Battleship Bismarck Website
  Home   Intro   Technical   History   Crew   Models   Gallery   Kriegsmarine   Archives   More   Forum   Acorazado Bismarck   UPDATES

Conference of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer at Headquarters Wolfsschanze in the afternoon of 9 July 1941.

Present: Chief of the OKW [Generalfeldmarschall Keitel]
Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe [Reichsmarschall Göring]
Minister of Foreign Affairs [von Ribbentrop]
General Jodl
Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff [General Jeschonnek]
Kapitän zur See von Puttkamer

1. The Occupation of Iceland by the U.S.A.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports on the situation (see Annex 1 and Appendices). He requests a decision on the question of whether from the political viewpoint the occupation of Iceland by the U.S.A. is to be considered as an entry into the war, or as an act of provocation which should be ignored.

The Führer explains in detail that he is most anxious to postpone the United States‘ entry into the war for another one or two months. On the one hand the Eastern Campaign must be carried on with the entire Air Force, which is ready for this task and which he does not wish to divert even in part; on the other hand, a victorious campaign on the Eastern Front will have a tremendous effect on the whole situation and probably also on the attitude of the U.S.A. Therefore for the time being he does not wish the existing instructions changed, but rather wants to be sure that incidents will be avoided.

It is thus permissible to attack merchant ships in the closed area without warning; American merchant ships, however, are to be spared as far as possible, when they are definitely recognized as such.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, states in this connection that no guarantee can be given, and that a commander cannot be held responsible for a mistake.

The Führer agrees.

Warships are, as before, not to be attacked in the closed area, unless they are definitely established as enemy ships from cruisers on up, or it is unmistakable that they are attacking.

2. Northwest Africa. (See Annex 2.)

In connection with Paragraph 5 of Annex 1, the commander in Chief, Navy, points out emphatically how important it is for the outcome of the war that France keep a firm hold on Northwest Africa. If the U.S.A. or Britain were to gain possession of Dakar and the rest of the coast, it would be a severe threat to our ability to carry on the war in the Atlantic; the position of the Axis forces in North Africa would also be severely menaced. Therefore France must receive all the help necessary to hold Northwest Africa.

The Chief of the OKW states that all the military requirements of France in connection with Dakar will be met.

The Führer is very distrustful of France and considers her counterdemands excessive.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, once again emphasizes the decisive strategic significance of keeping a firm hold on Northwest Africa in view of the probable plans of the U.S.A. and Britain to drive the French out of that area.

3. The Internment of Russian Warships in Sweden.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, refers to the possibility that Russian ships may be interned in Sweden. The Seekriegsleitung will try by every possible means to prevent Russian naval forces from breaking out of the Gulf of Finland. If single vessels should be interned in Sweden, pressure must be brought to bear at once on that country to hand over the ships to Germany until Russia has been defeated.

The Führer instructs the Minister of Foreign Affairs to consider what steps to take.

signed: Raeder

Annex 1

The Occupation of Iceland by the U.S.A.

1. The occupation of Iceland by the U.S.A. will have a very detrimental effect on German warfare in the Atlantic, both as regards submarines and surface ships.

2. In detail:

3. With the appearance of American merchant ships escorted by warships there is an increased possibility of incidents; it is suspected that the measures taken by the U.S.A. are deliberately provocative.

Up to now we have not had to reckon with the appearance of American merchant ships in the blockade area, and action against American warships was ruled out on account of operation "Barbarossa" by the restrictive order of 21 June (Skl Ia 001174/41 Chefs.).

4. If the measures taken by the U.S.A. are to be considered merely as a provocation which should be ignored, in spite of the above-mentioned severe effect on our war activities, amplification of our orders is nevertheless proposed as follows:

5. The Seekriegsleitung ascribes particular importance to measures which would tend to rule out further similar steps by the U.S.A.; our own immediate interests would have to be set aside for the time being.

In this connection it is a primary requirement to make concessions to France in order to increase the defensive strength of Dakar and Casablanca, so that an American or British surprise attack would be out of the question. The endeavor to exploit these bases for ourselves must take a secondary place for the time being. The presence of U.S. or British forces in Dakar or Casablanca, especially naval surface forces, would almost suspend warfare in the North Atlantic, and would render operation "Felix" largely ineffectual. (See Annex 2.)

In the case of Spain and Portugal, military and political steps must be taken for the speediest possible reinforcement of the Atlantic island groups.

