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Chief of the OKW [Generaloberst Keitel]
Fregattenkapitän von Puttkamer
1. Baltic Sea. Ice conditions are discussed. The note from the Foreign Office to the Swedish Government regarding laying of mines in Swedish territorial waters in the Sound by Sweden herself was answered in the negative.
This matter is being considered, since England might easily demand similar steps from Norway if it were known that Germany is exercising pressure on Sweden. War against merchant shipping in the eastern Baltic Sea is continuing.
2. Northern passage. Political difficulties will not arise, according to a report by the Naval Attaché. Practical details are now being worked on.
3. North Sea. The situation is unchanged. There is a considerable flow of naval forces back from the Atlantic into home waters. A considerable number of ships is under repair at shipyards, among others the BARHAM, hit by submarine torpedo, and the NELSON, probably hit by a mine off the Scottish coast.
Therefore the situation is favorable for an offensive by our heavy forces against convoys proceeding from Bergen to the Shetlands, regarding which information is continually coming in. In connection with this, operations by submarines against the heavy British forces proceeding from the bases are to take place, probably at the end of the month.
In the German Bight three successes were achieved in anti-submarine operations. The first British mine field has been located in the British declared area off Terschelling.
Further plans are to send out the LÜTZOW at the beginning of March. Five auxiliary cruisers are to be sent into the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean between the beginning of February and the middle of April. Mines, among other things, are to be layed off Halifax and in the Persian Gulf. The purpose is not so much to sink merchant ships on a large scale as to disturb British merchant shipping continuously over a long period of time and to divert strong defense forces to the high seas, thereby relieving the home theater.
4. Submarine warfare and mine warfare. Two operations by destroyers in the Thames and Newcastle areas In the last new moon period have been successful. Submarines layed mines off the east and southeast coasts. On the west coast it is still going on. Here the defenses are very strong in view of the Importance of the western ports.
Mine fields have been laid in the Bristol Channel, off Liverpool (very difficult), and off the Clyde, as well as on the south coast off Falmouth. It is intended to lay mines off Plymouth and Portsmouth. Two to three boats are to be sent to Halifax in order to lay mines and carry out submarine warfare, using torpedoes. Questions regarding the American safety zone will be settled beforehand with the Foreign Office.
Submarine warfare in the North Sea and the Atlantic is at present being conducted again with greater intensity, after having produced fewer results in December owing to extensive repairs. On 5 January two successes were achieved against a convoy off the Spanish coast by U44.
5. Intensification of war against merchant shipping. (See Annex 1.) Gradual intensification continues to justify itself. Political difficulties have been entirely avoided in this manner. Since the Führer has agreed in principle to defining areas off the British coast in which also neutrals - exclusive of friendly neutrals - may be sunk without warning, so long as in the area in question it is possible to put the blame on mines, the following measures are planned:
b. To extend the area off the Bristol Channel westward to about 10º 3' W (up to the 200 meter line) and to include the Irish Sea.
c. To add a new area (approximately from Dover to Flamborough Head) to the northern approaches of the English Channel. It is not planned to block the Channel to the west until the question of operation "Gelb" is settled. Preferential treatment of friendly neutrals is still considered necessary.
6. Effect of the naval war against merchant shipping. The effect as a whole of warfare against merchant shipping up to now has been quite satisfactory, as is shown by statements in Parliament and in the press. The Navy has shown that, in spite of its limited means, it can achieve considerable success in the economic strangulation of Britain. However, the Navy alone is not at present in a position to produce a decisive effect. (For months the Navy has been carrying on this war practically singlehanded.)
In order to gain a complete success it will be necessary to have strong support from the Air Force with attacks on convoys in the North Sea and with mine warfare on the west coast.
Above all it is necessary to concentrate on naval and air warfare against Britain. The Commander in Chief, Navy, has recently gathered the impression through various orders of the OKW that the general conduct of the war is at present strongly influenced by "continental ideas", as witnessed by the following:
a. The order of 17 January 1940 regarding transfer of younger personnel (officers, noncommissioned officers, and men) of the coastal defense services, etc., to the Army for the formation of new divisions.
