Report of the Conference with the Führer in the Reich Chancellery on Monday, 28 September 1942 from 1630 to 1830.
The Führer opens the conference with the remark that he wishes to be informed about the present state of the submarine war; he likewise desires to form an opinion regarding the degree with which submarine warfare is keeping pace with the further demands of the war.
He continues with expressing his great appreciation for the achievements of the submarines. He is convinced that the monthly rate of sinkings will continue to be so high that the enemy will not be able to replace his losses by new construction. He considers it impossible that the increase in production of the enemy shipyards comes anywhere near what propaganda would have us believe. Even if the enemy should succeed in launching ships relatively fast, he would still not have the necessary engines, auxiliary engines, other equipment and, most of all, crews for these ships.
In regard to the manpower problem, he calls attention to the fact that it is very much to our disadvantage if a large percentage of the crews of sunken ships is able to go to sea again on new ships.
The Führer stresses the necessity of having new technical developments put into practical use promptly; only in this way can full advantage be taken of the new invention. This was demonstrated in the construction of the heavy tank which would have given us a decided superiority in Africa had it been available earlier.
Admiral Dönitz reviews the present state of the Battle of the Atlantic. He says that the submarine conflict has moved back again from the American coast to the Middle Atlantic because fighting off the American coast was no longer sufficiently profitable. However there are still a few "soft spots" left along the coast where the enemy can be attacked successfully. He points out that we obtained some results by laying mines off the coast. Operations around the St. Lawrence River continue to be productive to a certain extent.
He then touches upon the prospects for success in the South Atlantic, especially along the African coast. He points out on the map however, that the chief task of the Navy is attacking convoys in the North Atlantic.
The increased number of submarines which we are now using makes it easier to locate the enemy. Besides, the enemy convoys usually travel the direct route on the Great Circle, permitting us to conclude that they are now avoiding circuitous routes because of ship shortages.
The convoys are very strongly protected. Some of the escort vessels closely surround the convoy while others are stationed among the ships themselves. In addition, the enemy has adopted a system placing destroyers at a distance, making it very difficult for the submarines to approach the convoys. The greatest menace for the submarines today is airplanes, however.
Admiral Dönitz shows on a map what range the enemy planes based on the British Isles attained in the years 1940, 1941, and 1942, and in which sea regions therefore an effective attack on convoys by submarines had to be abandoned. This illustrates how concentrated attacks against convoys were pushed further and further towards the middle of the Atlantic. If the same process should be repeated along the American coast, it would considerably weaken our present tactics of attacking in numbers. This shows clearly the necessity of our own Air Force supporting the submarines to a much greater extent than has been the case up to the present time. The range of the Heinkel 177 exceeds the territory which is so strongly threatened today by enemy planes. Cooperation with aircraft of that type will provide advanced notice of the enemy and reduce air attacks on our submarines.
Attacks on convoys did not cause heavy submarine losses at all. Our losses are distributed rather evenly over the various regions; at times they rose in the Bay of Biscay due to airplane attacks. After our submarines were equipped with radar interception sets (FuMB) our losses decreased at once.
Emphasis is laid on technical improvements of the submarine and its weapons not because our losses have greatly increased, but because we wish to attain the same success as before in spite of improvements in enemy defense.
Most important of all is the demand for increasing underwater speed. This is to be accomplished by the new Walter submarine. A submarine with great underwater speed will be able to come within shooting range of the convoy in spite of enemy escort vessels. It will also enable the submarine to elude its pursuers quickly. In this connection it is stated that enemy Asdic has not improved since the beginning of the war.
The Führer fully supports these ideas and adds that, in his opinion, the introduction of a submarine with high underwater speed would have a revolutionary effect. It would immediately render ineffective the whole apparatus of enemy escort vessels and the construction program of the relatively slow enemy corvettes.
The next requirement is to increase the diving limit. At greater depth the submarine can avoid enemy Asdic more easily; also the effect of depth charges is lessened considerably.
In the fight against the enemy defense it is especially important to obtain a weapon with which one can successfully eliminate the escort vessels that keep the submarine out of shooting range. This could be a weapon for use either under water or on the surface. To the first group belongs the acoustic homing torpedo (Geraeuschtorpedo). The Commander in Chief, Navy, declares that the development of this torpedo has now progressed far enough to consider prospects for its success favorable.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, adds that we have also made good progress with the new non-contact pistol (Abstandspistole), so that we may count on using it within a reasonable time. This pistol will give the torpedo a tremendous destructive power, and will therefore increase the loss in human life considerably.
The Commander in Chief, U-boats, brings to discussion the problem of surface attack on the escort vessels by submarines; he sees a solution in the remote-controlled rocket. The Führer warns against becoming too optimistic about such projectiles, with which Army and Luftwaffe are likewise experimenting. Nevertheless, it is felt that further research is Justified since it may possibly lead to a revolutionary development for the submarine. The Commander in Chief, U-boats, emphasizes once more the necessity of evolving such projectiles for the submarine.
The Führer on his part suggests continuing experiments with the remote-controlled torpedo, to which he attaches great importance.
