|  Home Intro Technical History Crew Models Gallery Kriegsmarine Archives More Forum Español   UPDATES|
CONFIDENTIALCommander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Conference of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer at the Berghof on 22 May 1941.
Chief of the OKW [Generalfeldmarschall Keitel]
Kapitän zur See von Puttkamer
The Foreign Minister [von Ribbentrop]
a. Submarine warfare: Since the beginning of May there has been a further increase in the number of ships sunk by our submarines. Eleven boats are at present in the northern operational area and seven are in the southern area. In the course of the last few days about 85,000 tons were sunk from a convoy. The enemy has adopted a very flexible convoy system, combined with a far-reaching and excellent direction-finding and locator network; the sighting and location reports are evaluated very rapidly for the purpose of convoy control. Enemy defense for convoys has been considerably strengthened; a close watch of the sea area west of Britain is being kept by air reconnaissance, anti-submarine groups, surface forces, and single steamers. The losses incurred by us in March and April made it necessary to move the submarines further out into the Atlantic. Some of the waiting positions are outside the declared blockade area. Successful submarine operations have been carried out in the area off the West African coast near Freetown. One boat has set out a mine-laying mission in the Takoradi-Lagos area.
b. Cruiser warfare in foreign waters: Four auxiliary cruisers are still on operations, one in the South Atlantic and three in the Indian Ocean. Ship "10" [Thor], commanded by Kapitän zur See Kähler, returned to Hamburg after nearly eleven months of operations. The ship sank 96,000 BRT. Engagements were fought with three superior enemy auxiliary cruisers, one of which was sunk and the other two badly damaged.
Ship "33" [Pinguin], commanded by Kapitän zur See Krüder, sank at noon on 8 May in the Indian Ocean west of Somaliland during an engagement with the heavy British cruiser CORNWALL, which has eight 20.3 cm. guns. Only fifty three survivors were taken prisoner. The enemy himself reported damage to the CORNWALL during the engagement.
The Commanding Officer's character is a sufficient guarantee that the auxiliary cruiser fought a gallant battle after vainly attempting to escape from the enemy cruiser through use of deception. Ship "33" was the most successful German auxiliary cruiser, which carried out extremely well all the tactical and operational demands made of her.
Her successes amounted to 120,000 BRT, including several prizes brought to home waters amounting to over 50,000 BRT. Three large whale ships from the Antarctic, carrying 22,000 tons of whale oil, were among the prizes; also eight smaller whalers, a valuable tanker, and a steamer carrying wheat. At least two further ships, the names of which are unknown, were captured before the engagement with the CORNWALL. Minelaying missions in Australian waters were brilliantly executed. Apart from sinkings directly caused by the mines (three to four steamers and one minesweeper have been sunk as far as is known at present). these mine operations have great operational effect with extremely far-reaching consequences for enemy shipping. The total success achieved by ship "33" exceeds that of cruiser EMDEN or auxiliary cruiser WOLF in the World War.
Proposal: These facts, together with the name of this outstanding commanding officer, should be mentioned and given recognition in one of the next reports of the OKW.
The Führer agrees. He also agrees to announcing the loss of Korvettenkapitän Prien at a time when substantial submarine successes are reported.
The prize SPEYBANK put into Bordeaux on 11 May with a very valuable cargo of 1,500 tons of manganese, 300 tons of rubber, jute, and tea.
The supply ship DRESDEN put into a harbor in southern France with 140 Americans, some of them women and children, who were taken aboard auxiliary cruisers during the capture of an Egyptian steamer. It is inexcusable of the U.S. Government to allow American citizens, including women and children, to travel on ships belonging to belligerents.
The captain of the DRESDEN treated the American passengers with great consideration, so that no protests are likely.
c. Warfare by surface forces against merchant shipping: The BISMARCK-PRINZ EUGEN task force is en route to its mission in the Atlantic; the ships left Norwegian waters near Bergen on 21 May. The purpose of the operation is war against merchant shipping in the North and Middle Atlantic. Fleet Commander Admiral Lütjens is in command of the operation.
d. German merchant shipping overseas: Of the four blockade-runners sent to South America, the first is on the return voyage and will arrive at the end of May; the remaining three are discharging and taking on cargo in Brazil. Up to now goods valued at 19,000,000 reichsmark have been exported.
