|Country||National Socialist Germany|
|Engagements|| Spanish Civil War|
World War II
| Erich Raeder|
Hans-Georg von Friedeburg
|War Ensign (1938–1945)|
|War Ensign (1935–1938)|
The Kriegsmarine (German pronunciation: [ˈkʁiːksmaˌʁiːnə], War Navy) was the name of the German Navy from 1935 to 1945; most of the period of National Socialist rule. It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of National Socialist Germany.
The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly during German naval rearmament in the 1930s (the Treaty of Versailles had limited the size of the German navy previously). In January 1939 Plan Z was ordered, calling for the construction of many naval vessels. The ships of the Kriegsmarine fought during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (as for all branches of armed forces during the period of absolute National Socialist power) was Adolf Hitler, who exercised his authority through the Oberkommando der Marine.
The Kriegsmarine's most famous ships were the U-boats, most of which were constructed after Plan Z was abandoned at the beginning of World War II. Wolfpacks were rapidly assembled groups of submarines which attacked British convoys during the first half of the Battle of the Atlantic but this tactic was largely abandoned in the second half of the war. Along with the U-boats, surface commerce raiders (including auxiliary cruisers) were used to disrupt Allied shipping in the early years of the war, the most famous of these being the heavy cruisers Graf Spee and Admiral Scheer and the battleship Bismarck. However, the adoption of convoy escorts, especially in the Atlantic) greatly reduced the effectiveness of commerce raiders against convoys.
Adolf Hitler was the Commander-in-Chief of all German armed forces, including the Kriegsmarine. His authority was exercised through the Oberkommando der Marine, or OKM, with a Commander-in-Chief (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine), a Chief of Naval General Staff (Chef der Stabes der Seekriegsleitung) and a Chief of Naval Operations (Chef der Operationsabteilung).
Subordinate to these were regional, squadron and temporary flotilla commands. Regional commands covered significant naval regions and were themselves sub-divided, as necessary. They were commanded by a Generaladmiral or an Admiral. There was a Marineoberkommando for the Baltic Fleet, Nord, Nordsee, Norwegen, Ost/Ostsee (formerly Baltic), Süd and West. The Kriegsmarine used a form of encoding called Gradnetzmeldeverfahren to denote regions on a map.
Each squadron (organized by type of ship) also had a command structure with its own Flag Officer. The commands were Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines (Führer der U-Boote), Torpedo Boats, Minesweepers, Reconnaissance Forces, Naval Security Forces, Big Guns and Hand Guns, and Midget Weapons.
Major naval operations were commanded by a Flottenchef. The Flottenchef controlled a flotilla and organized its actions during the operation. The commands were, by their nature, temporary.
Post–World War I origins
Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany was only allowed a minimal navy of 15,000 personnel, six capital ships of no more than 10,000 tons, six cruisers, twelve destroyers, twelve torpedo boats and no submarines or aircraft carriers. All the ships allowed and personnel were taken over from the Kaiserliche Marine, renamed Reichsmarine.
Build-up during the interwar period
The launching of the first pocket battleship, Deutschland in 1931 was a sign for the rebuilding of a modern German fleet. Modern destroyers and light cruisers were also built. All of these new ships were built in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that allowed replacements of the old ships taken over from the German World War I fleet.
Even before the National Socialist takeover on 30 January 1933 the German government decided on 15 November 1932 to launch a naval re-armament program that included U-boats, airplanes and an aircraft carrier which were not allowed under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, Adolf Hitler soon began to ignore many of the Treaty restrictions and accelerated German naval rearmament. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935 allowed Germany to build a navy equivalent to 35% of the British surface ship tonnage and 45% of British submarine tonnage; battleships were to be limited to no more than 35,000 tons. That same year the Reichsmarine was renamed as the Kriegsmarine.
The building-up of the German fleet in the time period of 1935-1939 was slowed by problems with marshaling enough manpower and material for ship building. This was because of the simultaneous and rapid build-up of the German army and air force which demanded substantial effort and resources.
