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Nazi monster that never fired a shot

Discussion in 'Surface and Air Forces' started by PzJgr, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I've never heard of WW II operational German aircraft carriers of any kind, except seaplane carriers.

    How about some details?

    Do you have any pictures, ship's names, or descriptions?
     
  2. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    If by "operational flat-tops" you mean "fleet carriers", "light carriers", "escort carriers", or, in fact, any aircraft carriers of any description, with flight decks, and capable of launching wheeled aircraft, you are in error.

    The Luftwaffe operated a small number of seaplane carriers and/or tenders, some of which were equipped with catapults capable of launching seaplanes on trolleys. None of these vessels could be considered "aircraft carriers" since none of them had flight decks. Nor did the Kriegsmarine complete any of the seven vessels either purpose-built as aircraft carriers, or planned for conversion to aircraft carriers.

    See;World Aircraft Carriers List: Germany
     
  3. SteveM

    SteveM Member

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    Indeed you are correct, Germany's economy was limited and had to make choices - unfortunately for Germany (and thankfully for the rest of us) Germany made particularly poor choices when it came to its Navy. There is no question Germany needed to focus its efforts on its army - yet, interestingly, and in reality Germany made a decision "far dumber" than building even a single carrier battle group.

    You see, what Hitler and Raeder chose to do was once again build a grand battle fleet - just as Tirpitz and Kaiser Wilhelm had sought to do prior to the First World War. Amazingly, considering the German Battle Fleet's relative ineffectiveness during the the First World War, the post First World War German Navy never really escaped a battle fleet first mentality.

    Raeder in particular was heavily influenced by a Tirpitz/Mahan style approach to naval warfare. Hitler, to his credit, initially opposed putting scarce resources into building a battlefleet. Raeder however sought to put his own interests, and what he saw as the Navy's interest, over Germany's - all the more remarkable in that Raeder was well aware of what Lebensraum meant in terms of constructing a continental empire first before Hitler sought to challenge the U.S. for global hegemony. Thus, Raeder intensely lobbied Hitler and brought Hitler around to his viewpoint, hence the building programs of the 1930's that focused on building big gunned capital ships such as the Graf Spee, Gneisenau, Bismarck and their ilk.

    To use your language, this truly was "the dumbest" decision Germany could have made - particularly given the overwhelming power of naval air power - demonstrated as far back as the early 1920's when Billy Mitchell's planes easily sunk the Ostfrieland in a demonstration for the US Navy.

    Ironically, Raeder actually considered building one or two carrier battle group's (each built around a single carrier, single capital ship and destroyer screen) as an option but could not break free of his desire to build a battlefleet capable, in essence, of refighting Jutland even though naval airpower had made such an idea entirely obsolete.

    Had Raeder sought to experiment with carrier borne airpower in the early 1930's he likely could have had one or two viable carrier battle groups by 1940. In addition, such a decision would have put considerably less stress on Germany's limited economy in that it would have required far less steel, oil, manpower and other resources than building the Tirpitz, Bismarck, Sharnhorst, Gneisenau, four Panzershiffe "pocket battleships", and a cotorie of heavy and light cruisers such as the Prinz Eugen, and whatnot.

    That is not to say such a decision would have been the best use of Germany's resources, but given the German Navy was going to get something, and given it is totally unrealistic and ahistoric to expect the German Navy would have just rolled over and became a coastal defense force then building one or two carrier battle groups (as Raeder actually considered in the mid-1930s) would have been a far smarter move than what the German Navy did in reality. Consider that for all the expense that went into building the Bismarck and Tirpitz they accomplished almost nothing in a military sense - surely even one carrier based battle group would have garnered a far better return on a similar size investment. For comparison's sake in regards to the political fight a military branch can put up: could you imagine the US Navy today agreeing to cut back its cut of the military budge even 20-25% in light of the contintal nature of the War in Iraq or War in Afghanistan and thus relinquishing even one or two of its entirely superfluous supercarrier task force's - or holding off on for even a few years in building a brand new fleet of amphibious assault carriers - currently in production for a Navy/Marine Corps that has not used even a marginally sized grouping of such ships in their intended role hardly at all since Inchon.

