Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on 27 December 1940, at 1600.
1. Review of the Situation: The fears of the Seekriegsleitung regarding unfavorable developments in the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean have proved justified. The enemy has assumed the initiative at all points, and is everywhere conducting successful offensive actions - in Greece, Albania, Libya, and East Africa; in addition, an imminent and effective attack on the Italian Dodecanese Islands may be expected, all the result of Italy's serious strategic blunder.
The Seekriegsleitung views developments in the Mediterranean area with grave misgivings. Apart from the considerable prestige gained by Britain, the military and strategic success must not be underestimated. The threat to Egypt, and thus to Britain's position in the entire Eastern Mediterranean, in the Near East, and in the North African area, has been eliminated with one stroke.
British gains are: Strong consolidation of the Eastern Mediterranean position; control of the Mediterranean; the possibility of withdrawing heavy air, army, and naval forces from Egypt to be sent to Greece. The withdrawal of air units and army formations and their transfer to the Greek zone has already been observed. The construction of air bases in Greece is in progress. The fact that naval forces, battleships, and cruisers have been transferred from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic is of great significance for naval warfare.
How does the Führer judge the internal political situation of Italy, Mussolini's position, and the stamina and morale of the Italian people? Should Germany give support to Italy in order to strengthen Mussolini's position?
The Führer answers that there is a complete lack of leadership in Italy. The royal house is pro-British; it will have to be eliminated if it works against Mussolini. The Führer is considering where German action would be most effective. Perhaps in Tripoli, preferably with a thrust from Spanish Morocco, since North Africa could be most easily controlled from there. For this purpose Gibraltar must be taken.
Results of the latest development in the Mediterranean situation:
b. It is no longer possible to drive the British Fleet from the Mediterranean as was continually demanded by the Seekriegsleitung, who considered this step vital for the outcome of the war.
c. There is increased danger to German and thus European interests in general in the African area.
The Gibraltar question: The significance of German occupation of Gibraltar is increased by the recent developments in the Mediterranean situation. Such occupation would protect Italy; safeguard the western Mediterranean; secure the supply lines from the North African area, important for Spain, France, and Germany; eliminate an important link in the British Atlantic convoy system; close the British sea route through the Mediterranean to Malta and Alexandria; restrict the freedom of the British Mediterranean Fleet; complicate British offensive action in Cyrenaica and Greece; relieve the Italians; and make possible German penetration into the African area via Spanish Morocco.
Spanish ports, i.e., Ferrol and Cadiz, are necessary for submarines and battleships, to facilitate attack on convoys.
Conclusion: Occupation of Gibraltar is of great importance for the continuation of German warfare. The strategic reasons for speedy execution of operation "Felix" still hold good.
The Führer answers that he is in full agreement regarding the significance of the occupation of Gibraltar. At the moment, however, Franco is not ready; his decision is delayed by British promises of food supplies. One day these will prove to be a fraud and Spain will find herself without supplies. The Führer will try once more to influence Franco through the Foreign Minister via the Spanish Ambassador.
Singapore: The present weakness of the British position in East Asia - Singapore indicates the possibility of a Japanese attack on this main base of Britain in East Asia. Japan's interest is very great. She has good prospects of success. The capture of Singapore would mean very serious loss of British prestige in the entire Indian, East Asiatic, and Australian area, as well as in the U.S.A. It is unlikely that the United States would advance against Japan on this occasion. Even if Japan merely threatens Singapore and there is thus constant danger of attack, this would relieve the situation for naval warfare and for our strategic position in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and would tie up British forces.
Therefore we make this proposal: Japan's interest in Singapore should be increased, the question of Japanese capture of the city should be examined; possibly measures for attack should be discussed with the Japanese. (Reference is made to the coming arrival of the Japanese Naval Commission as provided by the Tripartite Pact.)
The Führer believes that Japan will do nothing decisive at the present time, and that Britain will hardly detach heavy battleships for service in the Far East.
