Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Figure 1: German Light Cruiser Königsberg moored in a German harbor, circa 1936. Note the ship's crest on her bow and what appear to be old torpedo boats tied up in the right distance. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Königsberg visiting Gdynia, Poland, circa 1935. Note her forward 5.9-inch triple gun turret, rangefinders, jack and heraldic shield. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Königsberg visiting Gdynia, Poland, circa 1935. Note the offset arrangement of her after 5.9-inch triple gun turrets. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Photograph taken on the Königsberg's after superstructure deck, looking aft, circa 1931. Crewmen are examining two of the ship’s 88-mm anti-aircraft guns. Her Number Two 5.9-inch triple gun turret is in the background, with a plaque on its face bearing the inscription "Lutzow". U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken on board the Königsberg, circa 1930, looking forward from the stern with her after 5.9-inch triple gun turrets trained out on the starboard quarter. Note the marked offset arrangement of these turrets, and the capstan and open hatch in the foreground. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Königsberg off Gdynia, Poland, circa November 1935. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: "Conquest of Bergen by German Light Cruisers." Artwork by Adolf Bock, 1941, published in a book on the German Navy by Erich Klinghammer, Berlin, during World War II. It depicts the light cruisers Köln and Königsberg landing troops at Bergen, Norway, on 9 April 1940. Courtesy of Mr. Jacoby. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: This dramatic sequence of photos shows the Königsberg on fire and sinking. The photos are courtesy of Ketil Svendsen. Click on photograph for larger image.
Built at Wilhelmshaven, Germany, the Konigsberg was the first of three 6,000-ton light cruisers of the K-class built for the German Navy. Commissioned on 17 April 1929, the Konigsberg was approximately 570 feet long and 50 feet wide, had a crew of more than 600 officers and men and had a top speed of 32 knots. The ship was armed with nine 5.9-inch guns, eight 37-mm guns, and six 88-mm anti-aircraft guns. She also carried 12 torpedoes and two Heinkel floatplanes, and could carry up to 120 mines.
The Konigsberg was used for training and port visits for the first few years of her life and then steamed along the coast of Spain from November 1936 to January 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Problems with her design prevented this ship from being used as a commerce raider, so when war broke out in Europe in September 1939 the Konigsberg was assigned to mining operations in the North Sea and she was used as a torpedo training ship in the Baltic. The Konigsberg’s first major combat operation came during the German invasion of Norway in April 1940. The Konigsberg (along with her sister ship Koln and several other ships) was loaded with German Army troops and assigned the task of taking the port city of Bergen, located on the western coast of Norway. Germany had a small navy with practically no amphibious transports, so for this operation naval warships had to double as assault ships.
The Konigsberg’s assault group attacked Bergen on the morning of 9 April 1940. After the Army troops on board the two German cruisers were transferred to smaller motor launches for the actual amphibious assault on Bergen, Norwegian shore batteries began firing at the German warships. The Norwegians scored three major hits on the Konigsberg, causing significant damage, flooding, and fires. The Konigsberg had to drop anchor to prevent her from drifting aground, while her aft guns returned fire against the Norwegian coastal batteries. However, German Luftwaffe bombers were soon called in and they were able to destroy the Norwegian guns.
After the German Army troops secured Bergen, all of the German ships left the area except the Konigsberg. The damage she sustained prevented her from leaving the area, so the cruiser was tied up at a dock in Bergen while her crew tried to repair the ship. But on 10 April 1940, 16 Royal Navy Blackburn Skua two-seat fighter/dive-bombers attacked the Konigsberg. The planes had flown from their base in England and were led by Lieutenant William P. Lucy, RN. Each plane carried a 500 lb. semi-armor-piercing bomb and made steep dive-bombing runs on the immobile German warship. Two bombs hit the Konigsberg amidships while a third hit her forecastle. Another bomb exploded right next to the ship, opening up a large hole in the cruiser’s side. Although the Konigsberg was on fire and settling by the bow, it took two hours before an internal explosion caused her to capsize to port and sink. It was one of the first examples in World War II of a major surface warship being sunk by enemy aircraft and it certainly would not be the last.
The Germans tried to salvage what was left of the Konigsberg in July 1942 by re-floating her hull. The hull was later turned upright, but it sank again in 1944. After the end of World War II, the hulk was once again salvaged and then broken up for scrap.
A valuable cruiser like the Konigsberg never should have been used as an amphibious assault ship and she never should have been allowed to steam so close to shore, making her vulnerable to Norwegian coastal fire. But the Germans did not possess dedicated amphibious assault ships and that handicap (along with Hitler’s distaste for the surface fleet) played a significant role in preventing Germany from making any major amphibious assaults for the rest of the war.
Posted by Remo at 8:49 AM