Included among the most unusual ships ever to serve with the U.S. Navy was perhaps its most unwanted—the German World War II heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen (IX-300). By the end of the conflict, the cruiser was the Kriegsmarine’s largest, most modern, and most famous remaining warship.
Laid down at Kiel’s Germaniawerft in April 1936, the Prinz Eugen was commissioned on 1 August 1940, sortied into the North Atlantic with the mighty Bismarck in May 1941, and set HMS Hood on fire before the German battleship sunk her. And in February 1942’s Operation Cerberus—better known as the Channel Dash—she, along with the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, six destroyers, and 14 E-boats, ran the British blockade of the English Channel. By 1943 the surface Kriegsmarine had been marginalized, and having been heavily damaged by a British submarine attack shortly after the Channel breakout, the Prinz Eugen was relegated to supporting the retreating Wehrmacht in the Baltic.