Minutes of the Conferences of the Commander in Chief, Navy, with the Führer at the Berghof from 4 to 6 May 1944.
1. Protection of Prefabricating and Assembly Yards for New Submarines. The Commander in Chief, Navy, showing shipyard plans and the construction program, points out the completely inadequate protection of submarines under construction. The necessity of rapid construction of new submarines led to prefabrication of sections and their later assembly. This method, however, on one hand demands great concentration of parts of the same kind (in prefabrication) and on the other hand it crowds the submarines being assembled in the remaining shipyards. The prefabricated parts come from 8 shipyards, each shipyard being assigned to the manufacture of one and the same section. They can only be assembled in 3 shipyards. Any transfer either of prefabrication or of assembly into the interior is impossible, since both must be near the water. All possible transfer of submarine construction has already been achieved through manufacture of strakes and all engine parts and accessories in the interior. Since 30 to 40 parts of one kind are built simultaneously in one shipyard, a loss of 30 to 40 submarines may be caused by a single air raid. The same condition exists in the assembly plants. In Hamburg for instance, 13 submarines are assembled each month. Since it takes more than 2 months to complete assembly, more than 30 boats are always under construction on the building slips.
Only a small percentage of the construction of prefabricated parts is done under shelter. Assembly in Hamburg and Danzig is entirely unprotected. Shelters are being built for the assembly yards in Bremen which, however, are not to be ready before spring 1945. Excavations are being made in Hamburg for similar shelters. They will be completed at the earliest in 1946. No plans at all have been made for the security of the assembly yards in Danzig.
So far the Navy has had no raw material quotas for these shelters; they have been the responsibility of the Minister of Armament and War Production. Our own naval quotas for building materials are so very small that they do not even suffice to provide the necessary basic installations for present ship construction.
For this reason the Commander in Chief, Navy, discussed this question thoroughly with Ministerialdirektor Dorsch, who has just been put in charge of construction on the home front. The latter believes that he can improve on the above-mentioned plan by having the shelters in Bremen ready in the fall of 1944 instead of in spring 1945. He also thinks he can provide protection for one dry-dock used for prefabrication. This is only a slight improvement. Most of the prefabricated parts and the boats being assembled would be as insecure as ever. The Commander in Chief, Navy, is convinced that the British will wait until construction of the new type submarine is quite advanced and then they will begin systematic bombings of all plants. We are in danger of seeing our new submarines destroyed before they have even been finished.
The Führer recognizes the demand for protection as absolutely justified and says that it is completely out of the question that completion of the shelter be so long delayed; rather, more of them must be built. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that his means are absolutely exhausted and that only the Führer can still help. The Führer mentions the fact that he will discuss the question in the next few days with Dorsch and that he will direct him to build the shelters without fail. The Führer thinks that additional dry docks should be covered and orders that the possibility be examined of covering the fourth entrance at Wilhelmshaven and of using it for manufacture of prefabricated parts.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, also points out the weakness of anti-aircraft and smoke screen protection for Hamburg, Danzig and Bremen. For this reason he established personal contact with the local headquarters of the Luftwaffe Administrative Command of Hamburg and Bremen on an inspection tour, and he now submits to the Führer, in the presence of the Reichsmarschall and the Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff, the demands of the Luftwaffe Administrative Command for an increase in air protection. The Reichsmarschall points out that complete security could not be attained by an increase in anti-aircraft and smoke screen protection. The Commander in Chief, Navy, considers an immediate improvement nevertheless necessary since even with the greatest effort it would take too long to build concrete shelters; the danger in the coming months can be lessened only by anti-aircraft and smoke screen defense. Smoke screens are better than no protection at all; they reduce the accuracy of daytime carpet bombing.
The Führer agrees that anti-aircraft and smoke screen protection should be increased. The Reichsmarschall receives corresponding directives.
2. Lack of Workers for Submarine Construction. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that submarine construction is continuously being cut down. According to the latest data only 140 submarines are to be completed in 1944 instead of 218, due to a lack of workers in steel construction. The Labor Exchange is not furnishing the promised labor; on the contrary, workers are being withdrawn. The Commander in Chief, Navy, recommends that Speer should have authority over Sauckel.
The Führer refuses. He will however under no condition agree to a decrease in submarine construction; Speer assumed the task and it is up to him to find a way to finish it. Speer had claimed that the total number of workers was sufficient. If his estimate was too low and he is having difficulties on this account, then it would be very clever of the Reich Ministry of Armament and War Production to blame the submarine construction program of the Grand Admiral; they knew that the matter would be referred immediately to the Führer, and they hoped to extort more workers from him in this way. He refuses however to fall for this kind of blackmail. Speer has to furnish the original number of workers for submarine construction under any circumstances.
