HOLD FOR RELEASE
TO A.M. NEWSPAPERS
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1947
DOCUMENTS RELATED TO THE RESIGNATION OF THE GERMAN COMMANDER IN CHIEF, NAVY, GRAND ADMIRAL RAEDER AND TO THE DECOMMISSIONING OF THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET
FROM THE FILES OF THE GERMAN NAVAL STAFF DECEMBER 1942 -- JANUARY 1943
In June 1946 the Office of Naval Intelligence Published a translation of German documents entitled Fuehrer Conference the Fuehrer talked for an hour and a half about the role played by the
the German Navy, 1943. Document one in this volume contains the minutes of a conference between the Commander in Chief, Navy, Grand Admiral Raeder, and the Fuehrer on 6 January 1943.
In the course of this conference the Fuehrer talked for an hour and a half about the role played by the German Navy, stating that the Navy lacked men of action and that therefore a large amount of fighting power lay idle in the fjords. In conclusion the Fuehrer requested the Commander in Chief, Navy to submit proposals for decommissioning the German high seas fleet.
Consequences of this conference were threefold:
a. German naval strategy underwent far-reaching changes.
b. All construction on large ships was discontinued. All ships larger than destroyers were ordered decommissioned.
c. Grand Admiral Raeder resigned and the Commmanding Admiral, Submarines, Admiral Doenitz, became his successor as Commander in Chief, Navy.
On the following pages several documents are given which relate the background and the consequences of this Fuehrer conference.
1 December 1946.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|2. Clash between Commander in Chief, Navy, Commander in Chief, Air, and Commander in Chief, South concerning supply transports from Italy to North Africa.
|3. Clash between the Fuehrer and the Permanent Deputy of the Commander in Chief, Navy at Fuehrer headquarters.
|4. Conference between the Supreme Commander, Armed Forces and the Commander in Chief, Navy. Memorandum by Grand Admiral Raeder concerning the role of naval surface forces in wartime
|5. The end of the German High Seas Fleet. Conference between the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander, Armed Forces and the Commanding Admiral, Submarines. Hitler's decree ordering the decommissioning of the German High Seas Fleet.
|6. The resignation of Grand Admiral Raeder; his farewell address to the Naval Staff.
At the conclusion of World War I the German Navy scuttled its fleet at Scapa Flow.
In the course of World War II the new German high seas fleet was decommissioned and partially scrapped as a result of inter-service conflicts and by a directive which the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander, Armed Forces issued on 25 January 1943. On 30 January, the Commander Chief, Navy, Grand Admiral. Raeder, resigned and the Commanding Admiral, Submarines, Admiral l.Iniral Doenitz, became his successor. This the essence of a sequence of documents contained in the files of the German Naval Staff and dealing with events of December 1942 and January 1943. Documents contained in the files of the German Naval Staff and dealing with events of December 1942 and January 1943. Documents of earrly February 1943 show that Admiral Doenitz tried to lessen the impact of the Fuehrer directive once he had assumed the post of Commander in Chief, Navy. However, the concessions he was able to gain were of a minor character. In accord with the Fuehrer directive of 25 January 1943, the order was given on 2 February to cease all work on battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers, and troop transports, with the exception of vessels designated as training ships.
On 13 February 1943, the Commander in Chief, Navy submitted and the Fuehrer approved a plan for decommissioning the German high seas fleet, which contained the following schedule:
|Already placed out of commission
|To be placed out of commission in February
To be placed out of commission
1 March 1943
|1 April 43
|1 May 43
|1 July 43
|In the fall of 1943
|To be reassigned as training
||CA PRINZ EUGEN
| ships, but no longer ready
||CA ADMIRAL SCHEER
| for action:
The CV GRAF ZEPPELIN had not yet been commissioned; final construction work had been ordered halted on 2 February 1943.
BB BISMARCK, CA FLUECHER, CA ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE, CL KOENICSPERG, and CL KARLSRUHE had been lost in action prior to 1943. Therefore, when the order of 13 February 1943 was complied with, the German Navy ceased to command any ship larger than a destroyer.
Reasons for Scrapping the German High Seas Fleet - It is well possible that this decision of the Fuehrer was arriced at gradually, and German naval files indicate clearly that requests of other branches for allocations of men and material played their part in shaping this policy.
Of still greater influence must have been the consequences of Allied naval operations by which the German high seas fleet was driven from the seas and forced to seek shelter in harbors and fjords, thereby limiting its operations to short forays. However, documents from sources other than the German Naval Archives would be needed to decide fully the extent to which Hitler's decision was influenced by Allied naval victories and by German inter-service rivalries.
As far as the German naval documents are concerned, they give the impression that the final decision, when it fell, was not caused by any major strategic consideration of the Fuehrer. Two clashes of minor importance in themselves preceded the decisive order in quick succession.
In the Mediterranean theater orders from the Commander in Chief, Navy concerning the command of supply transports were revoked by the Commander in Chief, South. On 25 December 1942 this act resulted in an inter-service argument which was brought to Hitler's attention. On 30 December 1942, while Hitler, Goering, and the permanent deputy of the Commander in Chief, Navy at Fuehrer Headquarters were discussing this controversy, word was received that a German cruiser force had engaged the enemy. Hitler requested immediate details on this engagement. As these details were not forthcoming, the Fuehrer decided upon the fateful order and had the Commander in Chief, Navy informed accordingly. Grand Admiral Raeder subsequently requested the Fuehrer to relieve him of his duties as Commander in Chief, Navy.
Arrangement of the material - On the following pages several documents related to the developments are presented in translation. Where space permitted, the text has been given in full; omission of parts of minor importance has been indicted by (...).
Documents concerning the controversy in the Mediteranean theater are given in Chapter 2.
Documents related to the conference at Fuehrer Headquaters on 31 December 1942 and 1 January 1943 are given in Chapter 3.
Chapter 4 contains notes regarding the Hitler Raeder conference on 6 January, and the text of a memorandum on the role of the German fleet in the war effort of the Axis. This memorandum was forwarded by Grand Admiral Raeder to the Fuehrer on 15 January 1943.
Notes and orders concerning the decommissioning of the German high seas fleet are contained in Chapter 5.
Chapter 6 gives the official proclamation of the resignation of Grand Admiral Raeder and the personal farewell address delivered by the Grand Admiral on 1 February 1943 to his fellow officers and co-workers on the Naval Staff.
2. CLASH BETWEEN COMMANDER IN CHIEF, NAVY, COMMANDER IN CHIEF, AIR, AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF. SOUTH CONCERNING SUPPLY TRANSPORTS FROM ITALY TO NORTH AFRICA
Background of the Controversy - On 7 November 1942 a powerful Anglo-American force equipped with adequate weapons of modern warfare landed on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of the French colonies of Morocco and Algeria. This action followed by two weeks the start of the third British offensive in Libya. Facing the enemy to the east and the west and the desert to the south, German military success or failure in North Africa depended upon the reinforcements and supplies moved in from the north via the Mediterranean.
German naval command along the Mediterranean coast divided among three area commanders. Naval Group, West was in charge of the southern French coast. German Naval Command, Italy was in charge of German naval operations in Italy and Tunisia. In the Aegean, command was excersised by Naval Group, South. As far as the supply lines to North Africa were concerned, responsibility rested with the German Naval Command, Italy, which operated under the direct authority of the German Naval Staff. In problems of supply transports, as well as in many other questions, German Naval Command, Italy acted in conjunction with, or under the guidance of, the Axis theater commander, Commander in Chief, South, General Kesselring, and the High Command of the Italian Navy. The situation as it existed by the middle of December 1942 was marked by an overlapping of functions and authorities.
The matter of supply transports, however, was not limited to the mixed supervision and jurisdiction of Naval Group Command, Italy, Commander in Chief, South, and the Italian Supermarina. The Commander in Chief, Air, Reichsmarschall Goering, also took a hand in matters concerning transportation.
During peace time, jurisdiction over transportation had rested with the Reich Transportation Ministry. Under war conditions, the Minister in charge of this office acted in all matters of a military nature under the authority of the Commander in Chief, Air, who exercised this supervision in his capacity as Deputy for the Four Year Plan. In the same capacity Goering had appointed the party leader, Gauleiter Kaufmann, as Reich Commissioner of Maritime Shipping (Reichskommissar fuer das Seeschiffahrtswesen), usually referred to as "RKS".
