in sexual intercourse only by using rubber protection, even in a bordello. The use of rubber protection does not absolve the soldier from the immediate administration of the mandatory preventive therapy.

    II. The drinking of ice-cooled drinks is to be avoided, because of the danger of serious stomach and intestinal diseases.

    III. Raw fruit is not to be eaten unless it is first thoroughly washed.

    IV. It is prohibited to eat dishes that are made with raw clams or raw fish.

    V. It is prohibited to bathes within the confines of the harbor. Bathing is only allowed in public baths or on the beach.

When entering the warm regions of the Mid-Atlantic shirtwaists [waistbands, cummerbunds, stomach stockings] were issued which had to be worn at night. [A change from hot days to cold nights was considered detrimental. UR]. The technical personnel was continuously supplied with tea, laced with lemon juice, to take care of their fluid requirements. Movies were not shown due to the situation.

8. Clothing.
Clothing was adequate. The combat suits proved themselves especially useful. For winter missions, the introduction of a suitable headgear must be considered (such as a fur hat that sufficiently covers the ears and forehead); wool caps and service hats are considered inadequate.

9. The sickbay and its equipment.
The ship’s sickbay certainly proved to be sufficient in regard to its size and space allocation. As a serious deficiency, as has been already been documented in the field report to the physician of the fleet command, was its location within the ship. The sickbay is more or less appropriately located on the upper deck, but it is directly above the laundry drying room. This produces an intolerable amount of heat for the patients during combat shut-down of the armored lids despite the continuously running ventilation. The flooring of the sickbay rooms above the laundry drying room becomes lukewarm; temperatures of 35 degrees were recorded. A remediation of this deficiency during various yard lay-ups could not yet be achieved, because the reconstruction would entail major naval architectural changes, and this could not be done due to lack of time. This point must certainly be given serious consideration in new construction. The number of berths is sufficient. The refrigerator in the dispensary has proved to be useful and is also an indispensable necessity for a sickbay in peacetime. This onboard size of the refrigerator would be quite sufficient during peacetime operation, but it is, however, too small for combat deployment during Atlantic missions or cruises to foreign countries. The quantities of serum that were brought onboard could not be properly stored without some ingenuity and the use up the entire space. Obviously, there is no question that this stuffing eliminates all cooling, because the airflow necessary for cooling is unavailable. This deficiency was fortuitously circumvented because the ensign pantry had a large refrigerator for our use. In this, the sera could be stored under optimal conditions. Therefore, the refrigerator in the sickbay was freed up for cooling drinks for the sick. If the refrigerator in the ensign pantry had not be available, the provision of cool drinks and ice could only have been achieved without considerable difficulties. The personnel strength after the embarkation, of the senior medical NCO by the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.], was considered sufficient by the medical officer of the formation [sentence is not clearly written. UR]. The presence of two medical NCOs is necessary. The state of training of the medics is thoroughly unsatisfactory; constant supervision by the medical NCOs and medical officers had to be provided beyond the call of duty, to avoid failures and serious complication. This, therefore, put an extra burden of legwork on the medical NCOs and medical officers. The equipment was sufficient only after supplementation with extra non-issue sets of surgical instruments. The wire-extension [catheter] Kirschner instruments that are proposed for ships on foreign mission are absolutely superfluous, because a wire catheter is useless in a ship in constant motion; the wire extension instrument can only be use in land-based hospitals. For this reason, this instrument was not brought on board. Sick call was done twice daily during the combat mission in order to provide medical as well as dental services. By constant dental surveillance, major dental problems were averted. There were no fatalities. A special issue of navy first aid supplies and equipment was put together for prize crews.

