Minutes of the Conferences of the Commander in Chief, Navy, at Führer Headquarters Wolfsschanze from 13 to 14 October 1944.
13 OCTOBER 1944.
1100. Conference with Minister Speer.
1200. Report by Konteradmiral Mössel.
1210 Report by Kapitän zur See von Conrady on the situation in the East. He tells about the plans of the Northern Army Group and the proposals by the Chief of the Army General Staff [Generaloberst Guderian], concerning probable higher transport requirements, in reference to the telegram received by the Seekriegsleitung. A copy of the answer from the Seekriegsleitung Quartermaster Division, Shipping and Transport Branch, on 14 October, is given to Major von Freytag-Loringhoven.
1500. Conference on the situation within a very small circle with the Führer. Only the Commander in Chief, Navy, represents the Navy. This was followed by a private conference of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer. The following questions were discussed:
The Führer confirms this opinion.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, shows the Führer the reports of the admirals in the West (see letter of 29 September 1944 and Annexes 1 and 2, 1 Skl. Ib 30945/44 Gkdos).
b. The importance of Antwerp to the enemy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, produces a map of the Scheldt River showing the minefields laid by the Navy which are expected to delay the enemy for about 3 weeks. The Führer remarks that even 2 weeks would help. He grants the recommendation of the Commander in Chief, Navy, that the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross be given to Commander Czyskowitz, commander of the harbor of Antwerp. After the headlong evacuation of the city by the Army he was killed while carrying out demolition work according to orders. A map of the flooded areas at Walcheren is shown.
c. The situation in the eastern Baltic. This is an important training ground for the Navy, and it is necessary to do everything possible to combat enemy attacks from sea and air. Fighter planes have been requested from the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe.
d. Progress in the construction of the new submarine models. The Commander in Chief, Navy, hopes to put the first boats of model XXIII into action in January 1945, and about 40 submarines of model XXI in February.
e. The greatest danger to the new submarines lies in the air raids on the harbors according to the Commander in Chief, Navy. Therefore extensive construction of submarine pens in the home ports is absolutely necessary. Aside from those already completed and those under construction, 196 more pens are planned. Minister Speer urges that as soon as the building facilities, being used at present to provide shelters for fighter aircraft construction, are freed in the course of next spring, they should be released for making submarine pens. The Führer is in full agreement with this proposal.
f. "Seehund" midget submarines with a larger range will probably be put into action off the east coast of England starting in December. A map with the distribution of small battle units [Kleinkampfverbände] is shown.
g. The morale of the naval troops is satisfactory.
h. Kapitän zur See Werner Hartmann is assigned as leader of home defense (Volkswehr) in Danzig, West Prussia, on the request of Gauleiter Forster.
i. The oil problem. The supplies of fuel oil are satisfactory. The Diesel oil situation is very strained and the shortage is already affecting operations.
j. A chart showing shipments in connection with prefabrication of submarines is presented. (Not included.)
2000. Supper in the "Haus der Marine" with Reichsführer SS Himmler, SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein, Staatsrat Johst, and SS-Obersturmbannführer Grothmann as guests of the Commander in Chief, Navy. Minister Speer joined them afterwards.
14 OCTOBER 1944.
1215. Conference of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with Field Marshal Keitel.
b. The OKW requisitioned 300 Navy trucks for the Army which were in repair or being reconverted for use as gas generators. The Chief of the OKW promises that these trucks will be returned.
c. General Ziegler's memorandum about combining the supply and administrative services of the 3 branches of the Wehrmacht is mentioned. The Chief of the OKW declares that this question is unimportant and out of date, since the Reichsführer SS has been instructed to regulate these departments in the Army, and since the Reichsführer SS as well as the Commander in Chief, Navy, and the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, do not agree with Ziegler's suggestions. Ziegler's suggestions are to be submitted.
d. The Chief of the OKW confirms the opinion of the Commander in Chief, Navy, that the port of Memel is not to be destroyed if it is lost, whereas the Kurland harbors should be demolished in such an event.
1500. Conference on the situation with the Führer attended by a very small group. The Commander in Chief, Navy, emphasizes the necessity of holding the peninsula of Svorbe as long as there is a possibility that we might have to withdraw the northern Army Group by sea. The Commander in Chief, Navy, indicates the necessity of substantially reinforcing the fighter units on the polar coast in support of operation "Nordlicht".
