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Conference of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer in Wolfsschanze in the afternoon of 25 July 1941.
(The Chief of the OKW was not present.) A verbal report on the conference was subsequently made to General Jodl.
1. A report is made on the general situation in naval warfare against Britain.
a. In general the report follows the annexes, including a detailed discussion of the situation in the Battle of the Atlantic (see Annexes 1 to 3).
The Führer declares that there is absolutely no reason for the concern of the Commander in Chief, Navy, that he has changed his view as to the great importance of the blockade against Britain by submarines and the Air Force. His original view has undergone no changes whatsoever. He would however like to avoid having the U.S.A. declare war while the Eastern Campaign is still in progress, also out of consideration to the Army which is involved in heavy combat. But he will never call a submarine commander to account if he torpedoes an American ship by mistake. After the Eastern Campaign he reserves the right to take severe action against the U.S.A. as well.
With regard to our attitude towards France, the Führer declares that France's attitude toward us has changed since the withdrawal of our Panzer divisions. France's political demands have been increasing since that time. He will therefore probably move the two Panzer divisions, which have just recently been formed in Germany, to the west in the near future. Then France will become more amenable. He can under no circumstances prejudice our relations with Italy by making concessions to France. He cannot allow our relations with Italy to deteriorate.
As soon as the U.S.A. occupies Portuguese or Spanish islands, he will march into Spain; he will send Panzer and infantry divisions to North Africa from there, in order to defend North Africa.
b. Surface ships: Their effectiveness is limited by their small numbers and by the lack of a naval air arm. In spite of that, they are carrying out decisive offensive warfare against merchant ships, which is the only way to conquer Britain. The growing superiority of the British naturally increases the risk involved. (The incorrect use of the Air Force is now having its effect. In spite of constant requests by the Seekriegsleitung, the Luftwaffe did not attack aircraft carriers and battleships under construction, or the forces lying in Scapa Flow. This would have improved the situation at sea a great deal). It is possible that the surface forces will gradually be destroyed. This possibility, however, must not be allowed to keep surface ships from continuing to operate in the war against merchant ships. The fact that they are operating, or even just the possibility that they will appear in the Atlantic, supports submarine warfare to a great degree. The British are obliged to protect their convoys with strong forces. If these forces were free, they could operate with a very disturbing effect at other places, for instance, in the Mediterranean and in the Far East, i.e., Singapore. Moreover, the British would be able to strengthen their anti-submarine defenses at the expense of the escort forces, as in the World War, when our fleet ceased offensive operations and the British fleet became inactive accordingly. For these reasons it is urgently necessary to maintain and operate the small German surface fleet. Naturally, favorable circumstances should be fully exploited; bases in Spain, as at Ferrol and places farther south, are most useful.
The fact that the British are making great sacrifices in order to keep the battleships from leaving port shows how much they fear the appearance of battleships on the ocean. (In the attack on the SCHARNHORST in La Pallice on 24 July 1941, twelve four-engined bombers out of fifteen were shot down.)
The Führer agrees with this view.
c. The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out that the Luftwaffe considers reconnaissance an inferior task, since it does not show immediate results. The Führer states that he will see to it that decorations are given to reconnaissance fliers.
d. The Commander in Chief, Navy, brought up the question of the use of smoke screens in Brest. The Führer will settle the question according to the wishes of the Navy, since the Navy is entirely right.
2. Naval situation in the Eastern Campaign. (See Annex 4.)
3. Situation in the Mediterranean.
Transport of supplies is the main problem. The Commander in Chief, Navy, in a letter to Admiral Riccardi, strongly urged active warfare and increased protection for transports. Preparations are being made to transfer a S-boat and motor minesweeper flotilla at the end of the Eastern Campaign.
In answer to a question by the Führer, the Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that it is not possible to send submarines into the Mediterranean, as this would handicap operations in the Atlantic. Moreover, British submarines and aircraft are the forces used in the Mediterranean to attack transports, and these cannot be combated with submarines. Italian anti-submarine defense must be properly organized for this purpose.
4. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports on the necessity of speeding up the construction of submarines as much as possible. He defines the nature of the submarine program, and points out above all the destruction and loss of materiel suffered by the Navy while escorting merchant ships. This task is being performed daily, under heavy losses, for the sake of the war economy and to maintain the flow of supplies. Showing graphs, he explains how necessary it is that the monthly output of submarines not be allowed to fall below 25: If we have 300 operational submarines - a figure which, however, will not be reached until 1 July 1943 at a monthly rate of increase of only 21 boats and 5 per cent losses - 15 boats would be lost a month on the basis of 5 per cent losses. The gain would thus be only 6 submarines. If there were 10 per cent losses per month, 30 boats would be lost, and there would be a deficit of 9 boats. Our losses of 42 boats at present amount to about 6 per cent on an average. From the end of 1941 on, however, the monthly output of submarines will amount to only about 14. The need for workers for the submarine program is therefore still very great; there is a shortage at present of about 25,000 men. It is impossible to make up for lost time now. The Commander in Chief, Navy, therefore requests that Dr. Todt be instructed that after the Eastern Campaign is over, the Navy should also receive the necessary number of workers.
