Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Minutes of the Conferences of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer on 19 and 20 December 1943 at Headquarters Wolfsschanze.
1. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reported to the Führer in detail about the present situation in submarine warfare. He pointed out especially the need for very extensive long-range air reconnaissance which is wholly inadequate at present. The tentative building program of the Luftwaffe for 1944 is such that it will in no way improve the situation during the coming year. Aside from the shortage of planes, insufficient training in navigation and communications has hampered the effective functioning of our aerial reconnaissance during the past few weeks and has shown the need for a coordinated training program. In spite of the improved U-boat models, submarine warfare in 1944 will be ineffective unless there is adequate reconnaissance; because of the enemy's superiority, our submarines are limited more and more to underwater operations.
(the following paragraph was deleted from the original draft of the conference report:
The Reichsmarschall who was present at this conference, insisted that the Luftwaffe does not bear the sole responsibility for the failures so far. Of course, the Commander in Chief, Navy, never made any such assertion.)
Plans for the increase in production of Junker 290 aircraft were discussed. In this connection the Commander in Chief, Navy, demanded that the whole output of new Junker 290 should be used exclusively for long-range reconnaissance and not for bombing. The Führer promised to speak with the Reichsmarschall in support of this proposal.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, stressed the need for placing greater emphasis on original research in the high frequency field and said that Minister Speer and he would make a report on this question to the Führer on 2 January 1944. Since the report will recommend the removal of a large amount of research from direct control of the Reichsmarschall, who is in charge of the four-year plan, he will be kept fully informed. At present the research facilities are chiefly of value to the Luftwaffe.
2. The Führer expressed his intention of utilizing the Danube monitors not only on the Danube but especially in the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait. He therefore ordered the construction of additional monitors. The Commander in Chief, Navy, declared that the construction of monitors would interfere greatly with the building program of the Navy. Manpower and equipment vitally needed elsewhere would have to be diverted for this purpose. The Führer requested that an investigation be made nevertheless, to see whether it would be feasible to construct useable monitors by salvaging available hulls, engines and guns. The Commander in Chief, Navy, agreed to do so. Furthermore he said that the 4 Danube tugboats would be converted as soon as they have been taken over.
3. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reported to the Führer that it is intended to have new submarines built in Odessa and requested that the necessary diplomatic steps be taken to have the Rumanians place the Odessa shipyards at our disposal. The Führer gave General Jodl orders to this effect.
4. When asked about further plans for an Italian Army, the Führer said that he does not believe anything will come of it. Germany is no longer interested in an Italian Army because our relations with Italy are too strained as the result of the events of last September and are bound to remain so. The organizing of Italian military units would therefore demand greatest caution and watchfulness. The Commander in Chief, Navy, asked that the Italians be forbidden to place any orders for warships with Italian shipyards. The Führer ordered that Ambassador Rahn be instructed accordingly.
5. The Commander in Chief, Navy, fully discussed the Japanese situation and the question of Timor with the Führer. The latter showed little interest in having Germany step in to settle the Timor dispute even though he admitted that it would be in our interest to strengthen the position of Salazar, and that German intervention would accomplish this.
6. Regarding Turkey's attitude, the Führer stated that the Turks are cleverly trying to preserve their neutrality as long as possible.
7. The intention of holding the Crimea as long as possible, if only for political reasons, was reaffirmed.
8. During the discussion of possible plans for an Anglo-Saxon invasion of Western Europe, the Führer felt that the British have become somewhat less optimistic as a result of events in Italy. He was therefore not entirely certain where and when the invasion might take place, but expected landings on the Dutch coast and in northern France by the beginning of 1944.
9. The Commander in Chief, Navy, informs the Führer that the SCHARNHORST and destroyers of the task force will attack the next Allied convoy headed from England for Russia via the northern route, if a successful operation seems assured.
It would pay to reinforce the submarines in the North if the convoys were to travel the northern route regularly. The Commander in Chief, Navy, has already ordered additional U-boats to operate in the Arctic Ocean.
10. In connection with the machine-gunning of shipwrecked survivors by British naval forces in the Aegean Sea, the Führer spoke of his intention of retaliating for the mock-trial at Kharkov by holding similar trials in Germany for British and American officers who have violated international law. He gave orders to draw up appropriate charges.
countersigned: Fregattenkapitän Pfeiffer
15 December 1943Atlantic Reconnaissance and Production of the Junkers Ju 290.
All operations of recent weeks carried out in cooperation with the Air Command, Atlantic Coast, against convoys moving North-South and East-West have failed completely. These failures were due neither to lack of spirit nor to inefficiency on the part of the crews of the Air Command, Atlantic Coast, but are solely attributable to a lack of planes.
