High Command of the Kriegsmarine
Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on 3 December 1940, at 1630.
1. Ireland: The Commander in Chief, Navy, puts forth the views contained in Annex 1, after summarizing his general point of view as follows: It has become increasingly evident, as confirmed repeatedly of late by British and American comments, that the greatest danger which threatens the British is the destruction of their industry and their harbor installations by our Air Force, together with the disruption of supply lines from overseas by submarines supplemented by the Luftwaffe. Therefore these operations must be continued with great intensity; nothing must be alloyed to interrupt or weaken them, since they will have a deadly effect in the long run, perhaps even this winter. We must carefully avoid any loss of prestige by operations entailing too great a risk, since this would tend to prolong the war and would, above all, create a strong impression in the U.S.A. Further measures must be taken against Britain for the purpose of relieving Italy and clearing the Mediterranean:
a. Gibraltar must be seized, which would mean a very heavy loss in prestige for Britain. This would result in control of the western Mediterranean. Later, if it were still necessary, action could be taken in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Führer agrees and makes the following statement regarding Ireland: A landing in Ireland can be attempted only if Ireland requests help. For the present, our envoy must ascertain whether De Valera desires support, and whether he might wish to have his military equipment supplemented by captured British war materiel (guns and ammunition), which could be sent to him on single steamers. For the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, Ireland is important as a base for attacks on the northwest ports of Britain, although weather conditions must still be investigated. The occupation of Ireland might lead to the end of the war. Investigations are to be made.
2. Activities by Naval Forces: The HIPPER is in the Arctic Ocean ready for a break-through into the Atlantic and to Brest. Battleships and destroyers will follow at the end of December. Submarines sank 160,000 tons on 2 December. Two submarines are off Freetown. The auxiliary cruiser "33" [Pinguin] has sunk or captured 79,000 BRT up to now.
3. Bulgaria: Bulgarian requests must be met. The Führer states that the Bulgarian minister has just requested specialists for coastal defense. The Commander in Chief, Navy, replies that specialists for coastal defense and for mines, as well as expert ship-builders, are ready to leave.
4. Operation "Felix" [Occupation of Gibraltar]: The Navy is prepared for this operation. Fortification of the Canary Islands is being negotiated with the Spaniards.
5. Aerial Torpedoes: The Commander in Chief, Navy, states his views according to Annex 2. See also Annex 3 regarding aircraft types for reconnaissance. The Commander in Chief, Navy, makes the following demands:
b. Modern He 111 torpedo squadrons must be formed under the control of the Commander, Naval Air, not under the operational Air Force.
c. Absolute freedom in the choice of armament, including bombs, must be restored to the Commander, Naval Air.
d. The Commander, Naval Air, must be provided with modern aircraft types for reconnaissance for use in submarine warfare.
e. Greater use must be made of aerial mines off the western ports, mainly in the north, and particularly in the Firth of Clyde.
Annex 1The Question of Supporting Ireland against Britain.
I. The first condition necessary for transfer of troops is naval supremacy along the routes to be used. This naval supremacy could never be attained by us in view of the vastly superior British Home Fleet, not even for the duration of one transport operation. The ratio between the British and German fleets is as follows:
II. The geographical position is extremely unfavorable, since the coast of Wales and Cornwall extends like a wedge toward our line of approach; the distance from enemy bases to Ireland is less than that from the ports of embarkation in northwestern France.
In contrast to the Norway operation, it would not be possible to establish, by means of a surprise attack, a supply line which could be defended. Such a supply line is of decisive importance for the success of the operation.
III. The island has no defended bases or anchorages at all. Although the Irish might willingly open their ports to us, they would also be open to the enemy pursuing us. There would be no time for planned harbor and coastal fortifications, and undisturbed disembarkation of the expeditionary force is unlikely. It would not be possible to send supplies in view of the superior sea power of the enemy and the limited area through which the approach would have to be made.
IV. To a defending force, cut off and left to its own devices, the topography of the country does not afford as much protection against modern weapons as the Narvik region, for example. Without supplies and reinforcements, an expeditionary force would soon feel the increasing pressure of a British expeditionary force brought over under the protection of British naval power; sooner or later our own troops would face a situation similar to Namsos or Dunkirk.
V. Support by the Luftwaffe would depend on the weather. Ireland, the westernmost island of any size in the northern Atlantic, is known to have a heavy rainfall and consequently low clouds and very frequent damp and foggy weather. Air support would have to come primarily from the mainland, since the airfield accommodation in Ireland would not meet our requirements; it would scarcely be possible to expand them because we could not supply equipment. Every attempt at transporting troops by Ju 52's would be in great danger from British fighters, which are again increasing in numbers.
