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Why Doenitz did not understand that the allied had detected HF/DF and broken enigma codes?

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by Neon Knight, Oct 28, 2007.

  1. WotNoChad?

    WotNoChad? Member

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    I think Doenitz is being short changed here and a little unfairly at that.

    It's only fair to expect that once a code system is cracked your enemy will react to coded messages, but the allies went to great lengths to avoid being seen to do this. This worked particularly well in the Atlantic where contact was often a matter of chance, and lack of contact could be written off as bad luck.

    Also there was great effort made in supplying the Axis with misleading reports about the morale of the navy, creating a feeling of the navy almost being broken and fooling the Axis into believing it was just a matter of time, good news which they were only too happy to wait to see turn into reality.

    It was a cunning move, and combined with the overall superior Int. the allies enjoyed plus the massive navies they created a winning position.
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Seems to work both ways at times...

    Revealed: the careless mistake by Bletchley's Enigma code-crackers that cost Allied lives - Home News, UK - The Independent

    Now it can be revealed that a catastrophic breakdown of communications between Bletchley Park and the Admiralty enabled the Germans to read the Allies' trans-Atlantic messages for 10 months at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, putting thousands of lives at risk.

    Naval Cipher 3 was introduced in October 1941 but was broken by the Germans the following March. Two months later, on 12 May 1942, they sank seven merchant ships on the Atlantic convoy ONS 92, which was heading to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    By 1 November 1942, when convoy SC 107 came under attack, Bletchley Park had already discovered that the Germans had cracked the codes but the Admiralty had yet to change them. But it was in March 1943 that the breaking of Naval Cipher 3 proved its most catastrophic as Allied losses amounted to 120 ships, the fifth highest monthly loss in the war......
     
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  3. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Good point Kai. The west tends to forget that the Germans had some skilled code-breakers on their side as well. They had broken the American "Black code" used by our diplomats before the Italians broke in and stole it from our embassy. The Germans thanked the Italians when they were supplied with a "truncated" version of the American code, but they had been reading Col. Fellers messages to D.C. for quite a while before that.
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I would say the biggest reason is that for the first half of the Atlantic war the Allies were fighting a defensive tactical battle. That is, they were not actively hunting U-boats far from their convoys and shipping routes. Rather the escorts they had were reacting to U-boats that were already in tactical contact with convoys or other targets.

    It is only from late 1942 on that the Allies start using aircraft and hunter-killer groups to actively go hunting U-boats in transit or in patrol areas that were nowhere near immediate Allied shipping targets. Up to this point being able to read German code was of relatively minor importance as the information couldn't be acted on. HF/DF likewise was primarily being used to run down tactical U-boat targets (eg., ones near convoys but not in direct contact). Therefore, use of HF/DF wasn't obvious until the Allies started going on the offensive. Even then, it likely didn't occur to the Germans immediately that their radio transmissions were a major source of intelligence being used against them.
     
  5. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    I think Karl Doenitz is getting poor press here, unjustifiably.

    If the idiotic "Big Ship Men" like Raeder had listened to Doenitz in the planning stages of WW2, Karl would have begun the war with his requested 300 U-Boats FIRST, instead of building big expensive monsters that achieved close to nothing. A decisive advantage would have been gained, with 2 "Happy Times", the first at the early stage of the war, allied shipping could have recieved a blow to it's merchant fleet that was irrecoverable. Instead, Doenitz had to wait for Raeder's dismissal before he could give the U-boat fleet the priority it should had from the beginning.

    No Commander on either side did more with what they had on hand, land sea or air. Doenitz lengthend the war by years, and with comparitively limited resources and manpower.

    300 U-Boats at the beginning of the conflict would have meant MANY more Otto Kretschmers and Gunther Priens when the U.S. Merchant fleet entered the war with it's pants well and truly down. More resources from the beginning may have also meant a bigger intelligence effort, with more frequent changes of codes, and technological toys turned out faster and in great number and type.

    Yep...If they'd listened to Karl Doenitz from the beginning, he may have given the Third Reich it's best chance of forcing Britain to the conference table BEFORE the Russian adventure. No England would most likely mean no American participation either, so the Russian Campaign may well have been a more even contest, with the Reich throwing all it's resources into one front and one front only, secure with access to raw materials.

    Considering the shoestring operation he was forced to run, with the Kreigsmarine not getting much of any help from Goring either, it's a modern wonder that Doenitz did as well as he did. I firmly believe Hitler made him the new leader of the Reich for this very reason. Doenitz was a professional officer, too wrapped up in prosecuting the war to a victorious conclusion to have any time to spare for internal political intrigue.
     