The large ocean areas cannot be sufficiently patrolled by one, or at best, by three airplanes, which are often on duty for days without relief, even if the planes are equipped with location devices. The convoys were detected, to be sure, but too late in most cases for changing U-boat dispositions accordingly. The extremely small number of airplanes made the spotting of convoys a matter of sheer luck.
The outcome of each recent operation is additional proof of the fact that the former great successes of U-boat warfare can now be equalled only if sufficient aerial reconnaissance is provided.
The attention of the Luftwaffe Operations Staff and the Reichsmarschall was called to the urgent necessity for aerial reconnaissance in numerous communications and personal interviews. They were informed that 12 airplanes would be required daily. This demand was considered to be within the limits of production capacities soon to be realized. It was said that, after tooling, the Ju 290 would go into full-scale production with an output of 26 airplanes a month planned for the present. Field Marshal Milch promised to investigate the possibilities of increasing the figures to 50 airplanes a month.
The production plan received from the General of Air Reconnaissance provides for only 5 Ju 290 reconnaissance planes a month in 1944 and 10 such airplanes a month in 1945. On the basis of these figures, 8 months will be required to bring our present squadrons up to the effective strength of 20 airplanes, provided that our losses are light. An increase in the number of squadrons, so vital for U-boat warfare is obviously out of the question under such conditions.
Simultaneously the General of Air Reconnaissance reported that, beginning June 1944, a bomber type of the Ju 290 will go into production to be placed at the disposal of the General of Bomber Aircraft. The number of planes produced for this branch of the Luftwaffe will be 10 in December 1944 and 30 in December 1945. The fact should be kept in mind that the Ju 290 would not even exist today had its development as a long-range reconnaissance plane not been demanded by the Commander in Chief, U-boats, and the Seekriegsleitung, and that it was introduced for purposes of long-range reconnaissance in the Atlantic. The following urgent request is therefore made:
b. to use the manufacturing capacity thus developed for the reconnaissance model exclusively and to suspend construction of the bomber type until a daily minimum availability of 12 Ju 290 reconnaissance planes is guaranteed.
Naval Intelligence Service. Received 10 December 1943 at 2210. Telegram in code from Tokio.
A. The Japanese Naval Staff holds the following views on the military-political situation:
1. Recent intensification of the war effort on the part of the Americans in the Southwest Pacific cannot very well be called a change of strategy since, with almost all naval forces and about two thirds of the front line divisions committed there, the main concentration of the Americans has never been anywhere else. This intensification of effort in the Pacific at the expense of the Mediterranean Theater, involving no actual withdrawals but rather a reduction of reinforcements, seems to indicate that the "European First" policy has been abandoned. It is to be expected that Russian military pressure, the blockade, the air offensive, the Italian Front, as well as the precarious position of the German forces in the occupied areas will weaken the German war potential in the desired manner. This change of policy on the part of the United States may be attributed to internal politics with correct "timing" as the important consideration. Likewise the Americans may wish to take advantage of the present Japanese weakness in the air.
2. The American attack clearly aims at the Japanese lines of communication in the direction of the Philippines. Once these are in American hands the situation will become untenable for the Japanese along the entire southern Flank. The homeland itself will thus be open to severe aerial attacks either directly or by way of China.
3. At the same time there are indications that the main strength of the British land and sea forces is being shifted in the direction of the Indian Ocean. South Africa, Madagascar, and Ceylon are assumed to be staging areas. Logically their thrust will no doubt be directed against the center, i.e. southern Burma, with the purpose of isolating the Japanese forces in northern Burma, of reopening the road to Chungking, and, above all, of splitting the Japanese defenses. The timing of this thrust depends on shipping space. It does not appear likely that the task of supplying the Italian and Pacific fronts would make it permissible, in the near future, to set aside the tonnage necessary for an action of such magnitude. The Japanese are aware of this danger as is evidenced by the fact that the Commander in Chief of Naval Defenses for the entire South transferred his headquarters from Surabaya to Penang and was joined there by the staff of the 13th Air Force with allegedly considerable forces. The outpost area of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is being fortified with great speed.
4. The chief aim of the Allies is the quick termination of the war. Therefore there is no doubt that, in Teheran, Roosevelt must have insisted upon the use of bases in eastern Siberia. If such bases were granted, the threat to Japan would indeed be serious. Experts on Russian affairs consider it unlikely that Stalin agreed to such a proposal, but should the transfer of bases have been agreed upon nevertheless, it may be surmised that the Allies are in dire straits, in view of the enormous counter-demands undoubtedly made by Stalin. At any rate, its repercussions in Europe would include at least an attack on the Bosporus to compensate for the loss of supplies via Vladivostok.