Two German merchant ships, carrying 7,000 tons of rubber in all, are at present en route from Dairen. In a few days a third one will follow with an additional 4,000 tons. The first vessel is to arrive about the end of June; she will proceed by way of Cape Horn.
Five vessels put out from Chile for Japan.
2. The enemy's air forces are very active in attacking German convoy and coastal traffic on the Norwegian and German coasts and the occupied Channel coast. Up to now the enemy has achieved no great success, and our defense forces have had good results in shooting down planes.
3. Extension of Inland waterways in Holland.
The Navy is very much interested in developing the inland waterways from the Ems River and the city of Delfzijl to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Rhine River in order to reduce traffic on the sea route, which is exposed to great danger from air attacks, motor torpedo boats, and mines, and in order to economize in the use of our limited escort forces. The Navy has ascertained that it is altogether possible to increase the number of barges on the canals and to utilize them better. Even partial expansion would mean a substantial increase in the amounts transported and would be of advantage to the over-all conduct of the war, not to mention its great importance for peacetime purposes. Up to now the Ministry of Transportation has opposed this project. The Seekriegsleitung cannot judge the reasons for this. It is proposed that the Führer should recommend this expansion.
The Chief of the OKW will attend to the matter.
4. Continuing use of aerial mines.
In view of the importance of our new mine fuse and the necessity for exploiting it to the fullest possible extent before the enemy countermeasures become effective, the Seekriegsleitung has recommended mine-laying operations on a large scale to the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe. (A copy of the suggestion was sent to the OKW.) Mines with the new fuses should be laid suddenly and uninterruptedly for several days in as many of the harbors on the east and west coast as possible at one and the same time. All efforts should be concentrated on these operations, even if this would mean a temporary reduction of forces for other tasks. The Seekriegsleitung anticipates very great results from surprise attacks of this kind.
As far as is known the Operations Staff of the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, agrees in principle with the views of the Seekriegsleitung, but considers that the number of planes available would not be sufficient for large scale operations because of the withdrawal of large forces for the Eastern Campaign.
In view of experience gained from earlier operations, the great importance of properly using this new and important type of fuse should be emphasized. The over-all effect of the mine offensive will suffer if too few mines are laid and the operations are not sufficiently concentrated. Fully convinced of the success of such an undertaking, the Seekriegsleitung believes that large-scale use of mines with the new fuse would fully justify the temporary neglect of other operational tasks of the Luftwaffe against Britain.
General Jodl states that the Luftwaffe has agreed to undertake a large-scale mine-laying operation with all available aircraft.
5. For the discussion of the present problem of naval warfare in the Atlantic due to the attitude of the U.S.A., see Annexes 1 and 2.
6. Possible exploitation of French bases in West Africa. (See Annex 3.)
7. Canary Islands.
The Führer agrees that the OKW should make preparations for these measures and that they should be carried out.
b. During negotiations between the German and Spanish Navies regarding equipment for Spain, agreement was reached on most points; e.g., German mines are to be delivered. This could be done at once and would be in the interest of the German Navy. Delivery is being delayed, however, by trivial bickering on the part of the Ministry of Economics. The Commander in Chief, Navy, requests that the Foreign Office clarify the matter.
The Foreign Minister will attend to the matter.
This subject was brought up by the Führer. Judging from an earlier summary of the situation, which was not undergone any changes since, it would be possible to carry out the initial occupation of the Azores, using combat forces. It is extremely unlikely, however, that the islands could be held and supplies brought up in the face of British, possibly also American attacks. Moreover, all our combat forces, including submarines, would be necessary to achieve this, and they would therefore have to be withdrawn from all offensive action against Britain. This would mean abandoning decisive offensive activities in the Battle of the Atlantic; this is intolerable. The Navy must therefore reject the idea of occupying the Azores.
The Führer is still in favor of occupying the Azores, in order to be able to operate long-range bombers from there against the U.S.A. The occasion for this may arise by autumn. In reply to the Commander in Chief, Navy, the Führer confirms that the Navy's main task in summer 1941 must be the disruption of British supply lines.