Over against this the greatest difficulty on the part of the Navy is that of obtaining personnel for the submarines, without detriment to the discipline on board ships, etc. It will be necessary to transfer personnel of naval artillery units with the guns to the Channel coast.
Therefore there is no possibility of releasing further personnel for the Army.
b. The order by the OKW of 18 January 1940 to the Commander in Chief, Army. (This was not submitted to the Navy, and it became known only through a lower office of the Army which was instructed to find out from the Naval Ordnance Division the number of naval guns becoming available.)
The order states that in case the war lasts a long time, the disarmament of large units of the Navy could be considered. In this case the Army plans to use all guns of 20 cm. caliber upwards as longrange artillery. Therefore railway mountings are to be ordered for mobile use of these naval guns, even if their delivery would take considerable time.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, emphasizes the demoralizing effect of this order on the Navy, and points out the false conception that we could ever do with less than a minimum of four battleships in the war against Britain, for the following reasons (see Annex 2):
(2) The presence of heavy German ships prevents the British from launching attacks with light forces against our ore traffic from Narvik.
(3) The operations of the heavy ships force the British to keep heavy units in home waters, for whose protection numerous destroyers are necessary. Attacks by our heavy ships force the heavy British forces to expose themselves to our submarines and aircraft. It is possible to threaten the eastern part of the North Atlantic sea routes and the patrol lines in the north only by mean of heavy ships.
(4) In the Baltic Sea the heavy ships are indispensible for the protection of the whole area, since without them even Sweden, quite apart from Russia, would be a threat to German sea communications and the German coast.
France must be beaten and the British deprived of their base on the Continent. For the rest, the order under "b" was occasioned by the fact that the Army, in contrast to earlier occasions, is supposed to procure mountings, etc., in good time.
7. Italian requests (see Annex 3). The Italian Navy has for a long time desired the delivery of certain materials. The High Command of the Navy [OKM] wishes to comply with several of these requests if Italy agrees to deliver a few submarines.
Delivery of a warhead pistol, or plans for such, is out of the question.
If submarines are offered in exchange for electrical torpedoes, the Navy is willing to agree to the following without any objections:
b. Drawings of a submarine fire control system (but no working blueprints and no equipment).
c. Information regarding accelerated construction of present submarine types; possibly plans of the 500 ton class.
d. Information regarding weight distribution and synchronous couplings of the BISMARCK class.
e. Continuation of limited exchange of intelligence.
8. Political questions. The Führer desires to delay as long as possible giving plans of the BISMARCK class as well as the hull of the LÜTZOW to Russia, since he hopes to avoid this altogether if the war develops favorably.
The Führer believes that Italy will enter the war only in the event of great German successes, and preferably only against France; he sees no great advantage for Germany in Italy's participation in view of the fact that Germany would probably then be burdened with the obligation to make more deliveries to Italy.
Sweden and Norway are at present determined to maintain strict neutrality.
9. Technical developments. Submarine pens: In 1940 sixteen will be ready in Heligoland. In Wilhelmshaven the construction dock is being expanded to eighteen pens with dock facilities and workships; this will take about a year.
The Aurol submarine, experimental boat of 80 tons with a submerged speed of 27 knots, will be ready for trials in spring. Plans for a boat of 520 tons and a submerged speed of 25 knots are being started.
Search receivers for location of mines by submarines are practically finished.
There is hope of preventing location of submarines by means of an "Opanin" coating. (Opanin is a by-product in the manufacture of buna.) Practical trials will be made in a few weeks with U11.
10. Award for Baurat Techel: A Goethe medal or a picture of the Führer.
Creation of an award is discussed which would be between the Iron Cross First Class and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, corresponding to the Knight's Cross of the Order of the House of Hohenzollern. It would be awarded to submarine commanders who have sunk 100,000 tons.
Points for Discussion at the Conference, of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer on 26 January 1940.
