The Role of the United States Navy in the Formation and Development of the Federal German Navy, 1945-1970

“[…] If we [the United States] were to support the development of a German Navy at all, we should do it wholeheartedly.”

Admiral (Ret.) Arleigh Burke

I. Introduction

Burke’s statement, cited in Seemacht und Geschichte. Festschrift zum 80. Geburtstag von Friedrich Ruge, characterizes one of the most important chapters of German-American relations after World War II. It is the goal of this paper to serve as an enhanced bibliography on the historiography of this subject, outlining the important themes, and those in need of further research, in particular within the broader boundaries of United States involvement in Europe and Germany.

The decision to limit the timeframe to the period until 1970 makes sense for several reasons. First of all, the major developments of the Federal German Navy, or Bundesmarine, took place right after the end of World War II and during the early years of the Cold War. Furthermore, the Seventies mark a significant turning point in East-West relations. Back then, the Warsaw Pact and NATO (the latter essential for any German defense contribution) had consolidated, even after the uprising in Prague in 1968. Détente by the Richard Nixon administration and Neue Ostpolitik by Willy Brandt, the first social democratic chancellor of West Germany, are only two of the important policy initiatives of this era that helped to ease the confrontation, at least temporarily.

The evolution of the pact system and the opposition between East and West can only be understood with the background of the end of World War II in Europe and the different political objectives of the Soviet Union and the United States. An early assessment of Russian foreign policy strategy can be found in George Kennan’s Long Telegram from 1947. In response to this, early American policies against Communist expansion are laid down in the containment strategy postulated by President Harry S Truman, and the Marshall Plan for the European Recovery Program, for example. A vast variety of works has been published by both German and American scholars on the bilateral relations in the aftermath of 1945 and the development of the Federal Republic of Germany specifically. Naturally, only a small excerpt of this can be acknowledged here as examples: Christian Hacke’s Die Aussenpolitik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland von Konrad Adenauer bis Gerhard Schröder gives a thorough description of that subject from a German point of view, includes a sufficient bibliography and - as the author was a professor at the Universität der Bundeswehr - provides some military background information.

II. The United States Navy and the Federal German Navy
II.I General European Engagement

When considering American naval engagement in Europe, one is bound to consider the Mediterranean Sea as the major theater of operations, for it is by far the biggest inland sea in Europe and a major geographical factor for strategic and political planning. No less than three continents with thirteen nations plus a later dismembered Yugoslavia border the sea since the end of World War II. The access to the Black Sea through the Bosporus, the Adriatic Sea separating Italy from the Balkans, and the Suez Canal are further geostrategic points of significance. Before the accession of Greece and Turkey into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1952, the Mediterranean was the continent’s ‘soft underbelly’ - the weakest flank for Europe and the Western Alliance. Thus, American naval presence in the Mediterranean will briefly be considered at this point. After all, a strong American containment policy in order to deter Soviet expansion and a possible attack on Central Europe and West Germany depended on a comprehensive forward defense strategy from Cyprus to the North Cape. Moreover, the US Mediterranean Fleet served as an excellent education opportunity for future Bundesmarine personnel.

Stephan Xydis’ The Genesis of the Sixth Fleet is a first-hand description of the early developments and actions of USN ships in the Mediterranean. For an extensive outline of Sixth Fleet’s diplomatic functions, missions and strategic considerations, William Hessler’s The Versatile Sixth Fleet can be taken into account. As an original source, Instructions, Commander Sixth Task Fleet covers all aspects of military and civilian conduct on, among and outside of ships as well as measures and orders to comply to, both aboard and ashore. All of these pieces originate from the period between 1948 and 1958. A later work is the very comprehensive article by Gerhard Elser, Balanced Power, Neuzeitliche Seemacht dargestellt am Beispiel der 6. US-Flotte, published in 1965. Taking into account the developments in terms of weapons systems, strategic thinking and world politics, this essay sheds light on the means employed by the USN for their tasks, the role of the Mediterranean as a whole, the organizational pattern of the Sixth Fleet and its various task forces. Further publications by other authors describe extensively the development of the Sixth Fleet from the good-will tour of “USS Missouri” to Turkey and Greece in 1946 to the naval engagement in the various crises (Suez 1956, Lebanon 1958) and Soviet attempts to gain access to the Mediterranean. This paper’s main objective prevents from expanding on these subjects at this point.