    I don't disagree Germany's resources were limited, however Hitler had always planned on challenging the U.S. and, yes, Germany could have and should have put more into its army given Hitler wanted to create Lebensraum before moving against the U.S. Nevertheless, if Germany was ever going to challenge the U.S., then building a new battle fleet and failing to build even the one carrier based battle group neccessary to test and try out advanced naval warfighting techniques and doctrine was truly a far "dumber" move. Thankfully, it is the move Germany made in reality.
     
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  4. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I agree that the Kriegsmarine was not particularly well constituted to pursue either Germany's objective national interests, nor the objectives set for it by Hitler and the Nazi party. And yes, Raeder was not a visionary in the sense that Sims or Yamamoto were, but by the same token, it was not clear in the 1920's or even 1930's, as you claim, that "naval airpower" was "overwhelming" when compared to the power of the battleship. The circumstances under which Billy Mitchell's bombers sank their WW I naval targets did not demonstrate much of anything, except that planes flying very low and dropping very large bombs could sink large, obsolete, stationary, unmanned, undefended capital ships if the attacks were persistent enough. It wasn't until 20 years later that actual warplanes, under actual combat conditions proved that planes could consistently sink capital ships.

    Furthermore, when Hitler took over and negotiated the Anglo-German Naval Treaty in 1934, the German Navy had already begun building ships like the Deutschland (laid down in 1929). Until the 1934 treaty, Germany could not build aircraft carriers, could not, in fact, build any ships over 10,000 tons, and then only as replacements for old, worn out vessels. Thus Germany had no opportunity to experiment with aircraft carriers, develop optimum designs or operating doctrine to guide specifications and design criteria. Without that experience, the Kriegsmarine would have been extremely fortunate to build an effective carrier force of any kind. It took the Japanese, and the US navies twenty years of expensive building and experimentation to get things to the stage where carrier task forces could be used effectively to counter fleets made up of other capital ships, and even then, Japan never did figure out how to use carrier task forcs for true power projection over great oceanic distances. Only the US accomplished that ability late in the war, by building large fleets of carrier support ships like destroyers, cruisers, escort carriers, oilers, replenishment, and repair ships.

    For Germany to be able to do something like that was completely out of the question, if only because it required more vessels than Germany could ever provide. The lack of experience would also have made it highly unlikely.

    Was Raeder aware of Hitler's intention to challenge the US for global supremacy? Was even Hitler aware of that necessity before the mid-1930's? Wasn't Hitler's plan to deal with Europe, including the Soviet Union first, and await developments after that?

    In any case, of course, Raeder convinced himself that Germany's best interests could only be served by a strong navy. He was a naval profession and virtually wedded to the idea that a powerful navy would be necessary in event of war. Nor could he be expected to advocate a naval air arm when he had virtually no experience with that branch, nor did any of his officers. It's not too surprising that Raeder saw the battleship as still supreme. For what it's worth, so did most of the professional officers in the Royal Navy. In fact, because of the failure of the Royal Navy, or any other European power, to develop truly offensive carriers, most of the naval warfare in the Atlantic, with a few notable exceptions, revolved around the big-gun capital ship during WW II.

    As already pointed out, this was not true until the mid-1930's, far too late for the Kriegsmarine to start developing an effective carrier force. And it would have been just as ridiculous for the KM to sink it's resources into aircraft carriers, as it was big-gun ships, because it had no more hope of winning a decisive naval victory with carriers than it did with battleships.

    I reiterate; a coastal defense navy was he only naval force that made any sense for Germany.

    Raeder did more than consider it; Two large carriers were actually laid down in 1936 and 1938, the design dating from 1935 which was he first year in which German was actually allowed to build carriers. They were never completed even though one continued to be worked on, off and on, until 1943. The other was canceled in 1940. Raeder favored completing them until overruled by Hitler.

    No, that is not quite accurate. The German Navy thought about building carriers as soon as the situation allowed (the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1934), but waiting to build or convert an experimental carrier to test design theory and operating doctrine would have consumed quite a bit of time; two or three years at least. Waiting for data to be gathered from these experiments would have put the design back to1938 or 1939, the eve of the war. Unfortunately for Germany, the GZ was a stab in the dark as far as effective carrier design was concerned, and it missed.

