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Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine

Conferences of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer at the Führer's Headquarters, Wolfsschanze, on 13 and 14 May 1942.


Present: Chief of the OKW [Generalfeldmarschall Keitel].
Minister Speer
Reichsstatthalter Kaufmann
Reich Commissioner Terboven
Staatsrat Blohm
Ministerialdirektor Waldeck
Vizeadmiral Krancke

1. The question of increasing ship traffic to Norway is discussed. The proposals of the Commander in Chief, Navy, are found in Annex 1.

The Führer agrees in principle with the general outline. He will determine the organization and appoint the necessary personnel from among the representatives of the shipping firms themselves.

There is general agreement that the shipping firms can work only in closest cooperation with the Navy. Such questions as the utilization of harbors, unloading, etc., can be decided upon only in consultation with the proper naval authorities.

Ship repairs: The available facilities must be increased if at all possible. Perhaps certain shipyards should be set aside for this purpose (Blohm, Speer).

Construction of new ships: A standard type of about 2,000-3,000 tons with a speed of about nine knots and simple engines is to be built. Staatsrat Blohm submits a design. Motor ships under construction which are not needed by the Navy as blockade-runners and mine-exploding vessels (Sperrbrecher) are to be equipped with generators and used for merchant shipping.

Field railways are to be used for clearing the docks quickly, and the goods should be stored near the harbors in case they cannot be completely removed at once.

2. Special conference.

Present: Commander in Chief, Navy
Minister Speer
Vizeadmiral Krancke
Konteradmiral Kleikamp

Discussion concerning the continuation of destroyer construction. The Führer considers it hazardous to discontinue construction of destroyers. Minister Speer holds out the prospect of an additional monthly supply of 1,000 tons of copper which can be obtained from middle and low tension wires if the Armed Forces will extract the copper themselves and provide the necessary iron at the rate of six to one. The Commander in Chief, Navy, considers it justified under these circumstances to start work again on all vessels up to the size of destroyers on which construction was stopped. The Führer agrees.

3. The Führer decides that a dock is to be built in Trondheim in the Gallosen Fjord even if it will take ten months longer to construct it there.

4. In a subsequent conference with Minister Speer, Vizeadmiral Krancke, Konteradmiral Kleikamp, the Führer decides that the EUROPA, the POTSDAM and the GNEISENAU be converted into auxiliary aircraft carriers. The Military Problems and Shipyards Branch, Naval Construction Division, expects to have the plans ready in three months and the converted ships should be completed about twelve months from the time the necessary material is available. The Führer considers it entirely out of the question for larger surface forces to operate without airplane protection.


Present: Chief of of the OKW [Generalfeldmarschall Keitel]
General Jodl
Commander in Chief, U-boats [Admiral Dönitz]
Vizeadmiral Krancke
Kapitän zur See von Puttkamer

1. Report of the Commander in Chief, U-boats, on all matters pertaining to submarine warfare.

a. Submarine Statistics: 124 submarines were in the operational zones on 1 May. Of these, 85 were stationed in the Atlantic, 19 in the Mediterranean, 20 in the Arctic Ocean. On the other hand, as many as 114 submarines, exclusive of training vessels, were in the Baltic Sea getting ready for combat duty. A submarine is normally supposed to be ready for operation about 4 months after commissioning. 49 of the 114 submarines mentioned above have been commissioned longer than that, and therefore should have been in the operational zones by 1 May. Everything possible must be done to relieve this congestion.

b. Submarine Operations: Submarine warfare is war against enemy merchant shipping. Since American and British ships are under unified command, they have to be regarded as one. Therefore we must sink ships wherever the greatest number of them can be sunk at lowest cost to us, i.e. where we lose the least number of submarines. We should not concentrate in one certain area if that means sinking fewer ships. This principle applies unless other military factors enter into consideration, as for instance, in the case of our attacks on the convoys to Murmansk, which served the purpose of relieving pressure on the Army. Naturally, in decisions pertaining to submarine warfare, the operational cost must also be considered.