Early in December 1942 Goering and Kaufmann made an inspection trip to Italy. In the course of this trip Goering signed an order by which a new office was established under the jurisdiction of the RKS, the Deputy for German Sea Transportation in the Mediterranean (Bevollmaechtigter fuer die deutsche Seeschiffahrt im Mittelmeer) abbreviated "BVM". A lawyer, Mr. Essen, was named as head of this office.
These events, shown by various entries in the War Diary of the German Naval Staff, were of a mere administrative nature up to this point. They became of immediate interest to the German Naval Command, Italy, when on 24 Decembe 1942 Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering
"in accordance with the order given by the Fuehrer" issued the following directive:
"The Deputy for German Sea Transportation in the Mediterranean (BVM) together with his staff is to function at the disposal of the Commander in Chief, South. Commander in Chief, South is entitled to issue directives to BVM. BVM is entitled to issue information and directives to the appropriate German commands in the Mediterranean area..." The following paragraphs outlined the jurisdiction of BVM over the German naval commands, installations and technical personnel in Italy with regard to supply transports. The directive concluded with the statement: "This order does not affect the authority of the naval commands to deal with matters concerning personnel and discipline."
German Naval Command, Italy in Opposition to Directive by Reichsmarschall Goering - The German Naval Command, Italy immediately formulated what it believed to be the consequences of this directive for the conduct of naval operations in the Mediterranean area. These conclusions were transmitted to the Chief of Staff, Naval Staff in the morning hours of 25 December 1942 in a "Most Urgent" wire. German Naval Command, Italy pointed out as follows:
"1. The naval offices indicated below will become subordinate to BVM for all practical purposes and in all matters of a technical and naval nature, with the exception of matters relating to personnel an discipline:
a. The Commanding Officer, Supply and Transports, Italy and all offices and suboffices under his command;
b. The port commanders of the German Naval Command, Tunisia;
c. The German naval technical staffs assigned to the harbors La Spezia, Pola and Palermo for the repair of submarines and naval craft of the German Naval Command, Italy...
"2. This move restricts the authority and responsibility of the German naval Command, Italy, and in the long run will eliminate it completely, since the chain of comman new runs from the Commander in Chief, South via BVM directly to the port commanders, naval transport offices, harbor commanders, etc.
"3. The authority of the BVM does not only conflict with that of higher German offices which have been responsibile so far. It also infringes upon the Italian authorities, since in Tunisia port commanders and supply and trasport offices are subordinate to the command of the Italian Admiral (Tunisia), via his German Chief of Staff.
"4. This decree breaks down the structure of the German Naval Command, Italy and its cooperation with the Italian Navy.
"As the responsible naval commander in this sector of the theater and in view of the vital importance of naval transportation, I feel bound to report that execution of the order will not reduce the prevailing difficulties in naval transportation. On the contrary, it
will increase these. I cannot accept responsibility for the deterioration of the over-all war situation which will arise from this order."
Threatened Arrest of Admirals - Naval files show that consequences of the shift in the control of supply transports in the Mediterranean were not limited to this wire by the German Naval
Command, Italy to the Naval Staff. Further complications are evidenced by a notation made at Naval Staff and dated 25 December 1942. It reads as follows:
"Telephone call from General Deichmann, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, South.
"General Deichmann stated that the Grand Admiral (Raeder) issued orders to the German naval offices in Italy which cannot be carried out. The Commander Chief, South has ordered that his own orders are to be executed, the orders of the Grand Admiral notwithstanding, if this is necessary for the conduct of the war in the Mediterranean. Commander in Chief, South will arrest any Admiral who does not obey his orders. Operations in the Mediterranean are decisive for the outcome of the war in the Mediterranean, General Deichmann stated, and they cannot rest because of orders given by the Commander in Chief, Navy.
"General Deichmann was told in reply that his statement had been noted and would be passed on to the proper authority.
"Vice Admiral Krancke and the naval representative at the Armed Forces Operations Staff, Commander Meier, were informed. Vice Admiral Krancke stated that no immediate decision was called for, and that a notation for later action would suffice. General Deichmann was informed of this by telephone. He was told that Commander in Chief, Navy had not issued any orders which might interfere with the conduct of operations in the Mediterranean theater."
Commander in Chief, Navy rescinds his orders - This phone call made in the morning hours of 25 December 1942 by a Naval Staff officer to headquarters, Commander in Chief, South did not end the conflict. The War Diary of the Naval Staff did not refer again to the matter until 28 December, but on that date a short notation reads:
"Vice Admiral Krancke gave a detailed description of the developments which caused the Reichsmarschall (Goering) to send a communication to the Commander in Chief, Navy concerning the naval transport situation in the Mediterraneran, and which led to contradictory orders to the German Naval Command, Italy.
"On 25 December Commander in Chief, Navy personnally reported to the Fuehrer by phone that he was rescinding his order after the Armed Forces High Command had sanctioned the orders are now being carried out. At the same time he pointed out that several points were in need of correction and that a certain misrepresentation of rhe facts (Verdrehung) had occured."
The German Naval Archives contain a more detailed record of the statement made by Vice Admiral Krancke and of the ensuring staff discussion during this conference
of 28 December. The record shows that the Vice Admiral, who hold the position of Permanent Deputy for the Commander in Chief, Navy at Fuehrer Headquarters, made among others the following points:
1. "From the very outset the Reich Commissioner for Maritime Shipping, Kaufman, has tried to assume the right of giving orders to naval offices (Kriegsmarinedienstellen).
2. "The disastrous development in the Mediterranean caused in the main by the failure of the Italian offices responsible for convoy traffic made it necessary at that time to take immediate action. Therefore, the Reichsmarschall travelled with Kaufman to Italy. This trip was used by Kaufman to get the Reichsmarschall's signature to orders, the implications of which must have been unclear to Coering in spite of his extensive knowledge.
3. "It can rightly be assumed that the Fuehrer had no previous knowledge of the development. Only out of loyalty to the Fuehrer did the Commander in Chief, Navy change his orders which conflicted with the orders of the Reichsmarschall.
4. "It should be observed that the new Deputy for German Sea Transportation in the Mediterranean (Mr. Essen) is also the director of the newly established Mediterranean Shipping Company (Rittlemoorreoderei).
5. "The new situation can be summed up by saying that all responsible command has been done away with... It is quite true that it would lighten the Navy's burden considerably to hand over the entire supply problem to the Reich Commissioner for Maritime Shipping; however, this would also lead to failures for which we cannot answer."
Following this summary by Admiral Krancke, the Chief of the Navy's Quartermaster Division pointed out "the impossible attitude which the Commander in Chief, South or is staff has adopted toward the Commander in Chief, Navy." In answer to this statement, the record says that "the Commander in Chief, Navy is disregarding such that all too human failures for the sake of the cause."
The record of the staff discussion concludes with the question: "Our main problem remains: How can we tell this to the Fuchrer?"
Added to this is a pencilled marginal note: "Admiral Krancke will be given the tricky mission to discuss this whole matter as soon as possible at headquarters."
Documents of the following pages will show how in the course of this "tricky mission" the Fuehrer decided to decommission the whole German high seas fleet.
3. CLASH BETWEEN THE FUEHRER AND THE PERMAMENT DEPUTY OF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, NAVY AT FUEHRER HEADQUARTERS
On 30 December 1942 Vice Admiral Krancke undertook his mission of discussing the Mediterranean command situation with the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander. Present
at this discussion was Reichsmarschall Goering.
The report written by Vice Admiral Krancke on the course of this conference does not give any details concerning the discussion of the transport problem, beyond the mere statement that it was discussed on 30 and again 31 December 1942. However, the Admiral described in detail the new issue which across during the three-day conference at Fuehrer Headquarters. Vice Admiral Krancke's report stated in part:
"30 December. Morning Situation Conference in the presence of the Reichsmarschall. After discussing the transport situation in the Mediterranean, the Fuehrer talked about the superiority of the British Navy which was able to sail through the Mediterranean without paying any attention to the Italian Navy and Axis Air Forces. He described our own Navy as but a copy of the British and a very poor one at that (miserabel). The ships are not in operational readiness; they are lying idle in the fjords, utterly useless like so much old iron.
