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High Command of the Kriegsmarine

The Trip of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to Rome and his Subsequent Report to the Führer. 12 to 15 May 1943.

12 MAY 1943.

0800. Departure from Berlin.

1300. Arrival in Rome.

Conference at Hotel Excelsior with Vizeadmiral Ruge, Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken and Konteradmiral Löwisch.

Both Commanders give a brief summary of the situation. The Commander in Chief, Navy, very briefly discusses immediate problems: Which is more important, Sicily or Sardinia?
After lunch the Commander in Chief, Navy, asks the Commanders what they consider the best solution for the present unpleasant situation regarding the two German Commands which, as the representatives of the German Navy, are not effective in dealing with the Italians and do not guarantee a smooth and close collaboration. Both Commanders are convinced that the present dualism will have to end. Vizeadmiral Ruge believes that a merger of the two staffs could be effected by transferring the entire Operations Staff of the German Naval Command to the Supermarina (Italian Admiralty) and that the influence which was gained by the German Special Staff over the Supermarina could still be maintained. Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken does not consider this solution possible for technical reasons, such as space requirements and the communication system. The Commander in Chief reserves his decision for the present; it has already been influenced by the fact that Admiral Riccardi has asked the Commander in Chief, Navy, through Commander Sestini, that Vizeadmiral Ruge be appointed sole representative of the German Navy with Supermarina.

1630 to 1930. Conference at Supermarina.

Admiral Riccardi thanks the Commander in Chief, Navy, for his visit and expresses the hope that this conference will further the common cause of Italy and Germany. He also welcomes the Commander in Chief in the name of the Italian Navy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that the purpose of his visit is to discuss matters personally and to exchange information, since it is difficult to do this from a distance and by mail. Admiral Riccardi gives a summary of the present situation from the Italian point of view. It is a fact that the enemy is preparing for further operations in the Algerian coastal harbors; at the same time he is systematically destroying the Italian harbors. Since the fall of Tunisia, an attack on the Italian islands is expected any day. The last battles in Tunisia do not mean much. There are three ways of meeting the enemy invasion:

    a. Air attack on the African embarkation points.
    b. Attack on the approaching invasion fleet at sea.
    c. Local defense at the point of invasion.
The enemy will most likely employ forces strong enough to make his first attempt a certain success. It is, therefore, necessary that our own weak forces be consolidated. The invasion can be prevented by complete success of one of the three ways mentioned above.

A determined effort to ruin the enemy's plans would result in a grave setback which, in turn, would cause serious military and political repercussions and possibly bring about a crisis. Even forces which are needed elsewhere should be brought up. The Mediterranean is the most immediate and pressing problem facing the Axis. The enemy is accelerating his preparations which means that we too must act speedily. The main weapon is the Air Force. Without going into details this is mentioned as the most important point.

In considering the strength of our own defense, it must be pointed out that everything available was used for North Africa and Tunisia. However, very little was done on Corsica, Sicily and Sardinia. Right now, the harbor situation represents the main problem of the three islands. Air attacks caused severe damage in the Straits of Messina (Messina - Reggio di Calabria). It has become difficult to supply the island of Sicily. Since railroad traffic has come to a complete standstill in Sicily, the island has to be supplied by sea from Naples. The only way to improve transportation facilities on the island itself would be an increased use of trucks.

Before the war, Sicily had supplies for 40 days. Today there is enough for only 7 days. The question of supplies is becoming more and more difficult every day, because the enemy Air Force is constantly increasing. The same situation prevails in Sardinia. Most of the piers in Cagliari are destroyed. Porto Torres is of very little use, so only Olbia remains. Railroads in Sardinia are badly crippled. Trucks are the only solution. The result is that there are enough loaded ships in Genoa, Livorno and Civitavecchia ready to sail but which remain in port because they cannot be unloaded.

The situation is approximately the same on both islands. Above all the Air Force and the anti-aircraft batteries must be strengthened. The Navy must consider the manner in which the attack can be met. There are two possibilities:

    a. Submarine attacks during the approach.
    b. Off-shore attacks by naval forces and patrol craft.
Wolfpack tactics by submarines is desired since attacks by single U-boats against the enemy supply line between Gibraltar and Algiers turned out to be very difficult. Therefore, any increase in the number of submarines in the Mediterranean would be extremely valuable. The Italian Navy would be equally grateful for an additional number of S-boats or other small torpedo-carrying vessels, because the Italian light forces, as well as the German forces, suffered severely during the North African campaign.