3. Latest Operation in the North Sea Against a QP Convoy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, using a map, explains that the submarines in the first patrol line, fighting in a stationary position, were close to the convoy and were able to sink several steamers and destroyers. In the days following, however, the farther the convoy proceeded to the South and the stronger enemy air defense became, the more the submarines were forced away from the convoy. This shows that whenever the submarines are close to a convoy, ships are sunk just as in the past. This operation proves again that submarines of the new type which proceed under water would have been able to change their position and stay with the convoy, making a continuous attack possible. The weakness of our own Air Force prevented us from attacking the airplane carriers in the convoy. The Commander in Chief, Navy, raises the fundamental question whether it would not be more advantageous to use the torpedo bomber squadrons in the North Sea rather than in the Mediterranean. The Reichsmarschall explains that an attack on airplane carriers could not be made in broad daylight on account of our own weakness in the air. He agrees, however, that attacks on convoys are more important in the North Sea than in the Mediterranean. The Führer agrees with the statements of the Commander in Chief, Navy.
4. The Führer, in a discussion of the situation in the Southeast, brings up again the question whether it is possible to increase the submarines in the Crete-Peloponnesos area of the Aegean Sea. The existence in Egypt of enemy divisions of combat strength is well established; the Führer is very much afraid that this means the Anglo-Saxons might in the course of an invasion begin an operation against the Rhodes-Crete-Peloponnesos area. This region, especially the Peloponnesos, has no adequate defenses. The Führer anticipates great success from submarines stationed in this region. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports as follows:
b. If the submarines were consolidated in the region Crete-Peloponnesos, these boats would no longer be available for the war in the Mediterranean and nothing would be sunk during the time of waiting.
c. The British would notice the consolidation very soon and would concentrate all their means for defense in this area.
d. Submarine losses in ports from air attacks have seriously increased in recent weeks due to lack of shelters.
e. Submarines have constantly been sent to the Mediterranean but the new supply just covers the losses.
5. The mine situation in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The Commander in Chief, Navy, showing a mine map of these areas, announces that enemy warfare was intensified in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in April. The Navy has been able to control this aggravated situation in recent week's only with difficulty by utilizing all school flotillas for mine defense. Naturally as a result training in this important field has suffered greatly. Minesweeping forces will just be able to keep up their present strength until fall, or they will probably be more likely to decrease in numbers. No improvement can be expected before fall when the naval building program of 1943 will begin to show results. The Commander in Chief, Navy, points out that this mine war threatens the submarine training regions, the supply service to Norway, and ore imports from Sweden in a very serious way. The Führer concurs with the statements of the Commander in Chief, Navy.
6. Use of new mines off the English coast. The Commander in Chief, Navy, announces his renewed intention to increase mine fields off the invasion ports along the southern coast of England with the most varied types of mines. He expresses his doubts concerning the use of pressure mines, since in the recent tests they failed to come up to expectations. Besides, there is the danger that the secret may be discovered, and if this should happen the enemy would have a great advantage in using this mine in the Baltic Sea.
The Führer agrees and he directs the Reichsmarschall to take care that under no condition mines of this type fall into the hands of the enemy in case of an invasion through careless disposition of them along the coast.
7. Grossi. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that Captain Grossi had tried to smuggle 3,400,000 Francs into Spain at a meeting on the international bridge in Irun with the Italian naval attaché in Madrid. The Commander in Chief, Navy considers it advisable that the case should be investigated by Italy. He reports that he requested the Italian Minister for Naval Affairs to have Grossi transferred to Italy.
The Führer says that such offenses by Italians are a matter of indifference to us. He does not consider an investigation worthwhile, because nothing would be gained by it. He wants Grossi to be sent back to Italy.
8. Lake Peipus. During the discussion of the situation in the East, the Commander in Chief, Navy, requests information from the Army as to whether the Russians are making any preparations on the East coast of Lake Peipus for using naval vessels. The Army and the Luftwaffe report that nothing of the sort has been observed to date, and they promise to inform the Navy immediately should their reconnaissance reveal any such activity. The Führer requests brief reports concerning the strength of the naval forces, the distribution and type of vessels to be used for the intended operation of certain ports. In general the Führer is satisfied.
9. T27. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports during lunch he has with the Führer alone his dissatisfaction with the behavior of the commanding officer of T27 [Kapitänleutnant Gotzmann] and announces that an investigation has been ordered. Other private discussions with the Führer alone follow.
[T27 was a torpedo boat of the 1939 type. It was beached on 29 April near St. Brieux after action with HMSC Haida, and capsized on 4 May.]
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