Prinz Eugen, Madame Horthy and scuba diving in the Pacific

On June 21, 2017, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the Hungarian nation was able to survive in the 1920s and 1930s due to “some exceptional statesmen like Regent Miklós Horthy.” Never before did the Hungarian Prime Minister identify pro-Hitler Horthy, who served as Hungarian head of state from 1920 to 1944, as an “exceptional statesman.” The attempt to whitewash Horthy is an insult to every American and Canadian, to the memory of both the victims and survivors, and to soldiers who fought against fascism.


August 22, 1938 was a gorgeous day at the Krupp Germania shipyard in Kiel, Germany.  Hitler’s ally, Hungary’s Admiral Miklós Horthy and his wife were in splendid mood.   They were visiting the shipyard with Nazi leaders.  Madame Horthy was smiling, she just received a giant bouquet from the Führer.

The Prinz Eugen with the giant Swastika on the deck.

70-years old Horthy, the elder statesman, wore his anachronistic Navy uniform.  His host, 49-year-old Hitler was exceedingly polite to the Admiral of land-locked Hungary.  Madame Horthy, 57, admired everything German, she happily exchanged gifts with Hitler.

Hitler asked Mrs. Horthy to inaugurate the new pride of the German navy – the battleship Prinz Eugen.  Madame Horthy was beaming as she launched the ship.  Her photo appeared on the cover of major German newspapers.

Madame Horthy inaugurates the ship, Hitler is watching far left.

The Prinz Eugen was an enormous warship named after the 18th century Austrian general, Prince Eugene of Savoy.  It was 681ft long and carried a crew of 1,382 men.  The ship first participated in the blockade of England but its most memorable action was the engagement with the British fleet resulting the sinking of the HMS Hood.  In that battle Germany lost its largest warship, the famous Bismarck.

At the end of World War II the Prinz Eugen was considered the “lucky ship.”   She was absent from major sea battles and participated in only two major actions due to numerous engine troubles and accidents.

After World War II Admiral Horthy was arrested by the Americans and never stood trial.  He was 88 when he died in 1957, in Portugal. Madame Horthy passed away two years later.  Hitler committed suicide in 1945, he was 56 years old.  But what happened with the Prinz Eugen?

In 1945 the ship surrendered to the British Navy at Copenhagen Harbor and it was turned over to the US Navy.  They renamed it USS IX 300 but the Americans didn’t know how to navigate the ship and ordered the 500+ Nazi German crew to sail the ship with its giant swastika to the US.  The German officers and enlisted man were “military aliens;” no US soldier would salute them.

The US Navy removed the valuable sonar systems and the giant guns and then decided to tow it to the Pacific via the Panama Canal where it became part of the Navy’s nuclear bomb test fleet at Bikini Atoll.

The Prinz Eugen miraculously survived several nuclear tests.   Although it had only minor damage the Navy decided to tow it again to Kwajalein Atoll in the Central Pacific, near the Solomon Islands.  By then the ship had a slow leak and it later sunk in the shallow waters.  In 1979 one of its propellers was removed and shipped to Germany; it is on display at Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel.

The cruiser’s stern, including the propeller assemblies, are still visible above the water surface.  Today the remains of the Prinz Eugen, the pride of the Nazi fleet, serves as a favorite spot for scuba divers.

Scuba diving at the Prinz Eugen.

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