From the point of view of operational cost, our submarine actions in the American area are justifiable. Sinkings from 15 January to 10 May amounted to 303 ships or a total of 2,015,252 BRT. However, submarine operations in the American area are also justifiable from another point of view: we are attempting to offset the merchant vessel construction program of the enemy. America is producing the largest number of merchant ships. Her shipbuilding industry is located in the eastern States. Shipbuilding and other allied industries depend mostly on oil for fuel and the most important American oil fields are found near the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently, the greater part of American tankers is used in coastal traffic, transporting oil from the oil region to the industrial area. From 15 January to 10 May 1942, we sank 112 tankers or a total of 927,000 BRT. About two thirds of these were employed in the above mentioned American coastal traffic. Every tanker we sink not only means one tanker less for carrying oil, but also represents a direct set-back to America's shipbuilding program. Therefore it seems to me that the destruction of these American oil supply vessels is of greatest importance to us. America will have to depend on transporting her oil by water for at least another year. It will take a long time to lay an additional pipeline overland. Besides, a pipeline will hardly be able to supply as much oil as is being shipped by water on tankers. It is also out of the question to transport the same amount of oil by rail as is now being transported by water. Furthermore it seems impossible to convert American industry from oil to coal. Even if America can reduce its overall oil consumption by restricting its usage, all in all the tanker losses will have an ill effect on American industry in the eastern States, and thus on shipbuilding.

I do not believe that the race between the enemy shipbuilding program and the submarine sinkings is in any way hopeless. The American shipbuilding program calls for 2,239 ships or a total of 16,800,000 BRT for the period from fall 1939 to the end of 1943. 191 of these ships with a total tonnage of approximately 1,500,000 BRT were completed by 31 December 1941. Therefore the Americans must build 2,098 ships with a total of approximately 15,300,000 BRT in the years 1942 and 1943 in order to carry out their plan. If we figure that America can build 6,500,000 BRT in 1942 and 8,700,000 BRT in 1943, and add to this the shipbuilding capacity of the British Empire amounting to 1,600,000 BRT annually, the total tonnage the enemy can build will be about 8,200,000 BRT in 1942 and about 10,400,000 BRT in 1943. That would mean that we would have to sink approximately 700,000 BRT per month in order to offset new constructions; only what is in excess of this amount would constitute a decrease in enemy tonnage. However, we are already sinking these 700,000 BRT per month now; "we" meaning Germany, Italy, Japan: submarines, air forces, surface vessels and mines. In any event, enemy tonnage is definitely being reduced at the present time. Moreover, the construction figures quoted are the maximum amounts ever mentioned by enemy propaganda as the goal of the shipbuilding program. Our experts doubt that this goal can be reached and figure that the enemy can build only about 5 million BRT in 1942. That would mean that only about 400,000 to 500,000 BRT would have to be sunk per month in order to prevent any increase. Anything above that number cuts into the basic tonnage of the enemy.

To avoid miscalculations, the Commander in Chief, U-boats, himself bases his estimates on the highest figures of the enemy shipbuilding program known. He wishes to emphasize again and again that it is very important for us to inflict damage on the enemy by sinking his vessels as quickly as possible, with as many submarines as possible actually placed in the zones of operation. Whatever we sink today counts more than what we may sink in 1943.

The Commander in Chief, U-boats, intends to operate submarines in the American waters as long as it is profitable. He closely watches the monthly results of submarine warfare; it means that the average of ships sunk by each submarine is calculated for every day at sea. This daily average amounted to 209 BRT in January, 378 BRT in February, 409 BRT in March and 412 BRT in April. The figures indicate that the average is still increasing slightly. Therefore we are still justified in operating submarines in the American zone. But the calculation of this daily potential also shows how much we are losing by operating submarines in the Norwegian zone. Even if we assume that only 10 of the 20 submarines now operating off Norway would be at sea in the Atlantic each month, according to the above average each of these 10 would sink approximately 400 BRT per day at sea, or a total of 120,000 BRT per month. (As a matter of fact, due to the adequate capacity of the western shipyards, the ratio between time at sea and time in dock at the present time actually is 60:40.) Most of this potential is lost by operating these submarines in the Norwegian area.

One of these days the situation in the American zone will change. Even at this time everything points to the fact that the Americans are making strenuous efforts to prevent the large number of sinkings. They have organized a considerable air defense and are likewise using destroyers and PC boats off the coast. However, all these are manned by inexperienced crews and do not constitute a serious threat at present. In any case, the submarines with their greater experience in warfare are mastering these countermeasures. The American fliers see nothing, the destroyers and patrol vessels are traveling too fast most of the time even to locate the submarines, or they are not persistent enough in their pursuit with depth charges. As such, the shallow American coastal waters make it very easy to safeguard and protect shipping. The Americans could safeguard their shipping later on by organizing it in the following ways:

  1. They could establish a so-called war Channel through which to conduct their shipping along the coast, protected on the ocean side by net and mine barrages. I do not believe that the Americans will choose this method, because it is too costly.