Intensification of Warfare against Merchant Shipping.
1. The orders now issued by the OKW provide the Navy with far-reaching opportunities for effective warfare against merchant shipping. Up to now, the Seekriegsleitung has permitted surprise submarine attacks in an area within and off the Bristol Channel, and in the waters off the northeast coast of Scotland from the Firth of Forth to the Shetlands. The results of these concessions remain to be seen; any substantial increase in the number of successes here is not anticipated at the moment, as, for one thing, the defenses are very strong, and, in addition, it is still necessary to safeguard friendly neutrals. (Marginal note: As arranged at a previous conference.)
The Seekriegsleitung is proposing the adoption of the following measures for further gradual intensification and extension of the war on merchant shipping:
b. Permit attack without previous warning in the northern approaches to the Channel.
c. Permit unrestricted offensive action in the northern approaches to the Irish Sea.
d. Extend the unrestricted area in the Bristol Channel as far as the 200 meter line. The fiction of mine hits is to be maintained, although this is complicated by the necessity of reverting to the use of percussion firing (for ships under 4,000 BRT) as a result of various torpedo failures. (Tr.N.: This last sentence was crossed out lightly.)
In the opinion of the Seekriegsleitung, preferential treatment of the friendly neutral states, Italy, Russia, and Japan, and careful treatment of America will also have to be maintained with every additional intensification of warfare against merchant shipping, even after the beginning of a general intensification of warfare - not because the Navy wishes it, but for political reasons.
2. The mining, of the English coastal waters by submarines is progressing (east coast, Loch Ewe, Clyde, Liverpool, Bristol Channel, Falmouth, Portsmouth, Portland). Difficulties for the submarines are increasing, however, owing to very strong enemy anti-submarine patrols and maximum concentration of anti-submarine measures.
The enemy has concentrated his main defenses in the western ports, fully realizing their vital importance. Thus the likelihood of submarines being lost before carrying out their difficult minelaying duties is increased.
In this connection the need to assign stronger air forces soon for the purpose of mine laying is becoming greater and greater, but it will presumably not be possible to do this to any great extent until April or May.
At the moment submarine operations are complicated generally by heavy ice at the mouths of the rivers, which is considerably restricting activities in spite of ice-breaking operations by all available ships.
3. It is out of the question to blockade the entire British and French coasts efficiently with the number of forces at present available. The Navy's strong and at the moment singlehanded operations against Britain have, however, inflicted very heavy damage. It is apparent from numerous reports from Britain that the economic situation is taxed to the utmost by the effect of the present naval war. This makes it seem all the more necessary for the Luftwaffe to give energetic support to naval measures against merchant shipping in the war against Britain. If these measures are to be intensified, ships must be sunk without warning; no consideration must be shown for either enemy or neutral. This is a political question.
The Führer has forbidden air attacks on the Downs for the time being, as the ships assembled there are almost all neutrals.
The importance of complete and relentless disruption of all merchant shipping traffic to Britain must, however, again be emphasized. (Marginal note: The only means.) It appears necessary to point out again and again the fact that Britain is our chief enemy, and her overthrow demands the employment of all methods of warfare. Alone, the Kriegsmarine cannot carry out any action against Britain which would be decisive for the outcome of the war.
Relentless operations by the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe are necessary, and every effort must be made to expand and strengthen them. This means demands on industrial capacity.
It is necessary to demand stronger support for naval warfare in the way of air attacks against convoys and ships sailing alone in controlled areas, as well as speedy and large-scale assignment of planes for the mining of coastal waters. On the other hand, since counterattacks on our own ports would follow immediately, our own air attacks against enemy port installations should be carried out only when sufficiently strong units of the Luftwaffe are available for attacks on Britain to insure inflicting considerable damage.
The Necessity for the Continued Construction of Battleships.
For the following reasons, the continued construction of battleships is desirable even during the war:
1. The presence of battleships in conjunction with the danger from aircraft, submarines, and mines prevents the enemy from carrying out offensive warfare with his naval forces in the North Sea and from blocking the submarine routes through mine laying. Thus battleships are a prerequisite for submarine warfare.