II.II German-American Naval Relations

Transition after 1945

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, a German contribution to the common defense of the western world against communist aggression was unthinkable under any circumstances. The Germans were to be demilitarized for all time. Along these lines, the processes of decentralization, denazification and democratization supported a new Germany which would not pose as a threat to its neighbors in the future. The remaining ships of the Kriegsmarine were to be disposed. The fate of what was left of German submarines and surface ships that had not fallen victim to Allied operations during wartime, damaged by bombing during stays at shipyards and repair facilities or scuttled at the eve of the cease-fire, was a substantial point of discussion during the Potsdam conference in 1945 (Peter Krüger, Die Verhandlungen über die deutsche Kriegs- und Handelsflotte in Potsdam). At the same time, the trials of Karl Dönitz and Erich Raeder as war criminals at Nuremberg signaled that the Kriegsmarine had not been the apolitical body that it had perceived itself as being. Karl Dönitz’s and Erich Raeder’s autobiographies, Zehn Jahre und zwanzig Tage (Ten Years and Twenty Days), and Mein Leben (My Life), respectively, are noted here for both their important function for the German Navy through 1945 and for the fact that the early shapers and makers of the post-war German Navy, which will be discussed later on, continuously attempted to free Dönitz or Raeder from their Berlin-Spandau prison. Guided by Korpsgeist, or esprit de corps, and fundamental belief in the leadership qualities of former Kriegsmarine admirals, the convicts’ innocence remained an immovable item in the post-war German navy corps.

Understandably, Dönitz’ book - even more so than the comprehensive biography by Peter Padfield, Dönitz – The Last Führer - deals almost exclusively with the era until 1945. It must also be noted at this point that autobiographies of important senior leaders of or about the World War II era should be considered with great care and reservation concerning their contents.

More elaboration on Raeder’s and Dönitz’ influence on the early German Navy during their imprisonment at Spandau and after their releases until their death, 1957 and 1981, respectively, should be considered worthwhile for future research.

Humble beginnings

Having considered the external factors and proceedings in the aftermath of 1945, one should resort to Douglas Peifer’s The Three German Navies. Dissolution, Transition, and new Beginnings, 1945-1960, as the key resource for the first fifteen years of the German Navy after World War II. Peifer’s book is an outstanding, in-depth piece of work and deals in detail with the end of the Kriegsmarine and the difficult process of establishing maritime forces in West Germany (it also covers the GDR’s Volksmarine, or People’s Navy, as the third of the German navies referred to in the title of his book). Furthermore, it is an essential work to review the German-American relations in specific terms.

The United States, least involved in uprooting the Kriegsmarine [in contrast to the British and Soviet approach to what was left of it], and less active in employing or trying Kriegsmarine personnel, indirectly benefited from these enduring divides [between British and Soviet occupation forces and German maritime personell] as German naval veterans had fewer inhibitions from cooperating with the US Navy when the opportunity later presented itself.

One of those veterans, and arguably the most prolific of all, was Vice Admiral Friedrich Ruge, a former Kriegsmarine Vice-Admiral, who exemplifies the transition from the wartime navy to the new Federal German Navy at its best, most notably in terms of his curriculum vitae, his character in military leadership and his deep commitment to a strong German-American partnership in the Cold War. He was one of the authors of the Himmenroder Denkschrift (1950), which first outlined German naval capabilities and tasks to the Amt Blank, the predecessor of the Bundesverteidigungsministerium, or Federal Ministry of Defense. David Large’s Germans to the front (1996) reflects both on German rearmament efforts in general and the Himmenroder Memo in particular.

