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Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine

Minutes taken when the Commander in Chief, Navy, visited the Führer on 26 to 28 July 1943.

Present: Konteradmiral Machens (until 27 July)
Konteradmiral Wagner
Korvettenkapitän Freywald
Kapitänleutnant Hansen-Nootbar (until 27 July)

1. Discussion of the War Situation at the Headquarters of the Führer, 27 July 1943, at 1230.

A. It will very likely become necessary to occupy Rome and to take a hand in the forming of the new Italian government in order to bring forward those men who are willing to lend us their unqualified support. Plans have been made for Army Group B, under the command of Field Marshal Rommel, to enter Italy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, states it will be necessary to seize the large ships of the Italian Fleet at the same time or, at least, to prevent their passing into the hands of the enemy. He recommends that a naval detachment located at the submarine base Spezia be placed under the command of a man of action, possibly Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken. The support of both the Army and the Luftwaffe would be required. Submarines should guard the harbor entrance. The possibility of evacuating Sicily and Sardinia at a later date is discussed.

B. The Chief of the OKW, Operations Staff, recommends that Kapitän zur See Junge be sent to Rome in order to inform Field Marshal Kesselring. The Führer agrees. The Commander in Chief, Navy, gives the following oral instructions to Kapitän zur See Junge to pass on to Vizeadmiral Ruge:

    1. In case Rome is occupied, the German Navy will immediately secure the Italian fleet units in La Spezia, Taranto, and Genoa as well as the Italian merchantmen in all ports. While keeping our plans secret, preparations for the above should include a selection of trusted men in the Italian Navy. Grossi and Sestini can be helpful. The availability of our own forces must be studied to determine what reinforcements must be supplied by the Commander General, South.

    2. The Commanding Officer of Submarines, Italy, shall station submarines off La Spezia making sure, however, that the Italians do not become aware of this.
    Order: They will destroy the large ships of the Italian Navy if the latter should leave without our approval.

    3. The German Naval Command will supply the German troops which are stationed on the islands and will evacuate our troops from Sicily and Sardinia if this should become necessary.

    4. If there should be a breakdown of communications in Italy, it will be of utmost importance to protect our bases, i.e. loading beaches. If necessary these will have to obtain their supplies and fuel by sea.

Kapitän zur See Junge left for Rome in the afternoon of 26 July.

C. Since the 11th Italian Army has already been placed under the command of the German Commanding General, Southeast, the question was discussed whether the West Coast of the Balkans should not be occupied exclusively by German troops.

2. Directives given to the Seekriegsleitung in this connection are discussed in War Diary, Part A, under 26 June, on page 511.

3. In connection with the discussions of the general war situation which were held on the evening of 26 July and at noon and in the evening of 27 July, the Führer took up the Italian question with a select few. The Commander in Chief, Navy, took down the following notes:

A. The Situation in Italy: The Commander in Chief, Navy, expressed his views as follows: Italy must under no circumstances be abandoned. No doubt there are a good many people in Italy who feel honor-bound to continue the war on our side. These people must be aligned with us. It is my conviction that this group, which certainly includes a large number of younger Italian Navy officers, now feels less bound to the Fascist Regime but is loyal rather to the House of Savoy to which it is also bound by oath. Our measures must therefore be so designed as not to give the impression that they are directed against the Royal House. These elements do not accept most of the present and former military leaders because they did not pursue the war aggressively enough.

A removal of the present leaders by us might, nevertheless, have an undesirable effect on them if it is not skillfully engineered. I doubt that Fascism still means anything either to those who favor continuing the war on our side or to the Italian people themselves. It is not to be expected that we can superimpose conditions on the Italian people.

On the other hand, it is quite clear that the present Italian government will not keep on fighting in spite of its pretense. We must forestall by all means any surprise action by the Anglo-Saxons. All will depend on the correct timing of any contemplated action against the present Italian government. I believe there is still time and that it can be used by us for further strengthening our position in the Italian area by bringing in several more divisions. As the situation develops we may find a better propagandistic approach against the present government which, after all, still pretends to be fighting the war on our side, and is trying to maintain order and be considered the King's government.

Rommel and Richthofen agree with the Commander in Chief, Navy, but Jodl is very outspoken in his doubt that Fascism will be revived. He recommends refraining from any action against the government but merely reinforcing our troops in Italy. Göring and Ribbentrop take the same stand as the Führer. Kesselring believes that the present government is trustworthy and he is therefore against any interference on our part. For views of Ruge see the attached report.

Views Expressed by the Führer: We must act at once. Otherwise the Anglo-Saxon will steal a march on us by occupying the airports. The Fascist Party is at the present only stunned and will rise up again behind our lines. The Fascist Party is the only one that is willed to fight on our side. We must therefore restore it. All reasons advocating further delays are wrong; thereby we run the danger of losing Italy to the Anglo-Saxons. These are matters which a soldier cannot comprehend. Only a man with political insight can see his way clear.
Decision of the Führer: The Operation "Student" [re-establishment of the Fascist Party in Italy] will be carried out as soon as possible.

B. The Führer and the Commander in Chief, OKW, make plans to evacuate Sicily. The Commander in Chief, Navy, is against it and repeatedly voices his objections. The reasons given by the Commander in Chief, Navy, are:

    1. We are holding our ground in Italy. The British are making little progress. Our Air Force must prevent them from bringing up supplies and reinforcements by destroying their ships. We are engaging considerable forces of the enemy in Sicily. If we withdraw, these forces and materiel will be released and become available for new landings. This ever-present danger is increased through the uncertainty of knowing where such landings will be made. The best means of preventing such new operations is by tying up the enemy forces in Sicily.

    2. An easy conquest of Sicily will also be of great psychological value to the enemy, and he will surely make the best of it.

    3. If we abandon Sicily we expose the route to the Balkans by way of Southern Italy. We must gain time to strengthen our position in the Balkans and in Italy with reinforcements. Even if we can hold Sicily for only a short period, the time won will be of great strategical value to us.

The Führer admits that much can be said for both sides of the question concerning the withdrawal from Sicily and therefore has not given his final decision.

On 27 July Vizeadmiral Ruge made the following statement in answer to the instructions delivered to him orally that same day by Kapitän zur See Junge:

    "The resignation of Mussolini without offering any resistance whatsoever has brought about the almost complete collapse of the Fascist Party. The situation is made worse by an acute food problem and chaotic traffic conditions. The new government is trying to assert itself and has taken positive steps which show its willingness to carry on the war. How long this attitude will prevail is hard to say.

    The Navy is backing the Royal House of Savoy. The younger officers reject most of the older leaders because the latter did not fight the war with enthusiasm. They are in favor of a more vigorous pursuit of the war but cannot be counted on to support Fascism, at least not for the present. Fascism has lost its hold on the people completely.

    The Operation "Student" might therefore find some support in scattered places but will certainly be opposed by the Armed Forces and the majority of the people. This would lead to a complete disruption of communications, which are difficult to maintain as it is. Without the cooperation of the Italians the evacuation of our troops from the islands is entirely out of the question.

    In brief, I believe that the proposed plans, if carried out now, will "alienate the great majority of those Italian forces which are still in existence. Thus Germany will be discredited before history, without having been able to effect a change in the situation".

The Commander in Chief, Navy, presented this report to the Führer in its entirety. The Führer did not agree with Vizeadmiral Ruge's point of view. On 28 July the Commander in Chief, Navy, wired the Führer's decision for action to the Commander of German Naval Forces in Italy, for information to Commander, Submarines, Italy.

4. During the general discussion of the war situation on 27 to 28 July the following matters which concern the Navy were brought up:

    A. The Führer wants the use of the aerial mine with the old primers discontinued until a new ignition is developed, at which time he considers an extensive use of the air mine essential.

    B. Minister Speer receives orders to prepare a new position on the "Gotenkopf". The Führer is fully aware of the fact that the abandonment of Novorossisk would greatly endanger our position on the Kerch Strait and in the Crimea.

    C. The Navy is ordered to scatter the storage of torpedoes which are being kept without concrete shelter near the harbor of Canea, on Crete, so that they will be separated into small lots.

signed: Dönitz

countersigned: Korvettenkapitän Mejer


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