Minutes of the Conference of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer on 8 July 1943, at 1630, at the Headquarters "Wolfsschanze".
The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports to the Führer the successful design of the "electro"-submarine and enumerates the tactical advantages of such a fast submarine. Entirely new possibilities are introduced by permitting the submarines to approach a convoy quickly and also to take fast evasive action under water instead of being obliged to surface. This will make the present anti-submarine defense of the enemy entirely ineffectual because the construction of subchasers is based on a low speed of submarines under water. The advantages of an underwater speed of 19 knots would remain effective for a long time since the convoy speed of roughly 10 knots cannot be increased very much.
The design is based on well-known factors of propulsion and retains only the hull of the Walther-submarine which is especially suited for speed under water. Since he is well satisfied with the model, he believes that it should be built with the greatest possible speed.
The Führer inquires at length about technical details such as radius of action, maximum speed, recharging requirements, armament, and depth of submergence. The Commander in Chief, Navy, clarifies these points and states that the new submarine has important advantages both on the offensive and defensive. The great depth of submergence and the new underwater speed enable it to dive quicker than previous submarines when attacked by subchasers and planes. Moreover, because of its long cruising radius submerged, the dangerous coastal areas can be passed in a short time. In comparison with the Walther-submarine it has the additional advantage of being able to recharge its batteries and thus extend its sea endurance considerably.
In reply to the question of the Führer as to when the first of these submarines could be completed, the Commander in Chief, Navy, states that he discussed this question with Minister Speer and ordered the Naval Construction Division (K-Amt) to make an estimate which he is submitting. He considers the date November 1944 as fixed by the Division much too late and states that he discussed with Minister Speer ways and means of speeding up construction. It is his conviction that the greatest effort must be made to accomplish this in three shifts, possibly even day and night shifts, because this development means a revolutionary change in submarine warfare.
The Führer declares that he recently discussed with Minister Speer the possibility of resuming the production of the new Skoda 37 mm gun. He believes that this weapon may prove very effective in submarine warfare. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that in very many cases the present quadruple 20 mm gun had failed to bring down attacking aircraft in spite of direct hits, while in other cases the planes were not brought down until after they had succeeded in dropping their bombs.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, further reports that our efforts to increase the number of submarines in the Mediterranean have met with great difficulties. Of the last 4 submarines which attempted to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar 3 were lost. These losses are too high. He is planning therefore to ship the small Walther-submarine by way of the Rhone from Germany to the Mediterranean. Although this U-boat carries only three torpedoes, it has the same advantages as the "electro"-submarine except for the difference in propulsion (he submits a sketch). In reply to the question of the Führer whether the transportation by way of the Rhone is actually feasible, the Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that it could be accomplished by transporting the submarine on its side and that this method had been tried. The first submarines could be ready in April 1944 since their small size makes speedy construction possible.
The Führer expresses his complete agreement with the plan and discusses with the Commander in Chief, Navy, the problems of organizing the construction of the new submarines. He says that he is firmly convinced that technical changes will continue alternately to favor or impede offensive or defensive warfare. One must therefore not become discouraged but ever be receptive to new ideas. A man whose mind is closed thereby admits his defeat. The same is true of the Luftwaffe. However, one must not make exaggerated demands on the technicians and thereby prevent the quick construction of really useful arms and conveyances. For this reason he had recently personally intervened in the question of using airplanes for reconnaissance at sea and had interviewed the proper authorities of the Luftwaffe.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that a commission for ship construction has been formed by him with the cooperation of Minister Speer, that he has appointed experienced officers, and Minister Speer inventors, technicians, and construction specialists, so that there could be agreement concerning construction details. The Führer comments: "That is right." He has proceeded similarly with tank construction. The Luftwaffe would do well to follow this method. For reconnaissance in the Atlantic, Professor Messerschmitt has developed a new 6-motor airplane, based on the 4-motor plane, with a range of 17,000 km. This new plane possesses very strong armament and high speed. These machines will be used later to work in conjunction with submarines. He will do everything in his power to push their construction and to eliminate exaggerated demands. He has given up the idea of bombing the USA because the few airplanes which could get there would be of no significance but would only arouse the will to resist in the population. The Commander in Chief, Navy expresses his conviction that efficient reconnaissance in the Atlantic will always be needed even after the new submarines are at our disposal.
