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Notes: The "K" class cruisers represented a completely fresh design and incorporated the newly developed electric welding techniques, as well as the triple turret for the 5.9" guns, with one sited on the forecastle and two aft. The aft turrets were offset from the centerline, in an effort to allow them to bear more to the forward arcs of fire. For the first time, both steam and diesel machinery was installed. Each could only work individually; the diesels allowed an extended cruising range at a slower speed, while the steam turbines were used for "dash" capabilities. The "K" class were regarded as a good sea boats, and were very maneuverable. But insufficient quarters for her crew was a problem; KÖLN did not have enough accommodations for 27.5% of her crew (Gröner, GERMAN WARSHIPS 1815-1945, VOL.1, p.120; see Bibliography). And as it turned out, the "K" class were too lightly built for duties in heavy seas, and significant strengthening had to be added to their hulls.
Upon commissioning, KÖLN served as a training cruiser abroad. In 1934, her 19.7" torpedoes were replaced by 21" torpedoes. In 1935, a catapult and two seaplanes were added. In 1939, KÖLN was used as a trials ship for a helicopter (a Flettner Fl-265), and a landing platform was added to the "B" turret; these were removed in 1940. In 1940, the single 3.45" (88mm) guns were replaced by twin mounts, bringing her total to six. At the beginning of World War II, KÖLN was involved in minelaying operations in the North Sea. During the invasion of Norway, KÖLN was assigned to Task Force 3 for the landings at Bergen. Through 1942, KÖLN served in the Baltic, then was reassigned to the "standby" force in Norway in 1943. During World War II, KÖLN was painted in various camouflage schemes, but in 1943, she was painted overall in a dark gray color. KÖLN returned to the Baltic in 1944 and served as a training ship for cadets. By early 1945, ten more 20mm guns had been added, bringing the total number to 18. On 3 March, 1945, while undergoing a refit at Wilhelmshaven Navy Yard, KÖLN was bombed by USAAF aircraft; she settled to the bottom on an even keel, with her superstructure above water. On 6 April, KÖLN was decommissioned, although she was later used as a local defense battery. KÖLN was scrapped on site in 1946.