SS General von Steuben

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SS General von Steuben was a German passenger liner and later an armed transport in the Kriegsmarine of Germany that was sunk during World War II. She was launched as München (sometimes spelled Muenchen), renamed in 1930 as General von Steuben (after the famous German officer of the American Revolutionary War), and renamed again in 1938 as Steuben.

During World War II, she served as a troop accommodation ship, and since 1944 as an armed transport. On 10 February 1945 the ship was torpedoed by the Soviet submarine S-13 during Operation Hannibal and sunk. It has been estimated there were around 4,000 deaths.


On 9 February 1945, the 14,660-ton liner sailed from Pillau, near Konigsberg, on the Baltic coast for Swinemünde (now Świnoujście, Poland). It was officially reported that there were 2,800 wounded German soldiers; 800 civilians; 100 returning soldiers; 270 navy medical personnel (including doctors, nurses and auxiliaries); 12 nurses from Pillau; 64 crew for the ship’s anti-aircraft guns, 61 naval personnel, radio operators, signal men, machine operators and administrators, plus 160 merchant navy crewmen: a total of 4,267 people on board. Due to the rapid evacuation ahead of the red army’s advance, many East German and Baltic refugees boarded the Steuben without being recorded putting the total number of those on board at around 5,200.

Just before midnight on the 9 February, the captain of the Soviet submarine S-13, Alexander Marinesko fired two torpedoes with a 14 second interval; both torpedoes hit Steuben in the Starboard bow, just below the bridge where many of the crew were sleeping. Most were killed by the impact of the torpedoes. According to survivors, she sank by the bow and listed severely to starboard before taking her final plunge within about 20 minutes of the impact of the torpedoes. An estimated 4,500 people died in the sinking. Thanks to the torpedo boat T-196 which hastily pulled up beside Steuben as she sank, about 300 survivors were pulled straight from Steuben’s slanting decks and brought to Kolberg in Pomerania (today Kołobrzeg, Poland). A total of 650 people were rescued.

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