2. Britain and the United States: The entire war economy in Britain has been damaged to a considerable extent by the concentrated air raids and the war against merchant shipping. The armament industry, particularly the air armament industry, is a special weak spot. The question of shipping space is serious but not yet critical. At present losses in shipping space cannot be replaced by British shipyards; however, this might be done by developing the constructional capacity of the U.S.A. Supply shipments from the U.S.A. are developing favorably for Britain. Iron and steel deliveries have increased tremendously, likewise the number of engines; 350 to 400 operational aircraft are being delivered per month. The U.S.A. is determined to give still more assistance. The Seekriegsleitung anticipates delivery of merchant ships on a large scale; expansion of shipyards; increase in ship construction; transfer of additional destroyers and auxiliary vessels; assumption of British patrol duties as in American coastal waters to relieve British forces as much as possible; later possibly, assumption of escort duties in American coastal waters. Very strong support will be forthcoming only by the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942.
Britain fully realizes her dangerous position as the result of German submarine warfare, even though the number of our submarines is small at present. She is determined to do everything in her power to build an effective defense, since it is of decisive importance for Britain to solve the supply problem.
3. Concentration against Britain: It is absolutely necessary to recognize that the greatest task of the hour is concentration of all our power against Britain. In other words, the means necessary for the defeat of Britain must be produced with the utmost energy and speed. All demands not absolutely essential for warfare against Britain must deliberately be set aside.
There are serious doubts as to the advisability of operation "Barbarossa" before the overthrow of Britain. The fight against Britain is carried on primarily by the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine. There is therefore the greatest need to produce the weapons used by these two services and to concentrate these weapons on the British supply lines, which are taking on increased significance, in view of the fact that the entire armament industry, particularly aircraft and ship construction, is being shifted to America. Britain's ability to maintain her supply lines is definitely the decisive factor for the outcome of the war.
The significance of greatly intensified submarine warfare is emphasized anew. The Seekriegsleitung is firmly convinced that German submarines, as in the [First] World War, are the decisive weapons against Britain. They possess even greater potentialities now, however, owing to the support they receive from the Luftwaffe. The great significance of submarine construction is not yet recognized in the general plan of armament production. Efforts to raise submarine construction capacity are ineffective because the necessary skilled workers are not available. The number of submarines newly constructed or nearing completion is totally inadequate. With the present number of workers the maximum monthly output amounts to 18 boats at the most, perhaps only to 12. If such a situation continues, all hope for the decisive effect of this most important weapon against Britain will have to be relinquished. The monthly output of submarines must be increased from 20 to 30 boats as was the case in the [First] World War. Provision of the necessary workers and facilities is one of the most urgent demands submitted by the Seekriegsleitung to the Wehrmacht and the Government.
The OKW has issued two new decrees concerning priority grades and industries to be protected, which are designed to improve the situation. The Naval High Command [OKM] will investigate how adequate they are. Subsequently the Commander in Chief, Navy, will report on additional requirements necessary to fulfill the submarine program. The Führer wishes for the greatest possible progress in submarine construction; 12 to 18 submarines are too few. Generally speaking however, considering present political developments, i.e., Russia's inclination to interfere in Balkan affairs, it is necessary to eliminate at all cost the last enemy remaining on the continent before he can collaborate with Britain. For this purpose the Army must be made sufficiently strong. After that everything can be concentrated on the needs of the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine. The Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that the situation was the same in July 1940, but that after the Army had reduced its demands for a short time, it took them up again with even greater insistence. The Führer attributes this to the new political situation. The Commander in Chief, Navy, declares that the fundamental error lies in the fact that workers are assigned who are actually not available, and for this reason all decrees concerning priority grades, etc., can bring no real improvement. The OKW realizes that shipyards have special difficulties because of housing conditions, difficult work, etc. The Führer suggests that perhaps additional pay would make such jobs more attractive. The Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that an investigation is in progress, since shipyard workers are generally worse off than other workers in similar trades. Proposals will be submitted.
4. Operation "Seelöwe" (See Annex 1): Of great importance for the course of the war as a whole, and especially for submarine warfare, is the fact that the maintenance of constant readiness for operation "Seelöwe" - establishing better facilities, barge construction, etc. - absorbs a considerable amount of labor and material, and greatly decreases the intensity of the current warfare against Britain. It necessarily has an extremely unfavorable effect on submarine training and allocation of needed personnel. The barge construction project can't help but delay submarine construction.
