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Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on 30 December 1939.
Fregattenkapitän von Puttkamer
1. Baltic Sea. The sinking of a number of German steamers, which occurred in the course of Russian naval warfare against Finland, is brought up. The Russians now respect the German flag. An agreement is being discussed with regard to German ore steamers from Lulea.
German naval warfare is greatly impeded by the extensive traffic of neutral steamers to Britain through Swedish territorial waters, e.g., Falsterbo Channel. Firm pressure should be brought to bear on Sweden with the object of getting her to mine her own territorial waters; all traffic at the southern entrance of the Sound would then pass through the gap in the German mine field, which would be under a combined patrol.
2. Scandinavia. It is essential that Norway does not fall into British hands. There is danger that volunteers from Britain, in disguise, will carry out an unobtrusive occupation of Norway. Therefore it is necessary to be prepared and ready. Serious resistance in Norway, and probably also in Sweden, is not to be expected. Opinion in higher military circles in Norway is divided: One section believes that Russia will not occupy Tromsø, as the difficulties would be too great; the other section believes that the partition of Norway between Russia and Germany has already been arranged.
3. Northern sea route. Negotiations are in progress through the Naval Attaché in Moscow for the use of the northern sea route by returning German ships, i.e., auxiliary cruisers and Panzerschiffe. Perhaps political pressure from a higher source will be necessary, as subordinate departments do not take the responsibility.
4. Warfare in the North Sea. The mine belt along the east coast of Britain was extended by destroyers and submarines in December; submarines are carrying out further extension along the west coast. The British now dim their outer beacons at night, and have declared the whole east coast a danger zone; this is a purely defensive measure. At the northern and southern entrances a heavy concentration of traffic will occur, and opportunities for submarine torpedo attacks in the north will therefore continue to be good. In the south it will be necessary to disrupt traffic by laying aerial mines. In view of the new situation the following steps are being taken:
b. The Commander in Chief, Navy, has suggested to the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, that neutral ships proceeding through or anchoring in the Downs should also be attacked by bombers, after previous warning to neutral governments. These ships are proceeding under the orders and supervision of the British Navy, and are thus in a way being convoyed.
The over-all effect of the mine fields is as follows:
British and neutral merchant shipping are suffering severe losses, and neutral shipping is discouraged. On the other hand, the British are constantly able to create gaps in the mine fields by taking advantage of the removal of individual mines caused by ships which have been sunk. Traffic is continuing by day at least, though at great risk on account of the great number of wrecks, as many of the neutral captains have stated. Aerial mines must continually be laid to fill the gaps.
In January a large number of submarines will be ready for torpedo attacks and for cooperation with the surface forces.
The surface forces will be ready for operations by the second half of January. Operations will be made more difficult in the future by the absence of the strategic effect of the GRAF SFEE and the DEUTSCHLAND in the Atlantic. There is a greater concentration of heavy British naval forces in the north (2 to 3 battle cruisers, 5 to 6 battleships, 3 to 4 heavy cruisers).
The LÜTZOW and the first auxiliary cruiser will be completed by the end of January, and ready to sail by the middle of February. Italian participation in the war would relieve the situation in the Atlantic, as then a part of the British naval forces would be withdrawn to the Mediterranean.
Air activity: The enemy is very active in the North Sea; the Navy is dependent to a great extent on good air reconnaissance; modern types of aircraft for the Navy in sufficient numbers are therefore necessary. Negotiations are in progress. Radar equipment has proved very satisfactory and is the only method of warning coastal defense of the approach of enemy aircraft.
5. Intensification of submarine warfare (See Annex 1). Previous experience has shown that gradual intensification without special proclamation, is the best method. If a proclamation is planned in conjunction with general intensification of warfare, as advocated by the Führer, only a general statement concerning intensified naval warfare should be made, without commitment to specific detail; moreover it is requested that the Seekriegsleitung be authorized to introduce intensification according to the general situation and the state of preparedness of the forces, subject always to fundamental agreement previously obtained from the Führer. The same procedure is recommended in case no proclamation is made. The Führer agrees to the following:
b. Any or all submarines may fire without warning on neutral ships in those parts of the American declared war zone in which sinkings can be blamed on mines, for instance in the Bristol Channel. Ships of friendly nations are excepted.
c. The Führer is withholding publication of the ruling in reply to the "order in council" until the general intensification of warfare, or, in the case of a long delay in the offensive, until substitute measures are introduced in place of the offensive.
