Although the Nazis had impressive plans for their navy, very few of the planned ships were ever built. Of the five heavy cruisers allowed by the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935 only three were ever completed. The fourth was chosen for conversion to an aircraft carrier, but not completed in that role either, and the fifth abandoned while under construction. The three that were completed had very different fates. The Admiral Hipper was wrecked by RAF bombs in 1945. The Blücher wassunk during the invasion of Norway in 1940. The Prinz Eugen, famous as the companion of the Bismarckon her last voyage, became the largest German warship to survive the war intact and was used as a target for post-war Atom bomb tests.
This entry in Koop's impressive series on German warships looks at all five of these ships, with the most material on the three that were completed. The text is well structured, looking at the development, construction and technical specifications of all five ships in the first two chapters, before finishing with detailed histories of the five ships.
The author doesn't pull his punches in this series, but his criticisms are well targeted. There is an interested contrast here with his book on German light cruisers, where he was very critical of the ships themselves. Here the ships themselves are judged to have been good heavy cruisers, but the author doesn't believe that the German navy actually needed that type of ship. The biggest problem with them appears to have been a lack of reliability, with the result that they spent long periods in dock undergoing repairs. The author compares them unfavourably to their less technologically advanced but more reliable British opponents.
There are some impressive photos, including valuable pictures of the interior of the Prinz Eugen, and fascinating pictures of the damage when she lost her stern, one showing the exposed interior of the ship and one showing the temporary bulkhead that sealed the gap. This is an excellent entry in a very high quality series.
Development and Construction
Author: Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke
Year: 2014 edition of 1992 original