The Führer permits the Commander in Chief, Navy, to take measures relieving the situation somewhat further without being apparent, since he believes that operation "Seelöwe" will in all probability not take place until midsummer. The Commander in Chief, Navy, will inform the OKW of such measures.
5. Urgent Demands on the Luftwaffe: See Annex 2.
6. The HIPPER: It is planned to send the battleship HIPPER on a mission. The Führer wishes to know the purpose. The Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that its one and only object is warfare against enemy supply lines, the chief target being the convoys, not the escort forces which are always to be avoided unless very inferior in strength. The Führer agrees.
The Führer inquires whether Brest is sufficiently protected by anti-aircraft guns. The Commander in Chief, Navy, answers that adequate anti-aircraft guns and also a sufficient number of submarine and torpedo nets are available. Mine defenses are likewise adequate.
7. Norway Defenses: The wish for stronger protection for merchant shipping in Norwegian waters has been expressed by the Reich Commissioner for Norway and the Commanding General, Norway. The utmost is being done in making naval forces available. Nevertheless, it is not possible to protect shipping along the entire coast. It is most important that fighter planes attack enemy aircraft, which are the greatest danger to merchant ships.
8. New influence mines, with a combined magnetic and acoustic firing device, are ready. Mass delivery is expected in February.
9. The Führer asks whether the Navy could set up and man a number of 8.8 cm. anti-aircraft guns in the eastern area, including Danzig. The Luftwaffe has 160 8.8 cm. guns for which there is no personnel. The Commander in Chief, Navy, will look into the matter at once.
Annex 1Conference Memorandum for the Commander in Chief, Navy.
State of preparations for operation "Seelöwe" and the effect of re-establishing a state of complete readiness.
1. The following presents in condensed form a survey of the present state of operation "Seelöwe" and an account of the effect which the re-establishment of complete readiness for carrying out the operation would have in other fields.
2. In assigning further tasks to the Navy preparatory to operation "Seelöwe", it must be kept in mind that prior to the postponement of the operation, the Navy had to tie up all its resources in materiel and personnel at its disposal for this one operation in order to be able to make even the minimum preparations necessary. This is the fundamental difference between the Navy on the one side and the Army and the Luftwaffe on the other, both of which need to detail only a section of their forces for operation "Seelöwe". This difference, particularly between the Army and the Navy, is decisive also for operations during the winter months. In order to be able to cope with its routine operational duties at all, the Navy was forced to give up to a considerable degree the state of readiness which had been attained at the cost of relentless curtailment of all other naval obligations. On the other hand, the Army groups detailed for this operation have nothing to do but prepare for it, so that a certain discrepancy is bound to exist with regard to training.
Simplification in the organization has solved difficulties regarding essential training, in spite of the forced economy in personnel and the necessary recall of a part of the transport fleet to home waters for military and economic reasons. The Army must realize the fundamental difference between the Navy's position and its own during the transitional months until the complete re-establishment of the state of readiness, and must accept certain weaknesses resulting from this difference with the necessary understanding.
3. Regarding organization, in addition to the overall responsibility of Group West, the Commanding Admiral, Defenses, West, was commissioned to attend to the preparations for the actual transport task and to handle the winter training exercises. He was relieved of all other duties. Organization has been simplified in the main operational ports by abolishing naval offices and combining them under the harbor commander; these measures should also facilitate cooperation between the Army and the Navy.
It has yet to be decided whether the officers later to be in charge of the transport fleet can be appointed now. At the moment one of them is looking after the concerns of the rest. The officer, or officers, in charge of the transport fleet have full authority, over and above the harbor commander, in matters concerning operation "Seelöwe".
The training unit suggested by the Seekriegsleitung and a barge training station are to be instituted immediately. Along with this, local combined Army and Navy training exercises are continually being held on the remaining transport vessels.
4. The personnel, which was hastily assembled at the time, is to be given military and nautical training, partly on the transport vessels and in the operational ports, and partly with the naval manning unit at Beverloo. Certain difficulties arose in connection with the personnel in deferred categories, in that it was impossible likewise to retain half their number for training as originally planned, but, owing to the increased shortage of labor in the shipyards, they all had to be returned to this work.