In regard to the general situation of submarine warfare he reports to the Führer that he has transferred the submarines from the North Atlantic after it had to be abandoned as a result of the lost battle in May. In the new areas the anti-submarine measures are not yet so strong and efficient. As a result of these changes there were few sinkings during June but July has begun to show some improvement. It is now quite evident that the enemy is directing his main efforts against the exit lanes of our submarines, i.e. against the Strait of Shetland and the Bay of Biscay. Consequently, our losses in these areas are still very high. Most of these losses were caused by the enemy's Air Force but of late apparently also by subchaser groups and naval forces which are cooperating with the Air Force. Against this combination we have no defense as yet and for the time being the departure of submarines from home ports has been stopped until all have been equipped with quadruple and twin mounts.
By the end of July he expects again to have an efficient radar interception set, i.e. a warning device against enemy radar location. With the help of Minister Ohnesorge and the technical laboratories of the Post Office Department two apparatus are being developed, one of which will make possible the simultaneous reception of all radar waves and the second one the recording of flash fix.
So far, there is no indication that the enemy is using a new radar system. Our present difficulties may be due to the inability of our old receivers to register the flash fix. After these improvements have been made in our submarines and long nights again give us an advantage, the northern route can be used again.
Little progress has been made with regard to the problem of the black submarine. However, Professor Krauch of the I. G. Farben is convinced that he will soon find some material with which a 100% absorption of radar waves can be obtained. As a result of the dielectric absorption, reflection will be practically nil and this will effectively nullify radar location. In addition we are still working on the development of other porous materials (Schwämme) for absorbing high-frequencies.
Of equal importance to these defensive measures against the enemy Air Force is the anti-destroyer torpedo to combat enemy surface vessels. Until this anti-destroyer torpedo is ready for use, the Commander in Chief, Navy, does not intend to resume attacks on convoys in the North Atlantic. He is therefore making every effort to speed up the construction of the anti-destroyer torpedo but is not sure that he will succeed. Until then he will use the submarines for mining operations except some which will be sent to more distant areas. (He submits a chart.)
In regard to the general use of mines he reports that he is planning to use the new mines in a surprise attack in August as agreed upon with the Luftwaffe. The Führer expresses repeatedly his great misgivings as to the use of these mines by the Luftwaffe because he is afraid that the mines might be dropped on land, and inquires into the details of their employment (depth of water, location, new moon). The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that only 500 mines can be layed per month with the fast layers at his disposal. This is too small a number. At least 5,000 mines ought to be laid, and for such a large operation the cooperation of the Luftwaffe is indispensable. He explains with the aid of two charts the initial success which was obtained with the magnetic mines and shows also the extent of traffic around the British Isles. He states that with the destruction of each ship that part of the enemy's war potential is a complete loss. In dropping a bomb on enemy territory one cannot always ascertain the success. But one cannot overestimate the great losses inflicted on the British by mine warfare even though they are no longer sensational and, as a rule, can be ascertained only later on. Besides, their use is less costly for us since the Luftwaffe does not have to reckon with such high losses as in the case of an attack on an enemy city.
Therefore, as many airplanes as possible should be set aside for minelaying operations because the enemy will be hit at the most vital spot. Enough mines can be accumulated by the end of August. An increase in sinkings through mines would be particularly welcome now in order to tide us over during the period of few submarine sinkings, so that the enemy's gain in tonnage can be held as low as possible during these months. Our goal must be to maintain sinkings at a rate that will balance the new construction of enemy ships, and this will be possible with the new submarine.
The drawback in this proposed program is the question of manpower. According to the last report of the OKW, we shall soon face the situation that Minister Speer is in fact producing the submarines but that there will be no men to man them. For the enlarged program the Navy needs 262,000 men by the fall of 1944, and they must be young men. The Führer considers this figure too high but accepts it after a lengthy discussion with the Commander in Chief, Navy. He decides that, in addition to the measures which have already been decided upon by the Chief of the OKW, 10,000 technicians of the age group 1925 are to be given to the Navy in exchange for other men. The Commander in Chief, Navy calls this only a stopgap and presents a summation of the total requirements.
The Führer discusses the present availability of men with Field Marshal Keitel. The Chief of the OKW, holds to his proposal. The Führer ends the discussion by assuring the Commander in Chief, Navy, that he would help the Navy and, of course, also the Luftwaffe as soon as the situation would improve. The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that, under these circumstances, he cannot commission certain vessels because he needs the technicians who are to be trained for these vessels and who are to be the future noncommissioned officers now. He would have to present a new demand in September, at the latest. The Führer replies: "By September we shall be a little farther along". He says that he is favorably inclined toward the Navy and will do everything possible for it. He suggests that the Commander in Chief, Navy, investigate the possibility of obtaining personnel for the Navy from the occupied territories as the SS has done so successfully. He believes that this offers great possibilities for the Navy and that some 20 to 25,000 men could be recruited. The Commander in Chief, Navy declares that he will try it and will also contact Reichsführer SS Himmler.
