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The Luftwaffe and the War At Sea 1939-1945, Edit by David Isby

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by harolds, Apr 29, 2019.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    The above illustrates the hazard of over relying on post war memoirs. It's not just German ones, Allied musings can be just as self serving (I was right but they didn't listen to me). Germans suffered from other issues, the need to be seen as a good German and not a bad Nazi.

    Contemporary accounts have to be taken with a grain of salt as well, they can be completely honest and accurate but they usually can't see all the moving parts and draw the wrong conclusions from what they do see.

    It's human nature to try and boil down complex issues to simple equations.
     
  2. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Excuse me Rich, but I'm having a tough time following your logic here. In your first paragraph of your last post (#20) you say that the problem was that once a convoy was found there was seldom enough Condors to keep the convoy under constant surveillance. I have to agree since I made the same point in an earlier post. That only means that whatever a/c you use for recon purposes, there has to be enough of them to cover a large area and once found, keep a convoy under constant observation. They were already making FW 200s so they needed to make more.

    The other point you made was that once a convoy was found, the a/c's navigation was so imprecise that determining the convoy's actual location was hard. I think I said the same thing in an earlier post. When the "wolf pack" tactics were up and going, there was no trouble finding these convoys using the shadowing U-Boats navigational fixes. So, if the U-Boats had a continual, accurate fix the rest of the "pack" would find the convoy. The same thing would have happened if there a convoy was shadowed by Condors giving good navigational fixes.

    None of this is the fault of the FW200 Condor! It did the job. It found the convoys. The fact that the humans inside didn't really know where in the hell they were is likewise not a fault of the airplane. These problems would have existed with any a/c where there were not enough a/c to do the job right. In fact, as far as I know, the FW 200's range was never equaled by any LW aircraft. This plane could never have been a bomber but as a long-range recon craft it was the best they had.

    Would the Condor's navigation have been improved by putting KM navigators on board. Very possibly, but over-water navigation has its own set of problems. In daylight over-land navigation, geographical sightings are often available to cross-check dead reckoning plots. This is brought home by the problems the RAF had in finding German cities at night. The Condors could, or perhaps did, put out at radio signal that could have been triangulated on for a positive fix and I know that U-Boats also triangulated on the aircraft. Why these methods didn't work, I don't know but it seems that the problems could have been fixed had enough leadership and resources been brought to bear. For this failure, a certain drug-befuddled Reichs-marshal bears most responsibility.

    He also is responsible for not supporting the KM U-Boats with more ME 110s to protect the subs in the Bay of Biscay but perhaps that's for another thread.
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    It all comes down to numbers and is reminiscent to Donitz's claim that if he had 300 operational boats at the beginning of a conflict, he could win the tonnage war against England. This is only accomplished if Germany forego's building everything after the Deutschland class, waits to 1941 to start hostilities and diverts much steel production from tank and artillery procurement. In short well beyond what he had control over.

    Historical research indicates that the KM had lost the tonnage war in the summer of 1941 after the end of the 'First Happy Time'. Granted they had a second 'Happy Time' for the first 6 months after the entry of the US as it presented a unprotected target rich environment until mid 1942. The fog of war kept each other ignorant of the others true situation and gave Allied commanders much sleepless nights, but the crisis had past.

    Another factor beyond the KM's control was Hitler's insistence on deploying U-boats to his 'zones of destiny' around Norway and the Med. This would dilute his potential striking force even further.

    Bringing this back to the discussion at hand, Germany could only produce a finite number of aircraft engines and airframe's. While the US, and to a lesser extant Britain, could manufacture more aircraft then they themselves needed, Germany simply could not. It also seems the LW reached it's high watermark in the fall of 1940, but never fully recovered its strength after the BoB. Like the U-boats they had another 'second happy time' over the Balkans and Russia in 1941, but could not deliver the killing blow.

    In a purely academic sense you are correct, more aircraft and greater cooperation might have led to more tonnage sent to the bottom, but what do you cut elsewhere? Do you starve the Eastern front, Med and Reich homeland of aircraft and aircrews for a slightly more effective U-boat war? A good example is the Me 110. A failure at it's designed purpose, long range bomber escort, it did have decent value as both a ground support and bomber interceptor, especially at night. Yes it could have done this last task over the Bay of Biscay in 1942/43 but is it better to allow RAF Bomber Command a easier time over the Reich and depriving the outnumbered Heer support in Russia?