The Führer promises this and demands moreover, in reply to an inquiry by the Commander in Chief, Navy, that construction of the SEYDLITZ and the GRAF ZEPPELIN is to be continued after the end of the Eastern Campaign.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that it is not justifiable to use the British submarine SEAL even in the transport service, on account of its great technical defects. The boat is to be used for salvage.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports the necessity of asking for officers, noncommissioned officers, and men from the Army after the Eastern Campaign, in order to provide crews for submarines for a long time ahead.
The Führer agrees.
5. The Commander in Chief, Navy, asks whether operation "Seelöwe" is now only going to serve as a camouflage, or whether it is actually to be carried out.
The Führer explains that this question cannot be answered definitely. It is certain, however, that the operation cannot be carried out before spring 1942. The Führer believes that Britain will not continue to fight if she sees that there is no longer a chance of winning. Britain is already beginning to have misgivings, in view of the U.S. occupation of Iceland.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, declares that means of transport cannot be provided at the expense of naval raw materials and construction facilities. The High Command, Navy, will make appropriate representations to the OKW.
6. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that the person chiefly responsible for the loss of three minelayers was unaccountably acquitted at the court-martial.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, did not endorse the decision, but ordered another trial.
[Note by editor: The minelayers in question were the HANSESTADT DANZIG, PREUßEN and TANNENBERG which were mined in the Baltic near Öland on 9 July.]
Annex 1Situation in the Battle of the Atlantic.
The present situation with regard to the campaign in the east, the unfavorable developments in the Mediterranean situation, the decrease in successes in the Battle of the Atlantic, the conduct of the U.S.A., Franco-German relations, and the attitude of Japan necessitates a review of the state of the Battle of the Atlantic.
The result of the examination shows the following:
1. The Battle of the Atlantic is proceeding unfavorably at the present time. The enemy is countering all German measures for warfare against merchant shipping with the strongest possible defenses. With the help of the U.S.A. he has built up in the North Atlantic, his main supply area, a defense network and a convoy system which give the greatest possible protection against German attacks by surface forces, submarines, and aircraft. He has thus greatly reduced the number of ships sunk by our forces. The whole situation in the Atlantic has become more unfavorable for all our forces because of the occupation of Iceland and the increasing effect of U.S. support.
2. The enemy convoy and supply traffic is now as before the weakest and most vulnerable point of British war strategy. The aim of German war strategy against Britain must therefore be a war of destruction against British supplies in the North Atlantic. The strength of the enemy defenses makes it necessary to concentrate all available forces on this one target.
3. The situation in regard to submarine warfare is unsatisfactory. Successes have decreased greatly. This is the effect of strong British escorts and U.S. patrols. It is of decisive importance to increase successes, and it is possible to do this.
4. Air attacks against supplies are very promising, but here too successes have greatly decreased. It is necessary to increase substantially the number of operations.
This examination by the Seekriegsleitung leads to the following conclusions and proposals:
a. In the political sphere:
The Seekriegsleitung considers that military cooperation with France is necessary in order to gain control of the most important strategic bases for the decisive operations of the Battle of the Atlantic and in order to cut off the Anglo-American sea connections to a degree decisive for the outcome of the war. The Seekriegsleitung considers it necessary to clear up Franco-German relations on the basis of political and military cooperation, and therefore advocates such cooperation, even if it involves some political concessions and temporary political disadvantages.
(2) Our relations with Spain and Portugal must be of such a nature that any attempt by Anglo-American forces to occupy these countries, as well as the island groups of the Azores, Cape Verdes, and Canaries, will meet with the severest opposition by the forces stationed there. A strengthening of the defenses of these bases, as well as of the defenses of French West Africa, is of great importance to Germany and calls for the use of all available means and the utmost speed.
(3) The situation in the Mediterranean and the alarming situation as regards supplies and reinforcements carried by the North African transports make it urgently necessary that the Italians employ far stronger forces in their operations than they have done up to now. It seems necessary to point out most emphatically to the Italian Government the seriousness of the situation by giving an objective presentation of the facts, and to exercise strong pressure on the Italian Armed Forces.
(4) The extent of American support to Britain makes it necessary to sanction warfare against American merchant ships according to prize regulations, as soon as the conclusion of the Eastern Campaign permits this political decision.
(5) Japan should be persuaded to adopt a political attitude or to take military action which will ease the situation in the Battle of the Atlantic.
(7) Long-range reconnaissance units with the greatest possible range should be formed for the support of submarine warfare.
(8) The strongest possible air forces should be concentrated against British supplies along the coast of Britain and in the Atlantic. Special strong air squadrons should be formed for the Atlantic to intensify air warfare against supplies.
(9) as soon as possible we should start large-scale aerial mine-laying operations, which, with the new types of mines, promise to be most effective.
(10) Systematic attacks against the British harbors and British naval vessels should be continued, aiming primarily at the destruction of aircraft carriers and destroyers.