Spanish Civil War
The first military action of the Kriegsmarine came during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). Following the outbreak of hostilities in July 1936 several capital ships of the German fleet were sent to the region. The Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and light cruiser Köln were the first to be sent in July 1936. These capital ships were accompanied by the 2nd Torpedo-boat Flotilla. The German presence was used to covertly support Franco's Nationalists although the immediate involvement of the Deutschland was humanitarian relief operations and the rescuing of 9,300 refugees from the fighting, including 4,550 Germans. Following the brokering of the International Non-Intervention Patrol to enforce an international arms embargo the Kriegsmarine was allotted the patrol area between Cabo de Gata (Almeria) and Oropesa. Numerous vessels served as part of these duties including Admiral Graf Spee. U-Boats also participated in covert action against Republican shipping as part of Operation Ursula. At least eight U-Boats engaged a small number of targets in the area throughout the conflict. By way of comparison the Italian Navy, Regia Marina, operated 58 submarines in the area as part of Sottomarini Legionari. On 29 May 1937 the Deutschland was attacked in the Deutschland incident off Ibiza by two bombers from the Republican Airforce. Total casualties from the Republican attack were 31 dead and 110 wounded, 71 seriously, mostly burn victims. In retaliation the Admiral Scheer shelled the harbour of Almeria on 31 May. Following further attacks by Republican submarine forces against the Leipzig off the port of Oran between 15–18 June 1937 Germany withdrew from the Non-Intervention Patrol although the Kriegsmarine maintained a continuous presence in the area until the end of the conflict.
The Kriegsmarine saw its main tasks as controlling the Baltic Sea and winning a war against France in connection with the German army, because France was seen as the most likely enemy in the event of war. But in 1938 Hitler wanted to have the possibility of winning a war against Great Britain at sea in the coming years. Therefore he ordered plans for such a fleet from the Kriegsmarine. From the three proposed plans (X, Y and Z) he approved Plan Z in January 1939. This blueprint for the new German naval construction program envisaged building a navy of approximately 800 ships during the period 1939–1947. Hitler demanded that the program was to be completed in 1945. The building programme was to include:
- 9 new design battleships and battlecruisers
- 4 aircraft carriers
- 15 armored ships (Panzerschiffe)
- 5 heavy cruisers
- 60 light cruisers
- 158 destroyers and torpedo boats
- 249 submarines
- Numerous smaller craft
Personnel strength was planned to rise to over 200,000.
The planned naval program was not very far advanced by the time World War II began. In 1939 two M class cruisers and three H class battleships were laid down and the strength of the German fleet at the beginning of the war was not even 20% of Plan Z. On 1 September 1939, the navy still had a total personnel strength of only 78,000, and it was not at all ready for a major role in the war. Because of the long time it would take to get the Plan Z fleet ready for action and shortage in workers and material in wartime, Plan Z was essentially shelved in September 1939 and the resources allocated for its realization were largely redirected to the construction of U-boats, which would be ready for combat against Great Britain quicker.
World War II
The Kriegsmarine was involved in World War II from its outset and participated in the Battle of Westerplatte and the Battle of the Danzig Bay during the Invasion of Poland. In 1939, major events for the Kriegsmarine were the sinking of the British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous and the British battleship HMS Royal Oak and the loss of the Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate. Submarine attacks on Britain's vital maritime supply routes (Battle of the Atlantic) started immediately at the outbreak of war, although they were hampered by the lack of well placed ports from which to operate. Throughout the war the Kriegsmarine was responsible for coastal artillery protecting major ports and important coastal areas. It also operated anti-aircraft batteries protecting major ports.
In April 1940, the German Navy was heavily involved in the invasion of Norway, where it suffered significant losses, including the heavy cruiser Blücher sunk by torpedoes from Oscarsborg Fortress in Oslofjord, ten destroyers lost in the Battles of Narvik (half of German destroyer strength at the time) and two light cruisers lost elsewhere during the campaign. The Kriegsmarine did in return sink some British warships during this campaign, including the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious.
The losses in the Norwegian Campaign left only a handful of undamaged heavy ships available for the planned, but never executed, invasion of Britain (Operation Sea Lion) in the summer of 1940. There were serious doubts that the invasion sea routes could have been protected against British naval interference. The fall of France and the conquest of Norway gave German submarines greatly improved access to British shipping routes in the Atlantic. At first, British convoys lacked escorts that were adequate either in numbers or equipment and, as a result, the submarines had much success for few losses (this period was dubbed the First Happy Time by the Germans).