    Why would building carriers put less stress on Germany's economy? Large carriers are just as expensive to build as battleships, perhaps more so. And even more expensive to operate when one considers the airgroup and the expenditre of oil for a carrier.[/quote]

    I disagree. Germany's navy was a coastal defense force up until 1934 by virtue of the Versailles Treaty. That changed when the Kriegsmarine began rearming in accordance with the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, but what mission did Hitler assaign to the KM? Was it supposed control the Atlantic Ocean? That was never mentioned as far as I know, and in any case, completely unrealistic. Was it supposed to blockade England? Hitler apparently never contemplated war with Britain before 1939. From what I have read, Raeder was told to prepare for war with Poland and France. In order to successfully accomplish such a mission what naval forces would be necessary? I would think a large destroyer force, backed up by a couple of squadrons of big cruisers, a few battle cruisers, several flotillas of subs, some support ships and a few squadrons of naval reconnaissance aircraft. This was exactly the type of naval force Raeder was building when war came.

    Building a couple of carrier task forces might get the job done, but carrier task forces are expensive to build and operate, and, given that neither France nor Poland had effective carriers, totally unnecessary. They don't make sense for commerce raiding; light cruisers are more cost-effective for that. Given that most naval battles would take place around the coasts of Europe, the need for air power can more economically be satisfied by existing land-based air power. In fact, carrier task forces would only appear as threats to Britain and the US. The likely reaction to that kind of hreat would be for the UK to upgrade it's carriers and carrier aircraft and for the US to build more Yorktowns. Since Germany has not a chance in hell of outbuilding either the Uk or US in any kind of naval race, it's better not even to try.

    Would it?

    I don't think that's certain, or even likely. Consider the geography of Europe; where does Germany keep it's putative carrier task forces? Given Britain's ability to bomb French Channel ports, the only logical choice is the Baltic. But that's a poor choice if access to the Atlantic or North Sea is desirable; Britain will know immediately when Germany's carriers are attempting to get out. That means the carrier task forces will have to fight air and sea battles just to go to sea. Then, once at sea they will have to fight air battles against British (and probably American) carriers. With the GZ as an example they are going to be at serious disadvantage against Allied carriers; even the old Ranger presents a serious challenge to the GZ. Commerce raiding is out of the question because the Allies will simply reroute or delay convoy sailings while the German carrier task forces are at sea. So once the German carriers fight their battle, they have to replenish which means the Germans have to get a fleet train out to the Atlantic, risking attack by the RN, or they have to get their carriers back to a Baltic port. That's a lot of effort and resources expended just so you can get the crap kicked out of you in a Coral Sea type fight. Of course, something like what happened to the Japanese carriers at Philippine Sea might occur, too, but that's a risk the German carriers have to take.

    The situation with the US Navy is not at all analogous to that of the German Navy in the late 1930's. The US Navy is not in an inferior position to a potential enemy; it holds a position of supreme power and that is why it continues to build and operate carriers. The carrier groups of the US Navy are far from "superfluous" as you put it, but the cornerstone and guarantor of US foreign policy. The reason the ships have not been needed is precisely because every potential challenger realizes that they guarantee that any challenge will be defeated.

    Had Hitler always planned on challenging the US? If you say so, but I question it. I'm sure you can cite sources verifying that.

    But consider this. The industrial and economic capacity of the US, even in the depths of the Depression, surpassed that of German three- or four-fold. That meant that to have any chance of challenging the US for world hegemony, Germany had to acquire a great deal more economic/industrial strength than it had ever been able to do, historically. Furthermore, it had to do so in a manner which did not cause the US to perceive a threat. That's something almost impossible to do in the real world.

    If the US felt that Germany would ultimately challenge the US, it's first priority would be to build up it's navy and air force. Starting from a position of much greater capability, it would be likely to crush Germany long before the Kriegsmarine could ever reach parity in naval air power. The only thing that Germany could have accomplished in WW II by building carrier task forces would be to set the stage in the Atlantic for style of naval battles that the USN, and later the RN, fought so successfully in the Pacific.

    Without any experience in carrier warfare, without any experience in designing successful carriers, without any experience in developing successful carrier doctrine, without sufficient industrial, or economic capacity to build large numbers of modern carriers, or man them with highly trained naval pilots, without any experience in operating sophisticated carrier fleet support trains, what chance would Germany have of accomplishing any of it's national goals?
     
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  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    A minor point. Ostfrieland was not particularly easy to sink nor was it in anything like a combat ready posture. Indeed Mitchell disobeyed orders to do so.
     
  6. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Are you referring to these;
    Falke Information
    which fired seaplanes off by catapult ?????
     