The personnel which was released must be called up again, or returned from work furlough, about 8 weeks before the new time limit for completion of preparations. This applies also to the deferred categories, unless personnel subject to military service is called up and given a 4 weeks' training course at Beverloo. Naval volunteers are no longer available. 1,500 men can be trained at Beverloo at a time, so that every 4 weeks 1,500 men in deferred categories could be replaced by personnel subject to military service.
As the complements assigned to the BISMARCK, LEIPZIG, LÜTZOW, and destroyers in the autumn of 1940 are no longer available, this personnel, too, must be called up from inland shipping 8 weeks before the time limit for the completion of preparations. This would have a corresponding effect on this branch of transportation.
Personnel engaged in special duties, especially communications personnel, will presumably have to be made available for duties in other areas where they are particularly needed. The question of providing the necessary engine mechanics for getting the naval barge program under way demands further investigation; possibly the Commander In Chief, Luftwaffe, must provide maintenance personnel for the aircraft engines used.
Possibly offices at home will have to be closed down in order to provide the necessary personnel.
5. Regarding the number of officers required, probably about 45 staff officers, 90 lieutenants and ensigns, and 30 midshipmen will be needed, apart from the officers already detailed. These officers were procured in the autumn of 1940 by closing schools and by ruthlessly taking personnel from vessels lying in shipyards. A similar procedure may have to be followed to obtain the necessary number of officers for operation "Seelöwe" in the event that complete operational readiness is to be resumed. As yet it is impossible to say which sources can be drawn on; it appears that even submarine training will have to give up personnel, however, owing to the large number of junior officers and midshipmen needed.
Lack of officers and noncommissioned officers in general, and of those needed for operation "Seelöwe" in particular, will force us to withdraw completely from active service the small cruisers, two of which will have to be decommissioned, and the other two used only for training purposes.
6. There will be no difficulties regarding operational ports, except as a result of enemy action.
In accordance with the wishes of the Army and with our own attempts to spread out the transport forces, small ports of call will be used, if possible, as operational ports; this was not possible in the autumn of 1940 partly because the area was not entirely cleared.
Loading facilities are being improved and expanded by the inclusion of inland waterways.
In order to facilitate and speed up the degaussing of the barges which will be brought up again from Germany during a new period of preparation, degaussing equipment will be installed on the main stretches of the inland waterways near the operational ports. This will eliminate all delay.
7. All of the mines intended for the mine barrages are ready in the operational area. New supplies will be necessary only in the normal course of the operations or as a result of enemy action. Storage facilities are being improved continuously by the Todt Organization and by construction battalions.
Mining operations are being carried out as before with regard to operation "Seelöwe", i.e., only time mines are being laid at points which must be crossed during "Seelöwe" operations.
As regards minelayers, it appears that the Baltic ferries did not possess the necessary stability for the purpose, and could not stand up under the heavy sea in the Channel. Further use of these vessels is therefore out of the question.
8. It is planned to supply all independent transport units down to tugs with suitable radio gear, if possible micro-wave radio telephone equipment. This appears to be indispensable for the tactical control of the transport fleet. The Seekriegsleitung considers that the manufacture of such equipment must be advanced from Ia to special priority, as otherwise it cannot be finished in time. A decision to this effect should be made.
The coastal radio stations are being improved and adapted to the requirements of operation "Seelöwe". The telegraph network on the coast is being improved by increasing the cables as requested. Radar gear is being set up on the coast as far as this is possible along with the equipping of naval units. Three additional radar installations will probably be set up by Spring 1941.
9. As far as guns are concerned, most of the heavy naval batteries will be under protective cover by Spring 1941. The ammunition supply is insured. Even at this time already care must be taken not to wear the barrels out too much.
A number of new illuminants have been developed and others are being worked on. A large number of such illuminants can be counted on by Spring 1941.
Examination and selection of the guns suitable for this purpose has revealed that it will be possible to provide about 25 heavy and 30 light gun carriers, as opposed to the 5 heavy and 27 light ones provided in the Autumn of 1940. In view of the necessary installation and training period, these vessels should be called in about 8 weeks before the time limit set for complete preparedness.
