Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Conference between the Commander in Chief, Navy, and the Führer at the Berghof the afternoon of 19 November 1942.
REPORT ON THE SITUATION, 17 NOVEMBER 1942.
1. Own Situation.
Eastern Sector: Ice will soon put a stop to enemy activity in the Baltic Sea. No submarines have been observed during the last few days.
For the conduct of naval warfare next spring, it is important to seal off Leningrad. The result of such an action would be a saving of underwater defense devices and of naval vessels; at the same time it would make the blockade of Leningrad more effective. If it is absolutely impossible to take Leningrad this winter, then the occupation of the coastal strip Schepel-Oranienbaum and the islands of Lavansaari and Seiskari would considerably improve the situation (see Annex 1).
The British home air fleet is at present engaged in laying aerial mines. Our effort to sweep these mines is taxing our forces to the limit.
Northern Sector: The activity of our fleet is hampered by lack of fuel oil. The situation will not improve for the time being, since the amounts of fuel oil being handed over in the Mediterranean are increasing (see Annex 2). The following German naval forces are stationed in Norway:
Hipper and Köln in the Alta Fjord.
Nürnberg in Trondheim.
4 destroyers in the Alta Fjord, 3 destroyers in Trondheim.
Scharnhorst cannot be in Norway until January 1943 as a result of delays in repairs.
Scheer returned to Germany the beginning of November.
Submarines will be less effective during the arctic night because of absence of aerial reconnaissance. At the present time 23 submarines are assigned to the Arctic Ocean. 10 of these are in the operational zones, 3 near Jan Mayen, 7 near Bear Island.
The Führer decides that in view of the oil situation only Lützow is to be transferred, while Prinz Eugen will remain in Germany. The decision concerning the transfer of the Scharnhorst is to be made at the beginning of January. The Führer wants light naval forces to be sent to Norway, however, and desires Norway to be heavily stocked with supplies, since all available reports lead him to fear that the enemy will attempt an invasion during the arctic night. One PT flotilla is to proceed to the Trondheim area, and the artillery barges of the Commanding Admiral, Defenses North, are to proceed to Norway for the time being. The Führer plans to reinforce the troops stationed there. One Jäger Division is to be transferred to the Narvik area, and strong reserve forces are to be placed in the Oslo area. The Führer believes that Sweden's attitude absolutely cannot be depended upon in case of an enemy landing attempt.
Western Sector: The situation has not changed to any extent. The enemy is increasing his air activity over the Bay of Biscay and is apparently interested mainly in out-bound tankers which he suspects of being submarine supply ships; e.g. heavy air raids on SPICHERN.
So far, only two of the blockade runners left port undetected. Three others had to turn back because of damage. Three blockade runners have so far returned from their mission. Enemy air raids on submarine bases such as La Pallice and St. Nazaire have increased lately.
Southern Sector: This is the most important sector at present. we are aiding the Italians with whatever means we have. The 3rd S-boat Flotilla and the two available motor minesweepers are in Tunis and Bizerte. HERMES was left in the Aegean Sea in view of the importance of providing Crete with the necessary supplies.
All the fuel oil we can spare is being shipped to Italy. In addition, we are stocking the mines necessary for closing the Straits of Sicily. The importance of closing the Straits of Sicily immediately was emphatically called to the attention of Admiral Riccardi.
The reinforcement of Crete is proceeding to plan.
2. Enemy Situation.
The landing in North Africa proves that there is as yet no shortage of ships for strategic purposes. In case of an emergency, the enemy can make available a sufficiently large number of vessels by cutting down on all other shipping operations. The ships used in the North African operation total approximately 1,300,000 BRT according to reports received about ships passing Gibraltar, etc. There are enough troop transports. Most of these ships are at present on the way home. Approximately 300,000 BRT are necessary to supply the troops landed in North Africa so far. The enemy can start another operation of greater scope by the middle of December, if he is able to continue the restrictions on other types of shipping.
Tunisia always was and still is the decisive key position in the Mediterranean. The presence of Axis forces in Tunisia compels the enemy to employ considerable forces, which must be supplied over long and vulnerable routes. It is a simple task, however, to supply our Armored Army since our lines are short. At the same time the presence of our forces in Tunisia prevents enemy success, since passage through the Mediterranean is denied him. If we are able to hold Tunisia, the enemy will have gained only the advantage of moving his air bases closer to our North African position and to Italy. This is offset however, by disadvantages due to vulnerable supply lines and the large number of troops needed.
Should the enemy succeed in dislodging us from North Africa altogether, he will have enough ships and troops to start an all-out attack on the southern flank of Europe. This attack might be launched in any one of three directions:
c. The Balkans.
The following is an evaluation of the possible advantages and disadvantages the enemy may derive from an attack directed against one of the three objectives mentioned above:
a. Iberian Peninsula:
Disadvantages: Politically, an attack on neutral Spain and Portugal would be embarrassing, with repercussions in South America. However, this factor will not be decisive.