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  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    nice link Red, and no I am not talking about this unit

    thanks for asking ~ I am in conversation with a /German contact whose Father served on one during the war years and am waiting for questions hopefully to be answered and put aupon this thread.

    E ~
     
  8. SteveM

    SteveM Member

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    DevilsAdvocate,

    We both agree the Kriegsmarine's failings were numerous and the German economy was incredibly limited in the war machine it could build within the brief period of time following Hitler's decision to shrug off the Versailles restraints. Consequently, in the short term Germany was compelled to devote the bulk of its resources to the Heer and Luftwaffe- and rightly so.

    So, our debate centers around what should have the Kriegsmarine done with limited resources? Although I either agree, or found interesting, much of what you have pointed out in your previous post I still disagree that it was neither likely, wise or realistic for the Kriegsmarine to have become nothing more than a coastal defense force. There are a number of reasons why, but I will only touch upon those germane to our debate (as follows):

    1.) By the 1930s Germany had a long standing tradition of attempting to challenge traditional naval powers, such as Britain and France. Yes, Versailles had limited Germany to nothing more than a coastal defense style Navy but this was against the will of the German military establishment and was against everything the German Navy had sought to do for the half century prior to Versailles.

    2.) My analogy to the US Navy today may have been not entirely appropriate, but the point I was attempting to make is that no part of any bureacratic agency of any kind (regardless of whether it is military, government, or the department of a private company) takes well to having resources cut once a given role has been created and expanded. Instead, it fights like crazy to protect its interests and often even attempts to expand its domain. As such, to expect the German Navy, whom had become accustomed to receiving tremendous financial support from the German government prior to and during the First World War, to acquiese to a reduction to nothing more than a coastal defense force is not entirely realistic.

    3.) This entire debate highlights another historic failing of German diplomatic/military decision making: The sheer incompetence/neglect with which Germany pursued coalitional warfare. Perhaps no other service arm of the Wermacht than the Kriegsmarine would have benefitted more from a true coalitional effort. Japan was ostensibly Germany's Axis partner going back to at least 1936. Japan was also a world leader in applications of airpower in a maritime setting. Given Germany's sheer inexperience and the steep learning curve in creating a naval air arm from scratch how hard would it have been for Germany to rely on Japanese expertise to assist with building one or possibly two effective German carriers. Admittedly, it is not realistic to expect the grotesquely arrogant German civilian and military leadership to have reached out to the Japanese for technical assistance but if they had the solutions to many of the otherwise seemingly insurmountable problems confronting a limited German economy seeking to build a world class balanced military establishment would have been far easier to solve.

    Take for example Germany's well documented problems in developing a reliable torpedo. In comparison, the Japanese had developed top of the line torpedoes and had the Germans asked/the Japanese offered to enter into a technology sharing agreement Germany could have gone to war in 1939 with a torpedo that would have vastly increased the effectiveness of Germany's pitifully small U-boat fleet (by the way: another weapons sytem far more cost effective than either battleship building or carrier battle group construction).

    Obviously there are further examples to be mined, but the point is simple: the Kriegsmarine could have rearmed in a far more balanced fashion: i.e. including a fully functioning naval air arm and a better prepared asymmetric capability (U-boats armed with better torpedoes) at relatively little cost to Germany - in terms of the enormous start up costs Germany otherwise would have incurred in building a naval air arm from scratch.

    I could go on, but the sources of my additional arguments would only follow from those I have stated as examples to support my position the German Navy was capable of becoming an effective arm of the Wermacht during the Second World War and need not have been relegated to nothing more than a coastal defense force. As such, the following is a short list of tremendously interesting and readable books that have influenced my thoughts on the Third Reich's economy and armament decisions (including the basis for my statement National Socialist Germany always intended to challenge the U.S. for global hegemony):

    Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy - Adam Tooze

    Castles of Steel - Robert K. Massie

    Erich Raeder: Admiral of the Third Reich - Keith W. Bird

    You are obviously interested in the subject and I am confident you will find these books highly enjoyable. Finally, I always enjoy learning more about this subject - perhaps you have some reading suggestions for me?
     
  9. Plumky

    Plumky Member

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    Thank you i was just about to say that until I got to your post! Good call! I salute!
     
  10. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Steve:

    do you read German at all ? will try and find my BA/MA source titles off a Danish friends web-site. Might be a good indicator from the LW hierarchy why there was no shared luv between the LW and KM in regards of the KM having it's own air arm.