9. Plans for operation "Barbarossa":
It is essential that contact and conferences with the Finnish Admiralty be approved soon, at least as regards negotiations on fundamental operational matters, the settlement of which must be considered an essential factor for any operations. Such conferences require lengthy preparation; questions to be discussed include fuel supplies, anti-aircraft defense of bases and anchorages, supplies of foodstuffs, prompt transfer of vessels from the shipyards, etc.
The Chief of the OKW states that following the return of Minister Schnurre within the next few days, negotiations will take place between the OKW and the Finns. Subsequently, discussions on the part of the Navy will be possible.
Transports to Finland will, as ordered, be carried out in ten instead of twenty one days. Twenty five steamers will be withdrawn from merchant shipping for this purpose.
10. Organization in the southeastern area:
According to Führer Directive No. 29, it is intended that the Army shall hand over the defense of the whole Greek area, up to Salonika, to the Italian Armed Forces after completion of operation "Merkur". The directive leaves open for later settlement the question of who is ultimately to provide the occupational forces for Crete. Attention is called to the decisive importance of defending the main strategic points such as Salonika, Lemmos, Piraeus, Melos, and Crete. These points are of decisive importance as strategic bases for any further operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is essential that they be adequately protected against all eventualities and be ready to offer determined resistance to any enemy action. This is a necessary condition for successful operations by the 10th Air Corps. Such protection, however, can be guaranteed only if coastal defense and occupation of the hinterland is in the hands of the German forces. The Seekriegsleitung is therefore of the opinion that the bases in question should be firmly held by German forces until the Mediterranean operation as a whole has been concluded, more specifically, until British operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Alexandria and the Suez, have been eliminated. This applies especially to Crete, which is essential to the 10th Air Corps.
The Führer agrees, and gives the Chief of the OKW appropriate instructions.
11. Italian submarines:
The Commander in Chief, Navy, once again requests withdrawal of Italian submarines from the Atlantic. The time is propitious, since they are urgently needed in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Foreign Minister proposes that he raise this point with Count Ciano or that the Führer discuss it at his next meeting with the Duce, which is to take place soon. The Führer agrees.
12. The Commander in Chief, Navy, asks the Führer for his opinion on Japan's attitude, as he is under the impression that the Japanese are rather cool. (Nomura is negotiating in Washington!)
At the present time the Führer has not clear picture of the situation but obviously there are internal political difficulties in Japan. The good friendship policy is to be continued.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports on the information received from Admiral Nomura regarding new ships built by the Japanese. The Führer emphasizes the necessity for complete secrecy.
13. The Commander in Chief, Navy, stresses the need for deepening navigational channels to accommodate very heavy new vessels after the war. The depth of the Kiel Canal, the Belts, and Jade Bay should be increased to fifteen meters. This work is to be carried out by the Navy, while the Elbe and Weser Rivers should be deepened as a large-scale project of other governmental agencies.
The Führer agrees entirely, but points out also the urgency of expanding Trondheim.
14. The Commander in Chief, Navy, states that very careful and detailed preparations have been made for holding back the important materials to be delivered to Russia. The Russian Navy will be informed in the near future that the German Navy is having to draw on some of the things in view of the state of emergency, so that slight delays will occur, but that deliveries as a whole are not jeopardized. The Führer agrees. The Foreign Minister has been informed.
15. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that it will take eight months to complete constructing the aircraft carrier, including installations of anti-aircraft guns, if the work is resumed at the conclusion of operation "Barbarossa". An additional year will be needed for trials. As soon as it has definitely been decided to continue work on the carrier, the Führer should order the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, to make the necessary planes available in time.
Annex 1The Present Problem of Naval Warfare in the Atlantic in view of the Attitude of the U.S.A. May 1941.