"Numerous persons were present at this discussion and there was no point in my protesting. When it was reported that there was no convoy traffic to Murmansk, I read a teletype message from the Operations Division of the Naval Staff (1/Sk1) which said it was intended to commit the Northern Cruiser Task Force (B.d.K. Verband) against a convoy reported by our submarines. The Fuehrer asked whether the force could get there in time and locate the convoy. I replied that this was possible and went into details.
"In this manner the Fuehrer's previous statements were dealt with quickly.
"Evening Situation Conference - I reported that the task force had left port and would presumably locate the convoy in the early morning hours. The Fuehrer emphasized that he wished to have all reports immediately, since, as I well know, he cannot sleep a wink when ships are operating. I passed this message subsequently to Operations Division, Naval Staff, requesting that any information be telephoned immediately.
"31 December. Noon Situation Conference - At 1030 this morning I had reported to the Fuehrer that the task force had been in contact with the enemy since 0936. I now was able to inform him of additional messages that had come in concerning 'Operation Rainbow' (1159: close of action and withdrawal to the west). I also gave a submarine report of 1145 according to which the action apparently had reached a climax, since only a red glow could be seen in the arctic twilight. The Fuehrer and I believed that in the main the attack on the convoy had come off according to plan.
"Evening Situation Conference - No reports on the results of the action, except that Commanding Admiral, Cruisers (B.d.K.) has reported that the ships were returning to the rendezvous at 2200. I concluded that the naval force had not suffered any damage, as their cruising speed was at least 20 knots. I also reported that there was no radio contact with DD ECKOLDT. During the evening situation conference I received a (British) Reuter report of a naval engagement (one destroyer sunk, one cruiser damaged). We thought it possible that this report was correct. The Fuehrer was uneasy and wanted to know why our own force had not yet reported. I explained that
radio silence was maintained at sea and that no message could be expected until our own ships returned to port.
"In view of the Fuehrer's impatience and because of the uncertainty of the situation I then suggested to the Operations Divsion, Naval Staff that they should request the result of the action by a short radio signal. For example, the task force should reply "J" if the task had turned out successfully. Later I was informed that Commander in Chief, Navy Yard had refused to request ships at sea to give radio signals.
"After supper at 2200 I was ordered to attend a conference dealing with the organization of naval supply transports. This discussion lasted until 2350. At the beginning I was able to report that the return of the cruiser task force would be delayed for three hours. The reason was not known; it could have been caused by damage to a cruiser, as reported by the British, but also by a breakdown on a destroyer, by heavy seas, or by weather. In any case, the Fuehrer demanded that any report be passed on to him the moment it came in. He still hoped it might be possible to issue an announcement of the destruction of an enemy convoy this evening or on the morning of 1 January. Since so far there had been no reports that enemy cruisers or similar vessels had taken pat in the action, the Fuehrer and I remained very optimistic.
"1 January 1943. During the night - I called the Naval Staff and Group North every half hour asking for news, but no success. The Fuehrer too sent several times to inquire whether I had any news. At 0415, shortly before the Fuehrer went to bed, I visited him and informed him that I would submit incoming messages immediately, so that he would have them the moment he woke.
"The Fuehrer was very uneasy. I made appropriate arrangements with the Duty Officer, Naval Staff. No messages. At 0915 I rang up and heard that HIPPER had passed the outer point at 0240. Shortly after this I received the first message from Chief of Naval Staff.
"I reported at 1030, immediately after the Fuehrer awoke, and mentioned that HIPPER would be at the buoy at 0800 and would then send a teletype report.
"Discussion of situation at noon - Despite repeated calls to the Naval Staff and Group North, there were still no further messages. I again pointed out the urgency of obtaining a report for the Fuehrer. I was told that the telephone connection was damaged.
"I informed the Fuehrer accordingly at the discussion. He said it was an impudence that he as Supreme Commander had not received any news 24 hours after the action, and that the British had already given a report on the previous evening. In a very excited state he ordered me to send a radio message demanding a report from the naval forces. I conveyed this order to Wangenheim (Commander Hubert von Wangenheim, Liaison Officer at Fuehrer Headquarters). Then followed further remarks from the Fuehrer, who was very excited. He spoke of the uselessness of the big ships, of lack naval officers and so on. I had to give up any attempt to explain or protest. He even stated that we dare to attack merchant vessels only if they do not answer our fire.
"During the afternoon - I requested news from the Naval Staff without success. At 1700 I was sent for by the Fuehrer who asked me for news. He then walked up and down the room in great excitement. He then stated that it was an unheard-of impudence not to inform him, that such behavior and the entire action showed that the ships were utterly useless, that they were nothing but a breeding ground for revolution, idly lying about and lacking any desire to get into action. This meant the passing of the high seas fleet, he stated, adding that it was now his irrevocable decision to do away with these useless ships. He would put the good personnel, the good weapons and the armour-plating to better user. "Inform the Grand Admiral of this immediately." I tried to point out quietly that after all we must wait for the report, but he would not let me get a word in and dismissed me. I then informed the Grand Admiral.
"At 1925 I received a report by phone from the Commander in Chief, Navy, which I had typed and submitted to the Fuehrer as soon as he woke at 2015."
A Lost Battle - This report delivered by Vice Admiral Krancke to the Fuehrer was not a cheerful text. According to the Naval Staff War Diary, 1 January 1943, the following action report on 'Operation Rainbow' had been received:
"Concerning the outcome of the operation of the Northern Cruiser Task Force, it became known in the course of the day that out forces had been unable to penetrate the defensive screen of the enemy. While attacking the convoy from the northwest, HIPPER had been engaged by the enemy's defense forces for a protracted period. She had been able to damage three to four destroyers. However, she ran from a low visibility sector into the gun range of an enemy cruiser. She was supriserd and received action. Boiler from "4" was also out of action for some time due to flooding. Her speed was thereby cut down to 18 and at times to 15 knots.
"DD FRIEDRICH ECKOLDT was detached by Commanding Admiral, Cruisers to sink an enemy destroyer which had been crippled. After completion of this task, ECKOLDT mistook the HIPPER for a British cruiser; thereupon she closed the enemy force, was surprised and sunk.
"Commanding Admiral, Cruisers had posted the LUETZOW task force for an attack from the southeast. Since the dim arctic light lasted only for a few hours, it was not possible to wait in order to coordinate the actions, and the LUETZOW task force attacked somewhat later than the HIPPER force.
"Since the LUETZOW force had to operate out of a sector with especially unfavorable conditions, she was hampered by bad visibility and lack of observation. Thereby this force too became entangled in an engagement with the enemy's defensive forces, during which only two certain hits were scored on steamers in the convoy from the center gun turret of rhe LUETZOW, and possibly a few other hits were made.
"After HIPPER was damaged, Commanding Admiral, Cruisers gave order to break off the action and retire. Enemy units which tried to maintain contact were fought off by gunfire.
"In the early morning hours the force returned into Kaafjord."
The End of the German High Seas Fleet - This report on 'Operation Rainbow' was handed to the Fuehrer. Shortly afterwards the evening situation conference convened. Vice Admiral Krancke reported on the course of this conference as follows:
"At the situation conference that evening (1 January) there was another outburst of anger with special reference to the fact that the action had not been fought out to the finish. This, the Fuehrer said, was typical of German Ships, just the opposite of the British who, true to their tradition, fought ot the bitter end. He would like to see an Army unit behave like that. Such Army commanders would be snuffed out. The whole thing spelt the end of the German high seas fleet, he declared. I was to inform the Grand Admiral immediately that he was to comne to the Fuehrer at once, so that he could be informed personally of this irrevocable decision.
"I informed the Commander in Chief, Navy of this order by phone, in a somewhat toned-down form. After the discussion the Fuehrer kept Field Marshal Keitel and Col. Scherff with him. According to private information from Scherff, he then recorded in writing his decision and the underlying reasons.