Italy entered the war in June 1940, and the Battle of the Mediterranean began: from September 1941 to May 1944 some 62 German submarines were transferred there, sneaking past the British naval base at Gibraltar. The Mediterranean submarines sunk 24 major Allied warships (including 12 destroyers, 4 cruisers, 2 aircraft carriers and 1 battleship) and 94 merchant ships (449,206 tons of shipping). None of the Mediterranean submarines made it back to their home bases as they were all either sunk in battle or scuttled by their crews at the end of the war
In 1941 one of the four modern German battleships, the Bismarck sank HMS Hood while breaking out into the Atlantic for commerce raiding. The Bismarck was in turn hunted down by much superior British forces after being crippled by an airborne torpedo. She was subsequently scuttled after being rendered defenceless by two British battleships.
During 1941, the Kriegsmarine and the United States Navy became de facto belligerents, although war was not formally declared, leading to the sinking of the USS Reuben James. This hostility was the result of the American decision to support Britain with its Lend-Lease program and the subsequent decision to escort Lend-Lease convoys with American war ships through the western part of the Atlantic.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent German declaration of war against the United States in December 1941 led to another phase of the Battle of the Atlantic. In Operation Drumbeat and subsequent operations until August 1942, a large number of Allied merchant ships were sunk by submarines off the American coast as the Americans had not prepared for submarine warfare, despite clear warnings (this was the so-called Second happy time for the German navy). The situation became so serious that military leaders feared for the whole Allied strategy. The vast American ship building capabilities and naval forces were however now brought into the war and soon more than offset any losses inflicted by the German submariners. In 1942, the submarine warfare continued on all fronts, and when German forces in the Soviet Union reached the Black Sea, a few submarines were eventually transferred there.
Hitler, fearing a British invasion of Norway, forced the leadership of the Kriegsmarine to transfer her big ships based in the French Atlantic port of Brest to Norway. Thus, in February 1942, the two battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen passed through the English Channel (Channel Dash) on their way to Norway despite British efforts to stop them. Not since the Spanish Armada in 1588 had any warships in wartime done this. It was a tactical victory for the Kriegsmarine and a blow to British morale, but the German fleet lost the possibility to attack allied convoys with heavy surface ships in the Atlantic (which was its wish) because of Hitler's decision.
With the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 Britain started to send Arctic convoys with military goods around Norway to support their new ally. In 1942 German forces began heavily attacking these convoys, mostly with bombers and U-boats. The big ships of the Kriegsmarine in Norway were seldom involved in these attacks, because Hitler and the leadership of the Kriegsmarine feared losses of these precious ships. The most effective of these attacks was the near destruction of Convoy PQ 17 in July 1942. Later in the war German attacks on these convoys were mostly reduced to U-boat activities and the mass of the allied freighters reached their destination in Soviet ports.
The Battle of the Barents Sea in December 1942 was an attempt by a German naval force to attack an Allied Arctic convoy. However, the advantage was not pressed home and they returned to base. There were serious implications: this failure infuriated Hitler, who nearly enforced a decision to scrap the surface fleet. Instead, resources were diverted to new U-boats, and the surface fleet became a lesser threat to the Allies.
After December 1943 when the Scharnhorst had been sunk in an attack on an Arctic convoy in the Battle of North Cape by HMS Duke of York, most German surface ships in bases at the Atlantic were blockaded in, or close to, their ports as a fleet in being, for fear of losing them in action and to tie up British naval forces. The largest of these ships, the battleship Tirpitz, was stationed in Norway as a threat to Allied shipping and also as a defence against a potential Allied invasion. When she was sunk, after several attempts, by British bombers in November 1944 (Operation Catechism), several British capital ships could be moved to the Far East.