  2. The other method would be to organize all shipping into convoys. This method will probably be chosen, and the convoys will be led along the coast in shallow waters. The daily traffic will then become lighter and our chances of success will become fewer. However, as long as their escorts are inexperienced, I believe that we will be able to attack the convoys in the usual manner even in shallow waters. It is due to our tested medium sized type of submarines that we are able to do this at all. The Commander in Chief, U-boats, will then also resort to the use of mines against American shipping. So far mines were not used because it was more economical to equip the submarines with torpedoes as long as the daily traffic was heavy. However, in anticipation of the expected decrease, it is planned to mine Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and New York Harbor during the new moon period in the middle of June. Submarines equipped with mines will leave on missions within the next few days.
If operations in the American area should prove unprofitable, we shall resume warfare against the convoys in the North Atlantic with a large number of submarines. Up to this time locating the enemy was always the most difficult part of this warfare. The Commander in Chief, U-boats, believes that the larger number of submarines will make this easier in the future. More convoys will be located due to the large number of submarines, and it will be easier to maintain contact with them and to attack them.

It will then become more important again to work hand in hand with the Commander, Air, Atlantic Coast. This cooperation with the Air Force used to cause difficulties because no integrated training covering large areas was carried out. Such cooperation cannot be improvised. The later stages were, however, more successful. Powerful long-range planes must be assigned to Atlantic operations soon.

The large number of submarines which we expect to have available in the near future will enable us to attack shipping in additional and more remote areas, which are now brought within our reach through the existence of submarine tankers. Thus the tankers enable us to operate the 517 ton submarine for two weeks in the Gulf of Mexico and off Panama, or as far away as Cameroons and Bahia; the 740 ton submarine is capable of operating two weeks near La Plata and Capetown. Furthermore, the first type IXd II submarines will be ready by fall. These submarines will be able to conduct operations with certainty as far as Mombasa in the Indian Ocean.

The Commander in Chief, U-boats, feels that the outlook in regard to submarine warfare is promising in view of the large number of submarines soon available and the variety of operations possible.

The defense situation must also be taken into account when the possibilities of submarine warfare are considered. Our submarine losses are extremely light at this time. There is no doubt that the number of losses will rise again once attacks on convoys are resumed and the defenses in some zones become stronger. Therefore we must strive with all means at our disposal to improve submarine weapons in order to keep the submarine abreast of defensive devices of the enemy. The most important thing in this respect is the development of a torpedo equipped with a non-contact pistol (Abstandspistole). This device would make hits on destroyers more accurate and thus provide greater safety for the submarine. Above all, it would considerably speed up the sinking of torpedoed ships, and would thus save torpedoes. The submarine would be more secure from countermeasures too since it can leave the scene of the attack much faster. Another great advantage of the non-contact pistol will be that the members of the crew of the torpedoed ship will not be able to save themselves due to the rapid sinking of the ship. This increase in personnel losses will no doubt make it more difficult to man the many ships America is building.

The submarine forces have faith in their equipment and believe in their fighting ability. Therefore, the first thing to do is to get the submarines out of the Baltic Sea as fast as possible, and in general to have as many submarines as possible out at sea engaged in operations.

signed: Dönitz

2. The Spitsbergen question. The Führer again suggests establishing a base and mining coal at Spitsbergen. The Commander in Chief, Navy, proposes that the Commanding General, 5th Air Force, who supposedly called attention to Spitsbergen's importance, be asked to send a commission including a naval officer and coal mining experts in order to investigate on the spot the possibility of establishing a base and the prospects for mining and transporting the coal. The OKW points out the difficulties of supplying a base of any size.

3. Decision of the Führer concerning the release of a special weapon for submarines.
Present: Commander in Chief, Navy, Chief of the OKW.
The OKW will give instructions in writing.

4. Present: Only the Commander in Chief, Navy.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out once more the need for closest cooperation of the representative of the shipping firms with the Navy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, recommends an order which will authorize the Shipping and Transport Branch of the Naval High Command [OKM] to make all decisions concerning the use of the merchant marine, since the Maritime Shipping Department of the Ministry of Transportation has proved itself unfit for the task.

5. The Commander in Chief, Navy, thanks the Führer for his instructions concerning auxiliary aircraft carriers but requests confirmation that the priority ratings of the following will not be affected: submarines and everything pertaining to them (inclusive of torpedo recovery vessels), as well as escort and patrol forces from destroyers on down. He requests further that the Führer put pressure on the Luftwaffe in the matter of carrier planes.

The Führer confirms this. He expresses his opinion that the problem of mass production of suitable types of carrier planes can be solved more easily if there are four carriers than if there is only one.