    Germany's problem in the war can be summed up fairly simply, they bit off more than they could chew and choked on the result.
     
  4. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    It's simple really. The idea that it would be possible for the Germans to "fix their problem" by an application of more Condors or improved intra-service cooperation is about as unlikely as can be. Condors were not the problem, nor was it some turf war between the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. Nor were more Condors and better cooperation a solution. I'm not sure that anybody successfully used long-range reconnaissance aircraft to spot convoys at sea and vector in submarines to attack them. The endurance of the aircraft was too short and there were never enough of them. They could not accurately fix and shadow a convoy on a regular basis. The submarines were simply too slow in comparison to the convoy speeds and the oceans were too large. There were simply never enough submarines operational to make wolf pack tactics effective. The Allied active and passive countermeasures were simply too good for the Germans to ever have more than limited success over short periods of time before the Allied superiority became overwhelming.

    Indeed, that was one of the problems. So how many is enough? We found in one case that four Condors only created more confusion...would more do better? Then there is the problem of the operational readiness of the Condor. From March 1941 to March 1943, I./KG 40 averaged 20.4 Condors on hand per month, lost 1.4 per month to accidents...and only 1.0 per month to enemy action.On 21 June 1941 they had 4 of 21 operational, on 17 May 1943, 1 of 6 was operational.

    They needed to make a lot more to make up for the terrible operational capabilities of the aircraft, but instead decided to try and build a better aircraft, which failed but so it goes. Declaring they simply should have build five times as many aircraft as they did speaks well about the benefits of hindsight, but little else.

    Um, yes, they also tried taking navigational fixes from the Condors by radio beacon...it didn't help much because invariably when they got to the location the convoy was gone and so was the Condor. BTW, the technique in real life actually worked no better for U-Boote following a U-Boote shadower with a beacon, especially after the Allied DF abilities improved, since it meant that the shadower was simply a target.

    Okay, it found convoys...sometimes. It attacked itself successfully...sometimes. It vectored in U-Boote to attack successfully...sometimes. It did not do any of those things with enough regularity to make it successful. BTW, it's range was well exceeded by the Ju 290, which again had its own problems.

    The idea seems to be that throwing enough time, resources, and people at the problem would result automatically in success? I'm not so sure.

    Anyway, yet again, convoys move, so do subs, but unless one has a marked speed advantage over the other, then it becomes a major factor. The subs could only maintain a high rate of speed surfaced. Bring in Allied countermeasures.

    Its a complex problem not necessarily subject to solution by changing Reischmarschal, drug-befuddled or not.

    Well, they only had so many Bf 110 to do that with...and their were other priorities. ZG 26 went to the Ostfront and Med in 1941...that was pretty much it for that. "More" means send it back, then who fills that gap, or create another unit...and from where? Priorities, priorities, there simply wasn't that much slack in the system.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If the Condor's are transmitting that much and start having a significant impact then the Britts could start sending PBY's after them. The British were pretty good at locating transmitters. The transmissions could also be an indicator to steer the convoys toward any weather that might help conceal them as well.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It also rather assumes that the British don't spot the build up and react to it.
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Agreed, but the main focus of my post was to delineate those factors within German's control.
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Wasn't part of the rational of the British German naval treaty to not produce a arms race? Germany agreed to pretty tight controls on her sub fleet if I remember correctly. So there is some control there. There's also the tendency in what if's for people to not consider the reaction of the other players. If the British are willing to give up or say allow for Duke of York to be a year or two later they have plenty of time and resources to put some impressive escorts into commission. CVE's might even be in the works by 1940 if they start on this in say 1935.
     
  9. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    It would have been impossible to hide a massive build up of the U-boat fleet in its totality, but Germany as a police state and with a weapon system designed to be stealthy, and unseen, would have had some success in hiding their numbers.

    In a likely RN response it would have to overcome some institutional inertia within the Admiralty that would be loath to give up its battleships and cruisers. There would have been a increase in escort numbers, though I expect it would be skewed towards larger fleet destroyers who would have a greater multi role function as a fleet unit rather than what they really need in corvettes/destroyer escorts.

    RAF Coastal Command would have also seen some enhancement, but like their sea going counterparts there would have been institutional inertia to be over come from RAF Bomber Command who would likely claim they could 'easily convert' their conventional bombers to the role 'if needed'.

