Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on 26 September 1940, at 1700.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, begs leave to state to the Führer his views on the progress of the war, including also matters outside of his province. The British have always considered the Mediterranean the pivot of their world empire. Even now 8 of the 13 battleships are there; strong positions are held in the Eastern Mediterranean; troop transports from Australia were sent to Egypt and East Africa. While the air and submarine war is being fought out between Germany and Britain, Italy, surrounded by British power, is fast becoming the main target of attack. Britain always attempts to strangle the weaker. The Italians have not yet realized the danger when they refuse our help. Germany, however, must wage war against Great Britain with all the means at her disposal and without delay, before the United States are able to intervene effectively. For this reason the Mediterranean question must be cleared up during the winter months.
a. Gibraltar must be taken.
The Canary Islands must be secured beforehand by the Luftwaffe.
b. The question of Northwest Africa is also of decisive importance. All indications are that Britain with the help of De Gaulle France, and possibly also of the U.S.A., wants to make this region a center of resistance and to set up air bases for attack against Italy. Britain will try to prevent us from gaining a foothold in the African colonies. In this way Italy would be defeated. Therefore action must be taken against Dakar. The U.S.A. already has a consul there, the Italians two representatives, and we are not represented at all. The economic situation will quickly deteriorate, but the attitude toward the British is still hostile. In spite of demobilization there are still about 25,000 troops left in this area; in the neighboring British territory on the other hand there are only about 6 to 8 battalions. The possibility of action on the part of France against the British is therefore very promising. It is very desirable that support be given to the French, possibly by permitting use of the [battleship] STRASBOURG.
It would be expedient to station air forces in Casablanca in the near future. In general, it appears important to cooperate with France in order to protect Northwest Africa - after certain concessions have been made to Germany and Italy. The occupation of France makes it possible to compel her to maintain and defend the frontiers advantageous to us.
The position of Germany, Italy, and Spain in North Africa is discussed. (See Annex 1.)
An advance through Syria would also depend on the attitude taken by France; it would be quite possible, however. Italy will be against the cession of the Dardanelles to Russia. Russia should be encouraged to advance toward the south, or against Persia and India, in order to gain an outlet to the Indian Ocean which would be more important to Russia than the positions in the Baltic Sea. The Führer is also of the opinion that Russia is afraid of Germany's strength; he believes, for instance, that Russia will not attack Finland this year.
The Führer is obviously hesitant about releasing additional French forces at Toulon; he feels himself bound by previous decisions. He wishes to discuss this matter with the Duce before deciding.
Operation "Seelöwe". The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that the Navy will be unable to maintain readiness for operation "Seelöwe" after the middle of October. The entire Navy has been reorganized on its account; the manning of battleships and the execution of the submarine training program have been affected, and this cannot be continued after the middle of October. The Commander in Chief, Navy, requests a decision by 15 October.
ADMIRAL HIPPER. An attempt on the part of ADMIRAL HIPPER to reach Brest will be made in the near future.
Aerial-mine warfare. At present numerous aerial mines are being dropped on London by the 6th Air Division. They have a decided effect, to be sure; however, the time has come for large-scale mine operations since the new type of fuse is now available in sufficient quantities (approximately 780; a weekly increase of 200). If such operations are delayed, there is a danger that this new weapon will become as ineffective as the magnetic mine did sometime ago when the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, stopped its use off the Thames, etc. The Führer is in complete agreement and will give the necessary order.
Russian Navy. According to a report from our Naval Attaché, the Russians are building three battleships in Leningrad, one of which is about 45,000 tons. Several submarines of about 2,800 tons are available.
(For further discussion see Annex 2, Tr.N.)
Annex 1Memorandum for a Report to the Führer on 26 September 1940.
The OKW has announced that the Africa Commission will be headed by Italians, since Africa, with the exception of the Atlantic Coast, lies within the Italian sphere of interest.
Opinion of the Seekriegsleitung: It is true that the Mediterranean lies within the Italian political sphere of interest, but Germany has considerable interests in the whole of Central Africa. Apart from this, Spanish claims must also be taken into account. The following considerations favor German control and German administration:
1. France considers herself beaten by Germany alone. Germany, as the actual conqueror, who is occupying parts of France, can therefore prevail over France more quickly and efficiently. This is of no disadvantage to Italy, since Italian interests would not be injured in any way by German plans.
2. Being the conqueror of France, Germany enjoys great respect with the natives in Africa. Italy is feared by the natives on account of her methods of colonization; Spain is considered an equal, but not as a protective power. It would be incomprehensible to the people there if Germany were to renounce voluntarily her well-founded claims for control in favor of Italy, which is less respected. There might be repercussions with regard to future colonies, and bad effects in the Arab and Islam world.
3. Germany is the impartial guardian of Spanish and Italian interests, which clash in Morocco and West Algeria.
4. In view of the great military and economic importance of the area in question for the progress of the war, control must not be relinquished.
Annex 2For the Seekriegsleitung.
Further Questions: The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out that the probable course of the war, i.e., the entrance of the U.S.A., makes it necessary for Germany to build up her fleet to the highest possible degree now, in order to be prepared for the future. Unfortunately this is impossible today; as Germany's capacity for ship construction is barely sufficient to carry out the submarine program, to complete the large ships under construction, and to build a few light naval vessels. The Führer agrees entirely. The Commander in Chief, Navy, remarks that the lack of an adequate fleet will constitute a continual drawback in the case of further extension of warfare, e.g., with regard to the occupation of the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, the Azores, Dakar, Iceland, etc. The Führer agrees that islands taken by the Luftwaffe in surprise attacks can be held only by troops and materiel transported with the assistance of the Navy.
The Führer volunteers the information that the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, declared some time ago that he could substitute the airplane for the submarine, which would have jeopardized the submarine program. However, the Führer himself had clearly recognized that the Luftwaffe is partially dependent on the weather, and that its transport facilities are limited. Enemy shipping is best reduced by submarines; harbors can be destroyed by the Luftwaffe. All branches of the Wehrmacht must cooperate. It is the combined effect which is decisive.
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