10. Medical services during battle.
The first aid training of the entire crew reached a readiness state which would have put any soldiers into positions to deal with the occurrence of wounded with the most efficient measures. As a further preparation for the medical aid service, stretcher hammocks were distributed to the individual battle stations and secured there with chains. Thus, the are 65 transport stretchers distributed over the entire ship. In addition, five more stretchers are available to the auxiliary casualty carriers at both aid battle stations. Auxiliary casualty carriers are composed of the members of the ship’s band and the entire civilian personnel consisting of 35 men. They are trained in first aid and casualty transporting. A steady level of training is maintained by continuous education. The distribution of first aid supplies, particularly packs of bandages, is made by the locating lockers throughout the entire ship. But the lockers are only mounted on the interior of the ship. The heavy artillery, the Flak artillery, and at the battle station of the engine rooms are equipped with the common combat first aid bags. But these have not proved to be adequate, because they are exposed to weather. It became necessary to equip even these with watertight, covered combat first aid boxes. The two combat aid stations are adequate in their size and do not lie below the armored deck. Ventilation is sufficient. Equipping them with telephones has proven to be an asset. The “Pantophos” operating room lights can only be turned in one plane. It is, however, necessary that this lamp can be turned in any direction. The placement of the hammock locker at the aft aid battle station has become a nuisance because soldiers must step on it daily and it is, therefore, exposed to easy contamination. Ventilating crew must also daily step on the box for the switching on and off of the ventilating equipment. These deficiencies luckily do not apply to the forward first aid battle station. Truly aseptic work and steady battle readiness of the combat aid stations can naturally only be attained, if both of these room are exclusive for the use of the medical section. In new constructions this must be guaranteed and accomplished. The gimbaled operating table [Schlingertisch = rolling or tilting table?] has proven itself during this present cruise. But it must be noted that this cruise transpired during good weather conditions. A final judgment cannot yet be submitted about this point. The water heaters are absolutely unusable. This deficiency has been reported under log number 211 1-9 via the command of Cruiser Prinz Eugen to the physician at Fleet Command, and a modification proposal was submitted. As supplemental sterilization drums for the housing of gauze sponges, marmalade buckets were used which had holes punched into them. In this manner, sufficient supplies of pathogen-free bandage material was produced in the sterilizer for acceptable reserve stocks. As an aside, rather unimportant deficiencies should also be mentioned such as the absence of soap dishes and hooks for hanging of hand towels and aprons [Surgeons in those days, like my father, wore these surgical aprons. They were made of thin yellow oil-skin material and fashioned like butcher’s aprons; they were wiped clear of blood and slime with disinfectants of various kinds – phenol or iodoform. Sometimes they were just discarded to avoid contamination from a serious case. UR]. There were no wounded during the Battle near Greenland, but quite a few splinters were found on deck.

11. Vermin control.
An Ardex machine was brought onboard before departure for the eradication of vermin. Until now, it has not been used.

12. Special occurrences and medical experiences concerning supply ships and tankers.
During the mission in addition to the typical operation of a phimosis special incidents of surgical nature are to be mentioned:

    1. The lancing of a swollen abscess on the palm, with lymph duct inflammation and pre-septic [gangrene] signs.

    2. The performance of two blood transfusions. This concerns the Musikobergefreiter Fritz Schulze with a highly febrile acute rheumatic joint swelling. In order to attain a rapid convalescence and enhancement of general fitness, 300 cc of group-matched blood was transfused. [About one unit! UR]

    3. The second case pertains to Matrosengefreiter Heinrich Steffens who had a severe scalding of the 2nd to 3rd degree on the left shoulder, back and upper left arm. He was transfused with 400 cc of group-matched blood. The transfusion was accomplished by the typical method with “Oehlecker” [two-way?] syringes and thrombus filters [?] with viable blood [living donor?] without intravenous additions. Before the transfusion, the blood group was re-determined with testing serum in order to avoid unwanted surprises that could occur when blood groups are mixed up, which could happen from mass testing results.

    4. The most significant medical procedure to be mentioned has to be the chiseling of the mastoid bone abscess of Matrose Heinz Bobb who had been under care for a middle ear infection for about four weeks. In the morning of 30 May he presented himself for admission with the classic signs of a pussy mastoid abscess. The mastoid was exposed and chiseled open under chloroethanol – ether anesthesia. After chipping off the tip of the mastoid, drainage under high pressure burst out amounting to a soup spoon of thick, creamy, yellow puss. The wound was left open and a drain was put in place. The post-operative events have been normal so far. The soldier was saved from life threatening consequences. Furthermore, this case was possibly associated with diphtheria, and, therefore, the patient was injected with a prophylactic dose of 800 units of antitoxin. The patient was transferred to the isolation ward. Two cases of heat exhaustion of technical personnel did not amount to much. Of special mention must be the severe corrosive chemical burn on the foot dorsum of Maschinengefreiter Erich Grüner. The soldier states that during the topping-up of the remote water supplies [Fernwasserstände???] only one drop of this red watery fluid fell on his boot; he did not pay any attention to this at first and gave it no further thought. After a few hours, he started to have a burning sensation on the top of his foot and he noted a large blister as he was removing his boot. (see photo).

    injured foot

    He wore foot towels [Foot rags were used to save on socks. They were the size of a square hand towel and there was some finesse of how to fold them properly. The Russians used them a lot. I used them after the war, when socks were in short supply. UR]. The foot towels were not damaged, neither was the leather of the boots. The chemical composition of the fluid is not known. After speaking to the chief engineer, it is apparent that pouring the solution on the skin is supposedly innocuous, but a detrimental effect is supposed to develop after the tannic acid of the leather cure combines with it. It seems important to investigate these uncertainties by experimentation. Medical experiences concerning supply ships and tankers were not available. The P.K. [propaganda company] officers were given an opportunity to take photos and movies during the procedure of the blood transfusion and of the ear opening.