Later, Friedrich Ruge went on to become the head of the navy department in the German ministry of defense for the ministers Kai-Uwe von Hassel and Franz-Josef Strauß. Dieter Krüge’s Das Amt Blank. Die schwierige Gründung des Bundesministeriums für Verteidigung reflects this difficult period of time during efforts to establish West-German armed forces. Furthermore, Ruge’s record sports a variety of publications, many of which range from the early beginnings of new German naval forces to the establishment of the Bundesmarine. The Postwar German Navy and its Mission from 1957, The Reconstruction of the German Navy 1956-1961 from 1962, and his 1979 autobiography In vier Marinen – Lebenserinnerungen als Beitrag zur Zeitgeschichte are very careful examples of his work that mirror the shaping of the Bundesmarine with special consideration its new objectives. Additionally, in honor of his eightieth birthday, a special Festschrift with contributions by friends and colleagues about naval matters (including Karl-Adolf Zenker’s “Aus der Vorgeschichte der Bundesmarine”, “Die Konzeption der Marine – Entwicklung und Perspektive” by Heinz Kühnle, “Verteidigungsprobleme in Europa” by Hans Speidel, and Arleigh Burke’s “Fred Ruge, my friend”) was published in 1975 which proves to be a very good resource as well.

Interestingly enough, all of these works that deal with the period of the formation of a post-war German navy reflect that while a good deal of World War II veterans and especially the people of Germany opted for a Ohne Mich!, or Count me out!, a number of senior officers from the Kriegsmarine were eager to set up new maritime forces to counter the perceived threat from the East. In how far this was a realist interpretation of the early Cold War period, or whether it had its foundation in the Nazi ideology, remains to be a topic for further research.

In any case, it was the tightening grip of the Cold War that accelerated Germany’s rearmament and shaped the new German Navy – including its senior personnel. This also led to a greater deal of continuity within the officer corps. It reflects the central internal dilemma of the young Federal Republic: If all of those who were involved in the Nazi regime, and for that matter, in the conduct of the war, were to be excluded from post-war engagement in their respective areas of expertise, no functional governmental system could have been provided. As a matter of fact, Germany had to rely on those who were not accounted for as war criminals per se because of the huge gap in the succeeding generation (millions of young Germans fell in Word War II) and the lack of experts who already gained leadership experience prior to 1933 (Konrad Adenauer, *1876, was one of the few exceptions). The key reference to the difficulty of tradition within the German armed forces is explored in Donald Abenheim’s Reforging the Iron Cross (1988) (and the reviewed German edition thereof, Die Suche nach dem gültigen Erbe des deutschen Soldaten [1989]).

Mine-Sweeping Organizations

Before the construction of a ‘real’ Navy, the Allies employed German Kriegsmarine veterans for mine-sweeping operations off the German coastline. British and American concepts varied from each other here, most notably in their approach to their former enemy. “Only the Americans proved ready to grant German naval veterans a small level of codetermination, planting the seeds for closer cooperation and coordination in the future. “ Again, Peifer’s The Three German Navies – from which the quotation is taken – is the central piece to take into consideration for this matter. However, this could be expanded on in the future. Moreover, works on the USN’s short-lived Rhine River Patrol, an almost amusing footnote of American naval influence on post-WW II Germany, deserves more in-depth analysis. Currently, most of the information regarding this subject is available online instead of print.

Naval Historical Team

Another interesting field was the Naval Historical Team, based on an initiative by the American occupation forces. Its objective was to employ Kriegsmarine veterans to compose their experience during the war and to determine what could be of use for post-war naval strategy. However, this body did not limit itself to the war period. Moreover, much of its time was consumed by analyses of current events and the emerging Cold War, covering Soviet naval ambitions and strategy. It also laid the basis for an understanding within the members of the team that a strong, coherent and honest integration into the West was the best way for post-war Germany.