The Flow of supplies carried by convoys and single vessels across the North Atlantic is still continuing, and constitutes as ever the decisive lifeline for Great Britain. In view of the distressing conditions prevailing in Britain, particularly in matters of shipping space, a great effort is being made to utilize available shipping space to the fullest, and certain supply routes in remote areas have been discontinued. At the same time it is apparent that more and more of the supplies are shipped via the North Atlantic, particularly via the shortest route from North America to Britain, which can be safeguarded most effectively. Here lies the focal point of the Battle of the Atlantic and here, therefore, the all-out campaign against British supplies must be concentrated as the vital aim of German naval warfare. Enemy convoy and supply traffic, escorted by auxiliary cruisers, cruisers, and battleships, comes from Canada and the West Indies, makes a wide sweep to the north, and proceeds across the northern North Atlantic; or else, coming from the South Atlantic and Gibraltar, it proceeds to the north along the wide north-south route between 19º and 29º W. As the convoys approach the British Isles, at about 25º W they are met by strong naval and air forces which escort them through the area endangered by submarines. A growing intensification of escort and defense is apparent in the rendezvous area. British escort forces are limited, however. Any appreciable increase at one point means that another area is weakened. The British escort forces must be forced to scatter by a constant threat at various points. The effects of submarine warfare, cruiser warfare in foreign waters, attacks by battleships and cruisers on merchant shipping in the Atlantic, and air warfare will all help to bring this about.
Enemy measures for escort and defense have determined the development of German submarine warfare as the main factor in operations against British supplies. As regards the two main submarine operational areas, 11 boats are at present in the north, in the area southeast of Greenland and south of Iceland, and 7 in the south off the West African coast. In view of the strong enemy defenses in the area west of Britain it will be necessary, during the summer months with their light short nights, to shift the northern operational area far to the west, beyond the declared blockade area.
As regards surface forces, one battleship group is at present en route to operations against merchant shipping in the North Atlantic.
2. American support.
Whereas up to now the situation confronting submarines and naval forces on operations was perfectly clear, naval warfare in the North Atlantic is becoming increasingly complicated as the result of the measures taken by the U.S.A.
In order to help Britain, the American neutrality patrol, which was hitherto confined to the area within the American neutrality zone, has been reinforced and considerably extended toward the east to about 38º W, i.e., as far as the middle of the Atlantic. The true character of the American neutrality patrol is shown by the fact that vessels on patrol have also been instructed to report by radio any battleships encountered. Fast merchant vessels are being converted into improvised aircraft carriers for reconnaissance and intelligence duty on the convoy routes. It appears that preparations are in progress to establish far-reaching air patrols for the protection of convoys by means of bombers and long-range reconnaissance planes with bases on Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland. Such plans have been voiced repeatedly. Recently U.S. vessels have been reported a number of times in the vicinity of the Azores. In numerous U.S. discussions the demand has been made that the Azores, the Cape Verdes, and Dakar be occupied as a precautionary measure. Plans are being made regarding establishment of convoys under the protection of American warships, and these plans are the subject of lively discussions. Until this question is finally settled, American consignments of weapons, planes, and other war material are being transported for the present only in British merchant ships directly to Britain. In American ships they are sent to West, Central, and East Africa, avoiding the war zone declared by the American Government; i.e., they reach Britain in a roundabout way.
We have laid down the following rules for naval warfare in order to comply with the German political aims with regard to the U.S.A:
Prize regulations are not the be applied to U.S. merchant ships.
Weapons are not to be used, even if American vessels conduct themselves in a definitely unneutral manner.
Weapons are to be used only if U.S. ships fire the first shot.
It is unmistakeable that the U.S. Government is disappointed about this cautious attitude on the part of Germany, since one of the most important factors in preparing the American people for entry into the war is thus eliminated. The U.S. is therefore continuing its attempt to obliterate more and more the boundary line between neutrality and belligerency, and to stretch the "short of war" policy further by constantly introducing fresh measures contrary to international law.
On 17 May a submarine reported for the first time the appearance of an American battleship, escorted by destroyers, at a longitude of about 35º W, i.e., in the midst of the area in which our submarines are disposed at present. The orders in force were supplemented immediately by additional instructions which restrict offensive action by submarines and also by surface forces to such an extent that incidents with American warships will be prevented as far as is humanly possible.