VI. It is concluded therefore that it would not be possible to follow up an Irish request for help by sending an expeditionary force and occupying the island, in view of the enemy's superior naval force, the unfavorable geographical conditions and the impossibility of forwarding supplies. Troops landed in Ireland without supplies of foodstuffs, weapons, and ammunition would sooner or later be wiped out by an enemy whose supply routes are difficult to attack.
VII. It will be possible in the winter months to bring occasional blockade-runners with weapons and ammunition into Irish Harbors and bays, as long as there is still no state of war between Britain and Ireland, and as long as the Irish cooperate.
Annex 2Use of Aerial Torpedoes.
On 27 November the following incident was reported in a discussion between the Luftwaffe General attached to the Commander in Chief, Navy, and the Commander, Naval Air:
On 26 November the 6th Section of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe communicated the following instructions to the Luftwaffe General attached to the Commander in Chief, Navy: "By order of the Chief of the General Staff, the use of aerial torpedoes is to be suspended immediately for the present because of special plans of the Führer regarding the use of this weapon."
The Luftwaffe General, who is not responsible to the Seekriegsleitung in matters of supplies, forwarded these instructions to the supply department of the coastal air units. Due to this action it has become impossible for the air units under my command to make any further flights using aerial torpedoes! This state of affairs is intolerable for the conduct of naval warfare.
Inquiries made by the Seekriegsleitung at the OKW regarding the underlying facts have had no success, since no Führer directive to that effect was at hand. To be sure the Luftwaffe Operations Staff knew about the order of the Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe; they were not able to notify us until 28 November, however, that the order in question was issued in view of the planned establishment of a torpedo group to be used in the eastern Mediterranean.
This order unmistakably constitutes interference with operations of units under the Commander In Chief, Navy. He must reject it unless such instructions are received from the OKW. This opinion has been forwarded to the Luftwaffe Operations Staff, with the request that instructions be given to the Luftwaffe General attached to the Commander in Chief, Navy, to supply the coastal air units once more with aerial torpedoes until an order is issued by the OKW. This incident calls for a thorough examination of the use of aerial torpedoes.
Up to now successful operations with aerial torpedoes have been made by coastal air units, whose pilots and gunners are naval officers. The characteristics of the He 115's which are at the disposal of the coastal air units permit its use only for armed reconnaissance along the British east coast by night.
The Seekriegsleitung has learned, and the order issued confirms this, that the Luftwaffe plans to establish a torpedo bomber group using He 111 H-5's or Do 217's. This group is to be attached to an air corps.
For successful operations with aerial torpedoes, particularly against moving targets at sea, observation officers thoroughly trained in torpedo firing and all matters pertaining thereto are needed. Only the naval officers of the coastal air units under the Commander in Chief, Navy, however, possess the proper training.
Some time ago the Seekriegsleitung, in connection with the discussion regarding plane types for the coastal air units, agreed to forego production of an improved naval aircraft so that the armament program of the Luftwaffe could be carried out. It requested that the coastal air units should be supplied with a plane, the He 111 H-5, capable of carrying weapons effective in naval warfare, i.e., torpedoes, mines, and smoke. This was not possible at first, however, since large numbers of Ju 88's were being built. The plan now revealed by the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, with regard to the organization of a torpedo bomber group shows that He 111 H-5's are available in sufficient numbers to meet the earlier demands.
The Seekriegsleitung has therefore requested the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, to supply the Commander, Naval Air, with these planes, so that the previous experiences acquired by naval officers of coastal air units in the use of aerial torpedoes can be utilized and extended. The Seekriegsleitung can in no case dispense with an efficient torpedo-carrying plane for the coastal air units, since the torpedo is a weapon of naval warfare, and since in addition it is necessary to continue training in the handling of this weapon in view of the fact that torpedo-carrying planes will later be used from aircraft carriers.
Annex 3Reflections concerning the Conduct of the War against Britain.
(Air Reconnaissance for Naval Warfare)
1. All available information from Britain shows very clearly that the losses resulting from the sinking of supplies and shipping space by submarines, auxiliary cruisers, aerial torpedoes, bombs, and mines are becoming more and more serious. Just as in the year 1917, the problem of supplies and shipping space is beginning to constitute a factor in the British economic and military situation which is decisive for the outcome of the war. The effects of naval warfare against merchant shipping are supplemented and increased to a very great degree by ruthless air warfare against the ports of discharge and the effective destruction of harbor installations, docks, cranes, warehouses, cold storage buildings, etc.
The Seekriegsleitung is firmly convinced that a maximum concentration of all weapons against this vulnerable spot in Britain's war economy, for the purpose of destroying British supplies and British shipping, is best suited to convince the enemy reasonably soon that it is hopeless to continue this war. The Seekriegsleitung once again stresses emphatically the necessity of using all operational measures to accomplish this one end, unless urgent political or strategic considerations force us to commit them differently.