6. The Commander in Chief, Navy, believes that before final decisions can be made about the types of ships to be built for the post-war Navy, we must be clear about whether Britain has to be taken into account or whether our efforts need to be directed only against the United States. In the former case it would again be mainly a war against merchant shipping, and the emphasis would be on auxiliary cruisers equipped with planes, and on submarines; in the latter case, battleships and aircraft carriers would be of primary importance.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, is preparing plans for auxiliary cruisers and aircraft carriers, which will be submitted in the near future. In battleship design we are working on these problems: double-bottom construction, protection for propellers and rudder so that they cannot be destroyed simultaneously, and the arrangement of the armored decks.

The Führer declares that a final decision as to types can be made only after it has become clear how the war will end; preparation must be made for both eventualities. Superstructure on warships must be limited as much as possible. Everything above the upper deck must be heavily armored as far as it is practicable, in order to prevent destruction by 2,000 kg bombs. The effect of such bombs is lessened by using curved armor.

7. In answer to the letter of the Commander in Chief, Navy, the Führer expresses his belief that it is possible to build up a naval air force during this war. He realizes the necessity, However, of accelerating construction of airplane carriers even at this late date. The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out that a naval air force with excellent personnel and planes existed at the time the Air Ministry was established.

8. With reference to the letter concerning Midshipman Summer of the Naval Medical Branch, the Commander in Chief, Navy, says that he will settle the matter; he disapproves strongly of the letter of Lieutenant Bauer of the Naval Medical Branch.

signed: Raeder

Annex 1

Organization of Shipping.

I. Present Organization.

The Navy requisitions whatever it needs from the available total tonnage of merchantmen for naval warfare proper (auxiliary warships and other auxiliary vessels) and for transporting troops. The rest is at the disposal of the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Shipping Department, for transporting equipment and supplies for the Armed Forces and for shipping commercial goods.

The number of ships requisitioned and operated by the Navy is always kept at an absolutely necessary minimum. The percentage of auxiliary warships and other auxiliary vessels used is rather stable. But even here the Navy has always exercised great restraint for the benefit of merchant shipping and is doing this even more so in the face of the growing shortage in cargo space. The layman cannot possibly realize what a great number of merchantmen is required, since he is not in a position to comprehend either the size of the tasks in the coastal zones or the purpose of this type of naval warfare. He does not know what a large number of forces it takes simply to provide adequate protection for those who travel the sea lanes - primarily the merchantmen. Similarly he does not understand that these tasks of naval warfare cover extraordinarily large areas and that we have at our disposal only a quite insignificant force of warships for defense purposes as well as for offensive naval warfare.

The need for tonnage to transport supplies to the Armed Forces fluctuates more than that for auxiliary warships and other auxiliary vessels. It is obvious that the tonnage required is dictated strictly by the number of troops involved and by the construction that is carried on for defense and offense. Every additional soldier or workman in a place that must be supplied by sea, means an increase in the tonnage needed. Here too the Navy has always tried - and we think successfully - to get along with a minimum of cargo space by planning its use carefully and by cutting down on tonnage needs in every way possible. An essential prerequisite was and is the work of the Supply and Transportation Office of the Armed Forces Overseas, a unit of the OKW which collects and classifies according to urgency all the demands for transportation made by individual units on the supply system of the Armed Forces. For the past four weeks the Ministry of Transportation has furnished the necessary tonnage for the shipment of military supplies (not troops) at the request of the Seekriegsleitung. However, the constantly growing demands for military and commercial sea transportation have in general led to difficulties.

The cargo space at the disposal of the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Shipping Department, for transporting commercial goods is allocated on the basis of economic considerations. The allocation of cargo space is made by the Ministry of Transportation in cooperation with the Association of German Shipowners. The shrinkage in the total tonnage at Germany's disposal and the unavoidable increase in the needs of the Armed Forces have made it more and more difficult for the Ministry of Transportation to distribute properly the available tonnage. So far, an adjustment was possible only by direct negotiation with the parties concerned.

It can be said that utilization of cargo space has been carefully planned, but there is simply not enough tonnage available any more to met the demands. Isolated mistakes must be expected in any enterprise; but it surely reveals a lack of deeper insight into the military aspect of all transportation by sea in wartime, if certain personalities interpret such isolated cases as symptoms of inefficiency in the management of merchant shipping.

The management of merchant shipping during wartime, regardless of whether it is used for commercial purposes or for the Armed Forces, is subject to the laws of naval warfare. Shipping depends above all on the strategic situation. For instance, the military supply situation may occasionally require disregarding a 100% utilization of cargo space. Sometimes it is better to forego return freight if, in so doing, supplies can be speeded up. Such emergency cases tend, of course, to provoke all too easily the criticism of the person thinking purely along commercial lines and in terms of the shipping concerns.