In answer to a question by the Commander in Chief, Navy, Admiral Riccardi states that the forces should be strengthened in the order given below:

    a. Aircraft.
    b. Anti-Aircraft Batteries.
    c. Naval Vessels.
Rear Admiral Sansonetti now explains the plans of the Italian Navy in greater detail. The Admiralty Staff has investigated two problems: What possibilities the enemy has a. before he occupies Tunisia and b. after he starts to use the harbors Bizerte and Tunis. These studies showed that, as long as he cannot make use of Bizerte and Tunis, there is no reason to expect an invasion of Sicily. Of course, the enemy knows of the mine fields between Sicily and North Africa, but these mine fields divide his lines of approach. Since it takes from one to four weeks to sweep these mine fields, an invasion of Sardinia is to be considered more likely at this time.

An enemy invasion of Spain or Southern France is not being considered. According to the Italian viewpoint, the present enemy forces are not sufficient for such an invasion. Right now, the enemy invasion fleet can carry two divisions and 1,000 tanks. Even if transfer of additional forces from the Atlantic and use of airborne troops is considered, landings on the large Italian islands seem more probable.

The main objective of the Western Allies is a free line of communications through the Straits of Sicily. To attain this objective, the Balearic Islands and Southern France are not essential, however, Sicily and Sardinia are important. The Italian Admiralty therefore believes that Sardinia will be the first to be invaded. An invasion of Sicily may be expected sometime after the 22nd of June.

The approach of Sardinia will take the enemy about 16 hours at a speed of 15 knots. To prevent surprise, it is therefore necessary to maintain aerial reconnaissance during the afternoons. In addition to this, the Italian Admiralty considers it necessary to keep 4 submarines on reconnaissance duty west of Sardinia, because experience has proven that reports from submarines are the most reliable. It is planned to commit 12 submarines to action as soon as the approaching enemy has been spotted. These can still have considerable effect on the 2nd and 3rd day, because, as past experience has shown, that is the time when the enemy encounters the greatest difficulties. These 12 submarines are available. 12 submarines attacked a British convoy bound for Malta in August 1942 and were very successful.

The use of motor torpedo boats is determined by the most likely points of invasion of Sardinia. These are:

    a. The Gulf of Cagliari.
    b. The Gulf of St. Antioco (Gulf of Palmas).
    c. The plains to the northwest of Cagliari.
Only a small number of motor torpedo boats are available. 6 large boats and 10 to 12 small boats are available for Sardinia; the same number for Sicily and the Aegean Sea; for Corsica, the remaining 4 boats.

Of the German S-boats, 7 are ready for action and 12 are laid up.

Most of the torpedo boats will be laid up for repair during the next few weeks. Sending these boats into action cannot even be considered until repairs are completed.

The use of submarines near Sicily is very difficult. The operation of submarines South of Sicily has become practically impossible due to the proximity of Malta.

The enemy has a choice of the following invasion points on Sicily:

    a. Gulf of Castellammare (for attack against Palermo)
    b. near Marsala
    c. in the Gulf of Gela.
An invasion of eastern Sicily would be difficult for the enemy since the coast is well fortified. The Italian Admiralty Staff therefore considers an invasion of western Sicily more probable, with a feint attack from Malta against southern Sicily. Contrary to the case of Sardinia (see above), a prompt spotting of the enemy approach would be impossible. All reconnaissance planes in the area South of Sicily have been shot down recently by the superior enemy Air Force. The only thing possible is pursuit sorties without organized protection. Malta is extremely well supplied and has an exceptionally strong defense. Our Air Force can no longer attack Malta. There has been no aerial reconnaissance of the central Mediterranean for months. Consequently, the enemy approach from the direction of Tunis, Bizerte, Susa or Malta will be a complete surprise. A good network of radar stations is therefore important. Radar has worked well against aircraft but not against ships. When used against the latter, a continuous line instead of individual pips appears on the radar screen.

Since submarines are not considered for reconnaissance, motor torpedo boats represent the only remaining possibility.

To extend the mine fields along the Sicilian coast the necessary mines are available but no minelayers. The German minelayers are therefore very important. It is difficult to defend Sicily against an attack by sea due to the conformation of its coastline. However, there are much stronger military forces on Sicily than there are on Sardinia.

