*** war and social upheaval: important military organizations German navy kriegsmarine








Important Military Organizations: The Kriegsmarine

German Navy
Figure 1.--The Hitler Youth had a Marine Division which essentially prepared and fed new recruits into the Kriegsmarine. The failure of the surface fleet caused Hitler to focus resources on the U-boats. While the U-boats posed a great danger, in the end they failed to cut off Britain from Americn and the Dominions. Service on the U-boats proved to be one of the most perilous assignment of World War II.

Military forces are designed to project a country's power. Ironically, some powerful military forces can ultimately prove to actually reduce a country's security. The best example here is Kaiser Wilhelm's highseas fleet. Germany in the mid-19th century was seen by Briton's as an ally and France as a security threat. Rhe British royal family was of German origins. Prince Albert himself was German. This view was altered by Kaiser Wilhelm II's aggressive foreign policy and boisterous, eratic behavior. This revised view was confirmed by the Kaiser's decession to build a highseas fleet. The major impact of the fleet was to seek alliances with Russia and France, Germany's historic enenies. The Kaiser's surface fleet played a very minor role in the War. The u-boat became Germany's primary naval weapon, yet the primary achievement of the uboat fleet was to draw Americ into the War, thus ensuring Germany's defeat. The Kregsmarine again played a minor role in World War II. The German surface fleet was a major disappointment to Hitler. The U-boat proved again to be Germany's primary naval threat.

Creation of the Germany Navy

Prussia was a small, relatively poor country that struggled to suppot an army. A navy was out of the question. Partly for this reason, the British were often allied with Prussia in coalition wars fought against France. Prussiadid not have the means to finance a navy or overseas interests to protect. Aftr the creation of the Germany Empire, Chancellor Bismsrck was to astute to upset the traditional friendship which by then included royal family ties betweem Brirain and Germany. Kaiser Wihelm II came to power (1888). He proved to be a pompous boor and soon fired Bismrck. His bombastic bedhaviot alienated him from his British relatives, but did not bsically change the dynamic of concern with the French and close relations with German. What did change this dynamic was Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, State Secretary of State for the Navy. Admiral Tirpitzwith Bismarck gone managed to convince the new Kaiser to build a highseas fleet. Despite the profound consequences, it was not a hard sell. Kaiser Wilhelm from a small boy had traveled to Britain and attended the annual Royal Navy fleet review with his British counsins. He envied them their fleet and thus out of envy harbored since childhood, the German High Seas Fleet was launched. And what the Kaiser and Tripitz wanted were nig-gun Dredadnoughts. Strange as it may seen given subsequent history, because of Tirpitz's focus on Dreadnoughts, he actively discourged the development of a U-boat arm. The new German fleet proved to be a game changer. The German challenge to the Royal Navy resulted in a raprochnent with France and the emergence in both official circles and the public at large that Germany was a threat to Britain. The German invasion of Belgium was the triger for Britain entering the War, but the fleet built by the Kaisewr and Tirpitz layed the groundwork for Britain's involvement. And given the British Expeditionary Force's role in slowing the German advance through Belgium the German Navy ina vedry real way, prevented a German victory in the first weekls of the War, making the Miracle on the Marne posible.

World War I (1914-18)

Military forces are designed to project a country's power. Ironically, some powerful military forces can ultimately prove to actually reduce a country's security. The best example here is Kaiser Wilhelm's highseas fleet. Germany in the mid-19th century was seen by Briton's as an ally and France as a security threat. Rhe British royal family was of German origins. Prince Albert himself was German. This view was altered by Kaiser Wilhelm II's aggressive foreign policy and boisterous, eratic behavior. This revised view was confirmed by the Kaiser's decession to build a highseas fleet. The major impact of the fleet was to seek alliances with Russia and France, Germany's historic enenies. The Kaiser's surface fleet played a very minor role in the War. The u-boat became Germany's primary naval weapon, yet the primary achievement of the uboat fleet was to draw Americ into the War, thus ensuring Germany's defeat. Following the War, the Germany Navy was to be interned at Scappa Flow. The Navy instead, sunk most of the capital ships before turning them over.

