Home · Intro · Technical · History · Additional · On-line Archive · Models · Articles · 
Guestbook · Forum · Glossary · Help us · Books · Other · 

Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine

Minutes of the Conference between the Commander in Chief, Navy, and the Führer on 11 April 1943 at the Berghof.

Present: Konteradmiral Voss
Kapitän zur See von Puttkamer

1. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports: The submarine losses in February amounted to 19. In March 15, and so far in April, 6 boats were sunk. These losses are high. Submarine warfare is difficult. However, it is obvious, that the aim of sinking merchantships must be to sink more than the enemy can build. If we do not reach this objective, the enemy would continue to suffer severely through loss of his material substance, but we would not be successful in bleeding him to death due to diminution of his tonnage. I therefore fear that the submarine war will be a failure if we do not sink more ships than the enemy is able to build. I believe that the enemy could not stand an overall loss of 100-200,000 tons per month for any length of time. Both Germany, with her submarines, S-boats, and Air Force, and her allies, Japan and Italy, must exert every possible effort to achieve this objective. A situation must not be allowed to arise where we must blame ourselves for not having defeated the enemy because we did not put forth a little more effort and press home the attack against merchant shipping. In this fourth year of the war the submarines are still fighting but, of course, many more submarines are required today to achieve what one U-boat could accomplish in 1940. We must therefore increase our submarine building program as much as our shipyard capacity permits, so that the proportion between losses and new ships does not become too unfavorable. The Commander in Chief, Navy, herewith submits the proposed plan for the increase in our submarine building program. See Annex 1.

The Führer fully agrees with the Commander in Chief, Navy. An increase in the submarine building program must be made possible.

2. Supporting his contentions with maps, the Commander in Chief, Navy, explains that it is a matter of life and death for us to maintain our supply lines and our foreign trade. The protection of this ocean traffic is very much endangered because it has to be accomplished with comparatively small forces. The available protection is definitely not able to cope with the increasing attacks of the enemy. These attacks, however must be anticipated, because the enemy's materiel is constantly increasing. Besides, someday we will have to expect a stronger attack against our shipping lanes by forces which will be released from some other theater. When that happens we will no longer be in a position to give this protection with our meager forces. We cannot permit our lines of communication to be broken. Tunis should be a warning to us. Anticipating this danger, we should do everything possible at this time to speed up the building program of our defense forces, because the realization of such a plan will take a long time. Besides, any extension of our sphere of influence in Europe, as in the case of "Gisela" [occupation of the northern coast of Spain], will certainly increase our supply problem.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, presented a chart, which is attached as Annex 2, to explain the proposed increase in the building program. He emphasizes the construction of S-boats, the mission of which is obvious, i.e. force the British to maintain escorts along the English coast, in order to keep them from attacking our convoys and to supplement submarine warfare by sinking the many ships moving in English coastal waters. He also stressed the need for building large numbers of landing craft (MFP), which are always required everywhere. The chart does not contain any padded figures but only such as are absolutely essential for conducting the naval war.

The Führer completely agrees with the Commander in Chief, Navy, and feels that Africa demonstrates the correctness of the latter's contentions in the most convincing manner. The problem remains: Where can the steel be obtained? To be sure, in a totalitarian state he could order that the required amount be made available, but that would mean exacting it from some other arm. The pressing needs of the Army for tanks and anti-tank guns and of the Luftwaffe for AA guns, etc. would not permit this over a period of time. He feels that the Army should be equipped with the newest type of weapons in sufficient quantities to prevent excessive loss of life. In order not to lose the war in the air, the materiel of our Air Force should be increased enormously. Finally, the Navy must receive sufficient materiel not only to prevent the submarine warfare from falling off but rather to increase its effectiveness. Something also must be done for the Merchant Marine in order to help solve the supply problem.

To this end Minister Speer and Messrs. Roechling and Duisberg were ordered to take part in a conference with him during the next few days to discuss the question of increasing the steel production from 2.6 to 4 million tons per month. He is fully aware of the fact that such a program would presuppose a considerable allocation of steel both to the construction of new facilities such as blast furnaces and to improvement of existent steel mills. He is convinced that this is the only way in which the shortage of iron can definitely be overcome.

The Führer again emphasizes that he fully agrees with the plan of the Commander in Chief, Navy, for the increase of the construction program of small ships up to and including destroyers, although he disapproves of the construction of heavy ships.