6. If the measures by the U.S.A. against Iceland are to be interpreted as constituting entry into the war, the following steps should be taken:

7. Whichever way this act is interpreted, it is desired that we plainly demonstrate our objections by issuing the proposed orders, so that the warmongering of the President of the U.S. might be exposed through the ensuing losses, and his political opponents strengthened.

The longer our countermeasures are delayed, the greater the likelihood that these measures will be taken as independent acts, thus losing their relation to this provocation by the U.S.A.

Appendix 2 to Annex 1


Since the beginning of the war, the U.S.A. has violated its obligations as a neutral state to a constantly increasing degree, and has gradually come to the stage of open support of the enemy and provocation of Germany. Germany for her part has done everything possible not to give the United States any excuse for such actions. we have deliberately put up with American violations of neutrality and acts of provocation. The relations between the U.S.A. and Germany during the war can be marked off into two main phases: The first period was characterized by the fact that the U.S.A. kept up an outward show of neutrality and followed a policy of annoying Germany in small ways. The second phase started with the cession of fifty destroyers to Great Britain, and is characterized by the fact that the U.S.A. clearly abandoned neutrality in favor of Great Britain. From this time (September 1940) on, the U.S.A. began to disclose openly its imperialistic policy, under pretence of defending the Western Hemisphere. It is of interest to recall in detail the following steps taken by the United States:

First period:

4 September 1939 - The American Neutrality Law came into force, putting a full embargo on war materials. At the same time, however, Roosevelt began his propaganda to the effect that the Neutrality Law must be changed and that the embargo on weapons should be lifted.

3 October 1939 - The introduction of a Pan-American Safety Zone was calculated to give a one-sided advantage to the Allies, under the cloak of Pan-American security.

4 November 1939 - The Neutrality Law was altered at the instigation of Roosevelt, and the prohibition on export of arms was lifted. The Cash and Carry Clause was introduced instead. Shortly after, efforts were commenced to do away with the Cash and Carry Clause.

20 October 1939 - American harbors were closed to submarines by virtue of the Neutrality Law. An exception was made in the case of armed merchant ships, which was a favor to none but Great Britain.

7 November 1939 - The United states Lines were authorized to sail under the Panama flag, in order to get around the Neutrality Law.

January 1940 - Cruiser TUSCALOOSA brought about the sinking of the German merchant ship COLUMBUS. As opposed to this unfriendly attitude on the part of the U.S.A., Germany twice issued restrictive regulations with respect to the treatment of American ships, and on 5 March 1940 entirely forbade action against them.

8 June 1940 - Roosevelt declared that it was permissible to return munitions and materiel to factories for delivery to Britain.

27 June 1940 - A proclamation was made limiting the freedom of movement of merchant ships in American ports and the Canal Zone. In practice, measures are enforced only against German ships.

Second period:

The first gross breach of neutrality on the part of the U.S.A. was committed at the beginning of September 1940 with the exchange of destroyers for British naval and air bases. From this time on they gave up even an outward show of neutrality. The imperialistic tendency of United States policy was demonstrated by the sending of consuls to Greenland, Iceland, Dakar, and Horta.

21 November 1940 - Through measures which were later extended into the petrol system, the German steamers RHEIN and IDARHALD, which had just set out from Mexico, were made to fall into the hands of the British.

30 November 1940 - The President held out prospect of the sale of American ships, release of volunteers for British units, and continued observation of German merchant raiders.

6 February 1941 - It became known that negotiations concerning combined economic warfare against Germany were in progress.

13 March 1941 - The Lend-Lease Lew went into effect, whereby the Cash and Carry Clause was abolished and the delivery of arms was carried out through the U.S. Government.

18 March 1941 - Plans were made for an air base in Greenland.

13 April 1941 - Restrictions in the Red Sea combat area were lifted for the purpose of supplying British forces.

15 April 1941 - Greenland was included in the U.S. defensive system of the Western Hemisphere. It became known on 4 June l941 that troops had been landed.

18 April l941 - The patrol system was introduced, and reconnaissance reports were transmitted to the British Admiralty.

Likewise on 18 April it became known that British ships were to be overhauled and repaired in U.S. shipyards as a result of the Lend-Lease Law.

11 June 1941 - A law was passed concerning seizure of ships laid up in U.S. harbors. The law is directed exclusively against German, Italian, and Danish merchant ships.