Disadvantages: The enemy has to throw strong forces against our coastal defenses. This can be very costly for him since it is very easy for us to reinforce these defenses. Therefore, an operation against Italy seems probable only when there is more evidence of internal disintegration in that country.
The following factors cause the Commander in Chief, Navy, to fear a sudden powerful attack on the Aegean from the Suez area: the quiet in the Eastern Mediterranean, the large number of troops landed in South Africa during the last few months, the complete absence of reports from the western* Indian Ocean, and reports of increased commando activity on Cyprus. Paralysis of our oil sources in Rumania will, of course, always be one of the principal enemy goals.
* Japan has at present only 5 submarines and 4 auxiliary cruisers in the Indian Ocean, since she believes that she will need her forces for the battle near the Salomons. On 7 November 1942, Japan withdrew her naval forces to the treaty line, 70º East. Therefore, unfortunately, she is contributing hardly anything at this time to weakening the enemy and disrupting his transport shipments in the western Indian Ocean, in spite of the fact that she is fully aware of the situation.
The Führer repeatedly voices agreement with this opinion. He considers it absolutely necessary that Crete and the troops in the Pelopennesos be reinforced, and that air units be left on Crete. The Führer is convinced that the Bulgarians will live up to their treaty obligations under such circumstances.
Plans: The number of submarines in the Arctic Ocean is not to be permitted to fall below 23. There were 24 submarines in the Mediterranean, 5 of which have been lost in the meantime. The number is to be brought up to 24 again. Only 5 or 6 submarines are still in the western Mediterranean zone of operations because of the strong anti-submarine defenses and air patrols. It is planned to retain that number of submarines and, if possible, to hold several additional submarines in reserve. 57 submarines and 2 submarine tankers are in the zone of operations in the Atlantic. 33 are en route to or from the zone of operations. 3 submarines are still operating off the Cape, 4 in the Gulf of Guinea-Freetown area, and 7 off Trinidad. The greater part of the submarines, 25 in all, is west of Gibraltar, waiting to attack enemy supplies headed for the Mediterranean. A group of 14 submarines is in the North Atlantic. This group is reinforced mainly by submarines coming from Germany. Attacks on enemy North Atlantic convoys are especially successful at this time, since the enemy escorts are weak. It has been planned that for the time being a group of 12 submarines is to continue to operate against enemy supply transports in the area between the Azores and the Iberian Peninsula-Strait of Gibraltar. The remaining available submarines will be used in the North Atlantic and current zones of operations in order to exploit the weakness of the enemy escort forces and to inflict the largest possible losses on enemy shipping.
The Führer is in agreement concerning the number of submarines to be stationed in the Mediterranean and in the area west of Gibraltar. He feels that the opportunities in the Atlantic, resulting from the reduction in enemy escort forces, should be exploited. Above all he desires that measures be taken against enemy shipping to Egypt and the Middle East via South Africa, in order to relieve the pressure on our troops in Africa and to facilitate a later advance to the Near East. Furthermore, it must be possible to reinforce the submarines in Norway immediately in case of an invasion there. The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that this can be done any time by issuing appropriate orders to submarines out-bound from Germany, and by diverting submarines from the North Atlantic.
The Führer also wants transport submarines to be built. The reason he gives is that since the Americans took over Iceland, he has again taken up the idea of a sudden invasion and establishment of an air base there. The Seekriegsleitung, Quartermaster division, advocates that this task be delegated to the Reich Commissioner of Maritime Shipping, since these submarines could be built as merchant submarines and as such could be used for merchant shipping purposes, e.g. as blockade runners. The Commander in Chief, Navy, agrees to look into the matter.
4. Of the auxiliary cruisers, only ship "28" [Michel] is at present operating in the southern Indian Ocean. The Commander in Chief, Navy, gives an account of operations of ship "23" [Stier]. The crew of this auxiliary cruiser returned aboard TANNENFELS after sinking a camouflaged enemy auxiliary cruiser and scuttling their own badly damaged vessel.
5. North Sea West Wall.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, emphasizes the necessity for reinforcing the North Sea coast and the principal islands by means of a West Wall. The conditions which permitted a certain weakness of the fortifications, namely presence of a strong Air Force able to repel the enemy, no longer prevail. Since our Air Force is operating over such a large area, it would not be able to keep the Allies from launching an attack in this area for the purpose of establishing air bases. The Commander in Chief, Navy, requests permission to give Minister Speer directions accordingly. The Führer has always been of the same opinion and fully agrees.
6. Shipping Space in the Mediterranean.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out the necessity of building more transport vessels and landing craft in Italy. According to our information, there is sufficient capacity for this in a number of shipyards. However, pressure will have to be put on the Italians from the highest quarters, since there is still an attempt on the part of the Italians to build with an eye toward peace. The Führer agrees.
Annex 1The Question of Leningrad.