Unfortunately, no comprehensive review of the Navy Historical Team has been made available. Friedrich Ruge, for one, relates to this institution in his autobiography. Other authors treat the subject as a rather unimportant one. A broad analysis of the body’s composition and its effect on the USN, naval planning and the members of the team themselves could fill this gap.


A German defense contribution – within the context of Europe and NATO

The emerging Cold War, the division of Europe in general and that of Germany in particular, set the stage of the requirement of a German defense contribution. Problems of domestic and international concerns about this matter led to restrictions on Germany’s armed forces, the most notable of which include the French approach of the later ill-fated European Defense Community (EDC, or Europäische Verteidigungsgemeinschaft) , the induction of Germany into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (by that fully subordinating German forces to NATO), and limitations in terms of weapons and tasks. For the Bundesmarine, this equaled in limitations of the displacement of their vessels and a specific design of the new navy: Instead of a high-sea flotilla as in the decades before, Germany was to limit itself to three major areas of operation with specific characteristics that were also to determine size and operational capabilities of the future German Navy.

· The Baltic Sea

· The Strait of Denmark

· The North Sea

A selection of literature on this matter includes Die Bedeutung der Seestreitkräfte für das atlantische Bündnis by the former NATO general secretary, J.M.A.H. Luns; Die Marine in Bundeswehr und Bündnis, and The Federal German Navys Share of Responsibility within NATO, both by Günter Luther; Hanshermann Vohs’ Gedanken zur Sicherheitslage der Bundesrepublik unter dem Eindruck der sich verändernden maritimen Lage and Maritime Probleme der Nordflanke; and the extensive yet outstanding analysis by Wolfgang Engelmann, Die Nordflanke der NATO: Bedeutung, Bedrohung und Verteidigung. All of these were published between 1976 and 1978 in the excellent German periodical Marine Rundschau. On a side note, in three 1969 issues of this journal, an interesting analysis of the counterpart of the Federal German Navy, East-Germany’s Volksmarine, can be found for comparison and contrast (Die Streitkräfte im sowjetisch besetzten Teil Deutschlands, 1950-1968).

Two publications by the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt stand out when outlining the evolution of the EDC and NATO. Die EVG-Phase (1990) and Die NATO-Option (1993) are parts of the edition of Anfänge westdeutscher Sicherheitspolitik 1945-1956 and serve as the key in-depth descriptions of both alliances. Two of the more general accounts of Germany’s accession into NATO are Das Nordatlantische Bündnis 1949-1956, edited by Klaus Maier and Norbert Wiggershaus, and NATO Enlargement during the Cold War by Mark Smith. NATO, the first “entangling alliance” for the United States to join in their history, was strongly dominated by American security concerns. Naval planning directly related to Germany (or, for that matter, Germany’s role within NATO in general), thus, was also influenced by this. John Reed’s general survey of the unique role of Germany (Germany and NATO) as well as Sean Maloney’s Securing Command of the Sea – NATO Naval Planning 1948-1955 deal with these issues.

As the Warsaw Pact directly threatened waterways adjacent to Germany and essential to the West in general (such as the SLOC into Germany via the North Sea, and unrestricted control of the access to the Baltic), it is advisable to review works that deal with the specific realities of this part of the world. A very thorough description of the geography and the characteristics of the Baltic Region and Straits can be found in Gunnar Alexandersson’s The Baltic Straits; C.W. Koburger’s account of Naval Warfare in the Baltic 1939-1945, War in a Narrow Sea recounts the specific events and problems there during World War II, and their later implications for NATO strategy. On the other hand, J.L. Moulton’s fine article The Defense of Northwest Europe and the North Sea and Gerhard Wagner’s contribution, Die Wandlungen der NATO-Struktur im nordeuropäischen Raum und ihre maritimen Auswirkungen deal with the North Sea and the Baltic Approaches. Further works include Hans Speidel’s Verteidigungsprobleme in Europa and Maritime Strategy and European Security by Eric Grove.