"I discussed with Puttkamer (Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer, Naval Adjutant to the Fuehrer) how best to delay the date as long as possible, and he arranged for the arrival of the Commander in Chief, Navy at Fuehrer Headquarters on 4 January."
4. CONFERENCE BETWEEN THE SUPREME COMMANDER, ARMED FORCES AND THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, NAVY. - MEMORANDUM BY GRAND ADMIRAL RAEDER CONCERNING THE ROLE OF NAVAL SURFACE FORCES IN WAR TIME.
The Conference between Hitler and Raeder, arranged for 4 January 1943, did not take place until January 6. The Naval Staff War Diary contains the following entry concerning this conference:
"2 January. The events at Fuehrer Headquarters cause the Commander in Chief, Navy to decide to confer with the Fuehrer on 6 January. During this conference he will discuss especially the decommissioning of our big ships which the Fuehrer is reported to be demanding. The Naval Staff is compiling material concerning the consequences of such a step and also the possible advantages.
"7 January. On 6 January the Commander in Chief, Navy reported to the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer spoke in great detail about the role which the German Navy has played in the wars since 1866. The Fuehrer's opinion in this respect is extremely negative. The Fuehrer's decision to decommission the nucleus fleet (Kernflotte) was caused by the occurences of 3 December 1942 and 1 January 1943 in connection with 'Operation Rainbow'."
(A report of this conference, signed and approved by Admiral Raeder, is included in the publication Fuehrer Conferences on Matters dealing with the German Navy, 1943.)- The War Diary report on this conference concludes with the statement:
"The Commanderr in Chief, Navy had been requested to present his views in writing in the form of a memorandum."
On 15 January 1943 the Naval Staff War Diary reported: "The Commander in Chief, Navy signed the memorandum concerning the role of the German surface fleet in the war effort of the Axis powers. The memorandum is now being submited to the Fuehrer."
Grand Admiral Raeder's last Plea - The 5,000 world memorandum had been prepared by several top-ranking officers of the Operations Division of the Naval Staff. The final draft shows in several places careful corrections made by the Grand Admiral himself. In general, these corrections aimed at the deletion of any phraseology which by misinterpretation could appear as politically offensive. Eliminated as well were some detailed calculations concerning the possible use of guns and other equipment from dismantled ships. Yet where the memorandum spoke of the role of the German Navy in World War II, Admiral Raeder's final corrections served to bring out his point of view in the clearest and most outspoken form.
He attached the memorandum to a brief letter addresed to the "The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander of rhe Armed Forces". This letter contained the last plea of the Navy. "Decommissioning of the lage surface vessels:, the Grand Admiral wrote, "will be a victory gained cause joy in the hostile camp, and deep disappointment in the camp of our allies, especially Japan. It will be viewed as a sign of weakness and of a lack of comprehension of the supreme importance of naval warfare in the approaching final stage of the war."
The memorandum itself was entitled: "The Role of the German Naval Surface Forces in the War Effort of rhe Tripartite Powers". Its main parts follow in translation.
The German Navy in World War I. - "Germany's naval forces have been designed and built for use against the weak points of hostile naval powers. These weak points lie in the vulnerability of Anglo-American sea communications.
"The very existence of the English people rests on these communications, which also form the prerequisite to the entire British war effort. The enemy is superior in manpower, raw materials, and industrial potential. His chief problem is to maintain the vital shipping lines Russia, so that he can transport men, material, and supplies to the points where he wishes to bring his offensive power to bear.
"A similiar problem existed for the enemy in World War I. Then the German Imperial Navy was not able to achieve the final aims of naval warfare. The reasons for this were as follows:
"1. At that time technology was not sufficiently advanced to provide the ships with a radius of action of the North Sea (German Bight) or from the Baltic against the life lines of British shipping or against areas in which the British fleet carried out blockade and patrol duty.
"2. The German Imperial War Staff did not obtain
strategic advance bases for the Navy, (French Channel Coast, Western France, Norway). which alone could have improved the tactical situation. Thus the Navy could attack enemy communications on the high seas only by submarine.
"Despite these shortcomings the German high seas fleet exercised an important strategic and operational influence during World War I...In addition, operations of rhe German high seas fleet created conditions essential for carrying out our submarine warfare. Without the protection and support of surface units it would have been impossible for our submarines to break through the mine barrages in front of the German Bight... Without the fleet there would have been no submarine warfare..."
German Naval Strategy in World War II - "The National Socialist Government of Germany realized the situation which had existed in World War I and the technological advances achieved in the meantime. It was therefore planned to build by 1944/45 a Navy capable of attacking the British communication lines in the Atlantic with an adequate number of ships, and with sufficient fighting power and cruising range.
"Construction of this naval force had just begun when war broike out in 1939, five years prior to the date planned upon. Construction of large ships requires years of work. In order to increase quickly the number of our submarines, it was decided to complete construction of only those ships which were alrady in the final building stage. Construction of the other big ships was stopped.
"By this decision the German Navy was prevented from cutting the British sea communication lines in the course of the Greater German War for Freedom, and thereby to put a speedy end to the war. All emphasis of the construction program had to be placed upon submarines which where able to operate on the oceans against enemy shipping even without the support of large surface ships.
"Nevertheless, from the vey outset of the war it was obvious that the submarine operations should be supplemented by all other resources of naval warfare. Therefore, auxiliary cruisers were assigned to operations in remote areas; light naval forces, destroyers, torpedo boats and PT boats operated in ememy coastal waters, and the large ships of the Fleet were committed to offensive operations against overwhelming enemy forces. All the world acknowledge the during of German naval strategy.
"The occupation of Norway increased decisvely the possibilities for this strategy. The occupation had been made possible by committing the entire Fleet. Possibilities were further increased by the conquest of the French Atlantic coast by the Army.
"This strategy successfully prevented the enemy from carrying out his original plan and from quietly awaiting the effect of his naval blockade of the Continent while concentrating all forces on combatting our submarines.
"Under these circumstances our big ships were not called upon to attack enemy forces encountered at sea or to seek an engagement. Every loss weighed incomparably more on our side than on the side of the far superior enemy, even any minor damage that might arise from the hazards of war at sea, such as a reduction of speed.
"Our operations were conducted in full realization of this situation and yet with utmost offensive spirit. They resulted not only in a considerable number of sink learned only afterwards of the full extent to which the British Fleet was tied down and worn down, and of the difficulties which confronted the enemy command because of the necessity of keeping a sufficient number of large shipw at all the scattered strategic outposts.
"Our ships, few but aggressive, utilizing the element of surprise for their operations, constituted such a danger to British sea communications that Britain looked upon the possibility of a numerical increase od our forces from Frenc sources as an unbearable threat. She had to try to elimate this threat by an attack upon the forces od her French ally.
"After Russia entered the war, the opportunity was given to attack supply conveys in the Arctic on the northern route. To carry out this task in northern waters, we had to transfer our forces from Brest, relieving thereby the navl situation of the Anglo-Americans in the EAst Atlantic. A German naval task force properly distributed along the western coast of France would love constituted the most effective obstacle for an Allied landing in North Africa, but for this we lacked sufficient strength. However, the German fleet concentration in the north was regarded by the enemy as an equally serious threat, and he was forced to protect his North Atlantic sea routes he had to commit to the Home Fleet his most modern battleships, several carriers and a large number of cruisers.
"In this situation there has been no change up to the present time. The pride of the British Fleet, her four newest battleships and the two newest carriers, tree squadrons of cruisers, and fice flotillas of destroyers are committed in the Northern Scotland-Iceland area.
"Since the spring of 1942 the command of our Fleet had to limit further operations due to the lack of sufficient air support for reconnaissance and escort, and since it was impossible to provide our ships with the additional fighting power of carrier-based aircraft.
"Nevertheless, the opportunity still exists for our ships to keep on a sharp lookout and to await a moment favorable for an engagement. Even in the absence of sufficient air reconnaissance and air cover, favorable weather conditions and the element of surprise can be utilized at any time to achieve success."