The Sicilian supply situation is precarious. Out of a total minimum requirement of 160,000 tons per month, coal alone takes 60,000 tons. For this the railroads have to furnish 400 cars each day. During the past months only 250 have been available and, after the heavy air attacks of the last few days, only 50 cars. The initiated change-over of these supplies to the sea route is breaking down because the capacity of the harbors is too small. Most of the landing craft, which are so much in demand, are laid up for repairs. The following are available at present:

    12 Italian landing-craft
    6 German landing-craft
    7 Siebel ferries
    11 Invasion boats
    1 Supply ship (3 being repaired)
    2 Italian supply ships (1 being repaired)
These vessels can transport 1,000 tons daily. However, 5,000 to 6,000 tons are necessary, particularly for small harbors. Our greatest difficulty is unloading. The quick repair of small craft is therefore very important. 70 small craft, severely damaged in North Africa, are in shipyards.

Pantelleria and Lampedusa represent further supply problems. Lampedusa is being supplied by 3 submarines, Pantelleria by landing craft and boats, of which the enemy sinks one right after the other.

The supply requirements for the three large islands, not including stock-piling, are:
    Sicily 160,000 t. per month
    Sardinia 50,000 t. per month
    Corsica 20,000 t. per month
All the islands have supplies for only 7 days.

Another problem is the supply of Greece. 600,000 men and 80,000 animals have to be supplied by sea. Straw is not available there.

It would be a considerable help if the shipyards in Marseille and Toulon could also undertake repair of small vessels.

In case Sardinia is invaded it is also planned to use the heavy ships of the Italian Navy. 4 small battleships have been dismantled in Taranto. Work on the 2 cruisers under repair is done only when there is no other urgent work. Only 3 large battleships are actually available in La Spezia, as well as 3 cruisers and 8 destroyers.

Fighter escort for the planned operation is ready and is being trained by the fighter-director officer of the battleship ROMA. There are 5 fighter airdromes and 2 Italian fighter groups on Sardinia; 50 German fighters are expected to be transferred. The area for the operations of the Italian naval forces has been carefully delineated. It is entirely within the range of our own fighters.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, expresses his thanks for this detailed information and proposes that the Admirals Meendsen-Bohlken, Ruge, and Wagner now express their views. Admiral Meendsen-Bohlken states that the intended operations were discussed with Supermarina. In regard to the use of motor torpedo boats, he is of the opinion that these should be used more for offensive purposes. It is planned to transfer the 3rd S-boat Flotilla to Porto Vesme (Sardinia) and the 7th S-boat Flotilla to Porto Empedocle (Sicily). He considers the defense of Sardinia more difficult than that of Sicily, particularly with respect to the supply problem. He points out that cargo space of small craft is very limited. Very recently the situation has been eased by Italian cooperation in making repairs. The Siebel ferries are particularly useful for Sardinia.

Admiral Ruge considers it certain that the enemy will attempt to cut our supply lines. His Air Force has no difficulty in reaching Sicily or Sardinia. During the day, only well-armed ships can be used. However, the defense of these ships is not what it should be, since our fighters are not well trained. For this reason heavy damage was effected by recent high altitude attacks.

At present, radar stations are either lacking completely or are inefficient. This situation should be corrected. Fighters capable of bringing down well-protected enemy bombers are necessary. 4-motored enemy planes can reach the entire coast as far as Genoa. Strong anti-aircraft defenses are therefore needed in harbors and on ships.

At night, the entire area is within range of enemy bombers and torpedo planes. On dark nights conditions have meanwhile been improved through the successful jamming by radar stations. (FuMG-Störung). Large ships cannot sail on bright nights until radar-controlled anti-aircraft batteries are provided.

Harbors have been severely damaged. However, besides the absolutely necessary fighters and anti-aircraft batteries, a good organization on land, air raid shelters, labor groups and repair groups are a definite necessity. Due to enemy air action only small vessels can be used in the South right now, and large ships only in the North.

Latterly, losses through submarine action have decreased considerably. Not until our submarine chasers are made available will we be in control of the situation. However, closer cooperation with the Air Force, especially between radar-equipped planes and ships, is necessary. Besides, as far as possible, all escort vessels should be equipped with a search-receiver and all vessels in convoy with a torpedo tracking device (Torpedoanzeigegerät).

Since British submarines always appear in the same location, the laying of mines in these areas should bring good results. Mines represent only a minor threat to our ships due to water depth. The only thing the enemy can do is to use submarines to lay mines across our long sea routes in the immediate vicinity of the coast. Since we shall never have a sufficient number of minesweepers to keep these lanes clear, the best we can do is to keep those vessels which we have in harbors on stand-by. When the repair of the numerous damaged vessels is completed we will be able to handle the situation.

We are having more and more difficulty with the removal of magnetic mines. Magnetic minesweeper groups are needed in:

    Eastern Sicily
    Livorno - Genoa
    Southern Sardinia
    Northern Sardinia
The Mausi-type aircraft have done very good work.

