During WWII, did the Kriegsmarine have a surface fleet formidable as the UK and US

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,856
At present SD, USA
Sure but it still would've been worthwhile for the Germans to focus on u-boat construction.
Possibly, though the results are purely speculative.

First, democracies tend to be slow to build forces and meet challenges in peacetime (i.e. when construction could've begun on more u-boats instead of Bismarck, Tirpitz and other gunships).
The naval arms race before WWI between Britain and Germany says otherwise. If given the incentive, democracies can be quick to militarize and be ready to go rapidly. Before WWI, the British saw Tirpitz's plans to build up the German navy as a threat to their own hegemony over the seas and they thus built battleships with the very intention of making sure they retained hegemony over the seas.

And it's likely Britain's naval policy was responding to German action in history as it was. The only reason that it didn't result in an arms race as was the case before WWI is that Germany had been so disarmed after WWI that when the Nazis started up again, there wasn't as much of a perceived threat.

Second the u-boats had the advantage of showing up en masse in any number of places whereas British defenses had to be spread out trying to anticipate where attacks would come. Even as late as the fall of '42, after three years of war i.e. three years in which to build ASW capability, U-boats were still slaughtering allied shipping in peripheral areas. What if many more u-boats had been available to do this? :)
That depends on what Britain does with regard to anti-submarine warfare.

Third, even if Britain emphasized ASW assets earlier, the US could still have neglected its defenses, enabling an enlarged, hypothetical u-boat fleet to absolutely massacre US shipping, upon which Britain was highly dependent, beginning in early '42.
Possibly, but in history, Britain did send destroyers to help improve America's coastal shipping. It'd stand to reason that they'd do the same in the hypothetical scenario.
 
Oct 2012
123
U-boats

They shouldn't have wasted so much steel and labor building the Bismarck and Tirpitz. Had they invested all that in Type IX construction they could've had 80 or so extra long-range boats to massacre US shipping early in '42. That might've affected the course of the war drastically.
I learned WWII from a professor who had been chief American Interrogator at Dustbin/Ashcan prison, Nurnberg, Germany in 1945-46. He "interviewed" Karl Doenitz before the Warcrime Trial.

He spoke of the original naval plan of the NSDAP regime. As naval construction can take years, nations like to plan ahead. And the German Naval construction plan was set in 1935 to build with the plan to start the eventual war in 1943. Naval construction was schedualed accordingly.

But due to Adolf's emotional responce to Munich, he bumped up the schedual of events, without properly vetting it with the Naval Construction plan. And so Germany started the war with only 57 U-boats rather than the 300 he wanted.
 
Feb 2011
509
Originally Posted by starman View Post
Third, even if Britain emphasized ASW assets earlier, the US could still have neglected its defenses, enabling an enlarged, hypothetical u-boat fleet to absolutely massacre US shipping, upon which Britain was highly dependent, beginning in early '42.
Possibly, but in history, Britain did send destroyers to help improve America's coastal shipping. It'd stand to reason that they'd do the same in the hypothetical scenario.
Britain sent AS/MS ships including trawlers from the RNPS along with patrol aircraft to assist the US deal with the submarine threat.

US though neglected coastal convoys for a while due to the limited threat posed by the relatively few submarines - more submarines would have meant earlier and possibly stronger responses.

You can only speculate and have to look at both sides possibly action and counter action.

Most know Drumbeat but that was just the first initial operation by what was available at the time - more waves followed with the first of the subsequent ones starting before Drumbeat finished. The Milch Cows were instrumental in allowing even the type IX's to operate effectively off the US coast.

During the first 6 months of the German U-boat offensive out of the US east coast some 397 ships totalling over 2 million tons were sunk, costing roughly 5000 lives. In the process only 7 U-boats (U-85, U-352, U-157, U-158, U-701, U-153 and U-576) were lost. There were only survivors from U-352 (33) and U-701 (7), the rest went down with all hands. 302 Germans were lost on these 7 boats.
 
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Feb 2011
509
10 Battleships
3 Battlecruisers
4 Aircraft Carriers
15 "Pocket" Battleships
5 Heavy Cruisers
13 Light Cruisers
22 "Scouts" (sort of a pocket cruiser, a large destroyer with light cruiser armament and stupid fast speed - none were built)
68 Destroyers
90 Torpedo Boats

Presumably the pocket battleships were intended to operate independantly in a commerce-raiding role, though they'd be better employed as close escorts for the carriers.
That was the proposal but there is serious doubt as to whether German industry could actually construct them in the time period and with the resources available to Germany.

When you factor in all the other increases in construction and manufacture under the third Reich with the lack of foreign income it makes it harder to see how they could actually do all the plans.
 

Ancientgeezer

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Nov 2011
8,904
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
I learned WWII from a professor who had been chief American Interrogator at Dustbin/Ashcan prison, Nurnberg, Germany in 1945-46. He "interviewed" Karl Doenitz before the Warcrime Trial.