    E ~
     
  11. SteveM

    SteveM Member

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    Thank you, but unfortunately I do not read German. Everything I know of comes from the English speaking world.

    That said, to the best of my knowledge a big part of the problem was Goering - who was hell bent on not giving up anything to the KM, thus contributing greatly to the KM's problems.

    If you have anything in English that you would recommend I would love to know about it.
     
  12. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Steve I'll do that gladly, but unfortunately much is just said in passing. Göring and his staff had other adjenda's vi-ing for Hitlers smiles and good graces, too much competition high above the KM was given none of that so the arm was weakened. I think only through Dönitz shear will power did the Km even have a fighting chance and even then it was poor.

    lets see if some of these GErman docs have been translated in any form ........E ~
     
  13. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Probably the biggest design mistake in the Graf Zeppelin was the one for which the ship was primarily designed: Launching and landing aircraft.

    The launch system the Germans came up with was both unique and novel. It was not copied anywhere, nor had anyone made a previous carrier design with it. What the German aircraft launch system entailed was the use of a cradle assembly on which each aircraft to be launched was placed prior to being raised to the flight deck. Once on deck the cradle-airplane assembly was rolled onto one of the two catapults following a track laid in the flight deck for this purpose.
    Now, note that the trollies had tiny steel wheels and would have a large heavy airplane suspended on top of them several feet off the deck. In any kind of sea this would likely have proven dangerously disasterous as the combo would have been prone to tipping over when the ship rolled heavily.
    To make things worse, after each launch the trolly had to be removed from the catapult and returned to the hanger bay to be used again for another aircraft. There were a limited number of trollies on the carrier (16 as I recall) and they were essential to launching aircraft.
    Recovery was to be made in the typical fashion of other navies. But, the German recovery system included no barrier forward of the arresting wires. This means no deck park is possible and each aircraft really needs to be struck down to the hanger before the next lands. A missed arrester landing would have been a mess too. The pilot might try to get airborne again if the forward deck was clear but, he'd have to do so before hitting the tracks and catapult system forward. These could have caught landing gear in them (the catapults protrude above the flight deck while the tracks are recessed making nice channels to catch a tire). It doesn't bode well for pilots.
    On the whole, the Graf Zeppelin showed that the KM was pretty much clueless or willfully ignorant about foreign carrier operations. This system they devised was absolutely too complex, fragile, and difficult to operate at sea. This would have required a complete redesign of the hanger and flight deck of the ship to make it practical.
     
  14. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Actually, the German Navy had a history that, if anything, should have inclined them toward the wisdom of becoming a coastal defense force.

    Up until the mid-1890's, that was all that the German Navy had aspired to. It wasn't until almost 1900 that Von Tirpitz convinced the Kaiser that Germany needed something more. Even then, it was realized that Germany could never hope to out build, or defeat, the RN, and the theory of a "threat Fleet" was adopted instead. The "threat" or challenge, lasted less than a decade from about 1910 to 1918, when the RN demonstrated convincing superiority. After that, Germany's navy resumed it's accustomed status of a coastal defense force for more than 15 years.

    Given the way Hitler and the Nazis administered Germany, it may not have been likely or realistic, but it was certainly logical, for Germany's Navy to remain a coastal defense navy, albeit somewhat larger than it had originally been. That was because there was no other reasonably achievable mission for the navy except coastal defense. Hitler did not plan on war with Britain nor the US, at least not until he had subdued the continent of Europe. A war to subjugate Europe and the Soviet Union did not require a blue-water navy, and to expend resources in developing one would only weaken the powerful Army and Air Forces which were most assuredly required. Germany did not have those resources to waste.

    Does it make sense to indulge the naval bureaucracy at the expense of losing the resources necessary to accomplish Germany's war aims? I think not.

    I agree that it is completely natural for any bureaucracy to fiercely defend it's prerogatives and above all, it's funding. However, it is incumbent upon a nation's political leadership to allocate the nation's resources according to it's crucial priorities, and especially to make decisions as to what future military requirements are likely to be. Germany's leadership did not adhere to this policy; Hitler let himself be seduced by the egotistical rewards of possessing ostensibly impressive naval assets like battleships and carriers even when those battleships and carriers had no war time missions which they could reasonably be expected to accomplish. As such they were wasteful luxuries that ate up resources which could be more profitably employed elsewhere..

    In actual fact, the Kriegsmarine, during WW II, accomplished nothing more than coastal defense. And it certainly could have been better, and more economically, constituted to accomplish that task.

    Well, successful coalition warfare depends on the fact that a true convergence of aims and objectives actually exists between the coalition partners; this was not the case between Germany and Japan. It was not even the case between the US and Britain, but the political leadership of both countries were wise enough to realize that some objectives and goals would have to be temporarily shelved in order to achieve the overriding aim of defeating the Axis.

    However, in actual fact, Germany did avail itself of the experience of certain leaders in the development of naval aviation. The German design team responsible for the Graf Zeppelin took as their point of departure the design of the RN's Courageous class carriers, and did send a delegation to Japan to study the Akagi and receive blue-prints of flight decks and equipment developed for Japanese carriers. It wasn't that this experience wasn't available to the Germans, but that, without hands-on experience in operating actual carriers and carrier task forces, they had no context in which to decide what features were important and desirable. That kind of context could only come from actually taking a carrier to sea and operating aircraft from it under simulated combat conditions.

    The reality is, however, the Japanese did not have, and could not have provided, the German navy with a "world-class balanced military establishment". The Japanese discovered under combat conditions, serious short-comings in their carriers and carrier aircraft, as well as their other naval vessels. In any case, German technology, when it was delivered to Japan, turned out not to be amenable to Japanese industrial techniques. And Japanese military doctrines, the assumptions upon which the design of Japanese weapons were based, proved to be so alien to German military doctrines as to render the resulting weapons less than useful. The reverse is also true.

    The problems with the German torpedo were almost all associated with the detonator, the exception being the chamber which controlled the depth keeping mechanism. The Japanese never fitted an "influence" type detonator to their torpedoes and thus avoided most of the problems experinced by Germany, Britain and the US. The Kriegsmarine, like the US would never have accepted the hazards associated with the Japanese oxygen torpedo program, in any case. As a matter of fact, the Japanese copied a WW I German torpedo for use in WW II, and, like the US, copied another WW II German topedo to supplement the production of Japanese-designed torpedoes. The reason being, that Japanese torpedoes were practically hand-built, and thus very slow and difficult to produce; the Japanese never were able to produce enough of them.

    As for the U-boat being more a more cost-effective weapons system than battleships or carriers, that is debatable, especially when one realizes the different vessels were aimed at somewhat different targets. The Germans thought their U-boats were effective but, in reality, they never came close to producing a decisive result. According to Clay Blair in "Hitler's U-boat War" Volume one, more than 98% of all logistics ships in the Atlantic during WW II arrived safely at their destinations despite the best efforts of the U-boats. Between January 1, 1942 and August 31, 1942, a period of extreme success for German U-boats, 3,253 cargo ships arived in Britain. During that same period the nmber of ships lost to enemy activity (surface raiders, U-boats, aircraft, mines) was exactly 30, about 9/10ths of 01%.

    It was a fact that imports to Britain actuallly fell by about 25% in 1940, but this was almost entirely due to the delays associated with the imposition of mandatory convoying, NOT the efficacy of German U-boats or torpedoes.

    I believe I would find your arguments much more convincing if you could elucidate the mission which a blue-water Germany Navy could have been expected to accomplish during WW II. By that, I mean, what objective could a German Navy composed of either capital ships, or capital ships combined with aircraft carriers, realistically expected to have accomplished in the face of the Allied navies, that would have been decisive in contributing to an Axis victory?

    Furthermore, since Germany started from a position of naval and economic inferiority versus both Britain and the US, and both of these countries were aware of the political challenge Germany represented, it's difficult to see how it could ever hope to gain a position of parity under any circumstances, let alone a situation that would allow it to entertain any hope of naval superiority.

    I don't believe there is a realistic goal for a blue-water German navy, given it's inherent economic and geographic disadvantages. A coastal defense navy could have accomplished what the historical German navy did, and done it more economically and efficiently, allowing more resources to be devoted to the German Army and Air Force.

    As for books on the subject, I have read both "Castles of Steel" and Bird's book on Raeder, and have "Wages of Destruction" on order. If you have not yet read them, I reccommend Blair's "Hitler's U-Boat War" (both volumes), Tobias Philbin's, "The Lure of Neptune" (which certainly supports your observations on the tendencies of military bureaucracies), Joseph Maiolo's, "The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany, 1933-1939", and finally, Paul Kennedy's, "The Rise and Fall of The Great Powers".
     