1715. The Commander in Chief, Navy, has tea with the Chief of the OKW.
2020. Return trip on special train of the OKW.
countersigned: Kapitän zur See Pfeiffer
Berlin, 29 September 1944Commander in Chief of the Navy
I. 1. So far I was convinced that it was correct to give the Army commanders overall command authority (Wehrmachtsbefugnisse) as was ordered. While I approved in general, I thought it was particularly advisable in matters of coastal defense. This opinion was founded on the basic assumption that the Navy's task is on the sea, and that it should not burden itself with problems of land warfare, of which it knows nothing and for which it has no training with the exception of coastal defense.
2. Recent events, especially the experiences of the retreat from France, have made me change my mind. Taken separately, these happenings may not be too important or of too great consequence. Taken all together, however, they prove that many of the Army commanders given overall command authority were not able to use it for the best interest of the combined Armed Forces or to the best advantage of the war.
3. I believe that the reason for this lies in the fact that many of the Army officers lack the necessary knowledge and experience, and consequently have neither the perspective nor the self-assurance essential for the solution of the problem as a whole.
4. I believe, therefore, that in the future the defense of large harbors and mouths of rivers should be assigned to naval officers designated as fortification commanders or combat commanders, since they have the experience and the correct judgement for warfare in such areas. Officers of the General Staff should be attached to the staff of the naval officers, to advise and assist them in matters of land defense.
for documentary proof, cf. Annex 2.
II. The above letter did not go out. The Commander in Chief, Navy, decided to give Annexes 1 and 2 personally to the Führer, to the Chief of the OKW, to the Chief of Operations Staff of the OKW, and to the Reichsführer SS. He did so at Headquarters Wolfsschanze (see Minutes of the Conference, 13 to 14 October). On 23 October he also informed the commander of Naval Group West. The 50 copy was given to the Admiral on Special Duty.
III. The attached four paragraphs are to be destroyed.
IV. Send on to Deputy Chief of Operations Branch, Seekriegsleitung.
Chief of Operations Staff, Seekriegsleitung
Deputy Chief of Operations Branch
Pf., 23 October 1944
(the following four paragraphs are in a different handwriting. Tr.N.)
1. The use of the collective terms "Army" and "Navy" gives rise to generalizations which are not true and do not do justice to the situation. An incompetent company commander is not "the Army"; a decrepit reserve officer in command of anti-aircraft artillery is not "the Luftwaffe".
2. The attitudes and actions of a beaten army cannot serve as basis for general conclusions.
3. Basically it is correct and necessary that naval units maintain their independence and that our Navy personnel at the front should be encouraged to stand up to the Army. The Army's encroachments can be explained by the fact that powers are summarily used (so-called overall command authority), and by the good nature of the naval units. This situation can be changed.
4. The material is not suitable for written presentation.
Annex 1The Army does not fully comprehend the nature of coastal defense. The infantry soldier trained on land does not take to the principle: "The beach is the main line of resistance; the enemy must be beaten on the water." He dislikes to have the water in front of his positions and wants to get away from the coast. His endeavor to draw the fighting onto the land is noticeable again and again.
The above subject became a topic for discussion also in the higher staffs in France. During map maneuvers the suggestion was made to allow the enemy to proceed inland and then to beat him in the open field. Although the Commanding General, Armed Forces West, repeatedly gave orders for the correct type of warfare, it was Field Marshal Rommel who finally strove to put it into effect.
The Army's instinctive dislike for the water has often led to friction in the lower commands.
The coastal batteries were not recognized as the mainstay of coastal defense, and consequently too little concrete was allotted for their reinforcement. The Army's system of strong points along the coast was not built up with coastal artillery as the backbone. Very often the coastal batteries stood alone, without lateral contact with the infantry defenses.
Instead of protecting the valuable batteries with concrete fortifications, large structures were put up for machine gun installations and troop shelters. The Army endeavored to withdraw its coastal artillery batteries from the beach and to assign them to the regular Army artillery, or to use them so that they could function as division artillery.
This endeavor persisted even after the invasion, justified by the unsubstantiated argument that the forward batteries were eliminated by ship's artillery. During combat, the Army commanders often looked upon the coastal artillery units primarily as soldiers who can be used as infantry. They did not recognize the decisive value of the coastal batteries for the defense operation as a whole.
Since the Army in many instances has no understanding for the work of the Navy, many are apt to consider that the personnel employed by the Navy could be put to much better use elsewhere, and that it is wrongfully being withheld from the Army. This explains the endeavor to make the naval units as much as possible subject to Army command, so as to be able to use them as infantry or supply units.