In answer to a question, the Commander in Chief, Navy, states that both of these construction programs taken together call for a monthly production of 30,000 tons of steel over and above the present requirements of the Navy. The Führer is certain that the Navy will receive these additional 30,000 tons as a result of the increase in steel production, and he states that there is nothing further that the Commander in Chief, Navy, needs to do in this matter.

3. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that the first German submarine to be transferred to Japan will be ready in the beginning of May. He has permitted Admiral Nomura and the new Group Leader of the Party's Foreign Division for Japan to make the voyage to Japan aboard the submarine. The Führer agrees to this.

4. At the suggestion of Minister Speer, the Commander in Chief, Navy, raises the question of hospital ships and refrigeration vessels in the Norwegian area. The Führer points out that, as long as we have such a shortage of shipping space, it would be inexcusable not to make full use of every available ton of shipping. He intends to improve the Narvik railroad because later on he wants to divert some of the supplies to this railroad. Right now, however, he would need every available vessel in order to furnish the Norwegian area with the necessary shipping space. In addition to normal requirements, he has to transfer two divisions to the South Norwegian area. He asks that the necessity of maintaining hospital ships and refrigeration vessels be re-examined.

signed: Dönitz

countersigned: Fregattenkapitän Pfeiffer

Annex 1

Proposed Plan for the Increase in the Submarine Construction Program.

2. Half
1. Half
2. Half
1. Half
2. Half
Increasing to 27 per month
27 per month in spite of conversion to Type VIIC/42.
27 and 3 Type XX per month.
27 and 3 Type XX per month.
30 per month.

The steel requirements are:

For submarine construction per month
For the increase in torpedo construction
4,500 t.
1,500 t.
6,000 t.

Annex 2

Light Naval Forces.

Ready for action 1 April 43
Shipyards, trials, training, schools
Losses 1.9.39 - 31.3.43
Construction program

1943 | 1944

Required per year
Steel requirements per month
Available in Feb. 1943
Additional requirements
Destroyers 13 8 16 5 4 6 4,800 1,730 3,070
Torpedo Boats 12 18 8 5 15 18
S-boats 35 60 19 36 31 72 800 340 460
Minesweepers 78 39 5 80 24 74 4,010 1,100 2,910
Motor Minesweepers 78 59 23 70 51 72 800 900 - 100
Patrol Boats 1,351 667 159 326 234 300 1,500 1,800 - 300
Speerbrecher 21 20 23 29 14 35 5,750 700 5,050
Landing Craft 153 180 48 370 102 900 15,000 8,650 6,350
Torpedo recovery boats 24 19 1 11 10 15 550 400 150
Total requirements for construction:
Additional requirements for equipment and armament:
Total steel requirements [per month in tons]:


The Significance of the Iberian Peninsula in Connection with the Situation in the Mediterranean and Submarine Warfare.

The events in the Mediterranean again accentuate the strategic importance of the Iberian Peninsula.

1. a. By including the entire Iberian Peninsula in the area under German control and closing the Strait of Gibraltar, all enemy shipping to the western Mediterranean will be cut off. This would constitute the greatest possible relief for the Tunisia front and promises a basic stabilization of the situation in the Mediterranean in Germany's favor. Even if Tunisia should fall under overwhelming enemy pressure, an advance into the Strait of Gibraltar is the only way to frustrate the strategic plans of the Anglo-Saxons. However, Tunisia's fall would complicate such an operation. The Anglo-Saxons seem to be bent on forcing a free West-East passage across the Mediterranean in order to use such a passage as the base for further attacks on the European Mediterranean coast.

1. b. Occupation of the Iberian Peninsula will bring an additional coast line twice as long as the distance from Brest to Bayonne, including several good harbors, under German control. This, in view of the submarine losses in the Bay of Biscay through enemy mine and air activity, and in view of the ever growing danger to the bases in the Bretagne from air raids and landings, means a decisive step forward for our submarine warfare. The dispersal of our submarines among numerous harbors not vulnerable to air attack and the deep waters unsuited to mining, will ease the situation considerably. Thus, confinement to the Bay of Biscay will be removed, the British bolt closing these waters will be smashed, and we shall gain free access to the Atlantic.