There is little likelihood of attacks by enemy surface forces during the summer. If they should occur, it would be the responsibility of the Air Force to deal with them. The Air Force is still far from perfect in taking bearings, maintaining contact, and attacking, especially at night. There is inefficiency in directing naval forces to their target. Reconnaissance reports still require 6 hours for transmission.

Mines laid close in to shore are useful as an anti-invasion measure. On the whole our naval forces will soon be adequate, but the Air Force is still too weak.

Admiral Wagner agrees with Admiral Ruge. Besides Sardinia, the possibility of an invasion of Corsica should not be forgotten. It is hard to decide which it might be, Sicily or Sardinia. He is inclined to favor Sardinia because Sicily has stronger defenses. The enemy has always attacked the point of least resistance. Besides, strategically speaking, Sardinia is almost as important as Sicily. Since the enemy's preparations must be regarded as practically complete, our plans will have to be carried out in the immediate future. No doubt, a strong air attack against the North African harbors will prove successful.

Our Air Force is also the main weapon against an approaching invasion fleet. Submarines are not used to best advantage on reconnaissance duty. They should be used offensively. Every means must be used to supply the islands quickly. The harbor problem should be solved by appointing harbor dictators. Naval forces will also have to be used to reach the goal as fast as possible.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, intends to increase the number of German submarines in the Mediterranean. Transportation difficulties through France make the transfer of more S-boats impossible. Sweepers and other small craft (MFP) will be the first to be transferred. Besides, the German Navy itself lacks S-boats.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, believes that the enemy attack will come soon. He states that our own forces are too weak to foil the enemy's plans by either destroying his embarkation points or the approaching invasion fleet. He is going to send more German submarines to the Mediterranean although he is convinced that submarines will never be able to stop an invasion; they have only nuisance value.

Consequently, our whole problem is a successful defense on land. Although preparations for the battle at sea are necessary they are not decisive. The battle on land alone is decisive. Therefore, the most important part of the Navy's mission is to make a battle on land possible. That means safeguarding the supply lines across the sea. Due to our limited means this problem will have to be considered before anything else.

It would be fine if we could inflict damage on the enemy while en route, but this may be done only if it will not affect our supply system. The problem, which is difficult already, will continue to become worse. We saw in Tunisia how our difficulties increased immediately when enemy airfields were brought closer to our lines. Even a small corner on Sardinia, with an enemy airfield, means a serious threat to us. The North African campaign has taught us the following lesson: As long as conditions are comparatively favorable to us we will have to use the time to bring in supplies. Supplies depend on:

    a. Means of transportation
    b. Security
    c. Unloading
These are the only decisive factors and they call for a closely coordinated, large-scale organization. If the supply system fails the islands cannot be held. However, a defeat at sea would not be decisive for us.

We must therefore use every available means to get as much materiel to the islands as possible. Even small vessels will have to be used for shallow harbors and open bays. We can worry about distribution later on. If there are not enough small vessels, submarines will have to be used. Admiral Riccardi interrupts at this point: "To transport supplies? The Commander in Chief, Navy, replies: "Yes, because submarines are not decisive in battle". Cruisers, too, must frequently make fast trips with supplies. He is thoroughly convinced that we must make use of the available time since the difficulties are constantly increasing. We must therefore make it a point to concentrate everything on supplies. Harbor facilities must be exploited to the fullest extent.

The responsible Italian officer must also have the right to draft civilians for this. It must not happen again, as it did in North Africa, that we are defeated because our supply system failed. He will do everything in his power to help the Italian Navy. 4 auxiliary anti-aircraft vessels, the 3 torpedo boats and as many landing-craft (MFP) and sweepers as possible will be put at the disposal of the Italian Navy to handle supplies.

Although U-boats are necessary to attack the enemy, he is willing to use German submarines as supply vessels, because he considers this the most important problem. If even the smallest suitable place is made available for unloading it should be possible to hold the islands. Therefore an Italian general, as a dictator, should investigate all locations suitable for unloading and further distribution on each of the islands. Even though a naval officer would prefer to fight the enemy at sea we must realize that our forces are too limited and that maintenance of supplies is our main task.

Admiral Riccardi states that he will use all available means to help solve the transportation problems. However, he asks the Commander in Chief, Navy, to use his influence in having the Luftwaffe increased. The Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that he had, of course, only taken up naval matters. However, upon his return to Berlin he would stress the absolute necessity of increasing the number of planes. The very lack of planes must make us take full advantage of the present moment because, once the enemy again has airfields near the front, it might again be too late for many things. The unique sacrifice of the Italian Fleet might have helped considerably had it come earlier; later on, the effort was dissipated by the increased enemy Air Force.

(At this point a misunderstanding is caused by the faulty translation of the Italian interpreter which makes it obvious that Admiral Riccardi interprets the remarks of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to be a reproach of the Italian Navy. The reaction of the Admiral as a reflection of Italian opinion, was very enlightening.)

Admiral Sansonetti interjects at this point that the Italian Admiral Borone in Sicily had reported yesterday that a month from now nothing would be left on his island unless strongest efforts for the defense against enemy air raids would be made. The Commander in Chief, Navy replies that this is an argument in favor of speed.

Admiral de Curten reports that in Messina not even 130 heavy antiaircraft guns, concentrated in a small area, were able to prevent the air attacks. Only good fighters can achieve results. On Pantelleria, the anti-aircraft batteries had good results only because the enemy came in at lower altitudes.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, asks Admiral Riccardi if troops were still being transferred to Sardinia. Admiral Riccardi replies that the transfer itself poses no difficulties. The real obstacle is the availability of ships for heavy equipment. The only large, really good harbor on Sardinia is Cagliari, which, in peacetime, was able to hold 15 to 20 large ships. Tortoli is suitable only for small vessels. There is daily traffic from Civitavecchia to Olbia. Porto Torres can take only 3 to 4 small vessels because of the damage caused by air raids. In Livorno alone 6 loaded vessels are kept from sailing by the lack of small harbors.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out that the main consideration is the cargo space of small craft. He is willing to place even mine carriers at the disposal of Admiral Riccardi. Everything shall be done to accommodate Admiral Riccardi. However, speed is necessary. He will emphasize that an increase in air power and AA batteries are most urgently needed. He asks if Admiral Riccardi has any further requests. Admiral Riccardi replies that the above is already a large order. He is convinced that whatever Germany would provide will be most helpful. As far as he knows the Duce has already wired the Führer regarding the Air Force question. He is aware that Germany, too, is having great difficulties.

Admiral Sansonetti regards the chief problem of the Axis for the summer of 1943 to be either maintaining the status quo in the Mediterranean or cleaning the waters of the enemy.

In conclusion, the Commander in Chief, Navy, commends Captain Grossi for his excellent work in converting Italian submarines into transport vessels for raw rubber. He promises Captain Grossi every assistance. In case the Italians want to transfer more large submarines to the Atlantic for carrying supplies, and possibly as a replacement for one large boat which has meanwhile been lost, he would be willing to exchange one German submarine for every one that they transfer. He would even welcome such an exchange because both countries would benefit thereby and because the rubber supply is of such great importance.

2000. Dinner in the staff quarters of the German Staff with Supermarina.

13 MAY 1943.

In the morning. Continuation of the conferences with representatives of various German offices; reports by the Commanding Officer of the [destroyer] HERMES (Fregattenkapitän Rechel), the Operations Officer of the Naval Command, Tunisia (Fregattenkapitän Wachsmuth), and other naval officers who returned from North Africa.

1100. Visit with General Ambrosio.

General Impression: Polite but formal reception.
The Commander in Chief, Navy explains that, at the moment, the chief weakness in the defense of the large Italian islands is a lack of reinforcements and supplies. No time should be lost in sending these because the enemy is constantly increasing pressure on our supply lines. Once the enemy has undertaken an operation, pressure at unloading points may be expected to be particularly heavy. He is of the opinion that a large number of unloading points should be established, since adequate air coverage can never be expected. This calls for improvisation, such as collecting small craft and using them as lighters to unload larger ships at temporary unloading points. Transportation to the interior of the islands must be organized by the military who have the proper authority. After establishing numerous unloading stations, it may very well be that submarines, cruisers, and other vessels will be pressed into service in order to complete the transportation of men and supplies as quickly as possible. It is more important for the Navy to supply transportation than to engage the enemy in battle. General Ambrosio did not fully agree with the above; he felt that submarines and cruisers should fight.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, replied that naval forces have already ceased fighting when the serious need for transportation is compared with what may be gained by engaging the enemy, the former takes precedence.

1130. Interview with the Duce.

General Impression: The Duce is well, optimistic, composed, very frank, sincere, and amicable.
The Duce states that he is confident about the future. The only result of British air raids on Italy will be that the people will learn to hate the British, which has not always been the case. This helps in carrying on the war. If there is one Italian who hates the British, it is he himself. He is happy that his people are now learning the meaning of the word hate as well.