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  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I certainly wouldn't charactrize men like Raeder as idiotic. Indeed there were some very valid reasons for building large ships.
    Not necessarily true and even if it is it's not at all certain they'd have the impact you seem to think they would.
    Some would disagree with that characterization and in any case if the war had gone the way Hitler planned then they might have been considerably more useful.
    That's supposition and based on a very onesided appraisal of things as well as neglecting the logistics and resources available at the time.
    Or not.
    Possibly and possibly not. Then there's the reaction to all this by other players to consider.

    I'm not critising Doenitz here but I think your appreciation of things is a bit over the top.
     
  7. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    Maybe so, but the early stages of the war nevertheless offered the German Navy the best time to operate without all the intelligence compromises. Even mid 1941 the 300 U-Boat fleet would have been a formidable threat. No enigma, no huff/duff, no U.S. Navy. And just how many U-boats can be built for all the high grade steel and other metals that went into constructing big ships, let alone the people to crew them? Clearly, on a 'bang per buck' basis, the U-boat was a better option for Germany, especially with the lions share of the resources going to the Army and Luftwaffe first.

    Why do you think Churchill got sleepless nights over the activities of Doenitz? He knew that the U-Boat campaign was the ONLY thing that could force Britian to sue for peace. It a wonder the Germans themselves did not realise this, based upon their experiences with U-boats in the Great War. But as I said, Kriegsmarine planners were "Big Ship" oriented, and wouldn't listen to Doenitz at all.

    And just WHO would "disagree with my characterization" of the fundamental worthlessness of large surface vessels? Let them disagree all they like, the figures are with me on that score. The Disguised Merchant Cruisers, (Like Kormorran or Orion) achieved more with far less. Even The Royal Navy had come to this conclusion!
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed but could the Germans have built it and what impact would it have had on thier opponents?
    Well let's see. Huff/duff see HF/DF - Royal Navy High Frequency Radio Direction Finding, WW2
    Looks like it existed pre war not encountered on ships very often before 42 but defintily in use.
    Enigma. uboat.net - Technical pages - Enigma indicates the British got their first naval enigma machine in 39.
    As for the USN The US Navy lists a US DD as depth charging a u-boat in April of 41.
    But how many u-bats that can be built in a given period of time are dependent on things like slips and trained construction personell as well. There's also the question of what type of boats this force would be composed of.
    This is a rather clear case of the logical falasy of reasoning after the fact. As the war went this case can be made although it's not completely solid. However given that Hitler didn't plan on or want to fight Britain why would he choose this course? Indeed given the treaties Germany had with Britain this would almost guarantee them ending up fighting against Germany.
    Perhaps that was in part due to defencive measures the British took vs other possible threats. If the Germans went on a u-boat building spree such as you suggest do you think the British would just shrug their shoulders?
    As stated they didn't plan on fighting Britain in the first place. Once they did go to war they expected the LW to be able to bring them to the table. By the time it was clear that wasn't the case it's almost into 41 and Germany's options are becoming rather limited.
    While I agree that the merchant raiders were perhaps the most effcitve in terms of tonnage sunk vs cost that's not saying that other vessels were worthless. I'd like to see what figures you were using in any case and just what you mean by the RN coming to "this conclusion".
     
  9. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    This isn't all hindsight. Doenitz had already seen first hand just what U-boats could achieve. The wonder of it is that for all his expertise, he was sidelined by 'Z' Plan fantasization. I ask, IF Germany made no plans to go to war with Britain, then why build a surface fleet at all, especially one as large and big ship oriented as the one in mind for "Z"?

    Hitler was at the mercy of poor advice pre-war in matters naval. He also suffered from Joachim von Ribbentrop. A better chosen man might have smoothed matters with the English over, but Ribbentrop was about as popular as a pork chop in a synagogue, and a total flop in Whitehall, (him and his champaigne!).

    I think the real story here is failure by German naval planners to learn their own hard-won lessons from WW1. Either that or they simply did not realise what an impact their U-boats had actually achieved in 14-18. Either way, the U-boat was still the only weapon that was almost completely cost effective. Money is supposed to be the bottom line when it comes to economics, so why opt for the big expensive monster when you can have a uboat fleet ten times the size for a fraction of the cost?

    Part of the reason lies in Hitler's belief that large surface vessels were good propagande. Uboats were, by their very nature, inferior for peacetime flag showing, and practically invisable in wartime. It's a campaign few Germans got to see anywhere other than newsreels. It was a radio war in more ways than one, with claim following counter-claim, and no-one really knowing what was what until the shooting was all over.