1. c. Similar advantages are gained for the reconnaissance and escort missions of our Air Force and it will be easier to combat the enemy air forces over the Bay of Biscay. Our blockade-runners will benefit from both of these factors.

1. d. Spain's natural resources and greater safety for our ore transports along the northern Spanish coast will somewhat compensate for the additional encumbrances entailed especially in the line of fuel supply.

2. a. The following figures show how important the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar is to the enemy: From the first landings in North Africa until March, about 900 transports and freighters (6.5 million BRT) loaded with troops and materiel passed the Strait going East. As long as we can hold Tunisia and thus keep the Strait of Sicily closed to the enemy, he would he forced to use the much less efficient overland route to supply Algeria.

2. b. By doubling the number of German submarine bases along the Atlantic we would prevent the British from striking our submarines in the particularly vulnerable area north of the Loire.

3. We must expect the loss of the Portuguese and Spanish islands in the Atlantic. The enemy will use them as bases for his anti-submarine air patrols. It still remains to be seen whether the British and the U.S. will occupy the Azores even though they meet with further difficulties in overcoming the submarine menace. The islands will then be used as the stationary aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic.

4. The operation can be carried through only with Spanish consent. The safety of the Peninsula demands the inclusion of Portugal. The more unfavorable the progress of the Tunisian war, the more serious will be the repercussions on the Iberian countries. Therefore it seems unlikely that we will get them to agree to the occupation of the Peninsula after this strategic position has been lost. It also appears doubtful whether Spain will then be able to hold Spanish Morocco until, after the closing of the Gibraltar Strait, Germany can bring up reinforcements from Europe. There is no doubt but that this bridgehead on African soil would complete the closing of the Gibraltar Strait and, in addition, would be a base for launching an attack in the direction of the Atlantic harbors.

5. The following details are prerequisite for a successful closing of the Strait of Gibraltar:

    a. Preventive measures must be taken in time to keep the Anglo-Saxon powers from obtaining a bridgehead through conquest of southern Spain as far as Cadiz and thus insure safety for the Strait of Gibraltar.

    b. Included in the countermeasures must be: Holding the border at La Linea and rendering the airport and the harbor of Gibraltar useless by artillery bombardment.

These prerequisites allow Gibraltar to remain a formidable artillery position but make sure that it cannot interfere in our closing the Strait with artillery, mines, S-boats, torpedo batteries and the Luftwaffe.

6. In conclusion: Occupation of the Iberian Peninsula up to the Strait of Gibraltar will relieve the dangerous situation in the Mediterranean. It will make it impossible for the enemy to strangle our submarine warfare in the Bay of Biscay. Germany's strategic position will be basically improved after Spain and Portugal are incorporated in the Fortress Europe.

Chief of Seekriegsleitung

German Occupation of the Iberian Peninsula with Spanish Consent?

A. It is agreed that enemy seizure of the Iberian Peninsula must be avoided for economic and military reasons although any action to this effect would entail certain disadvantages for us. However, the operation "Gisela" as planned is too limited in scope. If the enemy attacks Spain, the situation becomes favorable for us and we should use the opportunity of either seizing or neutralizing Gibraltar.

B. I. Should German forces occupy the Iberian Peninsula in order to obtain strategic advantages and to regain the initiative? Besides well-known strategic advantages, which are discussed elsewhere, such a move would entail considerable disadvantages:

    1. The coast line to be defended would be considerably lengthened at a time when neither the Italian coastal defenses nor those of the Balkans are sufficiently prepared.

    2. Spain and Portugal must be kept economically alive. This means that among other things we will have to supply: 750,000 tons of cereals, 380,000 tons of gasoline and fuel oil, 800,000 tons of coal and coke, and 135,000 tons of fertilizer. These quantities must not only be on hand but will also have to be transported to Spain and distributed there. A breakdown of the food supply system, at least in the initial stages, seems unpreventable in view of the inadequate railroad facilities and the lack of gasoline reserves. (A marginal note in handwriting: Existing supplies are good at the present, a certain transition period could thus be readily bridged.)

