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The Commander in Chief of the German Navy, Admiral Doenitz.
"This war is a naval war and it will be decided on the High Seas."-Admiral Doenitz.
Admiral Karl Doenitz was born in Berlin-Gruenau on 16 September 1891, the son of an Engineer. He attended school in Berlin, Jena and Weimar. He entered the Imperial German Navy as a cadet on 1 April 1910 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 27 September 1913. As an ensign he was ordered to the light cruiser "Breslau". There he witnessed the outbreak of the first world war when he was in the Mediterranean sea. His experiences while on this crusier which later became the "Midilli" of the Turkish Navy he described in a little book published during the last war while he was a lieutenant (jg). The title of the book was "The cruises of the 'Breslau' in the Black Sea". Doenitz who served as watch officer and adjutant received the Iron Cross 2nd class on 7 January 1915. For a time he was air observer near the Dardanelles and subsequently in charge of a naval aviation squadron near San Stefano. On 5 May 1916 he received the Iron Cross first class and in the fall of that year returned to Germany.
For a long time it had been the young officer's burning desire to become an officer on a submarine. This wish of the young lieutenant (jg) was fulfilled when he was ordered to submarine school 2 December 1916. This proved decisive in the life of this officer who indefatiguably worked for the development of his weapon. Doenitz became at first watch officer on the Submarine "U-39" whose commanding officer, Lt (sg) Forstman was one of the most successful submarine officers of the last war. Inspired with great daring, Forstmann was an officer who knew how to train aggressive and responsible commanders. Doenitz always remembers with special gratitude the decisive influence of his former teacher. After an artillery course Doenitz on 1 March 1918 became Commander of "UC-25" and later "UB-68". With these boats he carried on successful warfare against merchant shipping in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
Lt. (jg) Doenitz placed himself at the disposal of the German Navy, dishonorably mutilated by the Versailles dictate, and aided in its reconstruction. He became a staff officer; he took over, during the attempted coup d'etat of Kaff, the command of the torpedo boat V5 which was usable but without a commander. For three years then he was commander of a torpedo boat, and became afterwards officer in charge of torpedo inspection and for another three years filled a responsible position with the Naval High Command. After one year's sea duty as navigation officer on the light cruiser "Nymphe" Doenitz became chief of the first squadron of Torpedo boats newly built for the German Navy. In the fall of 1928 Doenitz was promoted to lieutenant commander. While Doenitz already earlier was making plans for the reconstruction of the German U-boat fleet his new position for the first time, gave him the opportunity to put down his experiences and suggestions in the form of memoranda written for his superiors and other influential personalities. During this time, the organizational plans and other prerequisites were already formulated which made possible the subsequent rapid construction of new German U-boats. This was followed by another period during which he attended service schools and undertook sea duty. On one of his trips he went to India for several months. In 1934, he became Commanding officer of the Light crusier "Emden" which at that time undertook a cruise in the Indian Ocean.