13. Summary of the field report and proposals for improvements.
In conclusion, the supplying of Schokakola for missions is urgently recommended.
The proposals for improvement are as follows:

    1. Modification of the ventilation of the bread supplies for the proper storage of bread.

    2. Introduction of a fur hat.

    3. Installation of a larger refrigerator in the ship’s dispensary.

    4. Changes in the hot water producers.

    5. Modification in the attachment of the operating room lights in the first aid battle stations; they must be attached to be deployable in all planes and directions.

    6. Deletion of the installation of hammock lockers and ventilation switching panels in the first aid stations.

On board, 1 June 1941

Signed:

Brinkmann
Captain and Commander
of Cruiser Prinz Eugen
Witte
Naval Chief Surgeon and Ship doctor
of Cruiser Prinz Eugen


Ärztlicher Gefechtsbericht über das Gefecht des Kreuzers "Prinz Eugen" bei Grönland am 24. Mai 1941.

a) Beim Durchbruch durch die Dänemarkstrasse wurde der Flottenverband, der sich aus dem Schlachtschiff "Bismarck" und Kreuzer "Prinz Eugen" zusammen setzte, kurz vor 0500 Uhr von schweren überlegenen englischen Seestreitkräften angegriffen. 0455 Uhr wurde "Klar Schiff zum Gefecht" befohlen. "Prinz Eugen" wurde von den beiden englischen Schlachtschiffen "Hood" und "Prince of Wales" bei diesem Gefecht beschossen. Die eigene Artillerie erzielte mehrere Treffer auf beiden englischen Schiffen.

b) Verluste an Toten, Schwer und Leichtverwundeten sind nicht eingetreten, obwohl an Deck Geschossteile einer 38 cm Granate gefunden wurden.

c) Die beiden Gefechtsverbandplätze waren bereits bei Beginn des Kriegsmarsches vollkommen gefechtsklar. Auf dem vorderen Gefechtsverbandsplatz waren von den Sanitätsoffizieren der Schiffsarzt und der 2.Arzt, von den Sanitätsunteroffizieren ein Sanitätsoberfeldwebel (zum B.d.K. Stab gehörend) und ein Sanitätsmaat, von den Sanitätsmannschaften zwei Sanitätsgasten eingesetzt; auf dem achteren Gefechtsverbandsplatz war als Sanitätsoffizier der 3.Arzt, der zugleich Zahnarzt ist, von den Sanitäts mannschaften 3 Sanitätsgasten eingesetzt. An HilfsKrankenträgerpersonal standen dem vorderen Gefechtsverbandsplatz 10 Soldaten (Musikkorps) und sieben Zivilangestellte, dem achteren Gefechtsverbandsplatz die gleiche Anzahl zur Verfügung. Das Hilfskrankenträgerpersonal war zum Teil auf die vorbereiteten Verwundetenlagerräume bezw. auf den einzelnen Decks, die die Transportwege berühren, verteilt. Die Transportwege sind durch auf die Bordwand aufgemalte rote Pfeile mit rotem Kreuz gekennzeichnet. Beim Eintreffen der Meldung, dass das Schiff sich in einem Gefecht befindet, gab ich sofort den Befehl an beide Gefechtsverbandsplätze mit den Waschen zu beginnen. Das steril in Bettlaken und Tüeher verpackte Instrumentarium wurde ausgepackt und zur Operation bereitgestellt.
Verluste des Sanitätspersonals sind ebenfalls nicht eingetreten.

d) u. e) Die ärztlichen Arfahrungen wurden in dem Arztlichen Erfabrungsbericht niedergelegt. An dieser stells sei nochmals derauf hingsweisen, dans eine Änderung der warmwasserbereiter vorgenommen werden muss, da diese nur für 1 - 2 minuten warmes wasser spenden. Die Operationslampen auf den Gefechtsverbandsplätzen sind starr angebracht notwendig ist, daas sie in allen Ebenen drehbar gehaltert ist. Ferner muss der Einbau von Hängemattsspinden bezw. Lufterschaltern auf den Gefechtsverbansplätzen vermieden werden, weil unter diesen Umständen die Gefechtsverbandsplätz laufend von Soldaten betreten werden müssen, dadurch ist eine Sauberhaltung der Raumes und stündige Gefechtsbereitschaft in Frage gestellt. Der transportable Instrumentenkocher ist allein für die Gefechtsverbandplätze nicht ausreichend. Für einwandfreies ehirurgisches Arbeiten wird deshalb der Einbau eines hochdrucksterilisators auf jedem Gefechtsverbandsplätz gefordert.

An Bord, den 1. Juni 1941

Gesehen:

Brinkmann
Kapitän zur See und Kommandant
des Krz. "Prinz Eugen"
Witte
Marineoberstabsarzt u. Schiffsarzt
Kreuzer "Prinz Eugen"




Battleship Bismarck Book
BOOK:
The Battleship Bismarck.
The Complete History
of the Ship.


KBismarck.com Naval Gift Shop

Naval & military gifts


Back to Main

Copyright © 1998-2018 KBismarck.com