The Army is using its leadership in land warfare and the overall command authority assigned to it as a pretext for doing so.
Although the higher Army commands in France have the right attitude concerning naval affairs, faulty decisions were the rule in the intermediate commands which had been given overall command authority by the Commanding General, Armed Forces West.
Annex 2A. Extract from the report of the Commander in Chief, Group West [Admiral Krancke]:
1. On the first day of the invasion, the town commandant of Bayeux is said to have ordered the "Longues" battery and the engineer unit assigned to it to withdraw to Bayeux. The battery commander disregarded this order and attempted in vain to call back the retreating engineer unit which was to have given him infantry protection. The engineer unit saw no soldiers on the way back to Bayeux, which implies that Army personnel had been withdrawn earlier, although the enemy was not yet in the area.
The commanding officer of radar station La Percee, a major, ordered his troops back to Isigny for infantry defense. They had to abandon the station intact, partly with built-in weapons. Parts of the garrison returned to La Percee the next day and deduced from tank tracks that a small enemy force had been at the station for a short time since their departure. Otherwise there was still no enemy in the area on the second day.
On the day of the invasion, the crews of 3 floating artillery batteries in Port-en-Bessin were told to leave their boats, which were no longer seaworthy but the guns of which were still intact, and were to be absorbed into the land defenses. Through the intervention of the flotilla commander who arrived at that moment, the guns on the boats were manned again. An enemy landing in this spot was thus fought off for the time being.
The modern naval rapid fire batteries "Blankenese" and "Bastion-Cherbourg", were blown up by order of the divisional command without being attacked either by sea or by land. This was done so the gun crews could be used as infantry in land combat.
Before the enemy ever approached Cherbourg, the fortress commander there already assigned the harbor defense troops to land combat, ordered the harbor defense vessels to be laid up and their guns and crews used on land. Heavy infantry weapons were transferred from the sea to the land front. They would greatly have helped the port commander in the final battle.
2. Extract from the brief report about the happenings in Brittany:
On 3 August, the Naval Shore Commander, Brittany [Konteradmiral Otto Kähler], reported that the 343rd Infantry Division was thinking of evacuating the entire coast of northern Brittany. There is no report to that effect from XXV Army Corps.
The morning of 4 August, reports were received that the Army was preparing to withdraw from the coast of northern Brittany. The Naval Shore Commander asked whether the Navy also was to retreat, destroying harbors, light houses and radar equipment. It was decided that the Navy should stay at its post, since it seemed impossible that the Army would make such extensive evacuations without previously notifying the Navy. The Commanding General, Armed Forces West, was notified.
In the course of the morning, the Naval Shore Commander repeatedly reported that the Army was abandoning harbors and bases, and asked for instructions, since the Army had not issued any. The Naval shore Commander was ordered to work in cooperation with the XXV Army Corps, whereupon he ordered the Navy to join the Army in the retreat and to destroy equipment, etc.
The Port Commander of St. Brieuc was the first to report the retreat of the Army. Group West intervened and demanded that the Commanding General, Armed Forces West, order the naval bases of Lezardrieux, Benodet, Concarneau and La Trinite held. The same demand was radioed to XXV Army Corps stationed in Lorient. No further measures could be taken by Group West at the moment, since there was no information on the enemy's situation and there was still hope that this was only a partial evacuation. Group West was reassured in this respect when the Naval Shore Commander replied that the battery in Paimpol would not be destroyed. From this it was inferred that the harbor and the radar equipment of Paimpol and Lezardrieux would not be given up either.
About 1800, the Naval Shore Commander reported that the order was given to blow up the Paimpol battery. Due to the efforts of Group West, the Commanding General, Armed Forces West, gave orders that the battery Paimpol should not be destroyed. He empowered the Naval Shore Commander and the Commanding Admiral to disregard any orders of the XXV Army Corps incompatible with the interests of naval warfare.
At the same time an order was received from the Führer that none of the bases constructed as fortifications should be destroyed, but that all were to be defended. However, the Paimpol battery was blown up on the evening of 4 August, before this order came through. The Army continued evacuation operations. In the process, a large part of the radar equipment outside of the fortifications and harbors of Paimpol, Lezardrieux and Morlaix was destroyed. After receiving the report that the Army was evacuating Benodet, Group West took action, so that the base of the Commanding Admiral, Defenses West, was left intact, with light Navy anti-aircraft artillery for its protection.