3. The consequences of the American action for German naval warfare.
a. Submarine warfare: Although the instructions issued do not put insurmountable obstacles in the way of the submarines, they must be regarded as an extremely unsatisfactory solution in the long run. The present situation entails uncertainty for the submarine commander and constantly increasing difficulties in submarine operations. Consequently successes can be expected to decrease. Even though the possibility of incidents has been reduced to a minimum by our own precautionary measures, situations which may well result in incidents of the most serious nature are bound to arise in the course of further operations, particularly if the situation is made more acute by inept conduct of American vessels, or if American ships proceed without lights through our submarine area.
b. Warfare by surface forces against merchant shipping: Operations by our battleships, cruisers, and auxiliary cruisers will be greatly hampered by the appearance of American warships and by the instructions issued in compliance with present political policy. The possibility of encounters with American warships must constantly be reckoned with in the regions east of Newfoundland, in which operations have proved to be the most remunerative, and also along the whole convoy route across the North Atlantic. In such cases the conduct of the Americans will determine our own operational activities.
Reconnaissance and shadowing: Any encounter with U.S. forces means that the positions and movements of our ships are reported to the enemy by American reconnaissance signals. Such a report on German naval forces constitutes in itself an unneutral act which hinders and even jeopardizes German operations; if in addition to this, American naval forces are planes begin to maintain contact with German forces, the latter will be unable to engage in further operations. As a matter of fact they run the risk of being annihilated by superior British forces called to the scene. Special danger is involved for the slow auxiliary cruisers and for the supply ships and tankers, which are essential for warfare in the Atlantic; the danger will be greatest during actual refueling operations.
It would seem that this intolerable situation can be remedied only if German naval vessels are permitted to make prompt use of their weapons to shake off the American forces following them, in order to preserve their freedom of operations.
Proceeding without lights: Apart from hindering and endangering our forces by day, the present situation means practically that it is impossible to attack at night any targets proceeding without lights which are detected by location devices, since in every case the target in question may be American. On the other hand, every ship proceeding without lights must be regarded as an enemy one, in view of the danger which threatens our own ship, since it it impossible to determine the neutrality of a ship proceeding without lights. Since the beginning of the war neutral merchant shipping has, therefore, repeatedly been advised of this fact and warned against proceeding without lights, in order to avoid any confusions with enemy warships. This applies to an even greater degree to neutral warships.
From the point of view of war strategy, therefore, it is urged that German forces be allowed to open fire immediately on any vessel proceeding without lights, in the interest of their own safety.
Establishment of convoys: Should further developments in American aid to Britain lead to the establishment of American convoys escorted by American warships, under the present ruling the situation would be as follows if our naval forces encountered such convoys:
(2) Conduct towards American ships in American convoys: No action at all is permitted against American merchant ships in view of the definitive Government policy up to now to refrain from taking measures against U.S. merchant ships.
Attacks by night are permitted if the ships are proceeding without lights.
(If it were not for the German orders issued because of political considerations, it would be possible according to current international law to take action against the American merchant ships in convoy by requesting the escorting warships to make a declaration that no contraband, particularly no war material, is being carried on the escorted vessels. If the U.S. convoy escorts refused to make this declaration, this would necessarily give rise to the first incident with the Americans.)
(3) Conduct towards British merchant ships in American convoy: Neutral escort for the protection of enemy merchant vessels cannot be respected. Enemy merchant vessels escorted by American warships may be attacked without warning at any time. (American warships will certainly not stand by and do nothing, so there is a possibility of complications!)
This survey of the present situation shows with what difficulties German naval warfare is faced, especially in the North Atlantic, as a result of the hostile tactics adopted by the U.S.A. contrary to international law. The U.S. is giving the British very far-reaching support by her policy of aid "short of war". This is being accomplished not only by supplying large quantities of war material but also by active measures on the part of the U.S. neutrality patrol and by the patrol service in general. Further drastic measures, including the establishment of a convoy system, are being considered by the American Government and are to be expected if the situation becomes more critical.
For important military considerations and reasons of internal politics the President of the U.S.A. does not believe that the time has come to enter the war; he will therefore continue the "short of war" aid for the time being. In the opinion of the Seekriegsleitung, however, the moment has come when it is necessary to point out to the President and the people of the U.S.A. the limits to which the aid to Britain can go. This should be done in an appropriate manner and with great care to avoid the possibility of provocation. Unless a firm stand is taken and Germany stops tolerating everything in her desire to avoid an armed conflict, there is danger that the U.S.A. will take measures which either will greatly reduce our chances to disrupt British supply lines or will lead to an outbreak of hostilities. Various observations of late justify the assumption that Roosevelt will respect rather than ignore a German statement regarding the dangers involved in further measures on the part of the United States.