10. The smoke-laying equipment of the transport fleet is much more adequate than before. All transport steamers, gun carriers, and motor vessels are being given such equipment. In addition, 20 permanent smoke-laying apparatus are to be distributed among the convoy units, besides the ship equipment. The Army's wish for improved smoke-laying equipment has thereby been complied with. It must repeatedly be stressed, however, that both at sea and while landing smoke may be used only by order or permission of the naval commander on the spot. The Army General Staff has agreed to this point of view, it is true, but nevertheless at some Army frontline stations other ideas appear to prevail.
11. The question of available transport vessels:
a. The existing barge fleet has suffered considerable losses. Among these the return of 100 barges for commercial transport in France and the surrender of 400 barges to the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, for transporting material for air defense construction in Germany are particularly to be noted. The return of the latter 400 barges is not anticipated; it will be possible to do without them if the Navy's plan for the construction of 400 barges is put into operation. In connection with this program the following details are to be reported:
The construction of 400 barges takes 4 months. It must be given priority over the special priority items, however, and it must be given preference over the special priority production of all branches of the Wehrmacht. A special quota of iron amounting to 65,000 tons, drawn from quotas of all branches of the Wehrmacht, must be made available. 400 engines used by the Luftwaffe for barge type A(F) and 200 BMW engines from the Siebel project must be given the Navy by the Luftwaffe; likewise 96 engines for special command Siebel ferries and Herbert ferries. In addition, the Luftwaffe must release 140 engines from He 60 and He 42 aircraft. (The Luftwaffe has already proposed this allocation.)
400 auxiliary engines from the Deutz factory must be released from Army production.
In connection with this barge project it is necessary to stress the fact that submarine construction will necessarily be affected. Also, the barges will not be ready for action at the end of the 4 months construction period; at least an additional 6 weeks will be needed for equipping and testing them, and bringing them to the operational ports. These barges are a considerable improvement over the first consignment.
b. The tug situation has deteriorated since it was necessary to assign some of these ships to patrol flotillas to make up for losses in steam trawlers, and also because steam trawlers have had to be used for the meteorological service and for experimental purposes. There is a shortage of about 6 tugs, including losses caused by enemy action. This shortage will not be particularly important if the Navy's barge construction program is carried out, since the barges will be self-propelled; otherwise it must be made good from active patrol groups, whereby the escort forces will be correspondingly weakened.
c. There has been a considerable loss of motor craft, especially to the Sea Rescue Service, and also because of wear and breakdown of the engine equipment. Renewed requisitioning for replacements has been begun; reserves cover some of the losses.
d. More gun carriers can be provided to correspond with the number of guns available. Requisitioning should start soon to allow for the necessary equipping and training.
e. The transport vessels have been reduced by 15. Some of these ships were lost, some used as auxiliary ships, and some proved unsuitable. Of the remaining 157 transport vessels of 650,500 tons in all, 10 are undergoing lengthy repairs. The complements of 15 ships had to be assigned to steamers made ready in Italy for operation "Felix". These crews will be lacking if operation "Seelöwe" and any kind of activity by the Mediterranean ships should occur simultaneously.
It is significant that in a letter of 9 December the Minister of Transportation expressly stressed that in order to meet his transport obligations he must have at his disposal throughout the whole year without exception absolutely all the ships in territory under German authority, inclusive of vessels for operation "Seelöwe" and ships used to transport men and materiel of the Wehrmacht to and from Norway.
This shows that it is necessary to indicate also in regard to concentration of transport vessels what assignments are to have priority at any given time.
This strained transport situation also indicates, however, that if vessels are not to lie idle, a state of readiness for operation "Seelöwe" cannot be re-established within 30 days, as originally estimated by the Seekriegsleitung, but that a longer period is necessary, i.e., 8 weeks. The 30 day period was announced on the supposition that it would be possible to maintain a certain part of the transport vessels in a state of constant readiness.
Annex 2Urgent Demands of the Navy on the Luftwaffe.