Preparations for other large-scale strategic operations, which may be desirable for the future of Germany, to be sure, but have no immediate bearing on the speedy defeat of our main enemy, Britain, serve only to dissipate the fighting power of the German Armed Forces and to reduce the armament output of German Industry. They will merely prolong the war between Germany and Britain.
Britain is the chief enemy in this fateful struggle. She is not yet beaten. Her will to fight and resist is not yet broken. Her people, being of Germanic origin, are of tenacious character, her leadership is firm and determined.
It is therefore absolutely essential to prepare the weapons necessary for the defeat of Britain with the maximum effort and speed, and to delay all measures which are not absolutely necessary for this fight.
2. The fight against Britain is carried on by the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine. Concentration of the weapons of these two branches of the Wehrmacht against British imports, must be recognized as the main operational aim in this fight.
3. The forces to be employed by the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe, the members and efficiency of which must be increased by every possible means, are planes, submarines, and auxiliary cruisers. Their weapons are bombs, torpedoes, guns, and mines.
The Seekriegsleitung is forced to state that the expansion of the submarine program, which may be the decisive factor in this war, is not proceeding according to plan. This is due to the fact that the skilled workers required are not available, although shipyard facilities are ample. The Seekriegsleitung wishes to state that the required auxiliary cruisers are not being made available. There is even no assurance that the small number of merchant raiders at present in operation can be maintained, since even here the number of workers required is not being made available to the Navy. It is requested that urgent and drastic steps be taken to remedy this situation.
4. Since the beginning of the war the Seekriegsleitung has demanded the elimination of British supply harbors in view of their decisive importance. For this reason the Seekriegsleitung recently asked the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, to make the British harbors on the west coast the chief targets of mine laying by plane, particularly in view of a possible British attack on Ireland. At that time attention was called to the extremely disadvantageous effect of a British occupation of Ireland on warfare by submarines and aircraft against merchant shipping in the main operational area west of Ireland.
5. Since the losses inflicted by submarine warfare are so disastrous for the enemy, every effort must be made to increase its effectiveness. The success of submarine operations is entirely dependent on detection of the important enemy traffic routes and convoys. Bad weather, long nights, and short days make submarine operations more difficult and restrict to a considerable extent the prospects of finding the enemy and of maintaining contact with him. Patrols by enemy destroyers and planes force the submarines to remain submerged during the day, thereby depriving them of possibilities of reconnaissance. Their range of vision is restricted to such a small area that successful operations are affected very adversely; in many cases they are made impossible. Operations by submarines therefore demand more and more supplementary reconnaissance, which can be provided by an air force operating systematically in conjunction with submarines. The successes achieved by the submarines would increase considerably if, in the operational area of the boats, adequate air reconnaissance would spot the convoys, maintain contact with them, and notify the submarines of their positions and movements. Thus the submarines, though forced to remain submerged, would be enabled to retain contact with enemy convoy movements.
If submarine warfare is to continue and its effectiveness to be increased, submarine operations must be supported by air reconnaissance, working in closest cooperation with the submarines in the zones of operation.
The types of aircraft at the disposal of the naval air units are not sufficiently powerful, not even with regard to defense weapons, to be sent into the area northwest of Ireland and the Hebrides. Due to the demands made on the Luftwaffe itself, it is not in a position to carry out constant reconnaissance in the submarine operational area.
Really successful cooperation between reconnaissance aircraft and submarines, moreover, demands that both forces involved in submarine warfare should be under a combined naval command and that the reconnaissance, which is of decisive importance, should be undertaken by trained naval officers.
According to information given out by the Luftwaffe, Do 217's will be used at the front in February 1941. This type of aircraft, which has an estimated range of 1,470 miles, is capable of meeting all the requirements of the Seekriegsleitung. The Seekriegsleitung is therefore obliged to request that this aircraft be provided for the coastal air units. Since the Do 217 is also capable of carrying aerial torpedoes, the Seekriegsleitung believes that successes against merchant ships can be increased further by using this plane for armed reconnaissance.
Apart from the fact that such reconnaissance constitutes an integral part of naval warfare, the Luftwaffe itself would not be in a position to carry it out alone, since it does not have the necessary trained personnel. On the other hand, the valuable personnel of the naval air units requires equally good aircraft in the interests of the overall conduct of the war.
The activities and tasks of the Luftwaffe have increased to such an extent that it cannot carry out satisfactorily operations connected with naval warfare. The Seekriegsleitung is of the opinion that it should be a welcome relief to be rid of those operations which are essentially tasks of the branch of the Wehrmacht conducting naval warfare, i.e., of the Navy.
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