Axis Naval Strategy - "When our Italian ally entered the war, British naval strategy was faced with a new problem. Her forces had to be further expanded to counter-balance the Italian Mediterranean Fleeet. Today the enemy still considers the large Italian ships important, even though the Italian Nvy has not succeeded in destroying British sea power in the Mediterranean, and notwithstanding the fact that heavy naval units have only limited possiblities in the comparatively narrow waters of the Mediterranean. It is true that the British Naval Command ordered all ships above cruisers out of the Mediterranean after the successes achieved by our submarines (BARHAM, ARK, ROYAL, Eagle). Nevertherless, since the beginning of the North African campaign every large Allied convoy is pro-
protected by battleships. The second-line battleships NELSON, RODNEY, REKNOWN, have been stationed for this duty at Gibraltar together with three aircraft carriers and ten cruisers.
"The presence of Italian heavy naval units therefore causes the enemy to split up his forces....
"Axis naval strategy was capable of exercising such pressure on the British Naval Command, that by spring 1941 it was no longer able to carry out fully its naval task. Help from the United States was asked and received in the form of light naval forces transferred in exchange for British bases. In addition, American naval power was actively committed even without open participation in the war by the occupatin of Iceland, declaration of a Pan-American safety zone, and patrol and convoy duty by American naval forces in the North Atlantic.
"Japan's entry into the war brought a strong naval power on the side of the Axis. In the Pacific a new theater of war was opened up which needed the undivided for actin after Pearl Harbor. British naval power in the Indian Ocean was critically weakened by the loss of Singapore. This situation was overcome only quite recently by assembling four old British battleships are assigned to convoy duty or are under repair.
"The course of naval warfare between Japan and the United States alone will clarify the question of how much importance is to be attached to battleships in the future."
Consequences of Decommissioning the High Seas Fleet - "This strategic over=all situation would undergo a fundemental change with the dismantling (Abrackung) of the German nucleus fleet, that is TIRPITZ, SCHARNHORST, GNEISENAU, SCHEER, LUETZOW, PRINZ EUGEN, and HIPPER. Such an action would constitute a bloodless victory for the enemy.
"For us, the result would be that the enemy could operate in our coastal waters at his own disrection. It is not possible to maintain air forces in sufficient strength and in constant readiness for defense, especially in northern waters. Even if this were possible, weather conditions such as low ceiling would prevent their successful operation at times.
"We would practically be offering our coast line to the enemy. Light naval units alone cannot ward off such operations.l.. If ships' guns were to be mounted making it impossible to use them at points where they might be need most. The longer a coast line is, the more mobile must be the guns for its protection...
"The disappearance of our large ships would also greatly increase the threat to our vital coastal shipping, the more so since the Air Force is increasingly unable to maintain sufficient defense forces at all points. Defense forces of the Navy likewise are insufficient. Simultaneously, the inbound and outbound routes of our submarines would be threatened. It is evident that our large ships at present serve to make up for the lack of sufficient small ships...
"If Germany's large ships are decommissioned, the repercussions will be disastrous not only for own situation but for the over-all naval strategy. There will be speedy and serious consequences in the other theaters for our allies.
"If we withdraw our threat from the Atlantic, the enemy will be able to concentrate his power somewhere else, and no effort on his part will have been required for the achievement of such a decisivce success.
"He will be able to use this situation to settle conclusively the Mediterranean problem; or he can mass all the power of his best ships for a decisive blow against the Japanese fleet. In either event, he will regain the initiative which he had lost or which at least had been seriously limited.
"It is impossible to foresee the consequences."
Effects on Personnel and Material - The following pages of the memorandum contain a detailed study of rhe possible advantages which a decommissioning of the fleet might have for the German situation with regard to personnel and equipment. This study arrives at the following figures:
1. About 300 officers and 8,500 enlisted men would become available. This represents not quite 1.4% of the total naval personnel.
2. 125,800 tons of iron would be obtained if the ships were scrapped; that is less than 1/20 of the German monthly requirements.
3. There would be savings in raw materials, fuel, yard facilities, shipyard workers, etc. A large part of these savings would be consumed by mounting the ship guns as shore batteries.
4. Fifteen batteries could be constructed from the guns thus made available. The first of these batterials would be ready for action twelve months after the order to scrap the ships, the fifteenth battery after twenty seven months.
5. The scrapping would require the work of 7,000 men in five large shipyards for a period of about one and half years.
6. Effects on the submarine program would be slight. Of the 300 officers available for reassignment, only about fifty would be gained for the submarine arm, and others being too old or otherwise unsuitable. If the entire amount of iron from the scrapping of the ships would be used exclusively for submarine construction, seven more submarines per month cold be built provided that 13,000 to 14,000 specialized workers could be allocated for this job.
7. The decommissioning of the big ships wold make it imperative to increase the number of destroyers and torpedo boats.
8. Decommissioning of the large ships constitutes a final and irrevocable act; it would take years to rebuild them.
9. The disappearance of rhe nucleus fleet will af-
fect not only the war but will continue to be felt in the years of peace. During the first several years after the end of the war, the Navy will not be able to carry the flag of the Reich to foreign shores.
The Final Arguments - Having thus shown what could or cold not be gained in personnel and material by dismantling the German nucleus fleet, the memorandum by Admiral Raeder culminated in the following final arguments:
"The disppearance of our nucleus fleet willhave the most serious political and psychological repercussions in the nations, among our allies and among the neutrals.
"Our nation will see in this event a historic parallel to the elimination of the Imperial Navy in World War I,; it will conclude that we have abandoned all hope of winning this war by decisive naval operations.
"Our allies, and especially Japan, have felt the full impact of the enemy's sea power, and they have fought it. They would not be able to comprehend our voluntary abandonment, but would see in it a serious sign of weakness of the German war effort. Japan would find her plans to knock out the naval powers of trhe enemies frustrated first in the Pacific and then in the Atlantic. It would seem hopeless t her to continue forces now concentrated in the Pacific. In a short time the territory conquered by Japan would become threatened, and the threat would soon extend to the Japanese islands themselves. The possible political repercussions of such a situation cannot be foreseen.
"The neutral powers too can evaluate a weakening of our naval strength only as a sign of declining strength. Yet to the enemy the disappearance of our warships will represent a political triumph, which will serve their propaganda has stressed repeatedly and only recently again the importance of the German nucleus fleet.
"In abandoning our nucleus fleet we abandon a weapon which, instead of being technically outdated and thereby superfluous, still exercises the most powerful constitutes the decisive instrument of naval warfare. The enemy fears that the strength of our fleet might increase. Knowing his own weaknessess, he is well aware of the potential strength could be realized fully if the fleet were permitted to operate with sufficient air support.
"Beyond this, it is impossible to foretell where and how soon the course of the war may demand the exercise of naval power for decisive intervention. It will be our own fault if at such a decisive hour our big ships are lacking, and then it will be too late.
"I believe that the small gain in personnel and material which may be accomolished by decommissioning the fleet cannot outweigh the grave political and naval consequences that will result.
"I am firmly convinced that without the nucleus fleet the German Navy is no longer capable of carrying out of task assigned to it in the Greater German War for Freedom."
5. THE END OF THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET - CONFERENCE BETWEEN THE FUEHRER AND SURPREME COMMANDER, ARMED FORCES AND TRHE COMMANDING ADMIRAL, SUBMARINES - HITLER'S DEGREE ORDERING THE DECOMMISSIONING OF THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET.
On 18 January 1943, three days after this memorandum had been sent to Fuehrer Headquarters, the Naval Staff received the first word in this matter from Vice Admiral Krancke, the Navy's permament representative with the Supreme Commander, Armed Forces. Vice Admiral Krancke's communication, dated Fuehrer Headquarters, 17 January 1943, stated:
"After today's situation conference the Fuehrer asked me to stay and again stated that he could not see any further use for the big ships in the war. The situation in the east is so critical that he must scape together all forces to help out. More than ever before it has become obvious that tanks are decisive, but despite all our efforts we are still turning out too few. He must put everything into the effect to increase productin figures. Hence he must have all the labor that was working on projects that will not be ready for operations until 1945/46, that is perhaps after the end of the war, for the production of tanks. It is not yet possible to say whether these workmen can be returned later. Therefore, no more ships are to be constructed or converted unless they are necessary for the submarine war or for expansion of our coastal defenses (motor minesweepers to destroyers). All workers hitherto employed on this work must immediately be made available for tank production. I got him to confirm that he means in this connection all aircraft carriers as well as the large ships that were to be converted into transports.