In regard to the Italian submarines carrying raw rubber, the Commander in Chief, Navy, reports the loss of 3 boats. He states that Admiral Riccardi has not complied with his request to put at his disposal the 2 submarines ROMOLO and REMO which are especially well suited for transportation, giving as the reason for his refusal that the submarines are needed in the Italian theater of war. Admiral Riccardi is guarding his boats jealously and is making the same mistake as in the case of the Italian combat submarines. The Commander, Italian Submarines, Admiral Legnani, has expressed his displeasure with the ineffectual use of the submarines. Admiral Legnani is also in disagreement with Supermarina in regard to the small Italian submarines. He has therefore submitted the plans of construction for these small submarines to the Commander in Chief, Navy, who has found them suitable for the purpose. He therefore requests the Führer's permission to announce the visit of Admiral Legnani in the papers. The Führer gives his permission and discusses with the Commander in Chief, Navy, the employment of the Italian Fleet and submarines.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, emphasizes the importance of the capture of Leningrad. This would discourage greatly any landing attempt by the British in Norway for whom the security of Russian Leningrad is a tempting objective. At least the Oranienbaum basin should be taken since it is of great importance for the protection of the nearby oil field. The Führer explains the present front on a map and states that he has given orders to examine the question of Oranienbaum. However, no Russian submarine has succeeded so far in getting out of Leningrad harbor. The Commander in Chief, Navy, admits this. He then requests permission to see the reports of the Foriegn Office concerning the enemy. The Führer agrees and gives the order but emphasizes that the reports are exclusively for the personal information of the Commander in Chief, Navy.
In conclusion the Commander in Chief, Navy, again stresses the importance of the speedy construction of the new submarine. The Führer agrees heartily and says to Minister Speer who enters at this moment: "The construction of this new submarine is of the utmost importance." Minister Speer replies: "There is no doubt about that. I have given top priority to the new submarines."
countersigned: Kapitänleutnant Rudolph
The Aim of German Naval Warfare is the Annihilation of Enemy Shipping.
In view of the limited strength of our naval forces as compared to that of the enemy, this type of offensive warfare is the most effective. By committing a relatively small number of our own forces we are able to destroy an enemy war potential several times as great. Furthermore, the enemy is forced to commit a large part of his fighting power to safeguard the sea routes and he therefore cannot throw his numerically superior forces into the war in the European theater.
By means of careful planning and great effort, the enemy at present manages to build a total of approximately 1.15 million BRT cargo space per month. If the enemy succeeds in keeping losses down long enough to build up a considerable surplus tonnage, then his situation will improve sufficiently to permit a growing threat of Europe. This will have its effects not only on possible invasion, but also on enemy air and naval warfare. So far German naval warfare has kept these from becoming fully effective.
The extent to which enemy forces are tied up in this manner cannot be determined accurately. However, they can be estimated on the basis of our experience of World War I. The fact that German naval warfare has far-reaching consequences in this war can be judged by the tenor of enemy propaganda. Because of the presently low figures of sinkings, the enemy has immediately become very optimistic in his outlook on the general war situation.
On the basis of their past history, the Anglo-Saxon sea powers and the people consider the war practically won the moment the dangers threatening to disrupt their vital sea communication routes have been removed. They do not attach much importance to subsequent fighting on land. Even though this fighting may be of considerable duration, they believe that the outcome thereof is a foregone conclusion.
Every monthly gain in enemy shipping space is therefore like a blood transfusion into his weakened body. It will increase his vitality and strengthen his will to fight. Let us hope that our exhaustive efforts to put the submarine back into the fight will be successful.
The present crisis is due to the fact that the enemy succeeded in developing such effective anti-submarine weapons that excessive losses force us to change the tactics we have been using, until the submarine in turn has been equipped with better defense weapons.
Reports by the enemy show that for a long time the enemy has been improving anti-submarine defenses by carefully planned use of all his military, scientific and technological resources. Members of the enemy Navy and Air Force, scientists, and engineers have banded together in order to devise means for fighting the German submarine; and they have been quite successful.