The Italians sent a note requesting designation of a safe harbor. The Commander in Chief, Navy, suggests replying that this is unfortunately impossible, since all harbors concerned have already been mined. It is impossible to establish the exact position of mines layed by submarines and planes, and the German Government therefore can give no guarantee. Italian ships would have to rely on data from British pilots. (Note: The Führer agrees.)
6. Sinking of the GRAF SFEE. On account of insufficient details, no final judgement can yet be made concerning tactical conduct during the battle, why the EXETER could not be disposed of, and the necessity for entering Montevideo harbor. After the ship entered port and no extension of time for repairs was obtained, the decision of the commanding officer to use all remaining ammunition for effective destruction of the ship was justified, seeing there was no guarantee that after an attempt at a break-through and expenditure of the remaining ammunition the ship could be scuttled effectively in the shallow waters of the La Plata River estuary by merely opening the sea cocks. The defenseless, only partially submerged ship would have been in danger of being captured by the British. The Führer reiterated the fact that the EXETER should have been completely destroyed.
7. NÜRNBERG: The damage is only slight.
Repairs would take a short time, but will be taken care of during the period already set aside for overhauling the engines.
LEIPZIG: It will probably be necessary to replace one or two boilers, involving a long time in dock. KARLSRUHE, now fit for service, is to act as substitute. ADMIRAL SCHEER was already due for lengthy repairs at the outbreak of war, and they will begin shortly. The ship will not be ready to sail until autumn 1940 at the earliest.
8. Submarine construction program. Negotiations are in progress with the Chief of the OKW about a submarine construction program which by 1 January 1942 would provide us with 316 more submarines than we have at present. This would be done by drawing on metal, particularly tin, reserved for the Navy for later years. The Chief of the OKW confirms this and intends to investigate industry thoroughly to see if any more tin can be obtained. A final decision as to whether this program can be carried out or whether further reductions must be made can be deferred until May or June 1940.
I. Germany's policy with regard to merchant shipping as of the end of December 1939:
a. The following ships are subject to submarine attack without warning:
2. All neutral ships sailing in enemy convoy.
3. All ships sailing without lights in the area between 20º W, 62º N, 3º E, 44º N.
4. All ships refusing to stop or making use of radio telegraph.
5. All tankers in the American declared war zone west of 2º E with the exception of Italian, Russian, Spanish, American, and Japanese tankers.
2. Submarines stop and search on special orders only such neutral ships as do not come under "a".
d. No war measures are taken against merchant ships belonging to Italy, Spain, Russia, and Japan. American crews are treated with the greatest consideration.
The following ships are therefore so far not subject to German attack: All definitely neutral ships bound for Great Britain and France which are travelling alone and of which the following holds true:
2. they carry any kind of export goods from enemy ports.
III. So far the Government's policy of intensifying warfare against merchant shipping gradually has justified itself completely. In conjunction with the American declared war zone, this policy has avoided any politically disadvantageous developments in Germany's relations with neutral countries. As laid down in the memorandum of 15 October 1939 concerning intensification of naval warfare (not included), the Seekriegsleitung believes that ultimately the most drastic measures in the war on merchant shipping, i.e., a ruthless siege of enemy countries, will be the most satisfactory solution.
Thus the present policy of the Seekriegsleitung coincides with the proposals made in the memorandum. This advocated utilizing ruthlessly all available weapons, adapting them to the operational possibilities prevailing at the time without being bound by any concepts whatsoever such as "proclamation of a state of siege" or declaration of closed and danger zones. Such steps would only be disadvantageous from a political, international, and strategic point of view.
IV. The how and when of intensified naval warfare will depend on the decision of the supreme command concerning the commencement of generally intensified warfare by means of an offensive in the west.
First possibility: The Führer decides in favor of opening an offensive in the west in the very near future in conformity with the instructions already issued; this will entail infringing on the neutrality of other countries. In this event the political repercussions caused by intensified naval warfare will be only a small part of those created by the over-all war situation. The gradual transition to intensified naval warfare within the American war zone, with the ultimate aim of disrupting all merchant ship traffic to Britain by the ruthless employment of all weapons is, therefore, planned to coincide with the opening of the offensive.