"I mentioned that the number of workers that would be released is not very large, in any case not nearly so large as the 20,000 men he mentioned. The reply was: "Even if it is only 5,000 it well help." I had seceral opportunities to say a few words about the value of the big ships. Yet the Fuehrer interrupted me and said, this time it must be done, for there is no other way. The commitment and maintenance of big ships presupposes foreign bases, he said, which we unfortunately do not possess and furthermore could not obtain in this war. His idea of acquiring bases on Iceland or on Portuguese islands in the Atlantic had not been shared by the Naval Staff, which had declared this was impossible. It has become more and more obvious that it is not possible for a fleet of big ships to operate in coastal waters, where enemy air forces can pentrate. Aircraft carriers, as land-based planes are superior, he stated....
"I again referred to the struggle against the Anglo-Americans with their gigantic sea power, for this battle is after all at lease as decisive for the outcome of the war as the war in the east. The Fuehrer said that this is absolutely correct, and therefore every effort must be concentrated on maintaining submarine warfare, and everything connected with it must be reinforced if at all possible. Yet we have to realize that all trhis will be of no use unless we can defeat the Russians in the east. So we must manage without big ships.
"The conversaton went off quietly in the main, so that I was able to get in a word more than once. To my mind the cancellation of work on all large vessels in-
cluding aircraft-carriers and the release of the workers employed on them is to be regarded as an order."
The fact that Hitler's order now also affected the carrier program was viewed by the Naval Staff as "entirely new", according to a marginal note on Vice Admiral Krancke's communication. For the rest, this communication did not indicate that the Fuehrer and already taken cognizance of the memorandum by Grand Admiral Raeder.
However, after another three days, on 21 January, Hitler's first reaction to the memorandum became known in the Naval Staff. According to the War Diary, the Chief of Staff of the Naval Staff, Admiral Fricke reported "in smallest circle" that the following information had bee received by phone from Fuehrer Headquarters:
"The Fuehrer has made several comments concerning the memorandum. These comments which were more or less sarcastic dealt with minor questions only. Therefore Vice Admiral Krancke concluded that the main points of the memorandum have not failed to impress the Fuehrer. The what extent this conclusion is correct, only the future can toll."
On 25 January, Admiral Doenitz, Commanding Admiral, Submarines appeared upon request at Fuehrer Headquarters for a personal conference. No record of this conference has so far been located in the naval archives. The events, however, that took place in the course of this conferences are reflected in the following text of the Naval Staff War Diary under date of 26 January 1943:
"On 25 January 1943 Admiral Doenitz reported to Fuehrer headquarters. According to information received by phone from Vice Admiral Krancke, the Fuehrer informed Admiral Doenitz of his decision concerning the memorandum submitted by the Commander in Chief, Navy dealing with the German high seas fleet. The arguments brought forth in the memorandum have not moved the Fuehrer to give up his decision to dispose of the fleet in favor direct submarine warfare. According to information from Admiral Krancke, the Fuehrer will put down in writing his opinions concerning the memorandum.
"After the decisive conference with the Fuehrer, Admiral Doenitz transmitted by phone the orders from the Fuehrer to the Chief of Staff, Naval Staff."
The War Diary then recorded an excerpt of the orders issued by Hitler and ordering that all German ships larger than destroyers to decommissioned. On 27 January 1943 Naval Staff transmitted to the commands most immediately concerned the following directive:
"On 26 January 1943 the following order from the Fuehrer was transmitted by Admiral Doenitz to the Chief of Staff, Naval Staff:
"I. All work on big ships under construction or being converted is to cease immediately; this means also any further work on carriers, auiliary carriers, and troop transports.
"Exceptions: 1. Repairs to continue on SCHEER until it has been decided whether or not she is to be converted into a training ship.
2. Ships to be kept in commissioned for training purposes are always to be maintained
in the state of repair required for this function. Details will be settled later.
"II. Unless required for training purposes, battleships, pockets battleships (Panzerschiffe), heavy and light cruisers are to be decommissioned. The date for decommissioning will be announced by the Fuehrer in accordance with suggestions submitted by the Commander in Chief, Navy.
"III. Naval personnel, workers, yard facilities, and weapons becoming available as the result of this directive should be used to speed up submarine repairs and construction.
"IV. Appropriate measures will be taken to arrange all details needed for the execution of this order prior to 2 February, at which date all suggestions are to be submitted to me."
There follows a list of points which required clarification prior to 2 February. The order ended with the statement:
"In view of the political and psychological effect of this order it will be communicated to the smallest possible number of officers."
The order as it stood still left room for certain suggestions and modifications. Naval documents show that in the following two weeks Admiral Doenitz on several occasions tried to save at least prt of the German high seas fleet from being decommissioned and dismantled. Such efforts, however, were of little avail; it was evident that Hitler had made up his mind.
The final order, which scaled the fate of the German high seas fleet went out on 13 February 1943 and set the specific dates on which three battleships, three cruisers, and two old battleships were to be decommissioned. The remaining five cruisers were to be converted into training ships no longer ready for action.
By direction of the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander, Armed Forces, the German High seas fleet had ceased to exist.
6. THE RESIGNATION OF GRAND ADMIRAL RAEDER - HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS TO THE NAVAL STAFF.
The files of the German Naval Staff show that Grand Admiral Raeder requested the Fuehrer to release him from his post as Commander in Chief, Nacy during the crucial conference on 6 January 1943. It appears that the decision was kept pending until the outcome of the controversy and the reaction to the memorandum. It cannot be fully clarified from the records available so far, whether Grand Admiral Raeder would also have resigned had his views been accepted. The records show, however, that the Grand Admiral transmitted the first confidential information of his planned resignation to the bureau chiefs of the Naval Staff on 20 January 1943. The Naval Staff War Diary itself does not mention the planned resignation prior to 26 January 1943, when, in connection with the report on the Doenitz-Hitler conference, the following statement was made:
"In his personal conference with the Fuehrer on 6 January Grand Admiral Raeder repeated his request first made in 1941 to be permitted to pass the office of Commander in Chief, Navy on to a younger man in view of his advanced age and failing health. The Fuehrer has agreed to this request. From the two officers suggested by Grand Admiral Raeder, the Fuehrer chose the Commanding Admiral, Submarines, Admiral Doenitz, as future Commander in Chief, Navy. The Chief of Staff, Naval Staff informed the bureau chiefs confidentially on 20 January 1943. The change of command is scheduled to take place on 30 January 1943."
On that date, 30 January 1943, the ten year anniversary of the Nazi ascent to power in Germany, the following official proclamation was released to the public:
"The Fuehrer receiced the Commander in Chief, Nacy, Grand Admiral Raeder, at his headquarters today. In recognition and appreciation of his history-making accomplishments in building the new German Navy, and in view of his accomplishments as Commander in Chief of the Nacy during the Greater German War For Freedom, the Fuehrer has appointed Grand Admiral Raeder Inspector General of trhe Navy of the Greater German Reich...
"Simultaneously, the Fuehrer has appointed the Commanding Admiral, Submarines, Admiral Doenitz, as Commander in Chief, Navy...
"The great honor bestowed upon Grand Admiral Raeder calls attention to the merits and to the greatness of the accomplishments of his life's work, upon which the Grand Admiral, who has stood at the helm of the German Navy since October 1928, can look back. The growth and the struggle, the daring and victory of the German Navy will for all times be linked tothe name of the first Grand Admiral of the Greater German Reich..."
This was the official end.
There was private ending. On 1 February 1943 the Grand Admiral said good-bye to his fellow officers of the Naval Staff. Under the heading "Items of Political Importance" Naval Staff War Diary recorded:
"This morning, Grand Admiral Raeder took leave from the bureau and division chiefs and from his closet coworkers in the Naval High Command. The speech given by the Grand Admiral on this occasion is recorded in Part 5, Vol. V of the War Diary."