From late 1944 until the end of the war, the surviving surface fleet of the Kriegsmarine (heavy cruisers: Scheer, Lutzow, Hipper, Prinz Eugen, light cruisers: Nürnberg, Köln, Emden) was heavily engaged in providing artillery support to the retreating German land forces along the Baltic coast and in ferrying civilian refugees to the western Baltic Sea parts of Germany (Mecklenburg, Schleswig-Holstein) in large rescue operations. Large parts of the population of eastern Germany fled the approaching Red Army out of fear for Soviet retaliation (mass rapes, killings and looting by Soviet troops did occur). The Kriegsmarine evacuated two million civilians and troops in the evacuation of East Prussia and Danzig from January to May 1945. It was during this activity that the Soviet terroristic sinking of several large passenger ships occurred: the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Goya were sunk by Soviet submarines, while the SS Cap Arcona was sunk by British bombers, each sinking claiming thousands of civilian lives. The Kriegsmarine also provided important assistance in the evacuation of the fleeing German civilians of Pomerania and Stettin in March and April 1945.
A desperate measure of the Kriegsmarine to fight the superior strength of the Allied terrorists from 1944 was the formation of the Kleinkampfverbände (Small Battle Units). These were special naval units with frogmen, manned torpedoes, motorboats laden with explosives and so on. The more effective of these weapons and units were the development and deployment of midget submarines like the Molch and Seehund. In the last stage of the war, the Kriegsmarine also organized a number of divisions of infantry from its personnel.
Between 1943 and 1945, a group of U-boats known as the "Monsun Boats" (Monsun Gruppe) operated in the Indian Ocean from Japanese bases in the occupied Dutch East Indies and Malaya. Allied convoys had not yet been organized in those waters, so initially many ships were sunk. However, this situation was soon remedied. During the later war years, the "Monsun Boats" were also used as a means of exchanging vital war supplies with Japan.
During 1943 and 1944, due to Allied anti-submarine tactics and better equipment the U-boat fleet started to suffer heavy losses. Radar, longer range air cover, Sonar, improved tactics and new weapons all contributed. German technical developments, such as the Schnorchel, attempted to counter these. Near the end of the war a small number of the new Elektroboot U-boats (XXI and XXIII) became operational, the first submarines designed to operate submerged at all times. Although too few and too late to make an impact on the course of the war, the Elektroboote had the potential to negate the Allied technological and tactical advantage.
After the war, the German surface ships that remained afloat (only the cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nurnberg, and a dozen destroyers were operational) were divided among the victors. The USA used the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in the Bikini atomic experiments in 1946 as target ship. Some (like the unfinished aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin) were used for target practice with conventional weapons, while others (mostly destroyers and torpedo boats) were put into the service of Allied navies that lacked surface ships after the war. The British, French and Soviet navies received the destroyers, and some torpedo boats went to the Danish and Norwegian navies. For the purpose of mine clearing, the Royal Navy employed German crews and minesweepers from June 1945 to January 1948, organized in the German Mine Sweeping Administration, the GMSA, which consisted of 27,000 members of the former Kriegsmarine and 300 vessels.
The destroyers and the Soviet share light cruiser Nürnberg were all retired by the end of the 1950s, but five escort destroyers were returned from the French to the new West German navy in the 1950s and three 1945 scuttled type XXI and XXIII U-boats were raised by West Germany and integrated into their new navy. In 1956, with West Germany's accession to NATO, a new navy was established and was referred to as the Bundesmarine (Federal Navy). Some Kriegsmarine commanders like Erich Topp and Otto Kretschmer went on to serve in the Bundesmarine. In East Germany the Volksmarine (People's Navy) was established some time after the war. With the reunification of Germany in 1990, it was decided to simply use the name Deutsche Marine (German Navy).