Two key references – compilations of contributions of renowned experts – shall be noted in the following. Seemacht und Außenpolitik, edited by Dieter Mahncke and Hans-Peter Schwarz (1974), includes three very helpful contributions on strategy and compilation of the Bundesmarine (Strategie und Aufbau der Flotte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland by Klaus-Jürgen Bühring), the strategic relevance of the northern flank and the North Atlantic for Western defense (Nordflanke der NATO und Nordatlantik by Edward Wegener), and a most interesting evaluation on the maritime interest of the Federal German Republic (Die maritime Interessenlage der Bundesrepublik Deutschland by Hans-Peter Schwarz). Die deutsche Flotte im Spannungsfeld der Politik 1848-1985, edited by Deutsches Marineinstitut and the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt and published in 1985, includes Dieter Mahncke’s Martime Interessen und die atlantische Option der deutschen Politik nach 1945, and Hanshermann Vohs’ Konzeptionelle Aspekte der Marine nach 1945 – gestern, heute und morgen. Also included are the discussions in response to the respective presentations.


Naval Vessels

With little left after the end of the war and (West-) Germany’s objectives within NATO broadly defined, it is interesting how Germany’s rearmament on sea came into being. The initial vessels of the Bundesmarine were the same mine-sweeping vessels originally employed along the North Sea coast by the Labor Service Unit LSU(A) and its British counterpart, GM/SA. Among help from other nations, mostly victors of World War II, the USN turned over six of their decommissioned destroyers to Germany (a list of these can be found in the annex of this paper), before Germany could reestablish a sufficient shipbuilding industry. General descriptions of these and other German naval vessels can be found in Bundesmarine by Pete Dine (1980) and Die Marine der Bundesrepublik Deutschland by H.H. Bess (1971), both of which mainly use illustrations and short pieces of text. An in-depth work on this matter is Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe – Biographien. Ein Spiegel der Marinegeschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart by Hans Hildebrand, Albert Röhr and Hans-Otto Steinmetz, which recounts the political background of naval decisions in post-war Germany and elaborates on the Federal German Navy’s tasks, organization, commands and, interestingly enough, how German ships were christened. The decision to purchase three state-of-the-art guided missile Charles-F.-Adams class destroyers from the United States in the late 1960s was a particularly important event. Gert Jeschonnek’s Bundesmarine 1955 bis heute and especially the journal contribution D 185 Lütjens, erster Lenkwaffenzerstörer im Dienst der Bundeswehr, by Stefan Terzibaschitsch, reflect this major event in German-American naval relations.
[Named after World War II veterans from the Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, and Wehrmacht, who distinguished themselves by speaking out against the Nazi regime in one way or another, D-185 Lütjens, D-186 Mölders, and D-187 Rommel, respectively, served the German Navy until decommissioned 30 June 1999 (D-187), 30 March 2003 (D-186), and 18 December 2003 (D-185). One of them has been preserved as a display ship in Bremerhaven.]

Marineflieger - Naval Aviation

After the hard lesson learned during Word War II, when naval aviation was in the hands of the Luftwaffe rather than operated by the Fleet Commander, the newly formed Federal German Navy was to include an air arm of its own. This was in order with the objectives laid out for the Bundesmarine. The United States, recognizing the value of competent naval aviation after their experiences during the war, strongly supported this move. Parts of the cooperation in this specific field included training of aviation personnel in the United States (for example in Pensacola, FL) and the decision of the German ministry of defense to purchase American-built F-104 “Starfighter” multi-purpose aircraft from the American-based company Lockheed in the early 1960’s. Surprisingly, no single comprehensive book has been made available regarding German post-war naval aviation. Internet sources are scarce, too (www.fly-navy.de, an unofficial naval aviation site, being the only substantial one) . It could be argued that due to the relatively short history of naval aviation (under the command of the Navy), the disastrous performance of naval aviation during World War II and what the German philosopher Golo Mann once called “Landbestimmtheit deutscher Geschichte,” roughly translated as the preference of Germans to land strategic thinking instead of naval or airborne strategic thinking, no comprehensive work on this matter has yet been published. Thus, this area certainly leaves room for further enquiry.