This speech has the following text:
"You have heard and read the decree with which the Fuehrer has at my request released me from the post of Commander in Chief, Navy and retained me on active service in the Navy as Inspector General of the Navy of the Greater German Reich. Now, I feel I must address a few parting words to you. I should like first to give the reasons that compelled me to request my release during hostilities when Germnay finds herself in a very difficult position. I also wish to give to you as the leading officers of the Navy a review of the activities of the Nacy in this war, as I see it. Thirdly, I must thank you and through you all my fellow officers today for their loyal support for so many years.
"In the Spring of 1939, when I was 63, I asked the Fuehrer for the first time to release me from my command.* ...I had then been in office for eleven years and felt entitled to relinquish my post to a younger man. However, the Fuehrer declined in view of the expansion of the Navy that had just commenced. During the summer it became increasingly clear that war was inevitable and then, of course, it was not possible to strategy for over three years. In the period of 1941-42 it grew more and more obvious that the war would be of long duration. On y doctor's advice I then requested the Fuehrer twice more to release me from office. The Fuehrer again declined.
"Yet since the war can be expected to be of long duration, I felt that some day I should have to make my own decision. I realized that in view of the consideration of public opinion at home and abroad, the change would have to be conducted so smoothly that enemy propaganda could not make any capital out of it. A day that appeared inconspicuous in itself would havfe to be chosen for my retirement. Such a date was 30 January 1943, the day on which I should have served the Fuehrer for ten years, or at the latest 30 September 1943, the day on which I should have commanded the Navy here in Berlin for fifteen years. I am very satisfied that fate decided on the date 30 January 1943.
"During a conference with the Fuehrer early this month I had an opportunity to request my release on 30 January. The Fuehrer did not refuse to listen to necessary to carry out the change smoothly and that he wished me to remain actively connected with the Navy. I do not think it necessary to touch in this connection ships. On the Fuehrer's orders I presented him with a memorandum dealing with this subject. In this document I explained my point of view. History some day will pass verdict on this matter. -
"I have commanded the Navy for over fourteen years and I feel I am entitled to retire now. After all, this whole period in Berlin has been a never ceasing, tough struggle. Only the battle front changed, as time passed on. At first it was a struggle with Ministers (of defense) like Groener and von Schleicher. We struggled against the Army which at that time showed a tendency to swallow up the Navy. Later on and for a decade we were engaged in a struggle with the Air Force, as you yourselves know only too well. Then there was the struggle with men and organizations such as Todt, Speer and Kaufman, who were supposed to support the Navy but who in reality never failed to put difficulties in our way. As an excuse for these men and organizations it may be said that they were supposed to be of assistance to all three branches of the Armed Force as well as to many other activities. Yet, they had only a limited number of workers and other essentials at their disposal. In order to give certain things to one branch, they had to take them from the others.
"I am convinced that the war will continue with
*The discrepancy between this date and the date given above is in the original text.
full intensity for a long time, and that these struggles will also go on all during the war with the greatest intensity. The Navy must continue to keep up this struggle if she wishes to reach her goal. It is clear that a younger man is needed for this task.
"I need not assure you that it has not been easy for me to make decision, for I am reluctant to leave you, my fellow officers. However, I am firmly convinced that my decision was correct and I am deeply gratified that the Fuehrer sanctioned my released in such an honerable manner.
"I suggested two successors to the Fuehrer, of whom the Fuehrer chose Admiral Doenitz, wishing to endorse the significance of the submarine war as a decisive factor for victory.
"The second part of my talk will be a short review of the Navy's activities in this war as they appear to me.
"Of the three branches of the Armed Forces, the Navy has had the hardest struggle during this war. World War II is fundamentally a naval war. This fact will become more and more apparent to the closer, the war approaches its climax - contrary to the opinion of numerous offices which are inclined to view the war to a greater or lesser degree as a struggle on land.
"In the summer of 1939 the Fuehrer did not think it was necessary to assme that England would enter the war if we attacked Poland. The Fuehrer had sanctioned a program for trhe expansion of trh Navy by which the construction of a really powerful fleet would be concluded in the period 1944-45. However, as events turned out differently, the Navy had to go into action against the greatest sea powers in the world at a time when we were only beginning to expand.
"I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the admiration of the whole world has been captivated by the fighting spirit and the daring with which the Navy's operatins were carried out from the very beginning against a vastly superior enemy. The first climax of our naval campaign was trhe Norwegian operation, whose daring execution the whole world has recognized. I believe that the war as a whole could not have been carried on without the occupaton of Norway. If the British had occupied that country, they would have been able to interfere with all German naval and air operations and to dominate the Baltix. From the very outset the Navy's main aim has been to attack the enemy's weakest spot without respito - to hit his sea communications and his shipping. The entire naval strategy was adjusted accordingly.
"First of all I wish to mention in this connection the minelaying operations by our destroyers which were carried out with the greatest courage even right outside of English harbors. Above all, however, it was our submarines, pocket battleships, auxiliary cruisers, heavy cruisers and battleships which carried on the war against merchant shipping. I shall return later to submarine warfare. The operations of our surface vessels on the high seas forced the enemy to commit his entire fleet to the protection of his convoys; he had to subject his naval units to a great deal of wear and
tear. He was not able to concentrate them at a place of his own choosing for a decisive blow.
"Yet for theese operations we lacked a large fleet which, based in the captured ports along the Atlantic Coast, could have met the enemy in a fight for control of the high seas. Thus the situation was the exact opposite of what it had been during World War I, when we commanded a large fleet but had no bases which gave us access to the ocean. With the scanty forces at our disposal in World War II, we were limited to sorties into the Atlantic, and these could be conducted only as long as we could take advantage of the element of surprise, that is as long as the patrolling of the ocean by the enemy air force was not organized to the extent it reached from 1941 onwards.
"Secondly, we lacked a naval air force. From the very beginning we had bitterly fought for one. At first we reached a certain degree of success in this struggle, only to have it gradually destroyed by the influence of the Command in Chief, Air. In this struggle we lost out.
"History will decide one day the question whether a naval air force is essential for a navy that wishes to operate at sea. It was particularly unfortunate that since the expansion of our fleet was only just beginning, the aircraft carrier, a type of vessel completely new for us, was not completed at the outbreak of the war, and could therefore not be committed.
"The measures taken from the very outset to expand the submarine force were correct, far-sighted and therefore fruitful. Thanks to our office in Holland and our connectins with the Spanish and Finnish Navies we were able to creat a certain basis for building up a submarine arm even under the Versailles system, utilizing the experience fained in World War I. All these measures were soley the result of naval initiative. The further expansion too was carried out by the Navy from its own resources and according ot its own plans. In this manner, it was possible for the first launching to take place in 1935, that is at the moment when the Fuehrer agreed to the signing of trhe Anglo-German Naval Treaty in London. Submarine crews were trained at first abroad, and later in an anti-submarine division, which served as camouflage for a real submarine division.
"Under the directon of the Commanding Admiral, Submarines, Admiral Doenitz, submarine warfare has been carried on with the greatest energy, the greatest skill and the greatest success. The means for this warfare were amply supplied through the efforts of the Naval High Command. As far as the monthly increase of operational submarines is concerned, we are at present in a favorable position. In addition, vast improvements are being made which will influence the future situation. Just now we are able to equip our operational boats with new weapons which in the opinion of the Commanding Admiral, Submarines will be very successful. The fighting efficiency, sfety, stability and the radius of action of our submarines are such that the Commanding Admiral, Submarines has repeatedly stated that the German Navy possesses the best submarines in the world.
"In this connectin I must emphasize the fact that submarine warfare can be waged successfully over a long
period only if the Air Force renders sufficient support by escorting submarines in and out of port through dangerous areas, as well as by thorough reconnaissance at sea. Without extensive reconnaissance there will be no great success in the long run, me matter how many submarines may be operating. I am convinced that our submarines are called upon to play a role of prime importance that there is any other weapon capable of having an equal effect on the course of he war as a whole.
"In speaking of the decisive effect of submarine warfare on the outcome of this war, I am referring to our operatins against enemy shipping. This includes the activities of our PT boats and above all those of the Air Force. It is my opinion that the latter should concentrate all its activities at sea, especially in the waters around England, on the battle against enemy merhant shipping in the harbors and against convoys in the immediate vicinity of the coast of England where our naval forces cannot operate. This concentrated effort is essential; every ten sunk counts.