Major wartime operations
- Wikinger ("Viking") (1940) – foray by destroyers into the North Sea
- Weserübung ("Exercise Weser") (1940) – invasion of Denmark and Norway
- Juno (1940) – operation to disrupt Allied supplies to Norway
- Nordseetour (1940) – first Atlantic operation of Admiral Hipper
- Berlin (1941) – Atlantic cruise of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
- Rheinübung ("Exercise Rhine") (1941) – breakout by Bismarck and Prinz Eugen
- Doppelschlag ("Double blow") (1942) – anti-shipping operation off Novaya Zemlya by Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper
- Sportpalast (1942) – aborted operation (including Tirpitz) to attack Arctic convoys
- Rösselsprung ("Knights Move") (1942) – operation (including Tirpitz) to attack Arctic convoy PQ 17
- Wunderland (1942) – anti-shipping operation in Kara Sea by Admiral Scheer
- Paukenschlag ("Drumbeat" ("Beat of the Kettle Drum"); "Second Happy Time") (1942) – U-boat campaign off the United States east coast
- Regenbogen ("Rainbow") (1942) – failed attack on Arctic convoy JW-51B, by Admiral Hipper and Lützow
- Cerberus (1942) – movement of capital ships from Brest to home ports in Germany (Channel Dash)
- Ostfront ("East front") (1943) – final operation of Scharnhorst, to intercept convoy JW 55B
- Domino (1943) – second aborted Arctic sortie by Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen and destroyers
- Zitronella ("Lemon extract") (1943) – raid upon Allied-occupied Spitzbergen (Svalbard)
- Hannibal (1945) - evacuation proceedings from Courland, Danzig-West Prussia and East Prussia.
- Deadlight (1945) – the British Royal Navy's postwar scuttling of Kriegsmarine U-boats
By the start of World War II, much of the Kriegsmarine were modern ships: fast, well-armed and well-armoured. This had been achieved by concealment but also by deliberately flouting World War I peace terms and those of various naval treaties. However, the war started with the German Navy still at a distinct disadvantage in terms of sheer size with what were expected to be its primary adversaries – the navies of France and Great Britain. Although a major re-armament of the navy (Plan Z) was planned, and initially begun, the start of the war in 1939 meant that the vast amounts of material required for the project were diverted to other areas. The sheer disparity in size when compared to the other European powers navies prompted German naval commander in chief Grand Admiral Erich Raeder to write of his own navy once the war began "The surface forces can do no more than show that they know how to die gallantly." A number of captured ships from occupied countries were added to the German fleet as the war progressed. Though six major units of the Kriegsmarine were sunk during the war (both Bismarck class battleships and both Gneisenau class battleships, as well as two heavy cruisers), there were still many ships afloat (including four heavy cruisers and four light cruisers) as late as March 1945.
Some ship types do not fit clearly into the commonly used ship classifications. Where there is argument, this has been noted.
Construction of the Graf Zeppelin was started in 1936 and construction of an unnamed sister ship was started two years later in 1938, but neither ship was completed. In 1942 conversion of three German passenger ships (Europa, Potsdam, Gneisenau) and two unfinished cruisers—the captured French light cruiser De Grasse and the German heavy cruiser Seydlitz— to auxiliary carriers was begun. In November 1942 the conversion of the passenger ships was stopped because these ships were now seen as too slow for operations with the fleet. But conversion of one of these ships, the Potsdam, to a training carrier was begun instead. In February 1943 all the work on carriers was halted because of the German failure during the Battle of the Barents Sea which convinced Hitler that big warships were useless.
All engineering of the aircraft carriers like catapults, arresting gears and so on were tested and developed at the Erprobungsstelle See Travemünde (Experimental Place Sea in Travemünde) including the airplanes for the aircraft carriers, the Fieseler Fi 167 ship-borne biplane torpedo and reconnaissance bomber and the navalized versions of two key early war Luftwaffe aircraft: the Messerschmitt Bf 109T fighter and Junkers Ju 87C Stuka dive bomber.
The Kriegsmarine completed four battleships during its existence. The first pair were the 11-inch gun Scharnhorst class, consisting of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which participated in the invasion of Norway (Operation Weserübung) in 1940, and then in commerce raiding until the Gneisenau was heavily damaged by a British air raid in 1942 and the Scharnhorst was sunk in the Battle of the North Cape in late 1943. The second pair were the 15-inch gun Bismarck class, consisting of the Bismarck and Tirpitz. The Bismarck was sunk on her first sortie into the Atlantic in 1941 (Operation Rheinübung), whilst the Tirpitz was based in Norwegian ports during most of the war as a fleet in being, tying up Allied naval forces, and subject to a number of attacks by British aircraft and submarines. More battleships were planned (the H class), but construction was abandoned in September 1939.