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  15. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    agree Hitlers U-boot war is a good read, just out of curiosity I do wonder just how many of our board members have studied the KM mine operations in the Atlantic and the Med ?

    Interesting matter of opinion from several former KM members I have interviewed when they say offensive in regards to this, while some say entirely defensive
     
  16. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I agree that the GZ's catapult arrangement seems typically over-engineered and awkward. Certainly no other navy tried anything as unnecessarily elaborate and complex. It's difficult to understand what the German designers were trying to accomplish with this concept, but it wasn't realistic or practical. Since aircraft could not be warmed up in the GZ's hangar, the aircraft would have to be brought up on the flight deck already in their wheeled cradles and the engines started before they were placed on the catapults, as absurd arrangement from the standpoint of offensive operations.

    Moreover, the catapults were powered by compressed air. The air tanks had sufficient storage capacity to launch nine planes over a four minute time span. But then before more planes could be launched, it required almost an hour to recharge the air tanks. Thus only nine planes could be launched at a time and the carrier would then be helpless for almost an hour. That means large deck load strikes were impossible, CAP would be limited to nine aircraft, and any strikes at enemy ships would be limited to nine aircraft at a time. This would be a serious disadvantage against US carriers like the Ranger which could easily put strikes of 40 or more aircraft in the air.
     
  17. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Just to clarify, each catapult could launch nine planes before recharging the system.
     
  18. SteveM

    SteveM Member

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    In short, a blue water German navy would have been necessary once Hitler had his lebensraum via the defeat of the Soviet Union and the implementation of the genocidal GeneralplanOst - as Hitler's next step after that point was to challenge the U.S. for global hegemony.

    You will find the Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze fascinating. One of the central arguments in the book is in how Hitler and his like minded German peers sought in large part to emulate the U.S. experience and build a continental collossus (for instance replacing "manifest destiny" with lebensraum as a largely racist organizing principle for an economically motivated plan of conquest, viewing the Volga as Germany's Mississippi, and more such ideas) allowing Germany to then challenge the U.S. for global hegemony. Thus, if Tooze is correct (and he cites quite a few primary sources to lend substantial credibility to his arguments) then Hitler always planned to challenge the U.S. (but only after he secured the resources of the western Soviet Union).

    Therefore, if Hitler always intended to challenge the U.S. (following his war of extermination and conquest in Eastern Europe) then Germany needed to at least field one or two carrier based battlegroups by 1941 in order to acquire the requisite experience in maritime applications of air power so as to challenge the otherwise immensely powerful Royal and U.S. Navies.

    Regardless of what a carrier battle group would have accomplished (vs. the dubious accomplishments of the Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, etc...) is incidental to the larger role such a carrier battle group would have played in preparing a KM backed by an entire continent and thus possessing the economic potential to truly challenge the U.S. continent and British Empire.

    Without the experience garnered through fielding at least one carrier battle group, and assuming Hitler won his lebensraum in 1941-42, then a German coastal defense navy (or one built around the battlefleet) would have been no closer to challenging the U.S. Navy in 1943-44 (and even more hopelessly behind challenging the power of U.S. carrier task forces) then the KM had been years prior.

    Perhaps, it is all irrelevant anyway, as the Cold War in reality occuring between the nuclear armed U.S. and the Soviet Union would have been replaced by a similar Cold War between the nuclear armed U.S. superpower and the eventually nuclear armed Third Reich - and thus great fleets of capital ships would have played an ancillary role to nuclear armed ballistic missles and whatnot (although maybe that as well is a faulty assumption: I shudder to think of what Hitler would have done if the Third Reich attained the Soviet Union's nuclear armed superpower status).

    Finally, I do agree Germany should not have attempted to build a vast blue water navy initially and agree that such a decision would have been entirely illogical. Raeder's plans, such as the infamous "Z" plan and its even more farcical predecessors, were a serious drain on limited resources better directed toward producing weapons systems such as armored fighting vehicles (with in all likelihood the reason why Germany went to war in 1939 with Panzer Divisions equipped mostly with obsolete Panzer Is and IIs instead of Panzer III and Panzer IVs attributable to Raeder's Z plan and its ilk), attack aircraft and other such equipment far more pressing for a Wermacht needing to win the lebensraum that without which would have made any attempt at building a massive blue water navy as pointless as you so thoroughly have pointed out in your recent posts.