We must try to counteract this by striving to increase and improve the means at our disposal for annihilating the enemy merchant marine. The submarine branch, which in view of the present situation is the most important element in naval warfare, offers the best opportunity for doing so. Among measures to be taken in order to make the submarines more effective are the following:
b. New types of submarines should be built. These, by means of high underwater speeds, should radically improve our methods of submarine attack.
As for "b", the new construction of the Bröking-submarine makes it possible to develop high underwater speed using the same type of engine as heretofore. This type of construction brings us much closer to our goal than the Walther-submarine, even though the latter's underwater speed is not quite equalled. On the other hand, the Bröking-submarine has a much greater cruising range and can stay at sea much longer, since it can recharge its batteries practically without limit.
Simultaneous construction of both new types of submarines must be pressed energetically because of their great significance. They will revolutionize submarine warfare. The enemy's anti-submarine weapons will become ineffective overnight if the submarine is not immobilized, even though it is forced to submerge; for the submarine can still sneak up on fast moving enemy ships, achieve a favorable attack position and evade enemy depth charges.
Furthermore, such submarines with high underwater speeds can dive to great depths very quickly by crash diving; they are able to pass through our threatened coastal waters in a fraction of the time it now takes our submarines, and can do so at greatly reduced risk.
Therefore the new-type submarines must be made available as quickly as possible. The construction of these submarines thus becomes the most important task of the German armament program.
In the meantime we must try to sink as much enemy tonnage as possible, in order to keep the amount of fresh blood that gets into the enemy's system down to a trickle.
At the moment the mine with the new firing device is the most promising weapon we have for this purpose. There is some difference of opinion as to the prospects and value of the use of mines, since the results are not always apparent and often don't even become known. The use of these weapons does not satisfy our fighting spirit. They even have to be laid as secretly as possible so that the enemy won't be aware of it.
At the same time it must be admitted that German mines have caused the enemy much trouble. Even now, when the firing devices used are known to the enemy and the mines can therefore be cleared, they tie up considerable forces along the enemy's coast which would otherwise be sent into our waters. In this respect mine warfare in its strategic effect is very similar to submarine warfare and the use of auxiliary cruisers.
British publications are still discussing the discovery in 1940 of an effective countermeasure against the magnetic mine, the supposed secret weapon of German naval warfare. This shows that the British recognize, and justly so, that the mining of their harbors is as great a threat to their sea traffic as the submarines in the open sea. That explains also why the British are continuing to use mines systematically against our shipping and in our training areas.
In the present situation the chief difficulty for the mine war lies in bringing the mines into the strongly protected enemy coastal waters. The S-boats are the most suitable of our naval forces for this task; but they can only reach the South and southeastern coast of England as far as the Humber River, depending on the length of the night.
The nature of mine warfare, which is a continual contest between the invention of new devices and countermeasures thereto, makes it imperative that the first time a new mine is used, it is used in such great numbers that the enemy won't have the chance to adjust his defenses to the new mine, or to rebuild them. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to keep the new mines from falling into enemy hands as the result of mistakes made in dropping them. If that should happen, the enemy can find out how they operate and can devise means to counteract or to imitate them.
The Luftwaffe is indispensable for laying mines in great numbers. Planes alone can carry the mines into waters not accessible to naval forces and at the same time drop them in the necessary large numbers. The technical and navigational aspects of this task require specially trained and experienced personnel. Without this experience and training, we may lose rather than gain by the use of these new firing devices. Therefore, unless the general war situation should be so critical as to make their use imperative elsewhere, the planes assigned to mine laying should be reserved exclusively for this important task. They will be of incomparably greater value to the total war effort if they sink enemy shipping than if used in any other capacity, unless, of course, this other use should have the same purpose and the same results.
In order to do the greatest possible amount of damage in the areas of heavy enemy sea traffic, the first mass employment of the new mines should be limited to the waters surrounding England. The following areas have suitable depth of water and sufficiently heavy traffic to warrant mining them:
b. Liverpool Bay.
c. The Bristol Channel.
As soon as it becomes apparent that the enemy has devised countermeasures against these new mines, we must use them also in other sea areas as long as enemy countermeasures have not been introduced everywhere in sufficient numbers.
Viewing the matter as a whole, it would be a serious setback if we neglected to concentrate all of our strength for a mass attack with this new mine, the nature of which puts the enemy face to face with an entirely new problem. That is the lesson we should have learned from the way we used our magnetic mines in the winter of 1939. As matters stand, a powerful German mine offensive would effectively tide us over the period of unsuccessful submarine warfare.
We must make full use of all possible scientific and technological means in order to devise and make available new weapons for the destruction of enemy shipping which are far more effective than the weapons now at our disposal. In the long run we can hope to win the war only if we keep attacking the weak spots in the enemy's naval forces, in view of the effects such action is bound to have on his military and economic situation.
17 and 18 July 1943Next Conference with the Führer.
1. The War Situation.
a. Italy: Events in Sicily prove that in spots there is a certain amount of determination to resist, but that the leadership has broken down altogether. The enemy controls shipping in the Mediterranean and in the long run is therefore in a position to bring greater forces than we to Sicily and later to any other land front. Therefore we have to fight a delaying action on Sicily and, if necessary, in Sardinia and Corsica, but eventually we shall probably have to give up these islands.
However, we must hold the Italian mainland and the Balkans. Both are equally important, and there are large numbers of Italian troops in both areas. It is therefore vitally important that these be bolstered by German commanders and a certain number of German forces.
We must defend the coast, because it is always very disadvantageous for us when the enemy establishes a land front. As long as he is still afloat, he is weak.
If we are unsuccessful in working out a satisfactory coordination of German-Italian commanders for the entire Italian Armed Forces similar to the arrangement we made with the Italian Navy concerning convoy operations, then there still is the possibility of overthrowing the command with the help of the younger officers. However, this involves the danger of a complete breakdown.
b. The Balkans: At present it appears that the next enemy landing will be attempted there. It is as important to reinforce the Balkans as it is to hold Italy.
c. Spain: Spain's entry into the war would radically change the situation in the Mediterranean. However, Spain would have to do this voluntarily. Our only hope lies in convincing Spain that a German, or rather a European, catastrophe is also a catastrophe for Spain.
2. Grand Strategy. We can hope to win the war only if we can stop expending our forces in the East. So far Japan has not been used for this purpose, for fear of weakening Japan in the South by engaging her in the North. Also, she might not be able to muster the necessary supplies for both fronts. The Japanese Kwantung Army stands ready with a million men. Japan herself evidently realizes that intervention in Siberia may become necessary. (U.S. airfields)
Russia is getting considerable supplies via the Far East. Therefore the question arises whether a threat by Japan that she will enter the war against Russia, will help to make the latter accept the German offer of an unannounced armistice on the Eastern Front, to be kept secret from the Anglo-Saxons. Russia would continue to accept lend-lease materials. This political goal is worth every sacrifice.
If this fails, the East Wall must be built as quickly as possible.
3. Our Offensive Weapons.
a. New Bombs [Fritz X and Hs 293]: Air units have just been transferred to Istres [southern France]. The new bombs should be used as a surprise measure at the next enemy landing, that is, in the Balkans or on the Italian mainland. They should not be used in Sicily unless enough reinforcements can be assured to make it feasible for us to retake the island. Otherwise we would be giving our secret away. We would thus warn the enemy and give him a chance to prepare defense measures.
b. Destruction of Enemy Shipping: This is the only way in which we can effectively combat the enemy. Therefore we must do everything to renew submarine warfare. We must fight enemy naval forces in the Bay of Biscay.
At the present time our best weapons in this respect are mines layed in British coastal waters, where they may be very successful. It is impossible to estimate the probable results, because they depend on our ability to lay the mines and on the effectiveness of enemy defense measures (see annex for results achieved with magnetic mines). Planes which would not bring about a definite victory in Sicily might easily be decisive if used in sufficient numbers to mine British waters. The following mines will be available by 25 August in the amounts indicated:
1,000 for the Navy.
3,000 for the Luftwaffe.
The monthly supply at first will be 250 for the Navy, 500 for the Luftwaffe. This will be increased until the number has been doubled.
b. AA1 - subsonic mine unit.
The monthly supply at first will be 200 for the Navy, 200 for the Luftwaffe. This number will be increased until it reaches altogether approximately 1,200 to 1,500.
c. AD 104 and AD 105 - units for a bomb mine only for the Luftwaffe.
This is a pressure mine with acoustic firing device.
d. A 105 - acoustic mine with mutual conductance circuit (Steilheitsschaltung), only for the Luftwaffe.
The total number of mines available by the end of August is therefore 10,550, with a monthly supply of at least 2,500, to be increased gradually.
The Battleship Bismarck.
The Complete History
of the Ship.
Naval & military gifts