On 5 August the infantry returned to Benodet, although the base and the radar equipment had previously been blown up. There was no information as to the whereabouts of the naval garrisons of the abandoned bases.
On the morning of 4 August the spearheads of the enemy in southern Brittany reached Chateaubriant. There was little danger of a Loire crossing at the moment, since there were sufficient Army forces north of the Loire at Nantes and Angers. The clothing depot of Ancenis and the submarine supply center in Redon were being evacuated. About half the material in Redon had to be destroyed, since the Army was blowing up the bridges leading to the town. On 5 August the Army withdrew from the coast of Quiberon Bay, including La Trinite. The Navy also retreated from there and destroyed all sea marks. Neither Group West nor the Naval Shore Commander was able to interfere, since no one had been notified beforehand. The main objection in this case is the fact that the Army acted without previously contacting and notifying the Commanding Admiral and the Naval Shore Commander, in spite of the fact that the Commanding General of the XXV Army Corps specifically had overall command authority. The demolition of the Paimpol battery is especially incomprehensible since it was of the utmost importance not only for naval warfare but, having 360º traverse guns, also for land warfare. Being a coastal battery, it should definitely not have been blown up without the consent of the Navy, which was in tactical command there. Presumably the orders of the Commanding General, Armed Forces West, and of the Führer were not carried out because Army radio communications broke down. Therefore the XXV Army Corps had no way of stopping the retreat once it was ordered.
3. La Pallice on the Atlantic coast was declared a fortress. The fortifications of North Gironde, South Gironde and La Pallice were ordered reinforced with men and guns of the naval artillery and crews from naval vessels. In this way large numbers of naval personnel remained in the fortifications.
The remaining personnel was to join the Army and begin the march via Bourges in the direction of Belfort-Strasbourg. The naval units were badly prepared for this march through territory occupied by hordes of terrorists. Not only did they have no vehicles, but they also lacked all marching equipment and sufficient armament. For this reason the Commanding General, Armed Forces West, ordered that the naval units should be given all possible aid and supplies. So far, this order is not known to have been carried out by the Army. When the situation became precarious during the crossing of the Loire, the naval units were ordered to cover the retreat of the Army, and to remain there while the Army troops retreated. Reports continually reached Group Command West that the Army, instead of aiding the Navy, applied its overall command authority in land warfare in order to seize the few trucks the Navy still had left after the Army's earlier requisition. A large part of the naval personnel therefore set out for home from the Atlantic coast area on foot, on bicycles or in horse-drawn carts.
It must also be mentioned that the supplies the Army left for the beleaguered fortresses were far from satisfactory. The Commanders of all these fortresses were unanimous in their complaints that the supply of, armor piercing ammunition and short range anti-tank weapons, partly also of small arms, was insufficient. Further supplies were provided only to a limited extent.
The destruction of Bordeaux harbor was only partially carried out, and then stopped on Army orders. Details of these circumstances could not be ascertained as yet. But this is not the only instance of interference by the Army. In other places also, for example in Bayonne, in matters pertaining to the demolition of the harbor, which was assigned to the Navy, the Army cut in, issuing orders that either went too far or not far enough. In particular, the Army centered its demolition activities on tiny unimportant fishing harbors which the Navy had no orders to destroy. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the Army, which was so eager to interfere in the harbor demolition work assigned to the Navy, did not make nearly as thorough preparations as the Navy when it came to the destruction of objects which are the Army's responsibility, i.e. roads, bridges, tunnels and dumps.
During the entire retreat the relationship between the Navy and the lower Army offices presented a difficult problem. The overall command authority given to the Army in matters pertaining to land warfare was poorly handled by the lower commands. Out of lack of understanding and often unfriendliness, they went further than the orders issued intended. While Army, and above all, Luftwaffe motor vehicles were allowed to function more or less undisturbed, requisition of naval motor vehicles, seizure of fuel, and assignment of naval personnel to unforeseen tasks were the order of the day. The orders issued by the responsible Army command in full cooperation with Group West either did not get through to the lower units, or in many instances were not carried out. Especially shocking was the treatment of the ship skeleton crews and the naval emergency units used for the protection of railroads between Paris and the German border under the command of the respective area commanders. In many cases the area commanders left their posts without taking along the naval units under their command or even notifying them. These units therefore remained at their posts, without sufficient armament and training, true to the order not to retreat unless ordered to do so, and were annihilated by enemy tanks. In other instances the ship skeleton crews were assigned to patrol and combat duty, without having either the training, arms or leadership necessary. Because of these handicaps they were of little use in battle, while the losses were high. Whole units disappeared without any trace. Without bothering to live up to its obligation to look after the needs of the naval personnel, the Army almost always was glad to use the naval units to cover its own retreat. It is readily understandable that these experiences aroused bitter animosity in the Navy in many places.