Immediate introduction of separate measures of intensified naval warfare is not necessary. This can wait until warfare generally is intensified. The friendly neutrals (Italy, Spain, Japan, and Russia) as well as America are to be spared as much as possible. A statement to the effect that Germany will attempt to safeguard their interests to the utmost should be made to the countries concerned.
a. If the Government decides to introduce intensified warfare with a public proclamation (address to the Reichstag, radio address, general proclamation, or a note to the neutrals), this announcement must also include a statement concerning further intensification of naval warfare. (See Appendix to Annex 1.)
b. If, on the other hand, the Government does not intend to make a proclamation concerning a general intensification of warfare, no official statement must be released either concerning the provisions for intensified naval warfare. Otherwise the Navy will once again go down in history as engaging in ruthless, unrestricted submarine warfare. Besides, considering the present number of forces at our disposal, especially the small number of submarines ready for operations in the Atlantic, naval operations alone cannot be expected to have a decisive effect on the course of the war. The Seekriegsleitung therefore cannot advocate a proclamation, which would have political repercussions, for the sake of announcing the intensification of naval warfare alone.
It is nevertheless considered both necessary and possible to intensify measures against merchant shipping without previous declaration.
While maintaining complete freedom of naval action, intensified naval measures will in both cases, (either with or without previous proclamation) be adapted to the over-all situation, available weapons, and operational possibilities. They will be initiated by means of separate instructions from the Seekriegsleitung. The proposed measures for intensification are discussed in the following section.
Second possibility: The Führer decides to postpone general intensification of warfare indefinitely. In this event naval warfare must be intensified gradually as heretofore. The early introduction of further Intensified measures against merchant shipping is proposed in this connection. The Seekriegsleitung makes the following suggestions:
b. In the zone designated for attacks on tankers, submarines should attack without warning the merchant ships of those countries who place their vessels extensively at the disposal of Britain (Greece for example). An official statement will not be made in this connection. It is up to the naval strategists to order such action in specified areas or for certain specific submarines, as the situation and the weapons available may warrant, so that no sudden Intensification will be apparent.
c. Wherever in the zones designated for attacks on tankers sinkings can be blamed on mines, certain specific submarines, and later all submarines, are to attack all merchant ships without warning on special orders from the Seekriegsleitung, issued in accordance with the prevailing situation and the operational possibilities.
d. Friendly neutrals are to be spared as much as possible, as before.
As regards other Italian goods, including armaments, it is not such a simple matter to interfere with Italian shipping in the American declared war zone (Italian note of 23 December, not included). Action against Italian ships in accordance with the memorandum would strain our relations with Italy to an extreme degree, a thing which must be avoided.
Russia: It is not very probable that Russian merchant ships will be found in the American war zone; nevertheless the sinking of such ships would influence our political relations with Russia very unfavorably, and must be avoided.
Japan: Traffic with the enemy powers is slight. Nevertheless unfavorable political repercussions must be avoided by handling the Japanese carefully. So long as it can be made to appear that ships are striking mines, it appears feasible to apply intensified measures of submarine warfare also against Japanese merchant ships.
Spain has officially forbidden her ships to sail to enemy countries, and has assured us that she will take action against ships which act in a manner contrary to this order.
Appendix to Annex 1Suggestion for the Führer Proclamation.
England is our deadly enemy. Her object is the destruction of the German Reich and the German people. Her methods are not open warfare but vile and brutal starvation, in fact extermination of the weak and defenseless not only in Germany but in the whole of Europe. History proves this.
The Head of the British Government adhered to this historic attitude when, on 26 September 1939, he declared before the House of Commons that the naval blockade of Germany now being carried out by Britain does not differ in any way from a siege on land, and that it has always been customary to cut the besieged off from all supplies.
We Germans will not allow ourselves to be starved out, nor will we capitulate. Returning like for like, we will make Britain herself feel what it means to be besieged, in order to free the world once and for all from the base and insufferable tyranny of the British.
The Head of the British Government announced in his speech on 12 October 1939 that Britain will use all her resources in this war, i.e., that the war will be waged with every legal and, as has happened already, also illegal means at her disposal. Likewise we too, while observing the rules of military conduct, will use our weapons ruthlessly in this fight into which we have been forced in the defense of our existence and our rights.
The German Government will take every step to cut off Great Britain and France completely from any supplies, as is done in any siege according to the British Prime Minister.
Any ship encountered in the combat area around Britain and France, regardless of its flag, fully exposes itself to the dangers of warfare.
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