    I see a prewar CVE/MAC as very unlikely. There is nothing technological preventing this, just that it was a mid war expedient and not really a concept proven in the great war like convoys. There might have been a 'test' light carrier deployed, but again it would likely be something designed to be a fleet unit and convoy escort multi role ship. Probably too small to be really effective in a fleet battle and too large to be economical (to mass produce) as a sub hunter.

    Could have the KM stolen a march on the RN? Possibly, but it would have to overcome the single greatest obstical to the KM becoming a strategic asset, Adolf Hitler. In a rare admission of his own limitations, confessed he had no real understanding of naval strategy before the war started.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If a build up of subs and long range aircraft was detected that might suggest CVE's or something similar. Gladiators and Swordfish can operate from fairly short runways so perhaps either smaller CVEs or convertible merchant vessels. Definitely not a given though.
     
  11. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Actually the RN already had one, HMS Argus which was a partially built passenger liner converted into a carrier in WW I. It was decommissioned during the inter war period, then brought back just before WW II, but as a training ship and then as a aircraft ferry. The US had the USS Langley, a converted collier turned into our first carrier. Like the Argus it was converted prewar into a seaplane carrier.

    Certainly one or both might have been converted into a prewar ASW platform CVE but at best would be a one off test bed. Prewar budgets were so tight its hard to imagine black shoe admirals willing to push for some of its scarce tonnage to this.
     
  12. harolds

    harolds Member

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    "The idea seems to be that throwing enough time, resources and people at the problem would result automatically in success? I'm not so sure." --RichTO90

    How else do you win if you don't put enough time resource and people into a problem? (A little proper planning and mutual training helps too.) The plain truth is that if Germany was to win the war against Britain her supply lines would have to be choked off. Bombing her into submission sure didn't work. The problems concerning keeping enough recon planes in the air to doggedly shadow an convoy and vector subs and possibly bombers too, was a technical problem that had a technical solution. It just needed a concentration of technical support, training and will-power. Obviously you can't wait for the Ju 290 to come on line. On June 1, 1944 the LW had exactly 15 of those planes on the Atlantic coast, set up for maritime recon duties. A teeny bit too late. We all know that Germany had to win the sea war by the end of 1942 or early '43 at the very latest. By that time they would have been unable to win.

    If not by attacking Britain's sea lanes and starving it out, how else were the Germans going win?

    The only other alternative was Grand Admiral Raeder's proposal to join with Italy and put a huge concentration of force into the Med and make that sea an Axis lake followed by the capture of Egypt, etc. I'm not sure Musso would have agreed to that because 1.) Germany would then become the senior partner in the area, and 2.The Italian navy would have had to fight RN and would probably lose. It would also mean that Hitler would have to delay or abandon Barbarossa.
     
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  13. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Well, if you don't have enough time, resources, and people to put into the problem you don't win, which was the German problem in a nutshell. :)

    Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, the Germans were unable to win the war at sea at any time, because they didn't have enough time, resources, and people to put into the problem. :)

    They weren't. :)

    Yeah, the last part is the least likely part of that unlikely proposal. :)

    In essence, this is all a variation on one of my other favorite - in terms of poking holes into - what if proposals, the "what if Panzers instead of U-boats" or its variation, "what if Panzers instead of the Kriegsmarine". They absolutely depend on hindsight.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Perhaps Germany could have put enough resources into the war at sea to have a chance of defeating Great Britain. However the cost of doing so would likely have meant that they couldn't have defeated France and would likely have had more trouble with Poland. That's assuming GB doesn't react to their build up. It would also have required Hitler to see GB as one of if not the most important of his pre war opponents. Historically he was focused on the USSR. Long term planning wasn't his strong point or indeed the strong point of the German government of that period.
     
  15. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Actually, I believe they did have the time, resources, etc. to give a good shot at strangling Britain but they would have to make it a top priority. That would mean putting Barbarossa on hold. In that advent they would have had the resources, people, but still only the same amount of time. After the summer of 1940 they had Europe and its western coastline. More on this later but I have a Dr.s appointment in another town.
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If not for the Austrian gold reserves Hitler's Germany would have been bankrupt before the war even started. Take a look at Wages of Destruction. The resource constraints Germany was operating under in the 30's were quite severe.
     