(11) Preparations should be made at once so that the defenses of Casablanca and Dakar may be strengthened by means of German air and land forces if necessary.
(12) France, with all her bases and naval forces, should be drawn into the naval battle against Britain.
Annex 2Opinions expressed by the Commander in Chief, U-boats, on the results and prospects of the submarine war.
1. The main problem of submarine warfare lies, now as before, in locating the enemy proceeding in convoys over a wide area.
2. The attempt to find a convergence of the traffic routes further to the west has not brought any results; fog and bad weather have been essentially responsible for this failure. The new patrol line of 21 July (see map, Annex 3) will therefore attempt to intercept traffic nearer to the British coast. This new patrol line is possible because of the increasingly longer nights, in which boats can evade pursuit if necessary. At the same time a renewed attempt at direct cooperation with air reconnaissance is made possible.
3. In spite of this, the problem of reconnaissance can be solved in the main only by a larger umber of submarines. Any withdrawal of boats for special duties therefore diminishes the chances for success in the war against merchant shipping more than the actual number of boats withdrawn would indicate.
4. Fron the results achieved in submarine warfare it has become increasingly noticeable that predominantly new submarines with inexperienced crews are out on operations. Nevertheless the successes in June and in the first ten days of July were satisfactory.
5. A new situation has arisen in the southern area owing to collapse of supply facilities. This situation has obviously become still more difficult because the enemy traffic has moved into the area closed to submarines.
6. In spite of the points mentioned, the present low results in submarine warfare must be considered as a temporary phase.
Annex 41. Situation in the Arctic Ocean:
The importance of capturing Murmansk has been emphasized repeatedly by the Navy. The longer the capture of this harbor is deferred, the more incentive is offered to Britain to gain a foothold there; she has been interested in this Russian port of access to the Atlantic for a long time. The landing of British troops in this area might lead to such a stiffening of resistance that air and army reinforcements would have to be diverted from other fronts to this center. The enemy would thus be successful in diverting German forces.
The left wing of the Army group under Dietl is brought to a standstill indirectly by the flanking position of the Ribachi Peninsula, and directly by the troops in the strip of land 10 kilometers long between Titovka Bay and Litsa Bay. Only the innermost tip of the latter is in German hands. Two battalions of troops from the Ribachi Peninsula and Kola Bay were landed in the area adjoining Motovski Bay. The entrances to Kola and Motovski Bays, and thereby also to Titovka and Litsa Bays, are mined, according to statements made by Russian Army officers taken prisoner.
Consequently it is possible for the destroyer flotilla to enter Motovski Bay only if a motor minesweeper flotilla is provided and moreover if there is adequate fighter protection in view of the air situation. The freedom of movement of the forces will be unbearably restricted even then, however, in view of the batteries on the Ribachi Peninsula, quite aside from the fact that neither the motor minesweepers nor the fighter planes are available with the present disposition of sea forces and the assignments given to the 5th Air Force.
Even the combined firing power of the destroyers while breaking through the mine field at Motovski Bay will not have any lasting effect on the enemy positions on the high plateau dominating Litsa Bay, as these positions are inaccessible from the sea. The operations by the destroyers and also by the submarines will have to be restricted, therefore, to operations in the sea area between Kola Bay and Motovski Bay, in order to prevent or at least impede traffic on the supply route from Archangel to Murmansk, Murmansk to Litsa Bay, and Archangel to Kandalaksha. The first destroyer operation into this area took place on the night of 21 July. The Air Force is mining the harbor of Murmansk again.
Two submarines are in the operational area off the Ribachi Peninsula, and two more are to leave Trondheim on or after 24 July to be at the disposal of the Commanding Admiral, Norway.
The Führer agrees.
2. Situation in the gulf of Finland:
The Army's thrust along the eastern edge of Lake Peipus towards Narva to the north and Leningrad to the northeast, during which the left wing weakened and fell back, afforded the enemy, operating from Estonian harbors, sufficient time to sweep enough mines to be able to operate in the area between Reval (Tallinn) and the Baltic islands with disturbing effect, and to attack our supply lines by sea and our right wing. If the extreme left flank had kept up a continuous advance the enemy would have been driven from Oesel and Dagoe and would have been forced systematically bay by bay from Port Baltiski via Reval (Tallinn) to Kronstadt. If such an advance had been made the defensive strength of the islands and Hangoe would have been greatly reduced.
At the present time the enemy feels the pressure against the Bay of Kronstadt more strongly than against the western sector of the Gulf of Finland; instead of our tying up the bag, so to speak, he is being squeezed out of it from beneath. This may result in an undesirable transfer of enemy forces to the west, and, if he loses his last base, he may make a desperate attempt to break through to Swedish territorial waters. While a break-through out of the Bay of Kronstadt must seem pretty hopeless even to the enemy if the coast of Estonia is in our hands, if we hold only the Baltic islands and Hangoe, such a break-through can be made more difficult by the use of more submarines and S-boats, but it cannot be prevented entirely.
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