Looking Ahead

Interestingly enough, throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, while the German Navy continued to play an important role in the Cold War as part of NATO’s forward defense, reassessments and explanations of the function of the Bundesmarine never ceased to be thoroughly evaluated and published. This is even more so notable since many of the publications of that time (of which only a fraction have been reviewed as they did not relate to this paper’s major theme) make references to the early beginnings of the Federal German Navy, and the transatlantic partnership. This can be found remarkable due to a variety of reasons:

· Since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany, the primary of politics has governed the military serving to contain its influence; Staatsbürger in Uniform and Innere Führung, or citizen in uniform and inner leadership, were the new key terms for armed forces integrated into society. As part of this, continuous and thorough reassessment of German military forces by and for the government became a regular habit, which also led to a wider range of publications.

· Having said this, and taking into account Germany’s role in the Western world and its dependence on Allied and American security guarantees, it also became a regular habit of informing other NATO countries – in particular the English-speaking world, aware of what the Germans would agree to do – and, likely even more important, what not.

· It is important to notice that even though the Cold War was a continuous struggle between East and West, once the strategy of ‘flexible response’ had been adapted in favor of the earlier ‘massive retaliation,’ trustworthy approaches were merely adjusted rather than completely renewed, in response to events such as the expansion of the Soviet fleet from the mid-1960’s onward.


Resourceful examples for English-language works on this matter are Mission and Concept of the Federal German Navy by Karl-Heinz Reichert and Franz-Dieter Braun (1975); Dora Alves’ articles The German Navy Moves Out and The Federal German Navy: Linchpin on the Northern Flank from 1981 issues of USNI Proceedings; and the White Paper 1985 on The Situation and the Development of the Federal German Forces, edited by the Federal Minister of Defense. Another review – in German – was published by the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt in 1985, 30 Jahre Bundeswehr 1955-1985. A 1995 review of German military history during the Cold War, edited by Bruno Thoß, includes Peter Monte’s Die Rolle der Marine in der Verteidigungsplanung für Mittel- und Nordeuropa bis zur Wende 1989/90.



III. Conclusion

It can be claimed that Admiral Burke’s statement on American commitment to the construction of a new German Navy still holds true, even as the German armed forces celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2005. If the United States, and the United States Navy, had not been of such crucial importance for the rebuilding Germany, the process of German re-armament and the shape of the German Navy would have been vastly different.

Post-war German fate was influenced by numerous factors. It was the unique bipolar conflict between the East and the West that was the most significant reason for the quick evolution of the West-Germans from a defeated nation to an important allied partner. Germany, an importer of security until 1990, was limited by both the restriction to certain areas of naval operation set forth by NATO and the rule of the Grundgesetz, or Basic Law, setting strict boundaries for German armed forces.

Furthermore, the distinct American commitment to defend the values and territory of the Western world by almost any means contributed greatly to Germany’s fate. The American approach towards the defeated Germans, and former Kriegsmarine personnel, in conjunction with the effort put forward by senior German decision-makers, both political and military, helped define a new German Navy’s role in the Cold War. The USN supplied vessels, equipment, mandates (i.e. mine-sweeping), and continuous training in the United States and aboard American vessels (i.e. at the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean). Soon thereafter, the Bundesmarine served as an important addition to NATO’s naval capabilities in the European waters. Its limitations were not seen as restrictions, but as specialization to counter the common threat. Contributing to the good transatlantic relationship was a high level of reliability and, quite often, personal ties between senior officers. Thus, the new German Navy helped to further improve the good German-American relationship and establish NATO’s forward defense strategy. Moreover, after the end of the Cold War, on the basis of American support during the early decades, the Bundesmarine rose to an exporter of security through their good reputation and, after a 1994 German Supreme Court ruling for out-of-area commands, their availability for multi-national naval missions.