  17. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I will be interested to see how you think that could be done. Fundamentally, Germany was mobilizing for war as early as FY 1935-1935. Recall, Hitler was appointed chancellor 30 January 1933 and achieved full control over Germany with the passage of the Ermächtigungsgesetz on 23 March 1933. In FY 1933, German military spending was 17% of total government spending, which was actually a slight decrease from the previous year's 20% (the drop in percentage found in 1933-34 was actually a result of the expansion of the public budget caused by economic recovery). However, from there, spending ratcheted up considerably.

    1934-35 51%
    1935-36 73%
    1936-37 81%
    1937-38 68%
    1938-39 80%

    That is mirrored by the growth of the Heer, which expanded from 7 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions in 1933 to 24 (including 3 Panzer) in 1934, 27 in 1935, and 39 in 1936. However, FY 1937 is revealing...spending decreased and there were no new divisional activations by the Heer as the German economy threatened to spiral out of control. Governmental spending on munitions was in fact so high that it was only sustained by massive deficits; by 1935 government expenditure (primarily military) was financed through 50 percent annual deficits and German economists began to warn of the threat of a massive inflationary spiral, which led to a temporary spending and mobilization decrease. In 1938 the Heer expanded moderately, to 43 divisions and then to just 49 divisions on the outbreak of war. Nevertheless, the economy was balanced on a hair. By 1938-39 German economists were warning of a potential economic collapse since the government could no longer maintain the debt payment, despite selling off the bulk of the German gold reserve, seizing and selling Jewish assets, and incorporating the Austrian and Czech economies into the Reich.

    On top of that, the sole abundant economic resource Germany enjoyed was coal. Oil, rubber, aluminum, and other critical materials were all largely imports, which meant that much of the German economy not geared for war was producing export goods to generate foreign exchange.

    Also at the same time as the Heer expanded the Luftwaffe was created and became the prewar darling of the Hitler. It grew to 17,000 men and 900 flying officers by 1935 and to 15,000 officers and 370,000 men on the outbreak of war. In many ways that was more expensive a proposition than the Heer expansion given the need to create an indigenous aircraft industry and given the relative expense of aircraft. Despite massive expenditures, none of the prewar aircraft production goals were met.

    That simply left little for the Kriegsmarine and its expensive ships, especially given its relatively late start. Although contracts for subs were let well before the official abrogation of the Versailles Treaty, the lack of interwar development of coastal and ocean-going subs meant the initial designs were essentially repeats of late Great War designs or copies of foreign designs. The first German-designed sub, the two ocean-going Typ IA, were contracted on 17 December 1934, were laid down in June and August 1935, and were completed in April and May 1936...and were completely unsuccessful. The first ten Typ VIIA were contracted on 1 April 1935, were laid down beginning in November 1935, and were completed beginning in August 1936. They were better designs, but were never really suitable for the type of long-range oceanic operations the Germans attempted to prosecute during the war. The first eight Typ IXA were contracted in late 1936, laid down beginning in March 1937, and were completed beginning in August 1938.

    By the outbreak of war there were just 26 ocean-going subs and 30 coastal subs (invaluable for training but otherwise useless) available.

    Given that reality, how does the KM get the 100 to 200 ocean-going subs and trained crews operationally ready by the outbreak of war? Especially given that in reality the 26 subs available meant that 20 were operational as of 1 October 1939 and that it took 29 months before that number exceeded 100? And another ten months before that number exceeded 200? Even if losses are ignored, it would have taken 23 months for the German's to get 100 ocean-going subs into the fleet, so the wartime scale of effort would need to begin in 1937 at latest, which of course was in the midst of the German economic crisis that caused a temporary abeyance in the peacetime mobilization.

    Then, on top of that, the requirement is for more dedicated KM long-range aircraft, which either gets subtracted from the Luftwaffe costs or added to it.

    It's a pretty shaky house of cards as it was. I don't think there was much room for finagling.
     
  18. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Well, let's start this way: It's the Fall of 1941. Britain shows no signs of weakening. Barbarossa is postponed. All those infantry divisions aren't needed so, as per history, some are put back into the workforce. The economy also has the conquered countries' resources and industrial capacity it can call on.

    Use, say, the French aircraft factories to help with the production of Condors until a suitable replacement is found. Priority is placed on finding a replacement. If necessary, Hitler calls in the administration and design heads of Junkers and Heinkel and says, "I want a working 4-engine, long-range maritime recon aircraft and a 4-engine bomber starting production with in a year-unless you gentlemen want to become permanent residents in one of our KZs!" That would probably focus their attention nicely. Keeping the Nazi party bureaucracy out of the mix would also help. The He 111 Do 17 programs could have been significantly reduced to free up more materials and workers. It is to be expected that Britain will come up with counter-measures for the increase in German air patrols so the production of planes and crews will have to take that into consideration.