II. Change in organization.

If in spite of what has been said above, it is believed that the growing difficulties which are to be expected as a result of the shrinkage of total cargo space can be mastered only by using dictatorial powers over merchant shipping, then it would be well to consider the following:

1. The problem is to distribute the total available tonnage so that it will meet the requirements of (a) naval warfare (auxiliary warships and other auxiliary vessels, (b) transportation of supplies for the Armed Forces, and (c) merchant shipping. The requirements of cargo space for (a) and (b) depend entirely on the tasks confronting the Navy or the Armed Forces - in other words, they are determined purely by naval and military considerations. Only the requirements for (c) can be determined by the economic situation. Although it lies in the interest of the total conduct of the war to satisfy the requirements for (c) as far as possible, still it is hardly necessary to stress the fact that the needs of naval warfare and transportation of supplies for the Armed Forces must dominate, since their fulfillment or nonfulfillment has an immediate effect on the conduct of the war. Only one authority must deal with all these requirements, however, as they are all phases of one and the same problem, cargo space.

2. The best possible use of cargo space can be assured only if cargo allotments are very well organized. This organization is of especial importance when the need for cargo space and the available tonnage are out of balance. There must be an authority which can give priority to the more important cargo. As far as the transportation of supplies for the Armed Forces is concerned, the Supply and Transportation Office of the Armed Forces Overseas performs this function. Here the decision rests with the OKW. For commercial shipping there is still no such office with powers of decision. Such an office should act in the interest of the total war economy.

It is not possible to combine these two offices because they have to make their decisions on entirely different bases. The amount of shipping for the Armed Forces is dictated solely by military tasks assigned by the highest authority, while merchant shipping is guided by the requirements of the war economy.

3. The utilization of the available tonnage depends also very largely on the operational execution of maritime transportation. It is the task of the naval command to create the proper conditions for the fastest possible flow of maritime transportation.

4. From the above (1-3) it is clear that the conduct of merchant shipping must be dictated neither by the merchant nor by the shipowner, but solely by someone directly connected with the conduct of the war. It must be someone within the naval command who has access to the following information on which he can base his decisions:

    a. Information about the tasks of naval warfare (requirements for auxiliary warships and other auxiliary vessels).

    b. Information about the state of the naval war. He must have the possibility of judging and when necessary of influencing operational execution of maritime transportation in order to assure a smooth flow.

    c. Knowledge of the turnover which is needed in military and commercial goods, and the requirements for troop transports.

It follows that the decisions about merchant shipping must be dictated from within the Armed Forces, to be specific, by the Seekriegsleitung, Quartermaster Division, on the basis of the requirements of the Armed Forces and of the economic situation. The central offices, one for the Armed Forces and one for commercial shipping, are responsible for the priority ratings and sequence of demands for cargo space. If the demands for cargo space cannot be entirely satisfied, each has the authority for his own sphere to make a corresponding adjustment of the amount of cargo to the tonnage available.

The Seekriegsleitung, Shipping and Transport Branch, divides the total cargo space by order of the OKW, Operations Staff, on a basis of equality among all shippers concerned (Seekriegsleitung, military supplies, commerce). A "Shipping and Transport Branch" - perhaps a better designation can be found - is to be created to work out these decisions for the Seekriegsleitung. It will be subordinate to the Quartermaster Division of the Seekriegsleitung and will be directed by a naval officer. The staff of this office will take over those sections of the Maritime Shipping Department of the Ministry of Transportation which are necessary for accomplishing the above tasks. In addition, outstanding personalities of the shipping industry will be included.

5. The construction of new merchantmen for relieving shortages in cargo space and the acceleration of repairs on such ships are closely connected with the problem of utilization of cargo space. Therefore these tasks must likewise be directed by the same office which dictates the disposition of tonnage. For expert execution (utilization of full shipyard capacity, raw material quotas) the services of the Naval Construction Division are available, whose personnel will be increased correspondingly. The allocation of raw material is made by the War Economy Division of the OKW (Wehrwirtschaftsamt).

6. Whatever foreign tonnage becomes available will be administered like the German tonnage. As a rule it will be used for transporting commercial goods.

7. If tonnage becomes available unexpectedly, it will be reassigned to another shipper by the Organization of Naval Offices (K.M.D.-Organization) of the Seekriegsleitung. Representatives of merchant shipping are assigned to the organization for this purpose.

8. Questions of merchant shipping not yet mentioned will be decided by the Ministry of Transportation as before, unless the Navy has them already under its own jurisdiction.

Quartermaster Division
Plans and Schedules Branch

signed: Schubert


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