    3. Besides the fact that Germany must contend with problems "1" and "2" above, the enemy has a chance of landing an army almost anywhere along the virtually undefended coast. It may be assumed with certainty that there is at this time also an Anglo-Saxon operation "Gisela" and that the enemy is only waiting for the German march into Spain to give him the desired opportunity to act. From the enemy point of view a German occupation of the Iberian Peninsula must therefore be highly desirable. However, it is not considered sufficiently urgent to add military force to the already initiated political attack which is aimed at forcing both Spain and Portugal to give up their neutrality. Such an action would be in contradiction to the British-American propaganda trend and would have undesirable repercussions, especially in South America and Turkey. This explains, according to the opinion of Section 1c (Political and Propaganda Section of the Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division), the reason why the Anglo-Saxons have up to now touched neither the Iberian Peninsula nor the Portuguese or Spanish possessions. A German march into the Iberian Peninsula would remove all these inhibitions at one stroke and we would play right into the hands of Anglo-Saxon, or at least American, politics.

    4. In this manner the Anglo-Saxons, presumably the American Imperialists, would take over the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands, Angola, and Mozambique. This, with the exception of Tunisia, European control in Africa would be eliminated. It remains to be seen whether these changes will be practical in the long run.

    5. By stopping Spanish and Portuguese shipments to Argentina, this country would lose its economic independence and be driven into the hands of the Americans.

    6. The division of power being what it is at present, we must also count on losing Spanish Morocco. The Americans would be delighted to take over Tangier.

    7. If the Anglo-Saxons desire such a German operation and are prepared for it, then success is doubtful unless we have very strong forces available. We must consider the following possibilities: overthrow of Franco, a new Government, and Spain on the side of the enemy. We must not only be certain of being able to reach our goal but also capable of exploiting the victory, i.e. holding Spanish Morocco, initiating a simultaneous attack from Tunisia, and driving the Americans out of Algeria.

B. II. It is agreed that the operation can and will be executed only with full Spanish support. A decision on the question of whether or not Spain will cooperate is of crucial importance. This depends on whether Spain is our ally through thick and thin. Such an attitude in turn depends on whether or not she finds herself in a critical situation. The answer to that must be negative. As a way out Franco was very careful in preparing a monarchy with Anglophile tendencies. Therefore one must assume that Franco has full freedom of political action. His decision in the matter will thus depend entirely on the way he evaluates the overall war situation. But the Spanish Government is convinced that the chances for victory are in no wise definitely in Germany's favor. The Spanish people are opposed to participation in the war. Therefore, the following must be regarded as conditio sine qua non for Spanish participation in the war on our side:
    1. Definite stabilization of the Eastern Front.

    2. Holding of Tunisia.

    3. Publication of German peace aims; doing something about the new Europe in Norway, France, Poland, the Baltic countries, and the Ukraine.

    4. Rapproachment with the Vatican and Christian churches.

    5. Simultaneous assurance that National-Socialism will not change into a "western form of Bolshevism". (Goebbels speech - Total War).

    6. Availability of large forces to be used for causes which appeal to Spain, such as preventing the loss of Spanish Morocco, the conquest of Algeria and Morocco.

    7. Adequate economic guarantee.

C. Since the prerequisites for "II" do not exist, and since there are more disadvantages than advantages to "I", it is not recommended that the Iberian Peninsula be occupied at this time. However, we should prepare for the operation both politically and militarily in conformity with "II". Until the time is ripe for action, it is desirable that operation "Gisela" be expanded to enable us to occupy the entire Iberian Peninsula and take Gibraltar.

(Tr.N.: All of Paragraph C. was crossed out by hand and the following substituted in handwriting):

C. The preceding considerations must be taken into account when making decisions and preparations.

Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division

Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine,
Quartermaster Division, Plans and Schedules Section.

Berlin, 3 April 1943

Personnel Detailed for Operation "Gisela".

Personnel on Alert in Southern France for this Operation Exclusively.
Personnel Designated for this Operation but at Present Still Attached to other Staffs, etc.
1 Coastal Commander, Naval Commander and lower echelons
2 Naval Coast Artillery Battalions
3 (Radio and Telegraph) Communications
4 Fortress Engineers and Motorized Transport Units
5 Coast & Harbor Control Units
6 Quartermaster Commands and Depots
2,729 men
2,938 men

Berlin, 14 April 1943

Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine

A treatise giving the reasons for increasing the steel allotments to the Navy is submitted herewith. This study was prepared for a report by the Commander in Chief, Navy to the Führer.

The Führer has agreed to all requests and has promised their fulfillment.

Kriegsleitung, Chief of Staff

signed: Meisel

Reasons for Increasing the Steel Quota of the Navy.