In the opinion of the Seekriegsleitung, therefore, there are only two alternatives for further procedure:
a. We adhere to the previous policy of taking no action at all against American naval merchant vessels, even if they conduct themselves in an unneutral manner.
This means in practice that the U.S.A. will continue active support of the British against Germany to an increasing degree, without our taking any countermeasures for our protection. It will also mean that Germany abandons warfare against merchant shipping in the North Atlantic and thus foregoes a chance to inflict damage on the enemy. This may prove a decisive factor in the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic. And still the possibility of incidents with the Americans will not be eliminated.
b. We clearly define the action German forces can take without abandoning our previous policy of avoiding anything which might cause an incident. In other words, the possibilities for action afforded by international law are clearly pointed out. Further, clear orders which are in compliance with our strategic requirements and operational necessities are issued to our naval forces and submarines. These measures would serve to clarify our position as well as that of the United States; they would establish a clear policy for the conduct of German naval warfare, and would go a long way toward eliminating the possibilities for conflict.
The Seekriegsleitung has come to the conclusion that naval operations in the North Atlantic must be continued in view of the fact that the vital lifeline of British supplies passes through this area. In the following suggestions the Seekriegsleitung sees a possibility of meeting the requirements of our own naval warfare and of putting a stop to American aid to the enemy without provoking the U.S.A.
(2) Permission should be given to take offensive action against American reconnaissance forces whose conduct endangers our vessels.
(3) Permission should be given to take immediate offensive action, without warning, against all vessels proceeding without light, regardless of origin.
(4) In the event that American convoys with American escort are established, or that American merchant ships are incorporated into British convoys, permission should be given to take action, in accordance with international law against American merchant ships escorted by British or U.S. warships.
(5) Permission should be given to take offensive action against neutral naval or air escorts attempting to interfere with measures taken by German forces and permissible under international law.
5. If the measures planned should not bring about the desired result or should not be sufficient for further successful operations against merchant shipping, and if the situation in the Atlantic should becomes more acute, the Seekriegsleitung sees the following later possibilities for achieving satisfactory operational conditions for warfare in the North Atlantic:
b. The whole North Atlantic could be declared an operational area for German naval forces, bounded on the west by the Canadian coast and on the south by the Pan-American safety zone and latitude 45º.
The Führer considers the attitude of the President of the United States still undecided. Under no circumstances does he wish to cause incidents which would result in U.S. entry into the war, especially since Japan will probably come in only if the U.S. is the aggressor.
The Führer agrees, however, with the proposal of the Commander in Chief, Navy, that the interview should be published as a warning at the latest on 24 May in order to stop the U.S. from taking the steps they have planned and in order to be able to judge the reaction of the U.S. to this warning from the President's speech scheduled for 27 May.
Permission to put into effect the measures proposed by the Seekriegsleitung in (1) to (5) above depends on this reaction and on future steps taken by the U.S.A.
If the situation develops as set forth in 5a and 5b, the Führer would approve following the suggestions made there. In addition, however, he would recommend a closed area off the West African coast, so that American ships could be intercepted there.
Annex 2Draft of an Interview with Grand Admiral Raeder.
Question: No doubt, sir, you have followed the lively discussions in the United States on the question of how, with American aid, it would be possible to bring the war material destined for Britain safely to her shores and to the various theaters of war, and to reduce the severe British losses in warships and merchant ships. What views are held by the German Navy regarding the possible consequences of such an endeavor?
Answer: We regard them as very serious, especially since not only the press but also responsible members of the North American Government have expressed themselves in a manner which leaves no doubts as to the aggressive character of the measures already taken. They are definitely contrary to international law. This holds true above all of the additional measures proposed. No expert on modern warfare who values his reputation considers an attack from across the ocean possible and practicable. Anyone who in spite of this attributes aggressive plans to Germany does so against his better judgment and for the purpose of justifying his own aggressive plans and his desire to interfere. The warmongers are not afraid of a German attack, but rather that it will not be possible to bring about the desired incidents. In order to cause these nevertheless, everything is being done to obliterate the borderline between neutrality, aggression, and war, and to extend still further the "short of war" policy by constantly resorting to new measures which are contrary to international law.
