Minutes of the Conference between the Commander in Chief, Navy, and the Führer on 8 February 1943 at the Führer Headquarters, Wolfsschanze.
1. The Commander in Chief, Navy, explains with the aid of maps that during this month the enemy, surprisingly enough, found out the locations of our submarines and, in some cases, even the exact number of ships. It was confirmed later on that his convoys evaded the known submarine formation. This detailed information can come from two sources:
b. Undetected reconnaissance planes locating the formations.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, explains further that the locating of convoys headed for Gibraltar is largely a matter of chance. However, the spotting and engaging of these convoys would be very simple if there were aerial reconnaissance.
Therefore, the weakest point in our conduct of the war is the complete lack of any means of reconnaissance in naval warfare. This weak point can be counteracted only by increasing the number of ships. This increase in the number of ships, however, is dependent on a very short stay in the shipyards and completion of the ships under construction as fast as possible. The Commander in Chief, Navy, explains that the question of repair docks is of utmost importance in intensifying submarine warfare. He therefore asks that the submarine branch together with its equipment, as well as all surface vessels engaged in submarine warfare, be exempted completely from transfer to the Army. The Führer consults Minister Speer. Minister Speer agrees with the Commander in Chief, Navy, providing that additional men will not be demanded from other branches to make up for the loss of Navy men. The Führer agrees in principle with the statements made by the Commander in Chief, Navy. However, he intends to discuss this matter once more with Field Marshal Keitel. He assures the Commander in Chief, Navy, that he will do everything possible for the submarine branch. (A directive, prepared by the Commander in Chief, Navy, concerning the exemption referred to above was signed by the Führer at noon on 9 February 1943).
2. The Commander in Chief, Navy, submits the proposed plan for placing the large ships out of commission (see Annex 1). The Führer has no objections. However, he says that, if the molybdenum imports to Portugal should stop, it might become necessary to dismantle several ships in order to get the necessary nickel steel of the armor plate. In that case he would issue the necessary orders.
3. The Commander in Chief, Navy, submits the situation of the blockade-runners. The Führer emphasizes how tremendously important it is to get especially those vessels through that carry cargoes of rubber. He has already ordered that the Focke Wulf 200 be transferred to do reconnaissance for the blockade-runners.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, states his intention to build supply submarines. He proposes, as an emergency measure, to use the Italian submarines in the Atlantic as supply ships and, if possible, load them at sea possibly in the Capetown-Madagascar area and thus shorten the route. In exchange for these Italian submarines he intends to give Italy German submarines for use against convoys. The Führer considers this a good idea and orders further investigation of the plan. In case it is worthwhile to convert Italian submarines to supply ships, he will inform the Duce of the impending exchange by letter.
4. The Commander in Chief, Navy, explains to the Führer in which areas British submarines in the Mediterranean have sunk our vessels. He shows that there have been no sinkings on the supply route Palermo-Tunis, in spite of the occasional presence of British submarines. He shows further that most sinkings occurred along the Italian coast, frequently right off the harbors. The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that these sinkings must be and can be prevented. For this purpose he consulted with Admiral Weichold. After discussing the matter it was decided that the situation would be improved by ordering the 22nd Submarine Chaser Flotilla to follow German tactics and by having German naval officers instruct the Italian Escort Command. In order to safeguard the convoy route between Sicily and Africa it would be necessary to make it a "war Channel".
5. The Commander in Chief, Navy, informs the Führer of the proposed personnel changes at the highest level of the Naval High Command. The Führer also grants the request that Vizeadmiral Krancke be relieved by Kapitän zur See Voss. He further agrees that Fregattenkapitän Junge will present the naval war situation at the conferences at Headquarters. This is part of a proposed plan of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to furnish more complete information regarding the naval war situation.
6. The question of the future commitment of heavy ships is clarified by Vizeadmiral Krancke on 9 February by order of the Commander in Chief, Navy, since this question had not been taken up the night before. The Commander in Chief is of the opinion that he has the responsibility to order the heavy ships to battle as soon as a worthwhile target and a chance for success appear. Once ordered to sea, the officer in command would have to act and fight entirely on his own initiative according to the tactical situation without awaiting special instructions from a higher echelon. Under such circumstances one would have to expect losses. The Führer expresses his complete and definite approval of this interpretation.
Annex 1Re: Termination of Work on Battleships, Heavy Cruisers, Light Cruisers, Aircraft Carriers and Old Battleships, and their Decommissioning.
1. On 2 February 1943 the order was given to stop all work on battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers and troop transports, with the exception of vessels designated as training ships. This order also pertains to weapons and equipment for these ships, but is to be handled in such a way that no sudden work-stoppage will be noticeable. The following ships will be affected by this order:
Aircraft carriers: Graf Zeppelin, De Grasse, Seydlitz, Potsdam.
Light cruisers: Köln, Leipzig.
Old battleships: Schlesien, Schleswig-Holstein.
2. b. Furthermore, the medium batteries of these ships are to be used for coastal defense (14 batteries). The heavy guns (turrets, 38 cm., 28 cm., and 20.3 cm. caliber) will not be dismantled, however, for the following reasons:
3. The following ships are to be placed out of commission:
3. a. Ships which are not ready for action and still require work in the shipyards (HIPPER, KÖLN, LEIPZIG).
3. b. Ships which cannot be used for active service due to their age and condition (SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, SCHLESIEN, LEIPZIG, KÖLN).
3. c. Ships not needed for the training of replacement officers, non-commissioned officers and men, primarily for submarines. This training is to be continued.
3. d. Ships needed only for a limited period of time. (TIRPITZ - Norway; SCHARNHORST - Baltic Bea.)
3. e. The following factors are to be taken into consideration: the extent to which the decommissioning will tax the capacity and facilities of the shipyards, existing berths, heavy hoist installation, tugboats, docking facilities, and disposition of the personnel thus released.
3. f. An unfavorable reaction, both from a military and propagandistic view, by the Navy, the home front, and foreign countries might be brought about by decommissioning the large ships too quickly. The process should therefore be accomplished quietly by gradually stripping the ships of all weapons and equipment while they are tied up as previously planned. The following schedule will be observed:
4. The following ships will remain in service as training ships of the naval forces: Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer, Lützow, Nürnberg, Emden.
These ships are just adequate to maintain the necessary facilities for the training of replacement personnel for submarines and surface vessels (high pressure steam and diesel, as well as nautical training), for service schools, and for testing and experimentation.
5. The following ships remain in service:
Because of personnel changes, the training ships PRINZ.EUGEN, ADMIRAL SCHEER, LEIPZIG, NÜRNBERG, and EMDEN, are no longer ready for action. They should be serviced only enough to enable them to function as training ships.
6. The following personnel will become available for transfer to other units within the Navy when work on the above ships is stopped and the ships are decommissioned:
6. a. 250 Officers. However, 92 at the most will qualify for submarine duty.
6. b. 8,900 non-commissioned officers and men. Most of these will be assigned as follows:
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