    The problems of finding, accurately reporting and having subs intercept convoys are addressed through closer working relationships in the KM and LW. Remediation and training are intensified.

    The manufacture of U-Boats will remain a sore spot with numbers increasing slower than desired. With Barbarossa on hold and tank losses negligible some extra steel is available for their production. However, the whole idea of air recon is to maximize the effectiveness of the boats the Germans do have.

    Donitz gets his head out of his posterior regarding the implications of radar on his U-Boat operations and starts his staff seriously thinking about solutions.

    The crisis will come in 1942.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Fall of 41 means that the what comes out of the French factories doesn't reach the Wehrmacht until sometime in 42. US enters the war before then and your Condors are running up against PBY's and B-24's and in fairly short order naval fighters.
     
  20. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I guess I'm confused, but if it is the Fall of 1941 then Barbarossa has already jumped off, hasn't it? :D Did you mean fall of 1940?

    French aircraft factories and French armaments factories in general were underutilized, but it is unclear if they could have been better utilized given the form the German occupation took. Essentially, upon the armistice, the German commisionaires scoured French factories of all types, looting machine tools and raw materials and shipping them back to Germany because, well part of the reason the Germans went to war was to secure strategic materials, including things like machine tools, without having to expend its scant foreign exchange. On top of that, they happily shipped stuff to their allies and others (like Spain) to create more foreign exchange. Gnome Rhone was utilized as an engine manufacturer and various component parts were eventually manufactured for German aircraft types, such as the Bf 108 and existing French aircraft were utilized to a small degree (mostly transport and light liaison aircraft), but recreating the jigs in a French factory for full assembly of a complex aircraft like the Condor would likely have taken a bit of work. Mind you, I'm not so sure that the splitting of France into two zones would have helped either?

    Fundamentally, the belief seems to be that the Germans were just too stupid to figure out how to use French industry. The problem was, French industry was every bit as dependent on imports as was Germany, so the Germans essentially cut out the middle-man and just shipped everything they could for use in German factories...including millions of French workers.

    Uh, to put it bluntly, no, I doubt that would do anything. Imagining that harsh threats would get the Germans an operational, long-range, four-engine aircraft in large-scale production is imaginative, but that's about it. Just as an example, the Ju 89 was partially complete on the cancellation of the Ural bomber program in April 1937 and was taken over for development as the Ju 90 for Lufthansa, flying in August 1937 and then being developed for military use after April 1939 as the Ju 290, after 18 Ju 90 were completed. However, the Ju 290 after considerable development work, did not fly until July 1942. The FW 200 itself took a year of development before the first flight in 1937.

    Part of the problem was the Ju 90 depended on the BMW 810 radial...which was also used in the Do 217, FW 190, Ju 88, Ju 188...demand for the engine was huge and engine production was finite. The only way harsh threats could work is if engines were diverted from one program to another...or if engine manufacture could be expanded, except see the problems with labor, machine tools, factory space, and raw materials. It was a never ending cycle of demand exceeding resources. In a sense, it was a mistake for Germany to mobilize so completely before the outbreak of war, since it left little slack in the system for fine tuning of requirements. that was one advantage America had, so much industry was still idle in 1940 that there was slack to correct problems, but even there engines were a huge problem (it was the tanks that got the shaft there) and other shortages quickly appeared, especially shortages of labor, mirroring the German problems.

    Heinkel's Rostock factory was already fully geared up to build the He 111 and had completed 2,226 in 1939 and 1940. In early 1941 they had just completed retooling for production of the H, and were expanding production from 46 in January 1941 to over 100 by July. The Do 17 was no longer in production and had been replaced by the Do 217, which was just beginning production in three Dornier factories (Munich, Weimar, and Fredrichshafen), but the critical factor was the expanding Ju 88 production in seven different factories.

    Okay. It might or might not work.

    Yeah, but will it ever work, especially given Allied countermeasures.

    It wasn't just Dönitz. The scientific consensus in Germany was that practical microwave radar was impractical, especially in aircraft or ship applications, until an intact H2S set was discovered in the wreckage of a British bomber in February 1943.

    The crisis was already there by the fall of 1940.
     

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