Question: When you make this statement, are you thinking mainly about the proposals to extend the so-called patrol activity of the American Navy or Air Force into the Atlantic to afford protection to British war transports, or rather about those for setting up a convoy system of some kind with the intention of provoking a conflict?
Answer: Both measures have been demanded by such high official sources and in such a positive manner that it is necessary to prepare ourselves accordingly and to establish from the very start where the responsibility lies; we must also once more voice a serious warning. As regards convoys, I can only endorse the views of President Roosevelt: "Convoy means shooting". Since it must be taken for granted that the type of cargo carried by the escorted vessels would certainly be contraband, as admitted by the Americans, this type of convoy system would not represent neutral escort activity in accordance with international agreements, also signed by the U.S.A., but it would be open warfare and a barefaced, unprovoked attack. According to the rules of naval warfare, German naval forces would therefore be justified in taking action against these vessels carrying contraband. If anyone, including U.S. naval forces, were to interfere with the application of these rules, the German forces would have to resort to armed force.
As regards the so called patrols, their aggressive character has already become apparent. Since a German threat to America is out of the question, and since this patrol system already actually amounts to support for the British, we must urgently advise against extending it. Thus far already this system has not been operating in the interest of American security and defense, but in order to gather intelligence for the benefit of the British. German merchant ships, e.g., the COLUMBUS, have become victims of this policy. No commanding officer of a German warship can be expected to stand by and allow his position to be reported to the enemy by an American warship, especially when she follows him until heavy British forces are called to the scene. Such action not only prevents him from carrying out his mission, but also leads to annihilation of his ship and his crew. In this case, as in that of the convoy, he would be faced with an actual act of war and he would be justified, according to the recognized rules of warfare, in demanding that the ship in question should desist from hostile action, if necessary compelling her to do so by using armed force.
I should like to take this opportunity to touch on another matter. Neutral merchant ships were warned some time ago against proceeding without lights since in so doing they are liable to be mistaken for enemy warships, and are therefore in danger of immediate attack. This applies even more to neutral warships. Modern warfare has reached a point where for the sake of safety it is necessary to open fire immediately on any ship proceeding without lights. Any ship that does so in spite of this fact has something to conceal and has hostile intentions; therefore she must expect to be attacked without warning.
Anyone who exposes himself to such dangers in full realization of the actual situation according to international law is looking for trouble. Since the war does not come close to America, the American warmongers must run after it for thousands of miles across the sea and seek out danger far from the coasts of the American continent in order to be able to declare that they are threatened and to bring about the desired incidents. The German Navy will not permit this to interfere with its operations. The responsibility for any conflict so arising, however, is exclusively that of the persons who knowingly proceed to the areas where war is being waged, and do this not only in the face of German warnings but also against the will of the majority of the American people.
Annex 3The Question of Utilizing Dakar; Negotiations with France.
Utilization of the facilities afforded by the French bases on the west coast of Africa is a matter of special importance for naval warfare. The interests of the Seekriegsleitung are centered more on the Dakar area than on the west Moroccan coast, which is threatened by air attacks from Gibraltar and is not very favorably situated in relation to the operational area of German naval forces. A decisive factor is Dakar's favorable situation in relation to the operational area, especially as far as submarines and auxiliary cruisers are concerned; likewise it has facilities for repair and equipment, and its fortifications afford adequate protection against enemy attacks.
The Seekriegsleitung is thinking along the following lines:
2. Surface forces, including battleships and auxiliary cruisers, would have a chance to come into base occasionally.
3. Prizes and escort ships could put into port at Dakar.
4. Supply ships for the war against merchant shipping by submarines and surface forces could be made ready at Dakar.
If there should be any political scruples, it should be pointed out that, even if the negotiations are now successful, it will take considerable time before Dakar can actually be utilized, and, if necessary, this can be done secretly.
|Home Guestbook Quiz Glossary Help us Weights & Measures Video Credits Links Contact|