    Doenitz pleaded for his chance, but was outvoted by the Raeder clique. Hitler saw the fallacy of it all, (eventually) and pensioned off the surface fleet; too late came the priority building program to give Doenitz what he had asked for all along, and by then there really wasn't the time for the Uboats to make as much of an impact that they would surely have made in the early days of the war.

    It was a mistake repeated twice in a century. Germany missed an opportunity in 1914 to completely control the English channel by concentrating all their uboats there, and targetting troopships that criss-crossed undefended. Of course, they were playing it by the rules then. The amazing thing about the naval war of 39-43 is that Germany essentially put none of the lessons it had experienced into action. The fall of France should have been the decisive stroke that would release a third of the three hundred into the shipping lanes again, rather than the "one boat on patrol, one in transit, and one resting" scenario that uboats began the war with.

    Anyhow, "Military History Quarterly" listed Doenitz as the best performing naval commander of the Second World War. I still stand by that, which is really what my post is all about.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well that's not quite right. When he started pushing this plan he was a Captain correct? Not even flag rank. He still made commedore in 39 so it hardly looks to me like he was side lined.
    Timeing could be part of the answer it's also not clear the Z plan would ever have come to fruition even without the war. There is some question of just what the Germans entended to use the KM for. However it was certainly capable of say protecting Germany from the French navy and had a decent chance of beating them. Given the atttitudes of the French that doesn't seem like an un reasonable funtion. Furthermore they were more than sufficient to contest the Baltic with the Soveit fleet based there.

    A very real question is how reasonable is this plan. Note according to Karl Dönitz - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia it's November of 37 when he starts pushing his U-boat heavy plan. At that time the Germans have a naval treaty with Britain that would rather put a crimp in it. See: Anglo-German Naval Agreement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Furthermore the twins and the panzershiffe have been launced and all the heavy cruisers laid down at the least as for that matter has the Graf Zepplin and the Bismarcks. So a lot of their costs are sunk already and if you want to recoup the materials you'll have to scrap them on the slips which incidently won't be available for building subs until this is accomplished. So how many u-boats can Germany build in 38 and 39? Certainly not enough to get them up to 300. Probably enough to alarm the British however who are likely to start ramping up their ASW construction as well as other military preperations at a much earlier date than historical.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Again I don't think so. The English channel is hardly a place you want to conduct extensive u-boat warfare. The water is too shallow and it's too close to British air fields. Not to mention that the Britts could concentrate their ASW efforts there as well. U-boats didn't fair all that well vs well escorted convoys from what I recall and in a case like this the British could have had a continuous escort over pretty much the whole area. They would hardly have had to form convoys.
     
  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    This assumes that the British and French would have done nothing different if this were the case. British and French building programs were often responses to specific German developments. The French taylored the Strasbourgs to being able to run down the German panzerschiffe like Graf Spee. The Richeleius were likewise a direct response to the Bismarck class.
    The British seeing the Germans building far more U-boats likely would have started more destroyer programs as a counter along with a more robust ASW escort program.

    Aside from that, in 1939 the vast majority of the German U-boats were Type II to VII with only a mere handful (9 I think) ocean going Type IXs. This would be unlikely to change except that more of the coastal and near-water types would be available. This does not solve Germany's problems. The Germans needed larger boats more like the Japanese and US models that could range far and wide sinking ships. Their myopic view of naval warfare initially limited them to targetting Britain in their home waters. This was a mistake too.
     
  13. efestos

    efestos Member

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    About the autonomy of German submarines: After the fall of France the U-boats re-fueled in La Coruña and Canary Islands (in clandestinity and in few number) For the help to Franco, the Nazis should have required some sort of secret agreement that allowed them the refueling of more U boat .and if possible, made Franco to keep larger reserves of oil, actually Franco bought his oil on credit during the SCW... to Texaco.

    The type IX would have been better but the type VII made it´s job. Doenitz merit, wasn´t it?

    May be that the germans needed thouse days were the Ural Bomber (Ju 89 instead the He 111) and the ideas of Walther Wever about the cooperation of the LW and the Kriegsmarine. Fortunately he died in an accident in february '36.

    Other way, IMHO a more agressive "U boat" war would have mean a more agressive intervention of the "neutral" Us Nay before the war declaration.
     
  14. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    I seriously doubt England had the money to match the Germans pound for Reichsmark. They were still operating under the "10 Year Rule". They couldn't afford modern aircraft in any quantity, and were refitting old ships rather than building new stuff.

    The fact remains that Germany put its industrial planning behind designs that had already shown themselves to be not giving a return on their investment. They were shortsighted plans, and the Admiral they chose to implement these policies was not exactly a progressive thinker. He was so pessimistic about the prospects for their success he stated openly that he didn't think the surface fleet had a chance. If so, why back the design and construction of it at all? May have been a quick way to promotion, telling the politicians and industrialists that which they most want to hear.
     