"Speaking of the outcome of the war, I do not wish to omit the highly important and difficult task of all our escort and defense units. I doubt that the war could be continued at the decisive points if we were unable to maintain merchant and transport shipping in the coastal waters of Germany and the occupied territories. Therefore I advocate strengthening these forcess to the utmost in respect to personnel and material.
"I shall mention the activity of our big ships only in passing. I am convinced that the presence of the ships in Norway helped greatly to dissuade the British from making a landing, for the British - we have to think what we would do if we were in their place - view the presence and operations of these naval forces as a serious menace to any landing operation and to the transportation of needed supplies and reinforcements. By assigning our ships to Norwegian waters we force the craft carriers, and numerous cruisers and destroyers permanently in the North Atlantic approaches. If these forces are released, they will constitute a heavy burden for our naval strategy in the Mediterranean and above all for our Japanese allies, whose victory over the Anglo-Ameicans in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean is of greatest importance.
"In summing up I should like to say: Whatever the over-all situation may be, every possible sacrifice in personnel and material must be made to continue submarine warfare, and to increase the output of PT boats and other defense and escort vessels, including torpedo boats and destroyers. If considerable yard facilities can be gained thereby for submarine construction and repairs it appears justifiable to decommission one or two of the less important big ships.
"In view of the extended duration of the war, intensive development of all weapons and fighting equipment is imperative. I am under the impression that the scientists and technicians of the entire world, but most of all of the U.S.A., have set themselves the task of getting a jump ahead in the sphere of the development of weapons and fighting equipment. I feel that the U.S.A. is especially successful in this struggle and has a con-
siderable lead where radar is concerned. In this connection I wold like to remind you that it is wron to assme that anyone can have a considerable advantage for any length of time in any one field. In general these advanes in the development of weapons cancel each other quickly, as has repeatedly been shown.
"If I say here that we do not have the lead in numerous fields at present, I should like to take this opportunity to state that I regard the work of the High Command of the Navy as highly successful, particularly the work of the technical and ship building offices, the offices for engine construction and for weapon development. We must not let ourselves be misled by the criticism often made by men in the combat areass who naturally feel strongly about the weak points of new equipment and weapons while they take for granted anything that is now and good. When we consider the achiecements in the field of weapon development in the incredibly short time before the outbreak of the war, we can feel only a deep satisfaction. I believe for example that our BISMARCK-class battleship, wich has been highly praised abroad, represents an outstanding achievement in every respect.
"I shall turn now to a few problems. When I took over my duties in 1928 we were at a stage where we hand to pay special attention to all matters of discipline. It was one of my guiding principles which i expressed at the time, that discipline and comradehip that before any steps were taken they were to be examined for their effect on discipline, no matter where they concerned training, organization, quarters, or anything else. At that time this was highly necessary, and in the following years discipline became very good. But now that the war has lasted so many years, renewed attention must be given to this problem, for the dangers are the same as in World War I. The Navy must win; for this the highest degree of discipline is essential.
"In accordance with my conception of discipline I have always striven to direct the Navy, even the High Command, in a strict and uniform, I might almost say authoritative manner. I have also always taken grat care that all branches of the Naval High Command should present a united front to the outside. Only by unity of purpose within its ranks can the Navy gain the driving force which is necessary to attain fulfillment of our demands despite the many opposing elements. These different elements, with which it was and still is necessar to struggle, I have already mentioned.
"Today the situation is as follows: The fuehrer himself commands the Army. Minister Speer (in charge of armament) is at his disposal, primarily to see that Army demands are fulfilled. For instance, if the Fuehrer orders Speer to reinforce the tank forces one hundred per cent, Speer will try to achieve this if need be at the expense of other branches of the Armed Forces. The Reichsmarschall (and Commander in Chief, Air, Goering) has control of all sectors of industry, or has at leas much influence on them; naturally he will take advantage of this influence to obtain everything for the Air Force that he considers necessary for its functioning. This is the situation confronting the Navy. Only if the Commander in Chief has the full support of the entire
Navy can be manage to obtain what is absolutely essential.
"At this point I can gratefully say that so far as the preservation of the unity and solidarity of the Navy is concerned, I have always been given staunch and loyal support. But I wish most earnestly to ask you all, the whole High Command and the entire Navy, to stand just as firmly behind my successor, who is taking over a very difficult task and who will need the full support of the Navy to overcome all of the difficulties in his way.
"I now come to the second part of my guiding principle: comradeship. Although I have commanded the Navy strictly and firmly, I have always prized comradeship very highly. I think that we can be proud that the expression 'typical navy comradeship' is heard not only in naval circles, but has meaning for a large section of the German people. I was deeply moved to find this expression repeatedly in letters from the families of our fallen comrades, most especially of petty officers and enlisted men. This comradeship encourages men to volunteer for the Navy. I do not think I need to emphasize that an intensive recruiting drive for the Navy is urgently needed to obtain new personnel; this is one of the great difficulties which the Nacy has to face today. Our present and our future are dominated by the struggle for the best officer material.
"Another factor to attract qualified recruits is what I have always termed Navy character, something I have tried to stimulate at all times: the self-confident, yet type of fighting man. I believe that the appearance of this type of sailor inland has done much to create and to increase the popularity of the Navy with the German people.
"Just a short reference to the problem of National Socialism: I think you will agree with me that I succeeded in 1933 in leading the Navy to the Fuehrer and into the Third Reich without dissension or friction. This move was accomplished easily because naval traning during the period of the Republic, despite external obstacles, was directed toward an inner attitude which of itself produced an outlook truly national-socialistic. Hence there was no need for us to change; right from the beginning we could become loyal supporters of the Fuehrer with all our hearts. It has become a source of particular satisfaction to me that the Fuehrer always valued this highly, and I wish to ask you all to see that the Fuehrer can always count on the Navy in this respect as well.
"Now I come to my final remarks.
"I wish to give my hearty and sincere thanks to you all and through you to your fellow officers and colleagues for your loyal and effective support and collaboration during so many yeas. I know only too well what an enormous amount of work has been done for years by all here in the Naval High Command and in the Navy as a whole, even before the war, after the commencement of the expansion program; work that so often entailed the sacrifice of health and was performed without any thought of self. You have earned the recognition of the Navy and of our German Fatherland for this great service. This recognition, as I have already said, is not always willingly conceded in all quarters, but nevertheless it is fully due.
"When I took up my post here, an old naval officer gave me a maxim and told me always to keep it in mind when carrying out my exacting duties:
'Go through life courageously,
Task risks, don't hesitate,
Depend not on your fellow men
And never hope for thanks.'
"My old comrade told me that he recommended this motto, because if I followed it I should never suffer disappointments. Today I must state with deep satisfaction that during my service in the High Command of trhe Navy I found that the third line of the motto was entirely incorrect in my case. Indeed, in this respect to say with thankful heart that the confidence I had in my colleagues was never misplaced. For this I am deeply grateful to you all.
"Gentlemen, since it is not possible to address a larger number of fellow officers, I would ask you who are gathered here to convey to all fellow officers and colleagues without exception my thanks and my gratitude and, so far as it is possible, to inform them of the more important parts of my statements. Over and above this, however, I address my remarks to the entire Navy, because during the war I am unable to speak to a larger group. It has been a great satisficatin and honor for me to stand so long at the helm of the Navy and to feel at the same time that the Navy followed me gladly and willingly. I feel fortunate indeed that the Fuehrer has decreed that I am still to play an active part as Inspector General of the Navy.
"My best wishes go with you all, with the whole High Command of the Navy and the entire Navy for your personal well-being and for your important work so vital for the war effort. I am certain that the Navy must and will contribute largely to the successful outcome of the war, for without the success of the Navy there can be no final victory.
"We must achieve this aim. We owe it to the German people and to our Fuehrer. In this moment as I relinquish my office of Commander in Chief of the Navy, I call out with you from a thankful and sincere heart: Our Fuehrer, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces: Hail Victory!"