5. In direct contrast to this situation of the Allies, the war can be won by the Axis powers under the given circumstances only if the time element is fully exploited. Of all the belligerents Japan is certainly least disturbed by the time element. Until now her losses have been small; there have been no air raids; her food supply is assured; and the standard of living of the average family has suffered only slightly. The only really serious problem is the shortage of iron and resulting therefrom a shortage of shipping space. In view of the absolute mutual interdependence of the Axis powers, which is becoming more and more apparent, and mindful of the significance of the time element, the Japanese are paying particular attention to the stamina of Germany.
B. The Naval and Air Situation in the Southwest Pacific as viewed by the Naval Attaché:
6. The Japanese southeastern defense is anchored at Rabaul. As far as the Navy is concerned it consists of the southeastern Fleet and the 11th Air Force. Besides light naval forces without carriers, only transports, subchasers, and other protective craft are assigned to this fleet. It also has under its command approximately 10,000 marines, half of whom are stationed on Bougainville, the remainder on New Britain and the neighboring islands. The Commander of the southeastern Fleet is likewise Commander of the 11th Air Force. (4 wings)
7. As far as the Army is concerned, the southeastern defense is entrusted to the southeastern Army. The latter is composed of one division on Bougainville, two divisions on New Britain and the neighboring islands, and two divisions in northern New Guinea. Attached to it is the 4th Air Force with one Air Force Corps in New Guinea and one on New Britain.
8. As it is always the case in Japan when elements of two branches of the Armed Forces are assigned to a common task, there is no unified command. The Army Commander is apparently Independent of the southern Army Group (Singapore); the Naval Commander on his part is subordinate to the United Fleet, the main body of which remains in home waters (inland Sea) while fairly strong naval formations are believed to be present at Truk. The influence of the General and Naval Staff on local operations is very small; that of Imperial Headquarters is even less. The considerable disadvantages resulting from such decentralization are clearly recognized by the Army and Navy, but nothing is being done to correct the situation. This loose organization did prove successful at the beginning of the war in operations prepared very carefully over a long period of time. In a defensive situation however, when quick decisions become imperative, it will of necessity result in defeat.
9. As previously mentioned, the American advance, launched almost simultaneously from the Solomons and on New Guinea, is aimed at the Philippines. Rabaul, the recognized center of the entire outer defense system of Japan, is expected to become the first important milestone. With Rebaul in American hands, the Japanese will no longer be able to defend their positions West of Finschhafen on New Guinea, held so far at great sacrifice. Soon almost the entire length of the northern coast will be secured by the Americans and this will protect their flank to the South. American plans for the later phases of the offensive undoubtedly call for such developments. Moreover, the entire Mandated Area, particularly the Marshals and the eastern Carolines, will be under continuous threat.
10. After some initial successes this American thrust, executed with great tenacity and with reckless use of materiel, was temporarily checked on Bougainville. In 4 small-scale naval engagements and 6 great air operations, 5 battleships, 10 carriers, 19 cruisers, 7 destroyers, and 9 transports were sunk there since 27 October.
11. It is doubtful, and in the opinion of the Japanese Naval Staff unlikely, that the subsequent attack on the Gilbert Islands was part of the original plan. Being stopped on Bougainville, it was natural that the American forces would attempt to relieve their situation in the South by a diversionary maneuver in the North. This particular thrust, however, was not expected at that time, and it came long before the Japanese had an opportunity to replace the substantial air forces shifted from the Gilbert Island area to the southern Front.
12. The occupation of the Gilberts, although dearly paid for by the Americans with 7 carriers and 3 cruisers sunk, is regrettable and may have serious consequences. The Americans now have 3 excellent airports and, in view of their superior air power and general material strength, should be in a position to pound the Japanese in the Marshals into submission. Occupation of the latter would, in turn, place Truk, the most important Japanese naval base in the Southeast, within range of the American bombers.
13. The war is a combined land-sea war in which the Naval Air Force is carrying the heaviest burden. In spite of their great aerial successes, further developments are anticipated with mixed feelings by the Japanese. The Gilbert Islands are irretrievably lost. On Bougainville the Americans succeeded in constructing an airport and receiving additional supplies. The charges of indifference to the seriousness of the situation, more and more openly directed against the Army by the Navy, are only partly justified. Originally the Navy alone had taken over the entire island area East of the Philippines and Timor and it was with admitted reluctance that it permitted a gradual infiltration of the Army there. The Navy needs 1,000 planes. When it asked for part of the Army's airplane production to make up this deficiency, the request was rejected by the Army, because basic concepts of equality and the prestige of the services were involved. Until now the production programs of the two services have been completely independent of each othar. In general there appears to be no hope that someone will be invested with full authority to deal with command problems of common concern. Such a person would naturally be identified with either the Army or the Navy and consequently would meet with the distrust of one or the other branch of the service.