  15. efestos

    efestos Member

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    Not Reader, not always: He vehemently opposed the invasion of Russia. So I guess he really believed in the surface great ships. That magnifies Doenitz.
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The Germans were putting most of their money into the Heer and then the LW. The British were putting a much bigger percentage into their navy. I think there's a very good chance the British can reprogram more money for naval matters than the Germans can.
     
  17. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    About that ten year rule . . .

    A quick check of Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1922-1946 yields the following:

    "The ten year rule originated in August 1919 to the effect that no great war in which the British Empire would be engaged need be expected for the next ten years. This became automatically self perpetuating in 1929 and was not finally cancelled until November 1933."

    Thus we are talking about a period during which the ten year rule was no longer in effect. Further, Germany's port and shipyard capacities were never the equal of Great Britain's. Even though Germany's industrial capacity overall was slightly higher I cannot begin to believe she ever would have been able to match British shipbuilding. Even if Dönitz had been given command of the entire German maritime industry in advance of 1939, the continuous changes to submarine design he historically allowed would have hampered production and slowed output. Britain, by contrast, was more than happy to settle on a standard design, with the effect that they were able to turn out ASW vessels in numbers Dönitz would have been unable to counter.
     
  18. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    A response to Terry's point: GB merchant marine's survival during 41-42 did not depend on defeating the submarines but on avoiding the wolfpacks. Since escort ships were insufficient in numbers it was preferable not to fight the U-Boats at all and considerable effort was devoted to that end.
    Recent criticism of Doenitz's leadership was that he paid insufficient attention to developments in technology and doctrine. His boats operated with the same weapons and techniques and were left with only sheer numbers. He began the U-Boat offensive prematurely, and the attacks, made without adequate mass, served as "fair warning" to the Brits to buck up their anti-submarine capabilities instead of delivering a deadly blow. Also, when one offensive failed, he simply attacked the convoy system in another sector with the same set of tactics, which only resulted in an Allied response to strengthen their defenses everywhere. His reaction to compromised security was also difficult to comprehend. He believed his staff was somehow infested by spies or there were negligent security leaks, in spite of plentiful evidence to the contrary.
     
  19. nachtjager61

    nachtjager61 Member

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    Most of what I am going to comment on comes from the books; U-Boat Commander by Peter Cremer, Teddy Suhren Ace of Aces by Teddy Suhren and Fritz Brustat and U-Boat Ace, the story of Wolfgang Luth by Jordan Vause.

    The problem was not so much the enigma but the fact that the allied planes carried many advances in radar and U-Boat detection gear. For expample a new ten centimeter radar that could detect the U-boats on the surface as well as devices that could detect the radar devices wavelenghts that the U-Boats were using to detect allied planes. As the war went into the last two years or so the range of this radar on the planes was increased and so were the range of the planes themselves especially with the use of aircraft carriers in the hunter killer groups.

    It eventually got to the point in late 1943 that pretty much anywhere near Brittainy, the channel and the outer reaches of the French coastline into the Atlantic that any time a U-Boat surfaced the onboard radar on the planes were able to pick up the surfaced U-Boats and attack them. Towards the end of 1943 and until the war's end it was usually allied planes that were doing all of the attacking on the U-Boats

    The Germans just would never believe that a radar had been developed that was small enough to be carried on a plane. Doenitz was aware of some form of detection gear and did at one time (August 16th 1943) issue an order for the U-boats to immediately remove their Metox radar and stop using them because he believed that the allies were detecting the wavelength of the Metox that the U-Boats were using to detect planes. which is fact was true, the allied planes could detect the U-boat's Metox radar wave length and home right in on it. The radar equipped planes were used very successfully at night when the U-Boats felt safe from airborne detection. there are many accounts from U-boats of Allied Planes magically appearing out of the darkness to drop bombs and charges as well as machine gun and cannon fire, these planes were also equipped with spotlights for locating the U-Boat visually once picked up by their radar. the Germans were very hard pressed to figure out why and how this was happening, once again refusing to believe that a plane could carry a small form of radar or that they could detect the U-Boats radio and radar wavelengths.

    the U-boats did try an idea to foil the allied plane's radar called "Aphrodite" which involved filling up metallic balloons with helium and launching them from the conning tower to distract the allied radar.