A. The increase in the steel quota of the Navy for the second quarter of 1943, which was ordered on the 6th of March and which amounted to about 45,000 tons, replaced in part the amount which jeopardized the absolute minimum requirements of the Navy and prevented a situation which might have been catastrophic for the Navy. The additional steel was used chiefly for the most urgent tasks in the present situation, primarily for the accelerated submarine building program. This included not only combat submarines but transport submarines as well. Furthermore, a high priority was given to the current construction of 130 barges (MFP) quarterly and 20 cargo ships to meet the urgent need for shipping space. Additional steel was allocated for the building of a certain number of patrol vessels. Enough steel was made available to speed up production for a period of time, but the amount given does not cover the full requirements. Last of all, torpedo-recovery vessels, which are now of primary importance in submarine training, could go into full production at once.

However, there is still a shortage of about 15,000 tons per month in the previously established absolute minimum requirement of the Navy which was about 181,000 tons per month, not including the transport submarines. For this reason it is impossible to provide invaluable shipping space in the Mediterranean to the extent necessary. There is also a serious lag in the construction of new vessels needed to maintain the present strength of our patrol fleet. With the steel presently at hand it will be impossible to increase the production of naval vessels to keep pace with the growing demands forced upon us by the new military situation.

B. Next to sinking enemy shipping, patrolling our shores is of primary importance in the present stage of the war. For the first time in the history of German warfare we are called upon to maintain supply routes both for military and civilian purposes along an extremely long coast line. Without such a supply system it would be impossible to defend and exploit the conquered areas. The outcome of the war may largely he decided by our success in maintaining supplies. In none of its previous wars has the German Reich been confronted with such a problem. Even in World War I only very short coast lines had to be defended. In this war, the geographical conditions (formation of the coast line, depth of water, the proximity of bases) offer the enemy considerably better possibilities for the employment of surface forces (Norway, Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean, Black Sea), submarines (Norway, Baltic, western France, Mediterranean, Black Sea) and mines.

For the first time in naval warfare, aircraft play an important role in attacking lines of sea communication. Not only are their bombs, torpedoes, and weapons effective but large sea areas, which formerly were safe from attack by enemy naval forces, are now endangered by aerial mines. This has greatly intensified mine warfare. As a result, the lack of sufficient patrol vessels becomes progressively worse in every naval command.

Map 1. The transportation routes and figures of the various areas are shown on the enclosed map. It should be evident that none of these areas may be abandoned because of the decisive importance of maintaining supply routes by sea.

Special characteristics for each of the areas are given below:

1. Norway. Deep water off the Norwegian coast offers the enemy unlimited possibilities for attack. Our patrol vessels cannot guard the innumerable islands along the coast of Norway. Due to the proximity of enemy bases, the polar regions and the southwestern coast of Norway are particularly vulnerable. At the moment the polar region is threatened by:

    a. submarines
    b. air attack
    c. mines
    d. Motor torpedo boats
The British Air Force plays a primary role along the southwestern coast of Norway. Recently British motor torpedo boats have frequently been active. The coast, which is 1,200 nautical miles in length, is divided into 54 patrol areas, each of which is covered by only one patrol boat, due to the shortage of vessels. In other words, patrol vessels are stationed at 50 km intervals.

Due to the shortage of escort vessels, ships are convoyed only along the southwestern coast and in the polar region. Ships moving between Alesund and Tromsø with valuable cargo are protected by individual escort vessels only on special occasions. The following table shows the average number of escorts assigned each escorted vessel within a given area during the year 1942:

    West Coast
    0.44 escort vessels
    0.25 escort vessels
    0.66 escort vessels
    0.42 escort vessels
    1.0 escort vessels
This inadequate protection is further reduced when vessels are needed to ward off enemy attacks, locate mine barrages, and escort submarines and other naval vessels. These escorts were converted from old Norwegian naval vessels or merchantmen. After being in continuous service for three years, they are now worn out and no longer capable of going into action. A more rapid turnover of shipping space, which is essential for an increase in production, is prevented by a lack of escort vessels.

