Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Minutes of the Visit of the Commander in Chief, Navy, at the Führer Headquarters Berghof on 26 and 27 February 1944.
A. The Commander in Chief, Navy, was present at the conference on the situation 26 February 1944 and reported to the Führer as follows:
1. The submarine operation against convoys on 18 February. Using a map, he explained that our air reconnaissance must be sure to contact enemy convoys at the exit of the North Channel; later contact is too uncertain because the convoys are likely to scatter, either to the North or all the way around to the South. On the other hand, the submarines cannot take up positions close to land because enemy air patrols are too strong there, even at night. These two circumstances make it necessary that our own reconnaissance be extended over several days, probably about five.
With the limited forces at our disposal it is possible that our own air reconnaissance is lacking in the decisive night preceding the actual night of the attack, just when final dispositions of the submarines must be made. On this account the submarine formation in the operation under discussion did not succeed in moving submerged farther South the day prior to the night of the attack. The result was that the convoy was contacted only by the southern end of the submarine formation on the night of the attack, and only very late, so that the boats were not able to close in before dawn. At dawn, however, the boats had to submerge on account of strong carrier-based plane protection. They were immobilized and the operation came to an end.
Nevertheless, this case shows clearly what prospects the submarine type XXI would have had. With this type it would have been possible to shift the location of the boats sufficiently while submerged, even on the day preceding the night of the attack. Besides, these boats would not have been immobilized after the attack, but could have continued the operation under water. Our general tendency to change over to underwater tactics is thus correct in every respect. We will always be at a disadvantage on the surface due to the enemy's air superiority and his surface location-finding devices, so we must avoid them by submerging.
Taking everything into account, a fundamental defense by the enemy against a submarine operating while submerged is hard to imagine. Of course, it could possibly be detected by listening devices, but their range is not anywhere near so great as that of the high frequency location-finding equipment used in airplanes against submarines operating on the surface. It still holds true today that a ship is sunk if the submarine is able to close in. The difficulty lies in getting close enough to the target, because this still has to be done on the surface. With the new submarine it is possible under water.
Since the new submarine has great chances of success, the intended construction program must be accelerated in every way possible. The Führer agrees wholeheartedly.
Unfortunately, however, construction has already been delayed two months for type XXIII and one month for type XXI. The main reason is the damage done to the electric motor industry at the Siemens-Schuckert plant by the latest air raids. Nevertheless, everything that is humanly possible is being done in close cooperation between the Bureau of Naval Armament and Minister Speer.
The same is true for the rest of the naval construction program, the realization of which must be striven for just as fanatically. Already the mine situation at the entrances to the Baltic Sea is a cause of great anxiety to the Commander in Chief, Navy. Enemy pressure against our coasts and sea routes will certainly increase greatly during the coming year. For this reason the Navy will go through a critical period up until the time when the program ordered by the Führer in April 1943 for construction of defensive vessels, such as minesweepers and motor minesweepers, begins to take effect. This program has to be completed with all possible speed. All the submarines in the Baltic Sea are of no use if the entrances cannot be kept open, not to speak of the danger to the quite considerable ship traffic, now 1,730,000 freight tons a month, which has to move through the western part of the Baltic. It goes without saying that the enemy intends to blockade us with mines in those waters.
In order to realize the naval building program, the Commander in Chief, Navy, will exert himself to the utmost to provide the necessary personnel, to have them trained promptly, and to prevent their possible use for other purposes.
2. A report on the distribution of submarines as of 15 March 1944 with the help of two maps. The Führer was in full agreement with the distribution of the forces.
3. Plans for establishing a base for naval forces, involving pier construction, in the Sea of Azov are explained with the help of a map. The Führer agrees. He keeps the map to inform Marshal Antonescu personally of this measure. At the same time he stresses his anxiety that the Russians will land in the Crimea by way of the Sea of Azov.
4. The development of a submarine base on Lemnos is out of the question because neither the Balkan railroad nor ships in the Aegean Sea can provide adequate transportation facilities. The Bay of Mudros, which alone has natural protection, has a flat coast, so that underground galleries are impossible there. We have had to abandon concrete and overground construction for the submarine base intended at Salonika, because it would require 65% of the 45 vitally important trains allotted the Navy monthly in the Balkans to transport the necessary material. In place of these we now plan underground galleries in Volos. Concrete construction at Mudros is out of the question.
In principle the Commander In Chief, Navy, is of the opinion, nevertheless, that a well fortified Lemnos directly in front of the Dardanelles would be of the greatest strategic value.
