Konteradmiral Brinkmann statement on the discrepancy regarding the timely receipt of an important radio telegram.
(Translated from the original German by Ulrich H. Rudofsky)
Naval Group Command North
Log no. Gkdos .1077/43 A IV 2nd deposition
Command Station, 11 March 1943
Secret Command Matter
To the Supreme Command of the Navy [O.K.M.] - Kr -
Subject: “Bismarck” Sortie.
Transaction: Sender office log numbers Kr 372/43 ... of 9.3.43.
Attached letter of Konteradmiral Brinkmann is returned.
Singed in draft: Kupfer
Naval Group Command South
The Chief of Staff
21 January 1943.
To the Supreme Command of the Navy [O.K.M.].
B e r l i n
Ref: KR 1555/42 Secret pv 17 Sept 1942.
Subject: Discrepancy regarding the timely receipt of an important radio telegram.
1. This matter could not be evaluated until today, since investigation using the old cruiser "Prinz Eugen’s" radio logs were useless. The intelligence section of the cruiser concerning the former's sortie of "Prinz Eugen" and "Bismarck" into the Atlantic, according to orders, were destroyed after being analyzed and briefly stored for their evaluations.
2. But I remember that my Intelligence Officer [B.N.O.] Kaptänleutnant von Schulz was ordered during my command tenure, who had been ordered to Group West at Paris for several weeks, in the summer of 41, to reconstruct a War Diary of the battleship "Bismarck" with the aid of the records of the Group and the documents including the cruiser's War Diary that he took with him. However, I do not have any inventory available of these.
3. The Navigation Officer [N.O.] at the time during my command was Korvettenkapitän Beck who was able to save and send to me my handwritten notes intended for the War Diary entries for the 24. May AM after the "Hood" battle. I had made the following entry:
These firsthand impressions and observations of the battle are the first written thoughts and determinations that reproduce without editing, but with reliance on verbatim recall the radio messages. My memory is firm, as is verified by my navigation officer, that the radio message of Group North to Fleet, as they have transmitted during these proceedings, was word-for-word: "Until now no operational deployment of hostile naval forces recognized".
This is what was transmitted to the bridge to me and my Navigation Officer during the night of 23-24. It is, therefore, totally impossible to me and to my Navigation Officer that this radio message could have arrived 24 hours earlier, i.e., that it should have arrived long before even entering the Denmark Strait. In theory, it is possible that the radio message was transmitted on 22. May at 2353 hours or that it was supposed to have been sent at that time.
Whatever, it was not picked up by "Prinz Eugen" on that day.
....Enemy position: Bad weather has prevented us to obtain reliable air recon after departure from the fjords concerning the positions of the enemy. Air recon reported two battleships, a heavy cruiser at Scapa Flow on the 22nd was reported to fleet. The air recon analysis first received by Fleet on the 24th, however, listed at Scapa only two smaller cruisers, a training ship etc.
Thus, Fleet thought that this was an encouraging message, based on the enemy disposition given by Group North just 5 hours before the battle on the 24th, that no remarkable changes in the distribution of the British forces could be recognized. Therefore, both ships were very surprised, when at 0445 in the morning, at the point in time as dawn’s first light appeared in the East, two ships approached from the east athwartships at high speed toward our ships.
They were located with listening devices and later by EM II by "Prinz Eugen", and reported to "Bismarck", since Fleet had made a “Change Numbers” in order to obtain an clear field of fire abaft.......
Since all radio telegrams are sent out blindly to ships engaged in operations, it is well known that there are zones were reception is very poor or completely absent. Possibly Group North thought so, too, and resent the radio message a day later. It appears to me not very likely, since the radio messages of the groups are sequentially numbered within a 24 hour day period; the missing of a message number was not recalled by the intelligence officer, my repeated requests.
There is the possibility that based on geographical and technical reasons, impaired reception, although it could also work in reverse: "Bismarck" repeated the sinking of the "Hood" at least 8 to 10 times without any German radio station acknowledging receipt. The proceeding, furthermore, mentions the remark of the Office of Naval Operations [SKL] in regard to the War Diary of "Prinz Eugen" that on 23 May at 2353 hours the ships had been discovered by the English surveillance vessels and had been already tracked for several ours.
Therefore, the remark regarding the radio message was deemed irrelevant by Group and I need to reply to this, since there is obviously a difference between having been seen by English light forces and the consequent conclusion that in all certainty in a safe distance heavy enemy units stand ready for capture. That the English set up continuous cruiser surveillance of the Strait of Denmark, especially at the narrows from Cape North to the ice limit off Greenland was well known since the previous multiple breakouts by 'Hipper" and "Scheer" and U-boat and blockade breakers.
That both ships ["Prinz Eugen" and "Bismarck"] believed they could shake off the surveillance cruisers in the vastness of the Atlantic by maintaining high constant speed of 30 knots, may have been an overestimation, but, nevertheless, the opinion existed. This view was even reinforced by receipt of the radio message 740 from Group North to Fleet on 23.5. about 2200 hours that is the point of this discussion.
I will not give a further rebuttal of the controversy, but I can only insist that the receipt of the radio message was as stated in the War Diary, on 23 May at 2353 hours and it was this message that was presented to the bridge after decoding in the first morning hour of 24 May.
As far as I know, all radio transmissions are also monitored and received simultaneously by the Office of Naval Operations [S.K.L.], and perhaps their documents can by used for verification of my testimony.
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