7 July 1941 - Occupation of Iceland.

Annex 2

The Question of the Exploitation of Dakar for German Warfare.

1. Developments up to the present time.

Since the summer of 1940 the Seekriegsleitung has pointed out at every opportunity the decisive significance of Dakar and French West Africa for our own war strategy and also for that of the enemy. By the beginning of September 1940 the Seekriegsleitung had already examined in detail and reported on the possibilities for offensive action which are afforded the Americans in the eastern Atlantic by occupying Spanish and Portuguese islands, by establishing themselves in British possessions, and by taking possession of French colonies in West Africa. The preliminary U.S. propaganda was already accusing Germany at that time of taking steps against the French colonies in West Africa and pointing out the possibility that the German Air Force would use West Africa as a base for attacking America across the South Atlantic. Since that time Britain and the U.S. both have been following developments in Dakar with the greatest suspicion, and by their directions to their agents and representatives they have shown what a great interest they take in being forewarned of military measures taken by Germany for utilizing Dakar. On the other hand, the defenses of Dakar and French West Africa have not been substantially increased, particularly since Germany has met the wishes and requests of the French only to a small extent.

2. The significance of Dakar.

a. For German warfare:

b. For enemy warfare: 3. Essential conditions for the exploitation of Dakar.

a. The French must be in agreement.

b. The coastal defenses of Dakar, which are inadequate at present, must be increased.

c. Effective coastal and frontier patrol must be organized at all places where there might be a landing.

d. Defense troops and air forces which are sufficiently strong and sufficiently well equipped to ward off an Anglo-American attack must be sent to French West Africa; this means that sufficient reserves in men, materiel, and food must be built up in preparation of a long blockade.

The Seekriegsleitung does not know what the reasons are which have hitherto stood in the way of strengthening the defenses in West Africa, or why the general principles proposed by the Seekriegsleitung as early as autumn 1940 were not carried out. The Seekriegsleitung is also not closely familiar with the real reasons which have caused the German political leaders to refuse the French requests on important points, or to delay in complying with them. They deeply regret, however, that the political points of view have been preventing the fulfillment of important German military demands up to now. Whatever the German political attitude towards France is to be in the future, the Seekriegsleitung believes that the necessity to assure the defense of French West Africa is so urgent and the advantages derivable from cooperation with France (which would mean that we can use Dakar) are so great, that considerable political concessions to France will have to be made if necessary and political disadvantages of a temporary nature will have to be borne. The most important task at the present time, is to paralyze the British war effort as soon as possible.

The Seekriegsleitung is convinced that, judging from the present great activity of the enemy in the Battle of the Atlantic, and considering the great significance of Dakar for German warfare, Britain and America will not permit Germany to use the bases in French West Africa for her own purposes without strong opposition. The Anglo-American war leaders will not hesitate to attack French West Africa; this time, however, they will make different preparations and use different means than in the last unsuccessful attempt to occupy Dakar.

The Seekriegsleitung therefore feels obliged to recognize as justified French requests for release of the materials and facilities necessary to strengthen the defenses of French colonies in North and West Africa.

The occupation of Iceland by the U.S. shows the trend which Anglo-American war strategy is taking with regard to the Battle of the Atlantic. Iceland is the first step; this will be followed by Anglo-American occupation of the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, and Dakar and other parts of French west Africa.

The present situation in the Battle of the Atlantic is unsatisfactory. The prospects for future operations are not very favorable. They are marked by the following facts:

If submarine operations in the Middle Atlantic should have to be suspended because we are unable to use Dakar as an operational base, and Anglo-American forces occupy the Azores and Dakar, our chances of winning the Battle of the Atlantic would suffer a further decisive setback. The Seekriegsleitung is convinced that an Anglo-American occupation of West Africa would mean at the same time a severe threat to French Morocco and North Africa; such an occupation might possibly void the advantages Germany could hope to gain from an occupation of Gibraltar.

The Seekriegsleitung therefore draws attention again to the great significance of Dakar for our own and for enemy warfare, and repeats the demand for political action which would remove all obstacles in the way of strengthening the defenses of French West Africa as quickly as possible, and assure us the use of Dakar for operational purposes.

Home   Guestbook   Quiz   Glossary   Help us   Weights & Measures   Video   Credits   Links   Contact

Copyright © 1998-2021


Battleship Bismarck Book