Topics for further enquiry

Aside from the issues that were pointed out in the course of this paper, there are a few more areas worth further research. These can only be pointed out at this stage.

It would be useful to expand on the role that the Navy played for the German decision-makers at the height of the Cold War in comparison to the other branches of the military, when an attack by the Warsaw Pact was almost exclusively thought to be a surface forces assault by the means of the Air Force and Armies. During the rise of the nuclear defense and the concept of ‘massive retaliation,’ what role did the Navies play in the minds of strategists? How would Bonn’s nuclear policy have affected the Bundesmarine, if the MLF or Adenauer’s own considerations of nuclear weapons would not have failed?

On a different note, it would be interesting to review any efforts of “gun-boat diplomacy” towards Germany; that is: which military vessels where sent to visit German ports, similar (yet on a smaller scale) to the visit of the battleship Missouri to Turkey and Greece in 1946? How did the German public respond to this, what role did it play for the political decision-makers? As far as this author is concerned, no comprehensive collection of this matter has been published to this date.

Acknowledgments

Research for this paper was conducted at the United States Navy Library (Washington Navy Yard) and was facilitated by the helpful and friendly staff. Further research was conducted at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and was facilitated by the staff of the European Reading Room. Thank you foremost to Dr. Randy Papadopoulos of the Contemporary History Department at the Naval Historical Center for his continuous support.

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Annex: List of “Fletcher”-Class Destroyers on lease to the Federal German Navy (1958-1960)

Ex-USS Anthony(DD 515): Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, ME; commissioned 26 February, 1943; Pacific theater; decommissioned into reserve 17 April, 1946; transferred to Federal German Navy as Z-1, effective 17 January, 1958

Ex-USS Ringgold (DD 500): Fed. Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Kearny, NJ; commissioned 30 December, 1942; won 10 WW II battle stars in Pacific theater; decommissioned into reserve 23 March, 1946; transferred to German Navy as Z-2, effective July 14, 1959

Ex-USS Wadsworth (DD 516): Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, ME; commissioned 16 March, 1943; Pacific theater (awarded seven WW II battle stars & Presidential Unit citation); decommissioned into reserve 18 April, 1946; transferred to German Navy as Z-3, effective 6 October, 1959; sold to Germany 1 October, 1974

Ex-USS Claxton (DD 571): Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, TX; commissioned 8 December 1942; joined Pacific Fleet after brief stint in European affairs, suffering Kamikaze attack; decommissioned into reserve 18 April, 1946, having been awarded eight WW II battle stars and squadron’s Presidential Unit citation); transferred to German Navy as Z-4, effective 15 December, 1959

Ex-USS Dyson(DD 572): Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, TX; commissioned 30 December, 1942; Pacific Fleet action, gaining 11 battle stars and squadron’s Presidential Unit citation); decommissioned and assigned to reserve 31 March, 1947; transferred to German Navy as Z-5 on 17 February, 1960

Ex-USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570): Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, TX; commissioned 24 November, 1942; after short mission to Casablanca, assigned to Pacific Fleet, gaining 11 battle stars and squadron’s Presidential Unit citation; squadron commander Cpt. Arleigh Burke (flagship); decommissioned into reserve 18 April, 1946; transferred to Germany as Z-6, effective 12 April, 1960


Source: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Eight Volumes, Washington 1959-1981.


Acknowledgement: Sebastian Bruns, a student at the University of Bonn, Germany, researched and wrote this paper during a summer 2005 internship in the Contemporary History Branch and the Navy Department Library. Today (2014), he is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, specializing in naval forces analyses and maritime security.