2. Baltic Sea and Approaches. The British aerial-mine offensive represents the chief danger in the entrances to the Baltic and the western part of the Baltic Sea. The lack of escort vessels does not permit the convoying of all shipping. In lieu thereof, shipping is limited to certain routes which are being kept clear of mines. Only troop transports, tankers, hospital ships and warships are escorted. Because of the shortage of escort vessels it is impossible to undertake additional tasks such as preventing the escape of ships from Sweden through the Skagerrak, unless we are willing to jeopardize other operations.

The submarine training areas of the Central Baltic, which are really the core of the entire submarine training program, can only be spot-checked for mines. During training and trials in the Baltic we have so far lost one submarine due to mines. Three others were damaged rather seriously.

In the summer of 1941 we had laid mines southeast of Öland and their exact position was naturally known to us. Even though their removal would have widened our training areas and would have facilitated merchant shipping, we were unable to do so because the war in the Gulf of Finland required every available escort vessel. In some instances these vessels had to be taken from other areas.

The submarine danger in the Baltic has increased during the past year since Russian submarines have inflicted considerably higher losses than they did in 1941. We were therefore forced to convoy our transports to Finland and the Baltic States. The lack of suitable escort vessels caused our turnover of cargo to be slowed down considerably. In spite of all our efforts, we have been unable to speed up shipments. There are no forces available for continuous anti-submarine operations.

In 1942 only 10 submarine chasers were guarding the 80 mile wide Gulf of Finland against Russian submarines. Since this number is entirely inadequate it was impossible to prevent Russian submarines from breaking through.

This year conditions have changed very little; the same difficulties are to be expected. Every appearance of Russian submarines in the Baltic therefore leads to losses and delays in the supply schedule.

3. North Sea. There is no submarine danger in the North Sea. The mine danger, however, is the same as in the approaches to the Baltic Sea. The British Air Force and motor torpedo boats are an even greater threat which increases the closer one gets to the British bases. In the North Sea, therefore, all traffic has to be convoyed. The convoys usually consist of 8 ships with 8 escort vessels. 4 of these escort vessels proceed ahead of the rest as a protection against mines. In other words, only 4 vessels are available to fight off air attacks and attacks by motor torpedo boats. This protection is not sufficient.

East-West convoys average about one a day. All submarines within the Heligoland Bight have to be escorted by Mine Barrage Breakers (Sperrbrecher).

Along the coast of Jutland and in the Heligoland Bight there are 4-5 permanent patrol stations which are responsible for a stretch of 250 nautical miles. In other words, one section of patrol boats for every 100 km. The Dutch coast is guarded by 4-5 patrol stations, but only at night due to the danger of air attack. This shows that the coast of the North Sea has only light and insufficient protection.

4. Channel Area. The most important part of the current convoy traffic is one of supply for the Channel Islands. The convoys bound for these islands have to be guarded very closely because they are endangered by the British Air Force and at night by surface forces. In spite of this, ships at times have only two escort vessels because more are not available.

The passage through the channel can be kept open only if every possible effort is made. This passage is under constant enemy threat due to the immediate proximity of the English coast. This passage must remain open to permit the transfer of necessary reinforcements to the West and occasionally to effect a transfer of naval vessels. Any transfer through the Channel is at present such a complicated affair that it requires the participation of all available forces for a considerable time. German patrol vessels are no match for the enemy. They can operate only at night and close in to shore.

5. Bay of Biscay. The chief mission of the patrol vessels in the Bay of Biscay is to keep routes open for the submarines. In coastal areas submarines must have additional special escorts. Only by exerting every effort has it been possible to solve this problem. The protection of commercial traffic with northern Spain is reduced to an occasional convoy. Most of the traffic goes unescorted. Only a small force is available for escorting blockade-runners. Recently this necessitated using destroyers. This, in turn, weakened our forces used against Russia-bound convoys in the Arctic Sea and for the protection of the Norwegian coast. We do not have sufficient naval forces to prevent landings.

6. Mediterranean. Hardly any patrol vessels remain along the southern coast of France, since they are being used in the all-important battle of Tunisia. There are a few harbor patrol craft at Toulon which already have great difficulty in escorting submarines outside that harbor. Shipping along the southern coast of France is without any protection at all; there are no submarine chasers.