In order to deal with the growing plane menace, it became necessary to strengthen the anti-aircraft equipment of our submarines. Konteradmiral Lange shows, using sketches and pictures, how this can be accomplished with the 15 mm machine gun, and how the shape of the conning tower will be changed correspondingly. The Führer has some doubts as to the effectiveness of the 15 mm gun in the future against airplanes which are reinforced and armored. Konteradmiral Lange and Admiral Dönitz reply that the 15 mm gun was chosen because of satisfactory experiences with the Italian 13 mm machine gun.
Following this, the question of the 2 cm gun is discussed. The Führer suggests filling the ammunition with cyclonite (Hexogenstoff).
The submarines are to be equipped additionally with 3.7 cm and 5 cm automatic guns. The Führer has serious misgivings about using the 5 cm gun because the Luftwaffe had unfavorable experience with this weapon. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that an experiment with it is justifiable nevertheless. The main difficulty with all automatic weapons on submarines lies in their exposure to the corrosive effects of salt water when the boats are submerged. Consequently their efficiency is often doubtful. The Führer suggests examining whether the alloy of the material for these weapons can be improved by the addition of more precious metal in order to counteract the unfavorable effects of saltwater. The requirement for the small number of submarine weapons is so low that he will not hesitate to make valuable restricted metals available for that purpose.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports to the Führer that experiments were made lately with shells filled with an explosive (N-Stoff). Some trial shots were fired at oil tanks which were filled with the heaviest mazut oil. The high flame which arose at first broke off; this however, may have been due to the unusually heavy kind of oil. In any case, some submarines are now being provided with this ammunition in order to try out their effect on the enemy. The Führer personally places great hope in the use of such shells and gives orders to examine at once the possibility of using the explosive (N-Stoff) for loading torpedoes in order to send tankers up in flame.
The Commander in Chief, U-boats, reports further that a weakness of the submarine lies in the low lookout level. The Chief of the Submarine Division of the Seekriegsleitung [Konteradmiral Werner Lange] explains what developments are being made in this respect:
2. The lookout kite (Tragschrauber Bachstelze) which is intended for the larger submarines.
Next the question of providing submarines with airplanes with motors was discussed. The objections to such an innovation are first the difficulty of tending the motors and second the problem of stowage. The Führer recalled the unfavorable experiences of the French. The Chief of the Submarine Division of the Seekriegsleitung reported on the SURCOUF incident.
The Commander in Chief, U-boats, mentioned the two existing methods of counteracting enemy Asdic. Vizeadmiral Maertens explained the hull-coating experiments (Beklebeversuche) which are still being carried on. Mention was made of considerable difficulties involved in this method and of the limited benefits one may expect from it. Nevertheless, it will be tried out in actual warfare in order to gain a clear picture of its potentialities. The anti-detection decoys (Bold) and their good results were then discussed. The Führer was especially impressed by the good psychological effect it had on the submarine crew.
In regard to surface detection by enemy radar (DT-Geräte), the Chief, Naval Communications Division (MND) reported on the deflective reflection method of applying slanting surfaces to the conning tower and about the use of the radar interception set (FuMB).
The Führer mentioned the possibility of feigning the destruction of submarines. He referred to numerous reports by fliers who took it for granted that a submarine had been destroyed after sighting a big oil slick. The Führer had in mind some kind of torpedo which would explode on the surface of the water and eject oil, blubber, and similar material. An objection was made that the loss of one torpedo tube for actual attack would be unfortunate. The Chief of the Submarine Division of the Seekriegsleitung reported that one could consider releasing such a missile from the upper deck of the submarine. The matter will be investigated. (Marginal note: I believe it would be more practical to have a container on the upper deck from which air and oil can be blown, so that all torpedo tubes will be saved for their real purpose. Possibly oil and air could be ejected from the bilges.)
In closing, the Walter submarine was discussed. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reported that Blohm and Voss and Germania have each been commissioned to build two boats of the smaller type. The larger type has been assigned to the Walter firm for a preliminary design. As soon as the engines of the smaller type have been tried out, an order for 24 boats is to be placed. We hope to be able to make a decision within two months regarding mass production of the larger type. In any case, mass production of these submarines is to be started as soon as possible, with corresponding adjustment of the present submarine construction program. The Führer was entirely in harmony with these plans and emphasized once more the need for quick action. Using a sketch, Admiral Fuchs explained in greater detail the Walter submarine and how it differs from the present type of submarine. The Führer asked about the supply of torpedoes and was informed of the production of the 5 m torpedo for this submarine. The Führer referred once more to his conviction that the submarine plays a decisive role in the outcome of the war.
Then the Commander in Chief, Navy, reported to the Führer that the danger from mines in the eastern Baltic could be of critical significance for the whole submarine training program, since we are obliged to undertake our training in these waters, especially with the new boats. Mines in the Gulf of Danzig and in the neighboring sea regions thus present an extremely serious problem; everything must be done to safeguard these areas against further mining. The mines found so far were of a rather primitive type and could have been cleared away to some extent. Anti-aircraft protection must be increased in this area, but above all a very strong night fighter defense should be demanded which would conceivably have to cover the narrow passages in the Baltic. The Führer recognized the importance of this question.
After the meeting was adjourned, the Commander in Chief, Navy, reported to the Führer that a Spanish steamer unfortunately had been sunk by one of our submarines. The Führer decided that the sinking is to be admitted, and that Spain will be fully compensated for the loss of the ship, including the cargo of wheat. He also ordered that a public announcement be made that the guilty commander will be court-martialed. The Commander in Chief, U-boats, had already issued this order.
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