Since the operation against Leningrad bad to be abandoned for the time being, naval warfare will again flare up in the Baltic after the ice has melted in the spring. The Seekriegsleitung is convinced that the Russians will again try to get as many submarines as possible into the Baltic Sea, profiting by their experiences of the past summer. Deliberately risking great losses, they succeeded in getting a number of submarines through our very dense mine fields consisting of 13,000 mines and anti-sweeping devices. These submarines harassed our shipping and inflicted some losses. However, the fact that a great number of light vessels had to be used for escort duty, anti-submarine warfare, minelaying and patrolling of mine fields, weakened the German Navy in other important areas. German naval warfare would be helped considerably in 1943 if our mine fields could be concentrated in the easternmost narrows of the Gulf of Finland.
If we lay our mine field approximately in the latitude of Schepel we will need only 3,600 mines. i.e. approximately 28% of the number required at the present time. At the same time the depth of the water is more suitable and the mines will be much closer together. A mine field in that location will also be much more effective because it can be watched from the coast and therefore only few ships will be needed to patrol it. At the same time, coastal batteries can prevent enemy sweeping attempts.
In view of our limited mine reserves and the number of mines now being produced, we cannot afford to lay as many as we did in the spring of 1942. Likewise for the sake of saving equipment which could be used for other important operations, it would pay us to lay the narrow and effective mine field, even though the deep mines are not affected by the ice and only the shallow ones, i.e. those layed at a depth of 20 meters or less, have to be replaced. We cannot do this, however, unless we occupy the coast from Oranienbaum to Schepel and the remaining islands of Lavansaari, Peninsaari and Seiskari. But even if we took only the western point of the coastal strip still held by the Russians, inclusive of Schepel, we would improve the situation considerably and make the islands untenable for the enemy. If the operation is successful, we will also be in a much better position to watch and attack Kronstadt. Therefore, the Seekriegsleitung proposes that all available forces in the Leningrad area be primarily used for the purpose of occupying the entire southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, and advocates the permanent occupation of the three islands in the winter, when the Gulf is frozen over. If we cannot occupy Schepel, considerable advantages would be gained by the permanent occupation of the islands alone.
The Führer agrees with what has been said. He hopes matters will progress as outlined by the Seekriegsleitung. He believes that it will be possible to make the harbor of Leningrad unusable by a new method of attack.
Annex 2The Fuel Oil Situation.
A. Fuel oil consumption of the Navy was drastically reduced in April 1942. Between then and October, inclusive, naval forces consumed 472,892 tons, or 67,500 tons of fuel oil per month. Reserves, which must not be permitted to fall below a certain minimum in view of the numerous refueling stations which must be supplied at great distances, amounted to 150,000 tons on 1 April.
A total of 81,000 tons was placed at the disposal of the Italian Navy since April 1942. Deliveries were stepped up beginning August 1942. These amounts were taken only partly from the monthly quota of the German Navy; the remainder came out of the reserves. Consequently, the German reserves have now reached a low of 131,900 tons on 1 November 1942.
B. During the same period, the Italian Navy consumed a total of 411,000 tons, or approximately 60,000 tons per month. Now the Italians are asking for more than 80,000 tons per month. Italian fuel oil reserves amounted to 40,000 tons in the beginning of April. Since Rumanian deliveries have been decreasing steadily since June, the Italian reserves are down to 14,000 tons as of 1 November, in spite of all the German help. In other words, for all practical purposes there are no more reserves. As the result the Italian battleships had to relinquish all their oil and are consequently not ready for action; the cruisers at Navarino can keep their tanks only 4/5 full, and the cruisers at Messina only 1/2 full. The Italian bases in Dalmatia and in the Aegean Sea have no more oil at all. The naval forces in the Aegean Sea are at present being supplied with German fuel oil through the Commanding Admiral, Aegean Sea. It has already become necessary to postpone the departure dates of convoys or even to cancel them. It has also become necessary to forego certain operations, such as pursuit of sighted submarines, because the naval forces simply do not have the necessary fuel oil.
It has been proven that the Italians have not given all the fuel oil received from the German Navy to their Navy. After this was discovered by a German officer especially assigned to look into the matter, the Italians kept him from getting further information regarding the disposition of our shipments.
C. Romanian shipments will further decrease during the winter months. The German Navy has promised the Italians 20,000 tons per month. According to the Italians, their minimum monthly requirement is 60,000 tons, now even raised to 80,000 tons. Therefore the supply that can be counted on won't be sufficient under any circumstances.
D. Fuel oil shipments to Italy can be increased only in the following ways:
b. By increasing shipments from Germany. This would necessitate curtailing German operations. This could be done only with respect to the nucleus fleet, which, in effect, would have to be completely immobilized. Some fuel oil can be saved by putting the ships into German ports where they need no oil for heating and for the generators. The operations of the defense forces and of the training ships for the schools and those under the Commander in Chief, U-boats, cannot be curtailed any further.
c. By measures guaranteeing that the fuel oil intended for the Italian Navy is used exclusively by the ltalian Navy.
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