When in 1935 Doenitz returned from this trip the Commander in Chief of the German Navy during a tour of inspection in Wilhelmshaven told him to his surprise that he was appointed Chief of the "Weddigen" U-boat flotilla. From this date, 27 September 1935, started the ceaseless construction of the new U-boats. At first two 250-ton boats were built. Doenitz lately promoted to Commander, devoted himself to his new duties with passionate zeal and after untiring day and night work he was able in a very short time to present an extensive plan for the re-organization of U-boat warfare. Again Doenitz donned his working clothes to drill and train his young officers, personally and with pitiless pace. He succeeded in closing a gap of 17 years, during which no training took place, with a few months of tireless work. Day after day, night after night, week after week he stood on the bridge of one of his U-boats indoctrinating the men in his charge, by hard thorough training, with the spirit of the men who manned the submarines during World War I. At the same time he collected new technical experince and new improvements in the devolopment of different submarine types. Doenitz knew no let-down for himself. Regardless of weather, season or time of day he went with the boats, instructed and trained their crews, and led them through thousands of miles in the Baltic and North Sea * * *
One must recall, that after World War I a skillfully directed British propaganda campaign created a world-wide general impression that the submarine as a naval weapon was a thing of the past since superior defensive measures had been instituted, namely the convoy system, and that in future naval engagements, submarines would be of only secondary importance. Commander Doenitz' opinion was diametrically opposite; "The massing of boats in convoy must be answered by massing of U-boats to attack the convoy." This maxim became the basis of his whole training program. The wolf pack tactics which later became so famous were originated and tested at a time of complete peace. The cruises in the Baltic and North Sea were followed by the first Atlantic maneuvers * * * Doenitz surrendered personal command over the U-Boat only after the number of flotillas increased, in order to devote himself to higher tasks of leadership. After the outbreak of the war, about 4 years after the first U-boats were commissioned, the new weapon was in excellent condition and carried the stamp of a personality which was our ideal combination between commander and frontline officer. Doenitz on 28 January 1939 was promoted Commodore of U-boats and entered the war with but 40 of his elite boats. They attacked immediately within the first day. And at once this new weapon was a brilliant success. On 18 September 1939, Doenitz received a cluster to the Iron Cross 1st class, for his success in the Baltic during the Polish campaign. When the position of "leader of U-boats" was changed into that of "Commander" Doenitz was promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 October 1939. * * * Prien Went to Scapa Flow. There was a fighter. He knew it and said over and over: "I was only the paw of the Big Lion. What I did, I could do because I was his disciple." All the "old guard" thought the same way and so did the commanding officers who returned to their bases with flags of victory flying. The crew likewise was inspired by the old man. With unparalleled enthusiasm and matter of factness, they undertook every dangerous mission against the life-line of the enemy who controlled the sea, a control which they undermined, and brought again the terror of the U-boats to the Seven Seas to the surprise of the whole world. In an endless chain, the U-boat Commanders reported success after success to their chief. In spite of the fact that his duties took on unmeasurable proportions since the beginning of the huge U-boat construction program the Chief was what he always was and always will be, leader and inspiration to all the forces under him. A clear regard for the essential and the decisive, power to act and aggressiveness are his main characteristics. In spite of all his duties he never lost touch with his men and he showed a masterly understanding in adjusting himself to the changing fortunes of war.
Doenitz was in charge of the Naval operations Command Post situated on land. It is one of the strange and difficult characteristics of this form of Naval warfare that the Commander cannot be with his men, cannot make decisions on the spot but is forced to study the situation and give orders thousands of miles away from the actual location. The very strong ties between Doenitz and his men proved themselves in this case. They never felt, and that was said many times in mess halls and on enemy missions, that they had to make any of their difficult decisions alone. Tiny, brief answers following rendered radio reports proved that the Chief day and night was monitoring painstakingly their reports just as if he was with them, as if he stood on the bridge beside them * * *
On 21 April 1940 Doenitz received the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross, a reward of the Fuehrer, which put the unique accomplishments of this battle-tested officer in its true light. On September 1940, he was promoted to Vice Admiral, a year and a half later on 14 March 1942 he was promoted to Admiral, a reward for the heavy damages inflicted on the new enemy, the U.S.A. On 30 January 1943 Doenitz received the Supreme Command of the Germany Navy from the Fuehrer and concurrently was promoted to Gross Admiral.
For the huge successes of the U-boats Doenitz received on 7 April 1943 in recognition of his unique achievements in U-boat warfare from the Fuehrer personally as the 223rd Soldier of the Wehrmacht, the Oak Wreath to the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.
Even though the field of activity of the C in C of the German Navy has experienced a tremendous extent on his personal leadership in U-boat warfare and the personal care for his submarines, sailors, and for all units of the German Navy will also in the future remain the supreme law of all his action. Confidence merits confidence. The navy of Greater Germany will prove that it is worthy of its C in C.
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume IV
Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality
Washington, DC : United States Government Printing Office, 1946