The Führer agrees in general with the report. He directs, however, that the value of the Mudros Bay be kept in mind, and suggests that it might be used even now as an unprotected base for S-boats.
5. Intended use of Captain Grossi's men. It is necessary to transfer the men to the Italian theater; to use an Italian unit in the West seems no longer proper because of the danger of enemy landings, even though this was intended originally. The Führer agrees with this and asks about the dependability of Captain Grossi and his men. The Commander in Chief, Navy, declares that Captain Grossi proved loyal. Nevertheless, he has relieved him of his submarines, promising him replacements. He is obliged to keep this promise, thereby running the risk of being taken in by Grossi. The Führer agrees.
6. Special conditions in the Navy regarding commissioning of officers for Special Troop Service. The Navy has no civilian paymasters but administrative officers who are regular officers. Therefore the administrative officers of the Navy cannot be made officers for Special Troop Service, as in the case of the Army and the Luftwaffe where the paymasters are officials. On the other hand, the Navy must relieve the high-ranking officials of their character as civilian officials, because they would have a lower status in comparison to high-ranking officials in the Army and the Luftwaffe if the latter are transferred to the Special Troop Service. The Commander in Chief, Navy, intends therefore to commission the capable high-ranking officials of the Navy likewise to administrative officers, and thus to regular officers, so that the Navy does not have two different classes of officers in the administrative service. Naturally such an adjustment is only for the duration of the war and is not meant to impede the transfer in peace time of all administrative officers to the Special Troop Service.
The Führer is inclined to agree with this arrangement. The Chief of the OKW, however, fears that this procedure will cause great dissatisfaction in the Army and the Luftwaffe since the high-ranking officials in the Navy would have a considerably better position than those in the other branches of the Wehrmacht. He requests permission to examine the matter once more.
7. It would be a mistake to give over the defense of the Aaland Islands to the Navy if they should be occupied. The Commander in Chief, Navy, is of the opinion that the Navy possesses neither the forces nor the specific knowledge necessary to cope with such a typical army problem. General Jodl expresses a different view. He thinks that in connection with the occupation of the Aaland Islands naval engagements would develop, so that it would seem expedient that the Navy should take over the command.
No final decision was reached since the Führer did not consider it necessary yet.
B. Following the conference on the war situation the Commander in Chief, Navy, had a short talk with Field Marshal Keitel and General Jodl in regard to the use of naval shore units in the West. He made it clear that these troops are stationed in the West only because there are no longer any barracks to accommodate them at home. He explained that these men have had only two months of basic training and could not possibly assume any additional tasks arising in their territory except in the case of a direct threat against the place where they are stationed. To this General Jodl remarked that as far as he knew the Commanding General, France, had only proposed a slight shifting of these units for the protection of railroads in case of an emergency. The Commander in Chief, Navy, made it very clear that it was out of the question for these naval units to take over any tasks which are in the Army's sphere. He does not intend to endanger the shipbuilding program ordered by the Führer by the possibility of having no crews for the new ships because they have not been trained.
At this point Field Marshal Keitel agreed explicitly with the Commander in Chief, Navy. He emphasized the fact that if the Navy men really were used on land it would be simply impossible to replace the carefully selected young personnel. For this reason the OKW would have to support the view of the Commander in Chief, Navy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, concluded the conversation by repeating his former statement that he would under no condition permit the use of a single one of his men for other than naval purposes. The Führer listened to this discussion in an adjoining room separated only by a curtain.
C. The Commander in Chief, Navy, discussed with Field Marshal Keitel and Fegelein, the representative of the Reichsführer SS, the consequences of the reorganization of the Counter-Intelligence Service.
He learned that the Reichsführer SS in accordance with the wish of the Führer was to build up a sort of German Secret Service. The Chief of the OKW asked the Commander in Chief, Navy, for his view on the question and the latter replied that no branch of the Wehrmacht should be permitted under any circumstances to maintain or initiate any extra organization. The greatest effect could only be attained through a unified organization always ready for action. The counter-intelligence services of the different branches of the Wehrmacht, so far as they do not have to be maintained directly among the troops, should in his opinion be turned over to the Reichsführer SS. The branches of the Wehrmacht must represent their interests by having their own people in the large organization of the Reichsführer SS (Organization Kaltenbrunner) which should absorb the different counter-intelligence services. Deputy Fegelein was convinced that the Reichsführer SS would approve of this proposal.
D. On 27 February 1944, the Commander in Chief, Navy, took part in the conference on the situation and in the discussions with Marshal Antonescu in the guest house Gleseheim.
countersigned: Korvettenkapitän von Mantey
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