1. The return of the 606th Coastal Patrol Group [Küstenfliegergruppe 606], for the purpose of reconnaissance over the North Sea as far as the area west of the Orkneys and northwest of the Hebrides, is urgently needed to reinforce the naval reconnaissance units specially detailed for submarine reconnaissance. Due to the superiority of British aircraft types over those used by the coastal patrol units, this reconnaissance must be taken over by powerful aircraft. General Jodl discussed this matter with the Führer this morning, who decided that the 606th Group is to be transferred back to the Navy.
2. The use of aerial torpedoes: The Navy can under no condition forego the use of this weapon by coastal patrol units. The proposal of the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, to set up a torpedo group within the Luftwaffe, and to use torpedoes as an occasional weapon by aircraft technically suited for this purpose, does not look promising. The Seekriegsleitung is convinced that this special weapon of naval warfare is of greater advantage for the prosecution of the war as a whole when used by the Navy. As far as the Navy is concerned it is not a question of setting up an aerial torpedo bomber group, but of acquiring planes for multiple purpose squadrons which are capable of using this particularly potent weapon of naval warfare while doing armed reconnaissance. At the same time, the necessary training for the later operation of carrier planes would be provided, and valuable experience would be gained for the further development of the weapon. Summarized, the situation is as follows:
Only a few aerial torpedoes are available. The output cannot be increased to any great extent due to the necessary production of submarine torpedoes. The Navy sees in the aerial torpedo an effective weapon for armed reconnaissance against enemy convoys, and a valuable addition to naval warfare. The Luftwaffe has at its disposal wheeled aircraft technically suitable for the use of torpedoes; such aircraft would certainly increase the effectiveness of this weapon. The Navy requests the replacement of He 115's by He 111 H-5's, in order to be able to continue armed reconnaissance with aerial torpedoes. The Luftwaffe believes that it is possible to use aerial torpedoes exclusively against naval vessels under favorable conditions. It intends to organize a bomber group, specially trained for this purpose.
Knowing the extensive organization with regard to materiel and personnel necessary to maintain the effectiveness of this weapon, and being fully aware of the existing shortages, the Seekriegsleitung has proposed to increase further the efficacy of the aerial torpedo by providing the coastal multiple-purpose units with torpedo carriers and by having the Commander, Naval Air, train and operate the torpedo squadron which the Luftwaffe may set up according to proved principles. The Seekriegsleitung is convinced that the overall war situation will best be served in this way.
3. Reconnaissance for the Navy: All the demands made by the Navy on the Luftwaffe are motivated by the desire to utilize the weapons of naval warfare - and this includes aircraft - to the best advantage of the overall operational plan. The Navy wishes to relieve the Luftwaffe of duties, the execution of which would merely be a distraction from its chief tasks.
The protocol agreed to before the war by the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, and the Commander in Chief, Navy, expresses these sentiments in the following way:
"The Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, agrees to increase the efficiency of the naval air forces in accordance with the wishes of the Commander in Chief, Navy, and to insure under all circumstances that the planes will fulfill all operational demands of the Navy. The Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, assumes no responsibility for any naval reconnaissance duties. Reconnaissance over the sea for the purpose of naval warfare is a purely naval task."
At the present time everything depends on making submarine warfare as effective as possible. The success of submarine operations depends entirely on the detection of enemy convoy routes. Support of the submarines by air reconnaissance, working together in closest possible cooperation in the operational area, is of decisive importance for increasing the effectiveness of submarine warfare, and such support must be demanded most urgently by the Seekriegsleitung.
The proposal of the Luftwaffe to appoint a "Commander of Long-Range Reconnaissance" does not meet Seekriegsleitung requirements. Experience shows that real support and closest cooperation is guaranteed only when the Navy has control over the commitment of both aircraft and submarines, and when these important reconnaissance operations are carried out by trained naval officers. In the same way as destroyers and torpedo boats must be directly controlled by the Navy for naval reconnaissance, the control of the modern naval reconnaissance weapon, the aircraft, must be in the hands of those responsible for the operations of the submarines.
Therefore the demand is made anew to equip the naval air units with good planes of high defensive capacity. The Führer orders further investigation of questions 2 and 3.
The Battleship Bismarck.
The Complete History
of the Ship.
Naval & military gifts