He has answered the Führer's offer of 5 divisions, by stating he wants only 3 of them. This refusal came as a surprise to the Commander in Chief, Navy. The Duce explains that he had asked that these 3 divisions should include 6 armored battalions with 300 tanks, 2 of which are slated for Sardinia, 3 for Sicily and 1 for southern Italy. He believes that Sicily is in the greatest danger and supports his contention by referring to the British press which had repeatedly stated that a free route through the Mediterranean would mean a gain of 2,000,000 BRT of cargo space for the Allies.

The Commander in Chief, Navy gives his opinion of the general situation to the Duce along the same lines as he did during the interview with General Ambrosio. The Duce immediately reacts to this by himself stressing the necessity for improvisation and considers this easily possible, particularly because of favorable weather conditions during the summer.

1300. Lunch at the Hotel Excelsior.

1630. Conference with Vizeadmiral Ruge and Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, announces his decision that Admiral Ruge will take over the German Naval Command and still maintain the Operations Staff with Supermarina. Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken will be recalled for other duty. The Commander in Chief, Navy, explains his reasons for the decision to Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken.
Afterwards, drive to Nemi Lake; inspection of the old Roman ships.

1930. Conference with the Representative of the German Transportation Ministry (BVM), Senatssyndikus Essen.

The Representative of the German Transportation Ministry briefly describes the situation in regard to cargo space and repeatedly stresses the smooth cooperation with the Navy. He states that, on the recommendation of the Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, Italy (Seetransportchef Italien) the Organization Todt had been ordered to prepare many small harbors and unloading points, including 150 moorings for small vessels, on the mainland as well as on the islands. The Todt organization is getting under way.

He expresses the opinion that the traffic volume of small cargo vessels coming to Italy from Marseille has declined since the Naval Attaché in Rome relinquished his command. He asks that the convoys of small auxiliary craft be sent without escort in order to increase the volume of traffic. Action was taken in Rome immediately with reference to this request.

He asks, furthermore, that any converted auxiliary craft of the type "Seelöwe" be turned over to him by the Navy for use in the Mediterranean and the Aegean rather than to release them for commercial use. It would be foolish to cancel the conversion of these vessels, because the need for them is so great that he would have to initiate such action all over again.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that he fully approves of this temporary solution of the transportation problem in the Mediterranean, and that the final solution would be to transfer the entire problem of transportation and supplies to the Representative of the German Transportation Ministry; this would be done some time in the future whenever the situation permits.

2000. Dinner with the German Ambassador.

2200. Conference with Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring.

1. The Commanding General, South, states that the Führer is considering the transfer of the Herman Göring Division and the 7th Airborne Division to Italy.

2. The fact that the Italian Comando Supremo had partially refused the Führer's offer of 5 divisions was reported directly to the OKW without informing the Commanding General, South, or General Rintelen. The Commanding General, South, considers this an act of political importance in as much as it proves that the Italians want to remain masters in their own house. Relations between him and General Ambrosio are not very cordial. If his person represents an obstacle to better relations with the Comando Supremo, he is going to express his willingness to make way for another German Commander in Chief.

3. On his tour of inspection in Sicily the Commanding General, South, had noticed that Italian defense preparations were very incomplete. He had therefore impressed this fact on the Italian Commander in Chief, General Roatta. A similar tour of inspection of Sardinia is planned during the next few days.

4. The Commanding General, South, agrees with the Duce that an attack on Sicily is more probable than an attack on Sardinia.

5. The Commanding General, South, states that the joint naval forces are so weak that they are able to play only a minor role in reconnaissance and coast defense against an invasion attempt. He would like to have patrol vessels operate along the southern coasts of Sicily and Sardinia to prevent surprise attacks. He will get in touch with the Italian Air Force about increasing their aerial reconnaissance at sea.

6. The Commanding General, South, intends to recommend to the Führer and to the Reichsmarschall that the 2nd Air Fleet be increased sufficiently to destroy enemy embarkation harbors.

7. He considers an attack on the Iberian Peninsula the best way of bringing relief to the Mediterranean situation and intends to submit such a plan to the Führer.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, repeatedly stresses that the crux of the problem is the transportation of supplies and that these must be brought to the islands speedily and in large quantities. He believes that there are a sufficient number of harbors, that steps for the extensive improvement of these harbors have been taken and, with the exception of smaller vessels which are beginning to arrive, that there is sufficient shipping to provide adequate cargo space. The one drawback is that the Italians are accustomed to working in a leisurely manner.