Orders that every vessel in the Aegean Sea had to be convoyed held up the movement of cargo to such an extent that they had to be cancelled. Right now only troop transports and snips of special importance are being escorted. The only escort vessels are two German submarine chasers and two Italian torpedo boats, since the destroyer HERMES was assigned to convoy supplies to Tunisia. This number of escort vessels is entirely insufficient for covering such a large area and is not able to cope with any kind of enemy activity. It is expected that the construction of armed trawlers (KFK) will improve the situation to a certain extent; however, the shortage of material as well as labor has already brought on considerable delays in construction.

7. Black Sea. Escort vessels in the Black Sea are mainly German motor minesweepers (R-boats) which, on an average, 6 are ready for action. They are used in convoys between Constantsa, Odessa, Sevastopol, and Kerch. Besides that they serve as minesweepers and mine locators. The convoys are usually protected by 3 to 4 sweepers. The shortage of escort vessels has forced us to use landing craft (MFP) as escort vessels.

Rumanian vessels escort ships only along the western coast of the Black Sea between Odessa and the Bosporus. Bulgarian forces escort convoys only in their territorial waters. It must be remembered that Bulgaria is not at war with Russia. We do not have any escort vessels for the Bosporus traffic.

Coastal operations of our Air Force have steadily decreased in spite of their great importance along the extensive coastal areas of the European domain. With the exception of occasional concentrations of air power, the strength of the Luftwaffe does not justify the hope that a decisive acceleration of future operations may be expected.

Losses sustained by escort vessels during the war years 1940, 1941, 1942 and the first quarter of 1943 are in a ratio of 1 : 1.2 : 3 : 4.

Demands made on escorts by far exceed those of earlier wars. Enemy air raids result in keeping crews and vessels on a constant alert. This is true even during rest periods in port or while minor repairs are being made. Thus there is no opportunity for recreation or recuperation. The materiel depreciation of the existing escort vessels has become very extensive, all the more because they consist largely of old and makeshift vessels. Besides this, we must not forget that the enemy up to now conducted his warfare against our sea lanes with relatively small forces due to his commitments on other fronts. The only real concentration of enemy power is directed against our supply route to North Africa.

When the pressure on the enemy in some other area is relieved and when his steadily increasing coastal patrol and air forces have reached sufficient strength, we must certainly expect that these attacks will increase in intensity. This will result in a situation where there are not enough escort vessels and where the individual ship will not have the fighting capacity needed to carry on its duties.

During World War I the enemy learned that a concentration of strong forces can tie up our warships at their bases. We may expect that this very method will be tried again as soon as the enemy is ready. Until then he will make full use of his air forces, which are strong enough even now.

Countermeasures to be taken by the German Navy will have to be planned from a long-range view. All considerations must be taken into account, since much time elapses between the date a keel is laid and the completion and commissioning of a ship. The case of Italy should warn us of the necessity for long-range planning. The present situation in Tunisia is mainly caused by a lack of escort vessels smaller than destroyers. When the Italian Navy was expanded no consideration was given to these requirements even though the safeguarding of the sea lanes to the colonial Empire should have been regarded as its prime mission. Due to its narrowness, the entire Mediterranean may be considered a coastal area in which there are few opportunities to commit large vessels. If we judge by present events it would have been far better for Italy not to build large vessels, since Italy has no outlet to the open sea. However, it must be remembered that Italian construction of large vessels was motivated chiefly by the presence of the French Fleet. Neither could the effect of air power on naval warfare be fully appreciated at that time.

No effort has been spared to increase the number of escorts. The building of large vessels has been discontinued. Progress in the building program has been slow because the shipyard capacity is limited, the importation of raw materials is curtailed by the war, and so very much time is required to build a ship.

In order to prevent a breakdown of sea communications within any of our coastal defense areas, the German Navy must be careful to avoid a situation similar to the one in the Mediterranean. Moreover, we must be sure that the stepped-up submarine construction program does not become an illusion as the result of a lack of escort vessels and consequent losses in the coastal areas. The entire submarine campaign might suffer a serious setback.

C. More and more was expected of S-boats as the war progressed. Although the S-boat, which is really a fast torpedo carrier, is mainly an offensive weapon, it had to be used also for defensive purposes (occupation of Norway, escort of minelaying forces, occupation of Holland, Mediterranean, etc.). Since the S-boat is small in size and can be moved over inland waterways, 3 flotillas were transferred to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The transfer of more S-boats to the Mediterranean is being considered at present; 6 S-boats are set aside for Spain.

