Position Statement of the Chief of Fleet, Admiral Schniewind, regarding the War Diary of cruiser "Prinz Eugen".
(Translated from the original German by Ulrich H. Rudofsky)
Log No. Gkdos 100/41 A1
On board, 22 July 1941
Secret command matter
To: Naval Operations Headquarters [S.K.L.],
Naval Group Command North,
Naval Group Command West,
Communicated also to:
Commander of Battleships [B.d.S],
Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K],
Subject: War Diary of the cruiser "Prinz Eugen" of 18.5.- 1.6.41.
Transaction: "Prinz Eugen" Gkdos 400 for the Chief, of 2.6.41.
Attached is the opinion of the Chief of Fleet.
For the Fleet Command
The chief of staff
Attachment to Fleet Gdkos 100/41
Position Statement of the Chief of Fleet to the War Diary of "Prinz Eugen".
A. I agree with virtually all remarks of the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K].I choose not to take a detailed retrospective position regarding the War Diary of "Prinz Eugen" and I will limit myself to select several experiences of a general nature that must apply to the future conduct of our ships in warfare in the Atlantic.
In view of the development of the engagement with the enemy and the defensive measures this opponent has taken, I consider future break-outs by our ships from home waters into the Atlantic, even in the winter months, only promising and justifiable, if the following, here briefly described, preconditions are fulfilled:
1. For the staging and for the break-out itself all forces of the Navy and the Luftwaffe will be required to be at high alert readiness the carry out the tasks.
Other military operations of both branches of the armed forces may have to be curtailed during this time. This concerns first of all the Luftwaffe and to a lesser extent the U-boats.
B. I request that results of the valuable experiences of "Bismarck"/"Prinz Eugen" be evaluated for instructional and tactical training of ships considered for the Atlantic deployment.
- The strength of the air force in readiness is to be measured in such a way not counting their reconnaissance mission and direct security support - that it can guaranty temporary air supremacy in the entire theater of the seas, necessary for the operation of the break-out off the Norwegian (i.e., off the Dutch and French) coast.
- The deployment of U-boats is just as important for reconnaissance as it is for combat missions and weather observations.
- The recon activities of U-boats and the Luftwaffe must be instituted at a considerable time before the execution of the mission, in order to achieve extensive intelligence, but it is especially important to prevent, even with intermittent recon, the clear forewarning of opponent.
2. Even, if the preconditions of 1. are met, the final decisive facts for an undetected break-out are as always, the unpredictable season and weather situation. I can envision such sufficient requirements in this regard to be present only in the months of September to April. A weather situation for the undetected breakout must be awaited even if it means the acceptance of other undesirable disadvantages.
3. The possibility of an undetected departure from Baltic Sea entrances, even in the winter months, is not to be counted on. Therefore, the North Sea track [via the Kiel Canal? UR] is to be preferred.
4. The strength and deployment of the future security actions by sea and air combat forces for the ships during the breakout from the home waters needs further scrutiny. Here, the main concern is the cooperation between the fighter protection and the defense against torpedo aircraft attacks. These questions are being urgently studied by the Fleet Command at this time.
5. The danger of being discovered during a breakout is considerably increased by heading into an intermediate port. Therefore, this should normally be considered only if the opponent has discovered the breakout. In such a case, a well secured port must be sought out before heading-in and from hence a future departure into the Atlantic is feasible (e.g., Trondheim).
6. The significance of this task in the face of opponent's expected hostile reaction makes it mandatory that the commanders and crews of the ships have reached the highest level of combat readiness before they depart home waters, in aspects of battle training as well as in their tactical education and in their inner strength [mental preparation].
- For this, it is required that the commanders have the availability of sufficient time for the calm, systematic education and training of the officer corps and the crew. This is to be followed and concluded by combat training by realistic war-like tactical exercises which should consist of intensive demonstrations of situations that are likely to be faced during the breakout and in the Atlantic. This includes first of all, exercises with naval and air forces in the defense against enemy bombs, torpedo aircraft, and U-boats, and furthermore, attacks on escorted convoys etc.
I can see that in this way the best opportunity will occur for making practical use of the recent warfare experiences. The Fleet Command will, within the realm of the possible, take the necessary measures.
7. The question regarding the appropriateness of joint operations of battleships and heavy cruisers in future operations in the Atlantic, requires a thorough study. If planned, it will be imperative to require prior joint maneuvers of the ships by appropriate collaborative tactical exercises.
The necessity of personal fine-tuning among the commanders with the ideas and intentions of the chief commander can be simultaneously achieved by task force exercises that are so important in the conduct of war in the Atlantic. The commanders must assume the position to understand what goes through the commander's mind, and he must carry out a continuation of his operational and tactical considerations, if that should become necessary.
- In order to establish this mental union, it is also imperative that the commanders continue to learn, during the mission, to evaluate and anticipate the given situation and the intentions of their leader of the formation, independently.
I request for this purpose that a study about the proceedings of this mission be transmitted to the frontline. It must contain:
a. The considerations of the chief of fleet, as far as they can be discerned from his radio messages, the War Diary "Prinz Eugen", and other documents.
On board, 22 July 1941.
b. The evaluation of the situational performance by Groups North and West during the operation.
c. A comprehensive position statement by the Office of Naval Operations [S.K.L.] that connects these experiences to future operations.
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