B. Extract from the report of the Commander of U-boats, West [Kapitän zur See Rösing].
Meanwhile the situation in Brittany developed rapidly, since the troops stationed outside were hurriedly withdrawn to the fortifications before advanced enemy reconnaissance patrols and terrorists. This caused difficulties especially in Lorient, where it greatly interfered with the work in the shipyards. It jeopardized the scheduled submarine construction program as well as the installation of the Schnorchel device.
The commanders of 2 submarines which left Lorient on 7 August gave me the following account of conditions in Lorient. They received their information from the flotilla commander in Lorient.
The Army units entered the town in a considerable hurry and put their supplies into the submarine pens. This greatly disrupted the work in the shipyards. At the same time an order came from the fortress commander (since the entrance of the Army this was General Fahrmbacher), that the shipyard workers were to be used in the fortifications. Only the strong remonstrances of the shipyard commander and the senior flotilla commander, together with the order meanwhile issued by the High Command demanding that the work in the shipyards, including the installation of Schnorchels, be carried on even in the event of a battle, made it possible gradually to resume the work. The troops were again taken out of the city and eventually put to more active duty. To accomplish this, it was necessary to call attention to the Führer's order concerning the holding of fortresses. The former fortress commander, Oberst Kaumann, told the flotilla commander that this was the most humiliating day in his entire career. The fortress commander ordered sorties into the surrounding territory only at the insistence of the flotillas and the other naval units, which made some of their own men available for the purpose. Such sorties still were fully feasible at that time.
Conditions in St. Nazaire were similar to those in Lorient, although the enemy was not yet as close to the fortress. Here also greater activity was effected only by furnishing naval personnel. Unfortunately many supplies and stocks of ammunition were destroyed unnecessarily. Sorties could have been made for some time to come to the supply depot in Redon, which was destroyed because the bridges leading there had been blown up prematurely. Similar things happened elsewhere. Things quieted down when the enemy did not press any further, and the shipyards were able to continue their work undisturbed.
The situation in La Rochelle was of special interest, since this strong point was presumably to be held the longest. The place is well fortified, and above all the outer defense line, in contrast to other fortresses, is 8 km out. On the seaward side the city is well protected by the islands of Re and Oleron. The latter are, however, vulnerable to landings from the air because the forces stationed there are inadequate. Therefore the danger existed all along that the islands might fall in the hands of the enemy, and the harbor would thus be blocked.
In the beginning the fortress was fairly well supplied with arms, but had very little ammunition. Above all, almost no anti-tank weapons were left after the greater part of the stock, which had been limited to begin with, was transported to the northern fortresses. The fortress commander in charge at the time told me that he had ordered ammunition and anti-tank weapons for months, but that he had not received anything. Worse yet, supplies were continually removed from the fortress.
The fortress commander himself gave us cause for considerable concern. Oberst Preußer, 62 years old, decorated with the "Pour le Merite", had proven himself most commendably in the construction of the fortifications. But lately he had broken down under the strain of the situation, was continually ill, and did not have the energy to take far-reaching measures. He did not, however, appoint a substitute, but tried to keep control of everything himself. The result was that important decisions were delayed for days and urgent measures could not be carried out. The situation finally became so bad that the commander of the shipyards and I proposed a substitute. The new fortress commander, Vizeadmiral Schirlitz, finally made every effort to have all possible weapons, ammunition and provisions brought into the fortress from the surrounding towns before these were evacuated by the retreating troops and the supplies destroyed in the process. Likewise, intensive work was begun at last to install ship guns on land. These measures greatly improved the defensive strength of the fortress. Only antitank weapons were still lacking as before, since no supplies were sent in spite of all requests.
The reason for many of these delays and for other difficulties is to be found above all in the defective communications system of the Army. As soon as their wire communications broke down, all communication ceased unless it was possible for the Naval Communication Service to step in.