14. The war is waged on both sides with the greatest fierceness, mostly for racial reasons. The climate is making the greatest demands upon the individual. 80% of all personnel losses are due to intestinal diseases. Though the Japanese have more resistance than the Americans, the latter, due to their superior means of transportation, are able to compensate for this deficiency by relieving their troops after 6 months of combat or less, in contrast to one year or more of combat duty required of the Japanese soldiers.
15. It is alleged that the great aerial and naval successes of the Navy have been very carefully checked by Headquarters. Through the Commander in Chief, Navy, the Emperor awarded the Naval Air Force the great honor of a rescript, and the Minister of the Navy reported the successes in "ise", something that likewise is done only in rare instances. To doubt these successes would be an act of lese-majeste. The matter is therefore a very delicate one and hard to deal with in conversations. As far as mere numbers are concerned, sinkings to the extent reported are likely; on the other hand, there has doubtless been some confusion in the types of ships involved and this possibility is admitted. Since nearly all air actions took place during twilight or at night, this seems all the more probable. Carriers are especially hard to identify positively. According to Japanese calculations the enemy had 14 carriers, either expressly built as such or converted from cruisers, and about 20 auxiliaries at the beginning of hostilities. In their landing operations the Americans use vessels with an unbroken deck from stem to stern. Boats kept below deck are launched by rail from large landing ramps. On deck they frequently carry airplanes as cargo, which would explain mistaken identification. This conjecture is supported by the fact that many of these so-called "carriers" were sunk in the vicinity of landing points, where real carriers would certainly not be found. With an inferiority complex of several decades standing not yet overcome, Japan tends to greatly overstate her successes. In this connection, it has been noted however that the Japanese thus far have shown greater inclination to conceal their losses than to exaggerate their successes. In the engagements mentioned, losses were admittedly greater than the official reports which speak of 2 destroyers sunk, 2 cruisers damaged, and 165 airplanes lost, would indicate. It has so far been impossible to obtain accurate figures. There is no justification for the Japanese attempt to exaggerate successes for propaganda purposes. Japanese officers believe that the Americans conceal their losses until they are offset by major gains.
16. The relation between successful engagements fought during the day and at night, as well as the share credited to the different branches of the service was reported in Air messages 327,335 and 340 via Naval High Command.
17. According to statements made by prisoners, the Americans are planning to be in Rabaul by Christmas. To reach this goal they have taken enormous chances, fully aware of the fact that every delay will afford the Japanese urgently needed time and opportunities for further fortification of their position and for replacing their aerial losses. Not even the Japanese Naval Staff is in a position to determine whether the Americans, after the great losses they have suffered, still have sufficient strength left to launch additional operations in the next few weeks.
Distribution of Japanese Forces on the Basis of the Communication at Hand.
A. United Fleet.
2. Many naval units under one command at Truk.
2. Subchasers and patrol vessels.
4. 10,000 marines, half of whom are on Bougainville, the remainder on New Britain and the neighboring islands.
5. 11th Air Force (4 wings).
A. Southern Army Group. Headquarters in Singapore.
B. Commander in Chief, Southeastern Army. Headquarters in Rabaul.
2. Two divisions on New Britain and the neighboring islands.
3. Two divisions in New Guinea.
4. 4th Air Force (one Air Force Corps in New Guinea and one on New Britain).
1. Russia's demand for the opening of a Second Front is most strongly supported by her threat of seeking an understanding with Germany. However, as long as Russia maintains her military pressure on the eastern Front of her own accord, there is no reason for America and Britain to submit to Russian desires, particularly since both powers are greatly interested in seeing Russia weakened even more. The shift of British and American interest to the Pacific — even though that shift may only be temporary — is evidenced by the fact that the campaign in Italy came practically to a standstill once the threat to the Suez Canal was removed.
2. The granting of bases in eastern Siberia, definitely demanded by Roosevelt, has just as definitely been rejected by Stalin, since to do so would mean to give away the last trump he holds in his hand. Stalin, in turn, is vitally interested in seeing Britain and America weakened.
3. The most destructive weapon in this war is the torpedo when released from a plane rather than a submarine. The Japanese Navy had put high hopes in the latter. As a torpedo carrier the airplane is approximately 30 times more successful than the submarine. The effectiveness of the torpedo has grown steadily. 15 torpedoes were necessary for the sinking of the PRINCE OF WALES; today 2 or 3 would suffice. Our new tactics of shadowing the enemy during the day, of attacking him 2 hours after sunset, and of dropping aluminum foil and rocket flares, have reduced our own losses to a minimum. Similar tactics employed in waters around England and in the Mediterranean should be very successful.
4. The mutual interdependence of Germany and Japan more and more demands a personal exchange of opinion between leading men.
Note: To be transmitted to the OKW, however subject to approval by the Chief of the Seekriegsleitung.
The Battleship Bismarck.
The Complete History
of the Ship.
Naval & military gifts