In a subsequent private conference the Commander in Chief, Navy, tells the Commanding General, South, that he had appointed Vizeadmiral Ruge as the sole responsible representative of the Navy in Italy. He asks the Commanding General, South, to refer all questions pertaining to naval warfare in the Mediterranean exclusively to this officer rather than directly to Supermarina or other units such as Dahms Staff. The Commanding General, South, agrees and will place Dahms Staff under Admiral Ruge. He declares further that, in future, all problems pertaining to naval warfare will be left up to Admiral Ruge as final authority.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, further stresses the necessity of initiating practical methods of improving the collaboration between Air Force and Navy in the Mediterranean, because this is still unsatisfactory. This should be done jointly by Admiral Ruge and Dahms Staff.

14 MAY 1943.

0930. Audience with the King.

General Impression: Warm reception, agreeable, impressive, a wise and experienced person. The King is lively and vivacious and has a good memory.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, gives his opinion of the general situation to the King as previously discussed with General Ambrosio. He is convinced that Tunisia's fall was due only to the lack of supplies. If we master the supply question, we will defeat the enemy.

The King points out that unfortunately most of the land routes in Italy are also close to shore and are therefore subject to attack from the sea. The audience was terminated with stories about his travels to Spitsbergen and Norway.

1030. Departure from Rome.

1630. Arrival at Wolfsschanze.

1730. Report to the Führer.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports the progress and outcome of his conference with the Duce. He adds, that while the Duce did not disapprove of concentrating all efforts on the transportation of supplies, no action was taken as the result of the Commander in Chief's report. The Führer believes that the Duce partly rejected the offer of several German divisions under the influence of the Italian High Command, in order to keep a free hand. The Führer does not agree with the Duce that the most likely invasion point is Sicily. Furthermore, he believes that the discovered Anglo-Saxon order confirms the assumption that the planned attacks will be directed mainly against Sardinia and the Peloponnesos [Operation Mincemeat].

The Commander in Chief, Navy, then reports on his conference with the Supermarina and mentions the places on Sardinia and Sicily where the Italians believe landing attempts will be made. He stresses the fact that the demand of the Supermarina for air attacks on enemy embarkation points in North Africa is definitely justified, but that aside from this, all efforts must be concentrated on safeguarding the shipping of supplies. Therefore it is not enough merely to say, for example, that Olbia cannot handle more than its present load. On the contrary, every effort must be made to increase transport facilities by opening up smaller harbors, or even by using small craft, such as fishing vessels and utility boats, to unload in open bays. He believes that the Supermarina failed to grasp the full import of this point.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that the Italians listened to his suggestion that, if need be, all serviceable cruisers and submarines should be used for transport purposes, but he believes that nothing will come of it. A complete understanding was also lacking on this point in his conference with General Ambrosio.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, has therefore come away from these conferences with the impression that the Italians will do nothing about the all important matter of increasing shipping facilities. He was therefore very much pleased to note that Kapitän zur See Engelhardt, Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, Italy, had already begun to make the necessary arrangements in this respect.

The Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, Italy, submits the following for the Führer's consideration:

A. The following supplies are to he transported overseas:

    1. 200,000 tons per month to Sicily.
    2. 80,000 tons per month to Sardinia.
This includes the needs of both the German and Italian forces. The following are available for this purpose:
    a. German and Italian steamers.
    b. German supply ships (KT).
    c. German and Italian landing craft (MFP) and Siebel ferries.
    d. Small craft and tank lighters from France.
Regarding point "a" it should be pointed out that it is improbable that larger steamers can make the passage in any appreciable numbers, since enemy action is too pronounced. Tunisia may serve as a warning. Vessels as per points "b"-"d" offer the real solution. It must be expected that harbors suitable for loading and unloading steamers will soon be destroyed by the Air Force (see Palermo and Trapani).

Regarding points "b"-"d" the following can be said: Small craft and supply ships may solve the shipping problem because:

    1. They can continue to use most of the destroyed harbors, or, if necessary, these can be repaired sufficiently in short order.

    2. The enemy cannot interfere as readily with the loading and unloading of ships, since these operations are no longer concentrated in a few harbors, but are performed in many.

    3. The many small vessels offer a much smaller target than the larger ships.

    4. Repairs are easily made, except on supply ships (KT).

Consequently the following proposal is made: to use small craft in great numbers; to run these ships on a broad front from Sicily to Corsica, from the harbors of Imperia to Taranto along routes which will be changed according to reports of the enemy situation so as not to give him a clear picture. To achieve the above, the following will be necessary:

    1. Direction and disposition of all available German merchantmen and small craft by the Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, Italy.