C. Extract from the report of the Naval Shore Commander, Languedoc [Konteradmiral Schulte Mönting].
Cooperation with the corps commanders was excellent before the invasion as well as during the retreat. However, their conception of the enemy situation in the Mediterranean area differed from that of the Navy. It appeared at times that the divisions did not even analyze the situation. They merely waited for orders from above or claimed to be following orders supposedly issued by the Führer. The divisional commanders were continually asking the Naval Shore Commander questions which confirmed the impression that they had absolutely no conception of either the enemy's situation or their own, and that therefore they were not getting any information from above. As it was, the Naval Shore Commander had such exact information about the situation of the enemy that he could foretell the approximate time and area, and almost the exact day and place of the landing in southern France.
The Army issued the retreat order for the troops in the southern area in such a way that it was obvious from the beginning that it could not be carried out. When attention was called to this fact, it was acknowledged, but the objection was dismissed with the remark: "Orders from above". Thus, for example, the naval units were supposed to cover the distance from the Spanish coast to the assembly area on a level with Montpellier, i.e. 200 km, in 24 hours on foot.
Although the Naval Shore Commander was informed by Naval Group West by radiogram as early as 17 August that a withdrawal was planned, he did not receive instructions from the Army until 19 August. Directives then came in so fast that they could hardly be executed. The harbors, batteries, etc. had to be blown up at night in a few hours. The naval units from Fort Vendres were not able to join the Army, since the column to which they were assigned had already left. Absolutely all vehicles, horses and bicycles had been requisitioned by the Army days before, so that the Navy was forced to go on foot. The means of transportation were not equally distributed among the units. On the contrary, the Army commanders even seized some of the Navy's motor vehicles. Only the intervention of the Naval Shore Commander put a stop to further seizure of vehicles.
Hurried and confused as the retreat was, the leadership of some of the lower commands was downright stupid. The naval units from Port Vendres were simply left to their fate. In Perpignan, Narbonne and Agde the German shelters, anti-tank obstacles and supposedly even German arms and ammunition fell into the hands of the terrorists intact. The general in charge of the western column reported that the naval troops could not possibly get through, because the towns were occupied by terrorists. But in spite of this, some of the naval units later were able to catch up with the Army. The entire naval unit from Port Vendres is said to have been annihilated or captured south of Montpellier. In my opinion the only reason why this unit was unable to reach the Army is the fact that bridges were destroyed prematurely. The request of the Naval Shore Commander to delay the departure and the demolition was rejected with the answer: "Orders from above". Actually, on the basis of the preparations made, 20 to 24 batteries could have been made mobile; they would have been of great value to the Army in later combat.
With the exception of the naval unit of Port Vendres, the naval units began the retreat according to plan, divided among the 3 Army columns. Eventually they were able to requisition vehicles for their supplies and thus to cover the required distance. During the entire retreat, the naval troops looked out for themselves without any help.
On 2 September the naval units were put under Navy command at the request of the Naval Shore Commander. They were led to the German border in close formation, more than 3,000 men strong. Since railroad transportation was not available for some time, the men continued on foot to the training center at Münsingen. During this march they covered as much as from 60 to 80 km a day. The behavior, discipline and morale of the troops were excellent, and were often praised by the Army commanders. A large number of scattered and small units without leadership joined the naval troops. It was sad to see such troops, who were trying to attach themselves to some leadership because they were without officers. This was especially true of the Luftwaffe, particularly the Anti-aircraft Artillery. On the whole the behavior of the troops depended entirely on leadership. Wherever it was missing, unbelievable conditions prevailed, for instance, roads became completely blocked. Generally speaking it was possible to relieve such congestion by determined action. Whenever the commanding general heard of such a situation, he intervened personally. Furthermore, air and terrorist attacks resulted in wild confusion. Terrorist attacks, however, were stopped the moment the troops were ordered to counterattack. Wherever there was leadership, all danger from terrorists immediately vanished, since these were usually a cowardly lot and attacked only from ambush. Unfortunately the scattered units often reported that their officers had abandoned them. Some of the members of an anti-aircraft artillery unit said literally that "their officer was the first to beat it". Some officers, who had completely gone to pieces, supposedly drove alongside the troops and advised them: "Every man for himself". At times it seemed that the units marching along the roads consisted only of Luftwaffe personnel, to be sure without leadership, composed only of the youngest recruits, and moving in endless motorized columns. This extended all the way into German territory.