    the enigma really did not play a big part in the U-Boat war in the Atlantic but it was the advances in the Allies radar and the ablility for a plane to carry radar the sealed the fate of the U-boats. It is also mentioned by Peter Cremer that the French resistance was thought to be very involved in providing intelligence about the coming and goings of the U-Boats to the allies. The allies were much farther ahead in their radar science than the Germans and this proved to be a hinderance to Germany in many aspects of the war and was a large reason for the downfall of the U-Boat arm. The Allies equipped Wellingtons, Sunderlands, liberators and Catalinas with radar and most of the U-Boat sinkings were done by these planes in the last years of the war. The allies also deployed air craft carriers into the mid atlantic which could carry radar equipped planes and this pretty much closed the gap in the Atlantic where the U-boats could surface without being detected from the air. the USS Core, Bogue, Santee Card and Rock Island were some of these Carriers used to close the gap in the Mid Atlantic.

    According to Peter Cremer in his book "U-Boat Commander", pg 140, regarding the hunter killer goups of Carriers and destroyers... "the ships themselves possessed modern radar equipment and sensitive range finders with which they could trace the origin of a radio signal, even a short code one, from it's direction." That was Huff Duff and we still had no idea of it's existance. From the end of April to the beginning of August (97 days) in 1943 the allied aircraft accounted for 26 U-Boats sunk and 17 damaged in the Bay of Biscay.
    the best thing the U-Boats could come up with at this time to counter this was to equip themselves with more and more types of anti aircraft weapons which hindered the diving performance of the U-Boats.
    Also from Cremer's book, pg 163, At the end of 1943, urged on by the progress of technology Grand Admiral Donitz ordered the formation of a scientific naval operational staff in Berlin. Already before 1942 Donitz had been demanding a closer connection between current operational experience and technical research following the example of the British, who were holding regular and very effective anti U-Boat seminars where front line officers, operational chiefs and technicians were involved. They had taken up the idea very much sooner of drawing scientists into Operational Research Groups for consultation. All of these similar solutions by Donitz since 1942 were turned down by Grand Admiral Raeder. Donitz was finally able to make the connection with research and called on professor Kupfmuller to head his Scientific Operations Staff in order to try to make good our technical inferiority. The new German Naxos radar was developed which picked up the ten centimeter radar used by the allies. however the allies countered with a new three centimeter wavelength radar set. The allies also developed a homing torpedo called "FIDO", technically called the Mark 24 Mine, a deadly accurate weapon carried in a bomb chute in an aircraft. A large number of U-Boats fell victim to this device which was kept so secret by the allies that it was unknown of until after the war.

    Peter Cremer went to meet Professor Kupfmuller in Berlin to begin the direct contact between the U-Boat men and the scientists of the new Scientific Operations Staff. Cremer told him that at this time we cannot explain how the enemy is more and more frequently detecting U-Boats on the surface even with the improved Naxos radar set which reacted on all wavelengths in use. "We still had not heard of Huff Duff locating sets and we searched for plausible explanations and decided to credit the allies with some kind of infra red detecting equipment since it cannot be picked up by warning sets".

    Late in the war the U-boats did develop the Snorkel which was used to help the U-Boat stay submerged while still allowing it to draw in air and expell the diesel exhaust but it proved very problematic because of the changes in pressure in caused inside the U-Boat which often caused ear drums to pop or get damaged and it was never produced in enough quantities to equip all the boats with it. Hitler also demanded (against Donitz's advice) that all U-Boats, no matter their condition, to immediately head out into the Atlantic to combat the upcoming invasion. this alone cost the U-Boat arm many many boats and successful commanders.

    I have a lot more research on this subject from the German perspective but will have to take time to dig out the books and read through them.
     
  20. efestos

    efestos Member

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    I think the allies didn´t detected the METOX, it was a bluff. A Link from U boat net.

    What I don´t understand it´s why Doenitz took so long to order something like the Elektroboat: A Wellington equipped with ASV Mk.I fell into German hands in the summer of 1941, in North Africa (u-boat net). It was almost sure the allies would improve what they had fitted in that plane. It took four months to inform the Kriegsmarine.

    The U-boat had their own radio detectors, it was almost obvious that the allies had better radios than the Germans, the LW sure knew that from the 40 when captured Hurricanes with multi-channel radio ... Why no one guess the posibility of something like the Huff-Duff?

    More from U boat net ... Walter suggested an U -boat with something like the Schnorchel in 1933!

    As you wrote Doenitz throw his men too soon to the combat. The same for the magnetic mines: It took three months to capture one of these and took counter messures... so didn´t have the great impact they could have had few months later, in greater number, blocking many main harbours at the same time. There was not any serious atempt to cover the arm.

    IMHO we could say the Kriegsmarine did't have an acurate apreciation of the capabilities of their enemy´s cientists, teccnologies ...
     

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