Since so many boats were withdrawn, the effectiveness of the four S-boat flotillas in the Channel was greatly reduced. An average of only 15 boats are ready for action while their required strength would call for 40. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that S-boats are especially suitable and destined for assuming the offensive and thereby making a significant contribution to the destruction of enemy shipping along the South and Southeast coasts of England.

Chart 2. Sea traffic along the coasts of England is shown on Chart 2.

The main arteries of British war shipping lie within easy reach of our forces. Our Air Force is in a position to submit accurate reports regularly on the direction and flow of this traffic. Such information offers a sound basis for planning an attack. Submarines operating in the Atlantic receive similar information incompletely or not at all.

Enemy defense measures are constantly improving. S-boats will be effective only if used in sufficient quantity. A successful surprise attack by an individual S-boat is a rarity today because the enemy is usually able to locate the boat before an attack can be carried out. New submarine tactics have influenced S-boats. In the Channel they operate only in groups.

At the moment 3 new S-boats are being built in a month. This figure covers the overall losses exactly. It is apparent that we must select a type of S-boat which has proved its worth in action and then build as many of these as we possibly can in order to bring about what may turn out to be a decisive victory over enemy shipping. However, if we reduce the number of S-boat attacks, the enemy will have an opportunity for increasing the pressure on our own sea communications especially in the southern part of the North Sea. As the threat of attack lessens, the enemy will be able to divert his very numerous coastal patrol vessels to our own waters and thus seriously interfere with our convoy movements. The chances for success and the real importance of the S-boats in the German Navy are certainly not reflected in the number of boats presently available in the Channel. 6 new boats per month must be considered the absolute minimum.

D. Table 3. Table 3 shows the minimum Navy requirements for the construction of light naval forces. The following details are appended:

a. Destroyers and Torpedo Boats: Due to war losses the destroyers have not yet recovered the figure of 1 Sept. 1939. The copper shortage will cause all destroyer construction to cease by 1945. This makes the annual construction of 18 torpedo boats all the more urgent. Since at present an average of 8 torpedo boats and destroyers are lost per year, there is a yearly increase of only 10 of these vessels.

These ships are badly needed in the western area. The forces there are far too weak despite a concentration of torpedo boats in the Bay of Biscay. In that area they are called upon chiefly to escort submarines and blockade-runners, to guard minesweepers beyond the range of shore observation, and to bring in submarines which are unable to submerge or are otherwise damaged.

b. For S-boats, see "C".

c. 24 of the 74 newly-built minesweepers (M-boats) are set aside for the organization of 3 urgently needed new minesweeper flotillas of 8 ships each for Norway, the North Sea, and the Atlantic coast respectively. 50 ships are required to replace losses or ships which are unfit for duty, since the Model 40 minelayer is the only possible substitute for ocean-going patrol vessels. (See also under e.)

d. Motor Minesweepers [R-boats]: The organization of a new flotilla of 12 ships each for Norway, the North Sea and the western area respectively is imperative. This would require 36 ships. The other 36 ships are barely sufficient to replace war losses, and ships unfit for duty as well as for transfer to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. A certain improvement will be brought about by organizing the three flotillas, provided that 72 new ships are delivered annually.

e. Coastal Patrol and Escort Vessels: New construction of a small number of fishing vessels and submarine chasers continues at this time. They will be used as replacements. Patrol vessels will from now on be replaced exclusively by minesweepers and armed trawlers. That will bring about the following situation:

1. Ocean-going Vessels:

Available for Duty
Coast Patrol Vessels
Sub Chasers
Auxiliary Minesweepers
Coast Defense and Harbor Patrol Vessels
1943: 50 Minesweepers

Beginning 1944: 74 Minesweepers
Total: 750
1943: 6.7%
starting 1944: 10%
(without replacements
for lost Minesweepers)

2. Smaller Vessels with Limited Range:

Available for Duty
Auxiliary Minesweepers
Harbor Patrol Vessels
Other very small Auxiliary Vessels

300 Armed Trawlers
Total: 1,250

These replacements are barely sufficient. A large number of the vessels are worn out and used up after four years of war service. War losses can be replaced only to a very limited extent. An organization of new units is impossible.


Battleship Bismarck Book
The Battleship Bismarck.
The Complete History
of the Ship.

KBismarck.com Naval Gift Shop

Naval & military gifts

Back to Main

Copyright © 1998-2019 KBismarck.com