D. Extract from a letter of the Fortress Commander Dunkirk, Konteradmiral Frisius.
I have the general impression that a certain lethargy and irresolution prevails among the troops. It remains to be seen whether more determined leadership can change this. However, we must not forget that meanwhile many of the places which in my opinion were suitable for defense, have been abandoned. This has made the area smaller and allows for more concentrated enemy action.
I would like to stress that the preparations made to defend the town toward the rear are even worse in Calais than in Boulogne. Already at that time the Army wasted its concrete, armor and the like on spots in the harbor which I termed utterly stupid. Here we can truly say: It was a fatal mistake to give the Army overall command authority for the defense of harbors. The Army has done nothing but interfere in the affairs of the Navy, thereby endangering the Navy's interests and making its tasks more difficult. As for the Army's own contribution to the defense, we now clearly see that it is an absolute zero. This is readily explainable by the many changes in personnel, in which, of course, every new man disapproved of the measures taken by his predecessor. By the time he himself had worked out new plans, he was transferred elsewhere, and his successor again declared that everything he had done was stupid. The fortification engineering staffs which, as such, were permanent, were the world's worst bureaucrats. This is shown most clearly by the fact that construction plans usually had to be handed in within 48 hours, but that then correspondence was carried on about them for some 3 to 4 weeks and sometimes 3 months before the work was begun. It was always the same story, and now we are reaping the consequences.
E. Extract from the report of the Commanding Admiral, Netherlands [Vizeadmiral Kleikamp].
The suddenly tightening situation on 3 and 4 September, coupled with a complete absence of information about conditions on the land front, resulted in a crisis in southern and central Holland in the beginning of September. It brought with it many unpleasant occurrences. Rumors were rampant throughout the country as Army and especially Luftwaffe personnel made its hasty retreat beginning on 4 September, first in separate vehicles, then in groups and finally in disbanded columns. In the entire southern area the retreat was close to a panic, including civilian offices, Dutch Nazis, etc.
Luftwaffe offices of all kinds, also anti-aircraft artillery units abandoned their stations and positions, whether with or without orders is unknown, generally destroying considerable supplies in the process, for example gasoline, mines, bombs, ammunition and food. The Luftwaffe offices, for instance the anti-aircraft artillery group and the Luftwaffe hospital, evacuated even the Amsterdam area. Many reports came from the southern part of the area, saying that officers abandoned their men and that these were left without leadership. Personnel from naval offices from the French and Belgian area, which had been swept along or separated from their units, were noticeable only occasionally. Ship crews coming from the West and passing through appeared very exhausted. This was probably due to the long and heavy fighting of the past few weeks.
The above mentioned events had a depressing effect on our offices and troops, who were glad when things quieted down on 6 and 7 September. To the surprise of the masses fleeing from the Belgian and French areas, the defense troops of the Commanding General, Armed Forces Netherlands, i.e. of the Army as well as naval units and offices in southern and central Holland, were not caught in the panic. Naval offices were left even in such places as Bergen op Zoom, Breda, Eindhoven, Hertogenbosch, Helmond, etc., through which the retreating masses passed and where Luftwaffe offices were carrying out much destruction at the time. The hospital at Eindhoven, for example, the Naval Ordnance Command at Bergen op Zoom and the branch offices in the places mentioned above were withdrawn only after they had completed their tasks and had salvaged all their equipment. Only the units of the Rhine Flotilla stationed there remained in the Hansweert and Wemeldinge area after the withdrawal of the Luftwaffe. In Walcheren, on the other hand, and in Zeeland (Seeländisch Flandern) the 2nd Naval Coastal Artillery Detachment, the 1st Naval Anti-aircraft Artillery Detachment, as well as the Harbor Defense Group and the vessels of the 1st Coast Patrol Force stationed in Flushing carried on their work as before. At the same time the big operation of ferrying the 15th Army began in this area on 4 September. The responsible Army office at first estimated the number to be ferried at 30,000 men, making up 3 badly decimated Army Corps. In the end it turned out to be the impressive total of some 85,000 to 90,000 soldiers ferried with full equipment and arms. Here, too, the first few days were filled with unpleasant happenings as described above. But from 6 and 7 September on, the troops were handled in close formation and in an orderly fashion. Many expressed astonishment at the state of readiness evidenced by the various naval units, as well as about the exemplary leadership on the part of their officers. As the result in one case, for example, two members of the armored forces voluntarily reported to the Navy for further combat.
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