    2. Utilization of the Todt Labor Organization for the construction of slips and 150 temporary landing places in the entire area (each slip can hold 4 landing craft (MFP) at a time. Distribution: 4 on the mainland, 1 in Sardinia, 1 in Sicily). This will cost 50 million lire.

    3. Utilization of 4 construction battalions for the reconstruction of the destroyed harbors, for construction of bases and bunkers, as well as for help in loading and unloading in harbors (distribution of the construction battalions: 2 on the mainland, 1 in Sardinia, 1 in Sicily).

    4. Employment of a sufficient number of trucks for transporting construction materials and cargo.

The Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, Italy, reports that he has observed that the Italian troops and civilian population are not fitted for this kind of work, since they run away during air raids, their leaders have no initiative, and they actually sabotage our efforts by failure to furnish personnel or trucks.

B. Interference by the Supply and Transportation Office of the Armed Forces Overseas (Heimatstab Übersee im OKW) in allocating shipping space is undesirable. This office may issue general directives, but should not actually allocate space. Only the Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports (Navy) and the Representative of the German Transportation Ministry should direct the details of actual transport operations.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, says to the Führer that he considers this to be a question of finding the most practical solution and that the Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports (Navy) would need all the help he could find. The following requirements would have to be met:

    1. A sufficient number of trucks. The Führer decides that these should be procured from the Italian area.

    2. Four construction battalions. The Führer approves. Generalfeldmarschall Keitel will contact Minister Speer at once.

    3. 50 million lire for the Todt Labor Organization. The Führer sees no complications in this connection. Generalfeldmarschall Keitel will make the necessary arrangements.

    4. The Supply and Transportation Office of the Armed Forces Overseas or other offices must not be given control over shipping space since this may lead to situations where certain orders can not be carried out locally for military reasons or where the entire movement of supplies is seriously impaired. Higher authorities may set up requirements but only the Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, (Navy) and the Representative of the German Transportation Ministry will be responsible for carrying out instructions.

The Führer repeatedly and emphatically expresses his agreement on this point. (Further particulars will be discussed with Gen. Warlimont and Capt. Junge.)

The Führer asks the Commander in Chief, Navy, whether he thinks that the Duce is determined to carry on to the end. The Commander in Chief, Navy, answers that he accepts this as certain, but that he cannot be sure, of course. He has gained the impression that the primary failing of the Italians is their lack of initiative. The Führer asserts that he does not trust the Italian upper class. He believes that a man like Ambrosio would be happy if Italy could become a British dominion today.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that generally speaking since his return from Rome he has come to the conclusion that the plan to hold the Italian islands will result in a purely defensive operation. It will consume much energy without getting the Axis out of its defensive position. It must furthermore be kept in mind that the Anglo-Saxon powers have gained two million BRT in shipping space since the Mediterranean was cleared. The Führer interrupts here: "Which our trusty submarines will now have to sink." The Commander in Chief, Navy, continues: "Yet we are at present facing the greatest crisis in submarine warfare, since the enemy, by means of new location devices, for the first time makes fighting impossible and is causing us heavy losses (15-17 submarines per month)." The Führer interjects at this point: "These losses are too high. Something must be done about it." The Commander in Chief, Navy, continues: Furthermore at the present time the only outbound route for submarines is a narrow lane in the Bay of Biscay. This passage is so difficult that it now takes a submarine 10 days to get through.

In view of this situation, the occupation of Spain, including Gibraltar, would be the best strategic solution. This would constitute an attack against the flank of the Anglo-Saxon offensive, the Axis would regain the initiative, a radical change would take place in the Mediterranean, and submarine warfare could be given a much broader basis. In reply the Führer states that we are not capable of an operation of this kind, since it would require first class divisions. Occupation of Spain without the consent of the Spaniards is out of the question, since they are the only tough Latin people and would carry on guerilla warfare in our rear. In 1940 it might have been possible to get Spain to go along in such a move. However, the Italian attack on Greece in the fall of 1940 shocked Spain.

The Axis must face the fact that it is saddled with Italy. Therefore the shipping and transportation of supplies must be handled in accordance with the suggestions made by the Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports (Navy). In conclusion, the Commander in Chief, Navy, reports to the Führer that he is working together with Minister Speer in order to speed all possible countermeasures pertaining to submarine location. He believes that developments along these lines are more important than anything else at this point.

1850. Departure for Berlin.

2045. Arrival at Tempelhof.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, was accompanied by: Konteradmiral Wagner, Fregattenkapitän Pfeiffer, Korvettenkapitän Freiwald.
From Rome to the Führer's Headquarters: Kapitän zur See Engelhardt.


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