Treaty of Versailles (1919)

The Treaty of Versailles (1919) placed stringent limits on the German Navy. The German naval threat had been the most serious the British faced during the War. As Admiral Helocoe fmously stated, he ws the only man who could lose the War in a single day. The British had won the War, but had been seriously wekened. They were intent on reducung mikitary spending and wanted to ensure there would not be another cisrtly naval arms race with Germany. Articles 159-213 of the Versailles Treaty contained the Military, Naval and Air limitation clauses. The Naval Clauses severly restricted tghe German Navy (Article 181-197). The Treaty required that 2 months after the Treaty came into fotce that the German Navy was not to exceed 6 battleships of the Deutschland or Lothringen type, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, 12 torpedo boats, or an equal number of ships constructed to replace them as provided in Article l90. Submarines (U-boats) were specifically prohibited. The Navy had to be limited to 15,000 officers and men. All military and naval aviation had to be terminated.

Inter-War Era

Both the public and military circles after the War assessed the role of the Germany Navy in the War. Many as a result wondered if Germany should have a navy at all, even the small force allowed by the Versailles Treaty. The Navy survived in part because of the work of the austere Admiral Eric Raeder (1876-1960), a practicing Christian and apolitcal figure. He set about building a highly professional, non-political officer corps. This made a difference in the early Weimar years when the loyalty of the Reichwehr was highly qwuestioinable. Among the many cashiered figures was a young Reinhard Heydrich (1904-42)--one of the most evil figures in the NAZI heirarchy and World War II. Like pre-World War I naval figures, Grand Admiral Raeder wanted a Highseas Fleet of big-gun battleships. While he did not want to divert scarce resources to U-bosts, it was Raeder who selected a reluctant Karl D´┐Żnitz to head the U-boat force. The Navy managed to do some research on submarines through foreign subsidiaries. There was also some cooperation with the Japanese. The British pursuing a policy of apeasement, signed a naval treaty with the NAZIs (1935). This permitted the Germans to build both battleships and u-boats. At the time the Royal Navy had concluded that ASDAC (SONAR) rendred u-boats obsolete. Hitler's primary interest was in the Wehrmacht. He had little interest or concept in naval warfare. His primary naval thought was that the Royal Navy had the ability to blockade Germany and deny it food and raw material imports. Thus he wrote about the need for Lebensraum in continental Europe (meaning the East) that would make Germany self sufficent in food production. His preferences for gigantism (large weapons) helped conform the German Admiralty's preference for large surface ships. Hitler approved Plan-Z, a secret plan to prepare the Kriegsmarine for war with Britain by 1944. It involved the construction of a massive fleet of capital ships. The launching of Bismarck (1939) was the beginning of what the Germans admirals hoped would be a major naval building program. U-boats were given second priority and thus Germany would enter World War II wil a vert small, although well trained U-boat fleet.

World War II (1939-45)

Hitler launched World War II 5 years too early for the Germany Navy. At the time the War began, the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht were the most powerful air forces and armies in the world. The Germany Navy ranked as a potent, but relarively small orce. The Kregsmarine again played a minor role in the War. The German surface fleet was a major disappointment to Hitler. The U-boat proved again to be Germany's primary naval threat. Churchill after the War wrote that the U-boat campaign in the Battle of the Atlantic was the one threat that really worried him. Ironically while the German u-boat campaign is one of the great legends of World War II, it was the Americans in the Pacific who waged the only successful submarine campaign--a stark example of what the German might have achieved. Arguably the most important battle of World War II was the Battle of the Atlantic. Britain was an exporting country. But it needed to import food to feed workers and raw mteruals for industrial plants. Thus to keep fighting Britain needed to keep the sea lanes open to America and the Dominions. America joined that fight in the North Atantic even before sctually joining the War. The Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union were one part of the Battle of the Atlantic.








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Created: 4:39 AM 10/8/2005
Last updated: 7:43 AM 5/15/2011