He spoke of the original naval plan of the NSDAP regime. As naval construction can take years, nations like to plan ahead. And the German Naval construction plan was set in 1935 to build with the plan to start the eventual war in 1943. Naval construction was schedualed accordingly.

But due to Adolf's emotional responce to Munich, he bumped up the schedual of events, without properly vetting it with the Naval Construction plan. And so Germany started the war with only 57 U-boats rather than the 300 he wanted.
This was no secret--it is the well publicised and reported "The Z-plan", the culmination of a number of Naval rearmament plans that pre-dated the accession of Hitler to the chancellorship. (The Deutschland was laid down in 1929 and the Scheer in 1931 and the Graf Spee in 1932) There were intended to be two phases:-

1930-1936 Creating a modern Naval Force that skirted without breaking the Versailles Treaty with the intent of forcing the major Powers to admit Germany into the Washington Naval system.

1936-1943 Expanding the Navy to a major (Big Five) force, deliberately (but secretly) ignoring both the Versailles and Washington limitations--this plan was concocted under Weimar. When Hitler came to power in 1933 he abrogated the Versailles treaty anyway and gave approval for the full plan to go ahead. Hitler advised Raeder that he did not forsee war with Britain before 1948. (sometimes reported as 1945).

The plan was for:_

Planned /Completed

Battleships 10/ 4
Battlecruisers 3/ 0
Aircraft Carriers 4/ 0
"Pocket Battleships" 15/ 3
Heavy Cruisers 5/3
Light Crusiers 13/ 6
Spähkreuzer "scouts" 22/ 0
Destroyers 68/ 30
Torpedo Boats 90 /36

U-boats were not considered an important factor under Raeder who wanted a " balanced fleet" based on the "Mahan concept" followed by all the leading navies and mimicked the RN and only planned for 74 U-boats by 1943 in a mix of coastal defence and "fleet" subs that would accompany surface task forces.
A completed "Plan-Z" would also have breached the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935, itself proposed to limit "Plan-Z" (Both Hitler and Raeder understood that, had war not intervened, the AGNA would have been ignored anyway). In any case, the intention or not of Germany to abide by that treaty was constantly a part of the diplomatic too-and-fro of 1938-1939, with Hitler always suggesting that Germany might break the treaty to frighten Halifax and Chamberlain. In January 1939 Hitler re-confirmed Plan-Z and approved the increase in the U-boat complement to 249 by 1944, the full number allowed under the AGNA and in April 1939 formally denounced the Treaty at which time the Kriegsmarine was given priority in the allocation of materials and capital.

Doenitz was the commander of a U-boat flotilla in 1937-1939 with the rank of Kapitan zur See (A Navy Captain) and although an influential thinker and report writer in naval strategy, was not a decision maker and had no official direct channels to the highest levels of the government. But in the manner of Nazi Germany, he was able to cultivate leading members of the Party outside of the military command structure--it was this, rather than his ideas on strategy that saw him promoted to Führer der Unterseeboote in January 1939 exactly at the same time as the go-ahead for increased U-boat production. He was appointed to overall command of the undersea fleet as "Commander of the Submarines" only after the outbreak of the war, in October 1939.
While the "Z-plan" was effectively slashed to pieces on the outbreak of war as many strategic materials for construction became unavailable, work continued on many vessels until 1943 when Doenitz became Commander-in-Chief on the Kriegmarine.
 
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Tercios Espanoles

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Mar 2014
6,701
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
That was the proposal but there is serious doubt as to whether German industry could actually construct them in the time period and with the resources available to Germany.

When you factor in all the other increases in construction and manufacture under the third Reich with the lack of foreign income it makes it harder to see how they could actually do all the plans.
I agree. The cost would have been prohibitive even if the industrial capacity existed to meet the target deadline.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,159
Connecticut
That depends on what Britain does with regard to anti-submarine warfare.
Beginning in 1939, Britain did its best to counter the U-boats. It even got 50 destroyers from the US, and US help with escorting in 1941. It didn't prevent '42 from being the worst year of the naval war for them--even though u-boats had received nowhere near the emphasis they might've. Doenitz certainly believed he would've won had sub construction had higher priority.



Possibly, but in history, Britain did send destroyers to help improve America's coastal shipping.
But not until considerable damage had already been done, in part because the US was at first unconvinced that convoys were the answer, but mainly because of a shortage of escorts. Even when the east coast became better protected, U-boats shifted toward the gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and later Cape of Good Hope area (autumn '42). My point was that even after three years of war, during which time the British did everything they could to enhance ASW, shipping losses were still too high. What if the Germans had had 70-80 additional Type IXs, which were the most productive in terms of kills, by the start of 1942? The allies could've lost 15 million tons of shipping that year instead of 6. In the likely event a bigger u-boat fleet caused several million additional tons to be lost, that might've forced the allies to shelve half their plans a long time if not indefinitely.

It'd stand to reason that they'd do the same in the hypothetical scenario.
Sure but only after an SOS from the US, which in this scenario would've faced maybe 80 IXs along its east coast instead of five.:sad: