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Commander in Chief of the Navy

Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on the evening 29 December 1941 at Wolfsschanze.

Present:

    Chief of the OKW [Wilhelm Keitel].
    Vice Admiral Fricke.
    Kapitän zur See von Puttkamer
1. Situation in Norway. Appraisal: An enemy surprise undertaking of considerable proportions is being carried out against focal points on the trade route off Narvik and near Bergen with the following objectives:
    a. To destroy outposts and batteries.

    b. To harass and disrupt merchant shipping with incidental successes.

    c. For propaganda and prestige purposes.

    d. To reconnoiter the terrain and the defenses with view to the later establishment of bridgeheads for the pupose of disrupting and blocking supply routes.

No connected large-scale operation is as yet apparent. Our own shortage in operational naval forces again proves the necessity of having a strong air force ready for operation in the Norwegian area to repulse enemy actions. Our own measures involve submarines, PT boats, and destroyers.

2. The question of transferring the TIRPITZ to Trondheim is discussed in this connection, and also the question of where she is to be committed. Up to the present time it has been intended to move her to Trondheim on 10 January. She was to operate from Trondheim as the enemy situation, operational requirements, and the situation of our defense, naval, and air forces required.

Strategic function of the TIRPITZ:

    a. To protect our position in the Norwegian and arctic areas by threatening the flank of enemy operations against the northern Norwegian area and by attacking white Sea convoys.

    b. To tie down heavy enemy forces in the Atlantic so that they cannot operate in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, or the Pacific.

    (This function will be fulfilled to some extent merely by keeping the TIRPITZ ready for action in Trondheim. The operational objective can be attained fully only by actual operations.)

Operational possibilities:
    a. Attacks against the convoy route Britain-Iceland-White Sea.

    b. Attacks on enemy shipping in the Arctic Ocean.

    c. Bombarding of points of military importance.

    d. Interference with enemy operations.

The Führer will decide this question shortly, when the whole situation in Norway becomes clearer. (See opinion under "4“.)

3. The question of sending the SCHEER out into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans is discussed. Conditions for doing so have improved: There are no more political scruples as regards the U.S.A., and there is the possibility of withdrawing to Japanese bases. The biggest risk is in breaking through.

The Führer decides as under "2".

4. The SCHARNHORST, GNEISENAU, and PRINZ EUGEN. Ready for operations as far as materiel is concerned: The GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST probably on 10 and 5 January 1942, the PRINZ EUGEN probably on 31 December 1941.

Until the ships are ready to that extent only theoretical training and limited practical training at the various battle stations can be carried out.

Training in the roadstead and at sea for regular and combat duty, which is necessary to prepare vessel and crew for operations, aims to accomplish the following:

    a. To familiarize the crew with the ship and give them some practical training and experience.

    b. To give the crew a feeling of belonging together and develop esprit de corps.

This aim can on no account be achieved in dock and with stationary ships. Therefore the battleships will have to undergo at least several weeks training in the waters off the French Atlantic coast prior to being sent on operations. All necessary security measures should be taken during this time. Training should be carried on first in the harbor and in the roadsteads of Brest, later in Brest Bay, and then at sea off the west coast of France.

It is out of the question to send the ships on operations before March 1942. The nature of the operations will depend on an appraisal of the enemy situation and on the oil situation. A final decision as to the nature of the operations is thus not possible at the moment, as the situation is continually changing. Possibilities are attacks on British north-south convoy traffic, or transfer to the northern area.

In the opinion of the Naval Staff, the beginning of these operations must not be delayed beyond March or April at the latest, since operational conditions later in the year will become much more unfavorable, and in summer such operations will no longer be possible. Practical training to get the ships ready for operations must therefore begin at once. Otherwise they will lie idle until next winter and be exposed to enemy air attacks on the French Atlantic coast without any action on their part.

The training described above would also be necessary if the breakthrough to home waters through the Channel were to be carried out. This step is impossible, however, according to information to date. The risk, not counting dangers arising from light naval and air forces and from mines, and especially the navigational difficulties, is tremendous, and the venture would tax the capacity of both crews and vessels to the limit.

It is impossible to safeguard the route sufficiently with our inadequate mine-sweeping and escort forces; for some time now the route for large ships has been abandoned. It is impossible to evade plane attacks in the narrow channels swept clear of mines. It is necessary to reduce speed when following minesweepers and mine-detonating vessels.

The Führer's remarks on points "1" to "4": If the British go about things properly they will attack northern Norway at several points. By means of an all-out attack with their fleet and landing troops, they will try to displace us there, take Narvik if possible, and thus exert pressure on Sweden and Finland. This might be of decisive importance for the outcome of the war. The German Fleet must therefore use all its forces for the defense of Norway. It would be expedient to transfer all battleships and pocket battleships there for this purpose; the latter could be used, for instance, for attacking convoys in the north although the Naval Staff does not consider them suitable for this task in this area. (Marginal note: How come? In winter perhaps?) The return of the Brest ships is therefore most desirable. This could be accomplished best if the vessels were to break through the Channel taking the enemy completely by surprise, i.e., without previous training movements and during bad weather which makes plane operations impossible. (Naval Staff: Navigational difficulties will also be greatest then.) Any movement for training purposes, especially since the British are kept so well informed by their intelligence service, would lead to intensified British torpedo and bomb attacks, which would sooner or later damage the ships; thereafter, assuming the most favorable circumstances, renewed repairs would be necessary. The only possibility is a surprise break-through with no previous indications that it is to take place; even then the chance that it could be executed successfully through the Iceland Strait is very small in view of the presence of aircraft carriers.

If the surprise break through the Channel is impossible, therefore, it would be best to decommission the ships and to use the guns and crews for reinforcements in Norway.

In this connection the value of torpedo planes is discussed. These are rated very high. The question of the value of battleships in future warfare is also brought up; their value was denied. This statement met with sharp and detailed opposition from the Chief, Naval Staff.

The Chief, Naval Staff points out that the presence of battleships in Brest, even if under repair, forces the British to protect their convoys with heavy forces which are then not available for other purposes; it would be impossible to justify the decommissioning to the Italians and especially to the Japanese. The Chief, Naval Staff further elaborated these points. The training plans should be adhered to so that the battleships could be used at the decisive moment if the situation should change quickly, e.g., if France should come in on our side.

The Führer emphasizes again and again the importance of defending Norway, and will reserve his decision until the situation there is clear. After learning of the Führer's new viewpoint, the Chief, Naval Staff, requests permission to go into the whole question once more before a decision is made. The Führer agrees.

Supplement:

Re torpedo planes: For a long time the Führer had the wrong idea about torpedo planes. He was present at some tests in Kiel once, and on that occasion it was emphasized that the height at which torpedoes are released would have to be increased in order to make successful attacks. Now surprise attacks can be made due to the very fact that the planes attack at a height of five meters over the water. According to the Reichsmarschall's statement, progress has been hampered by the fact that the Navy develops the torpedoes and the Luftwaffe the planes. The course of the war would have been changed decisively if at the very beginning a hundred torpedo planes had attacked the British Fleet in Scapa Flow.

The Chief, Naval Staff, draws attention to the fact that the Navy developed the aerial torpedo during the Weimar Republic, and that production was stopped in June 1940 at the instigation of the Commander in Chief, Air, because large-scale successes were not attained at once.

5. Submarine Warfare. (See Annex 1.) A report is made on the trade routes from the U.S.A. and operations by submarines against focal points on the coast of the U.S.A.

signed: Raeder


Annex 1

Submarine situation as of 27 December 1941.

1. There are 98 operational boats available.

a. Of these the following are either in or en route to the area of operations:

    (1) For operations off the American coast:
    (2) For operations in the Artic Ocean:
    (3) For operations on the west coast of Norway (including 3 en route):
    (4) For operations in the Mediterranean, including the area west of Gibraltar:
    (5) For special mission in the Atlantic (radio decoy):
    3
    3
    5
    20
    1
b. The following are on return passage:
    (1) From the South Atlantic:
    (2) In the Mediterranean:
    (3) From the area of operations west of Gibraltar:
    2
    3
    1
    Total: 38
2. The remaining 60 operational boats included in the total 98 mentioned under "1" are not ready for operations. They are distributed as follows:
    a. In ports in western France:
    b. In Kiel:
    c. In Trondheim:
    d. In Mediterranean ports:
    38
    13
    1
    8
    Total: 60
3. Of the operational boats under "2" the following will be ready for operations as indicated, provided there are no delays in the shipyards:

a. By January 1942:

    (1) From ports in western France:
    (2) From Kiel:
    4
    3
b. Thereafter, by 15 January 1942:
    (1) From ports in western France:
    (2) From Kiel:
    (3) From Trondheim:
    (4) From Mediterranean ports:
    13
    2
    1
    2
c. Thereafter, by 1 February 1942:
    (1) From ports in western France:
    (2) From Kiel:
    (3) From Mediterranean ports:
    Therefore ready for operations by 1 February 1942:
    7
    1
    1
    34
4. A further 15 operational boats may be expected by 1 February 1942 from the Warship Construction Testing Command.



   


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