    In summation, my whole point is that if Hitler was serious about challenging the U.S. after acquiring lebensraum then building at least one carrier based battlegroup and not just relegating the KM to a coastal defense force, with no experience or training in blue water warfare, would have been a far smarter use of limited economic resources then in reality what the KM attempted to do: which was rebuild a grand battle fleet in imitiation of Tirpitz's attempts prior to the First World War.

    Finally, I just want to say I have enjoyed this discussion and fully intend on taking a look at the reading list you have recommended.
     
  19. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    SteveM,

    I'm not entirely convinced that Hitler and the Nazi's planned from the beginning, to challenge the US for world hegemony. But then, I haven't read the book you cite ("Wages of Destruction"). I know there is precious little about the US in Hitler's "Mein Kampf", which purportedly lays out Hitler's grand plan for world domination. I am also aware that Hitler, in the late 1930's, did seem to expand his plans beyond European horizons in treating with the Soviet Union and Japan. All I can say at this point, is that I will reserve judgment on the issue of Hitler's plans with regard to the US until I can read the book you reccommend, and study the matter further.

    However, for the sake of argument, assuming that you are correct in asserting that Hitler eventually planned a military confrontation with the US, I will concede that Germany would definitely need a large and powerful navy, including capital ships, and aircraft carriers, as well as large numbers of experienced naval officers and men to operate them. Given that Germany would also need a very large Army and Air Force, and that these three services would be extremely expensive to create, the only way I can see for Germany to acquire the necessary economic strength is through conquering Europe and the Soviet Union in it's entirety and usurping the resources of these areas.

    And that would be a very difficult, time consuming and politically dangerous task. Furthermore, such a grand scheme contains inherent contradictions that would make it all but impossible to accomplish. For the first phase, the conquest of Europe and the Soviet Union, a blue-water navy is not necessary for Germany, and the expense of creating one would simply drain away the resources necessary to build an Army and Air Force capable of subjugating Europe and the Soviet Union. Therefore, it does not make sense for Germany to establish anything more than a naval coastal defense force for that phase of Hitler's scheme.

    But once he has accomplished his European conquest and the occupation of the Soviet Union, Hitler them must turn to the task of rebuilding his Army, Air Force, and creating a blue-water navy cpable of taking on the US Navy and other armed forces. Germany will be starting from scratch as far as the Navy goes, and will be generations behind the US, at least as far a s anvay is concerned. And this assumes that the US has been sitting on it's hands during the European war and doing nothing to bolster it's defenses. As noted previously, an effective carrier aviation force is not something that can be created on a moments notice; it requirs years of experimentation and patient experience, not to mention a great deal of expenditure of resources.

    Granted, if Germany can conquer Europe and the Soviet Union, over time itt will be able to increase it's economic power, and given even more time, will be able to use that economic power to build up it's naval, air and ground forces to the point where it might have some chance of achieving parity with the US. However, the chances of the US simply sitting on it's duff waiting for that to happen are extremely slim.

    For Germany to attempt to build an operational carrier task force in the late 1930's in order to get experience in carrier operations would be self-defeating. It wouldn't last long if committed to the Atlantic, and simply patrolling the Baltic, while providing some small amount of experience, wouldn't yield the real combat experience that would be so critical. In historical WW II, Germany simply has no way of overcoming it's late start in carrier aviation, nor the geographic disadvantages imposed by it's position in Europe.

    Finally, there is the matter of the development of the atomic bomb. This really is beyond the scope of a debate over carrier aviation, but it is pertinent to a discussion of Germany's world position in WW II. Historically, it was Germany's political/military agenda that sparked off the race to develop the A-bomb. Had Germany not collapsed before it could be developed, Germany, and not Japan, would have been the first target of an atomic attack. Had Germany been successful in subjugating Europe and the Soviet Union, it's not difficult to imagine the US using it's atomic monopoly to impose an ultimatum on Germany which would scuttle Hitler's plans permanently, making the issue of a blue-water German navy moot.

    I also, have enjoyed this discussion, and thank you for the book reccommendations that you made. I look forward to reading "Wages of Destruction".
     
  20. CTBurke

    CTBurke Member

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    Britain was so UN-worried about the GZ that they disdained to bother to bomb it even when it was in range to do so (they tried to bomb every other major naval vessel).
     
    firstnorth likes this.

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