2. Cruiser warfare with pocket battleships and auxiliary cruisers holds down large numbers of enemy naval forces of all types, thereby weakening enemy home forces to the advantage of submarine warfare. On the other hand, it is necessary to tie down part of the enemy's battleships in home waters in order to prevent him from committing his entire fighting units against our shipping in foreign waters, which would otherwise face quick elimination. This is possible only by means of German battleships.
3. The offensive warfare of our battleships forces the enemy to keep his own battleships within the operational area of the German submarines and aircraft, thereby exposing them to attack. The enemy needs a large proportion of his destroyers to protect his battleships, and the former have to be withdrawn from merchant shipping escort duties, anti-submarine warfare, and offensive mining operations.
4. A decisive and serious threat to the eastern sector of the strongly protected North Atlantic sea route and the patrol lines Scotland-Greenland is possible only with battleships. Every other ship would have to remain undetected in these waters, while battleships, by virtue of their fighting characteristics, can achieve direct strong successes there, while indirectly relieving pocket battleships, auxiliary cruisers, and submarines.
5. The completion of battleships of the TIRPITZ class is urgently needed for these North Sea duties, as they alone, with their modern armament, are a match for the British battleships, and therefore possess considerably greater possibilities than ships of the GNEISENAU class. (Marginal note: In all probability new British battleships capable of the same standard of performance will appear later.)
6. Battleships provide a means of decisive military pressure on the northern nations, especially in view of the Swedish armored cruisers; we have no superior units with which to oppose them, with the exception of our pocket battleships operating in foreign waters.
7. In consideration of the balance of forces, the Seekriegsleitung is obliged, in addition to concentrating on submarine warfare, to utilize all imaginable naval measures with the greatest possible versatility, in order to disperse enemy forces and weaken defensive measures against submarines. Battleships, and in particular ships of the modern TIRPITZ class, are an indispensible factor in the coordination of forces to achieve this object.
Italian Requests to the German Navy.
The following Italian requests were made to the German Navy some time ago:
1. Cession of twelve electrical torpedoes, later reduced to two.
2. Details of the warhead pistol. (Note: No.)
3. Cession of a submarine fire control system. (A separate request for this has meanwhile been repeated.)
Italy would supply the following in return for the above three items:
5. Details of weight distribution and synchronous couplings of the new battleship BISMARCK.
6. Continued exchange of intelligence on newly constructed ships according to naval treaties.
The requests in 1 to 4 have been refused up to now in accordance with earlier decisions; 5 and 6 were not yet decided upon. So far no answer has been given. As instructed, the matter has been handled in a dilatory manner. It is suggested that former refusals should be investigated.
As a result of reports from the Naval Attaché in Rome, the proposal is made to consider the requests in a positive sense. He remarks of the Italian reticence. He suggests awakening and maintaining in Italy a feeling of the coming comradeship in arms by means of accommodating behavior on the part of Germany. The report of the Military Attaché in Rome concerning a discussion with an old Fascist was in the same vein.
Besides, by meeting the Italians halfway we could persuade them to grant our requests, including surrender of submarines.
The following methods of dealing with the requests are suggested:
With reference to 1: Electrical torpedoes: Yes, two torpedoes as models.
With reference to 2: Warhead pistol: No.
With reference to 3: Submarine fire control system: Drawings: Yes; no working blueprints, however.
Equipment: No, as there is none available owing to our own needs.
With reference to 4: Submarine construction plans: Information that former types are still being constructed in the shortest possible time. If plans ae requested, those of the German 500 ton class may, if necessary, be placed at their disposal.
With reference to 5: Yes. There is no objection, as even before the outbreak of the war more detailed data was supplied.
With reference to 6: Yes, but with reservations. It is proposed to communicate the above information to the Italians and to stress emphatically that, on the German side, it is expected that the Italians will meet them halfway, among other things in the question of submarine purchase and supplies for submarines.
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