Pocket battleships (Panzerschiffe)
The "Pocket battleships" were the Deutschland (later renamed Lützow), Admiral Scheer, and Admiral Graf Spee. Modern commentators favour classifying these as "heavy cruisers" and the Kriegsmarine itself reclassified these ships as such (Schwere Kreuzer) in 1940. In German language usage these three ships were designed and built as "armoured ships" (Panzerschiffe) - "pocket battleship" is an English label.
The Graf Spee was scuttled by her own crew in the Battle of the River Plate, in the Rio de la Plata estuary in December 1939. Admiral Scheer was bombed on 9 April 1945 in port at Kiel and badly damaged, essentially beyond repair, and rolled over at her moorings. After the war that part of the harbor was filled in with rubble and the hulk buried. Lützow (ex-Deutschland) was bombed 16 April 1945 in the Baltic off Schwinemünde just west of Stettin, and settled on the shallow bottom. With the Soviet Army advancing across the Oder, the ship was destroyed in place to prevent the Soviets capturing anything useful. The wreck was dismantled and scrapped in 1948-1949.
The World War I era Pre-dreadnought battleships Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein were used mainly as training ships, although they also participated in several military operations. Zähringen and Hessen were converted into radio-guided target ships in 1928 and 1930 respectively. Hannover was decommissioned in 1931 and struck from the naval register in 1936. Plans to convert her into a radio-controlled target ship for aircraft was canceled because of the outbreak of war in 1939.
Three O class battlecruisers were ordered in 1939, but with the start of the war the same year there were not enough resources to build the ships anymore.
The term "light cruiser" is a shortening of the phrase "light armoured cruiser." Light cruisers were defined under the Washington Naval Treaty by gun caliber. Light cruiser describes a small ship that was armoured in the same way as an armoured cruiser. In other words, like standard cruisers, light cruisers possessed a protective belt and a protective deck. Prior to this, smaller cruisers tended to be of the protected cruiser model and possessed only an armoured deck. The Kriegsmarine light cruisers were as follows:
Never completed: three M class cruiser
Never Completed: KH-1 and KH-2 (Kreuzer (cruiser) Holland 1 and 2). Captured in the Netherlands 1940. Both being on the stocks and building continued for the Kriegsmarine.
In addition, the former Kaiserliche Marine light cruiser Niobe was captured by Germans on 11 September 1943 after the capitulation of Italy. She was pressed into Kriegsmarine service for a brief time before being destroyed by British MTBs.
During the war, some merchant ships were converted into "auxiliary cruisers" and nine were used as commerce raiders sailing under false flags to avoid detection, and operated in all oceans with considerable effect. The German designation for the ships was 'Handelstörkreuzer' thus the HSK serial assigned. Each had as well an administrative label more commonly used, e.g. Schiff 16 = Atlantis, Schiff 41 = Kormoran, etc. The auxiliary cruisers were:
- Orion (HSK-1, Schiff 36)
- Atlantis (HSK-2, Schiff 16)
- Widder (HSK-3, Schiff 21)
- Thor (HSK-4, Schiff 10)
- Pinguin (HSK-5, Schiff 33)
- Stier (HSK-6, Schiff 23)
- Komet (HSK-7, Schiff 45)
- Kormoran (HSK-8, Schiff 41)
- Michel (HSK-9, Schiff 28)
- Coronel (HSK number not assigned, Schiff 14, never active in raider operations.)
- Hansa (HSK not assigned, Schiff 5, never active in raider operations, used as a training ship)
Although the German World War II destroyer (Zerstörer) fleet was modern and the ships were larger than conventional destroyers of other navies, they had problems. Early classes were unstable, wet in heavy weather, suffered from engine problems and had short range. Some problems were solved with the evolution of later designs, but further developments were curtailed by the war and, ultimately, by Germany's defeat. In the first year of World War II, they were used mainly to sow offensive minefields in shipping lanes close to the British coast.
These vessels evolved through the 1930s from small vessels, relying almost entirely on torpedoes, to what were effectively small destroyers with mines, torpedoes and guns. Two classes of fleet torpedo boats were planned, but not built, in the 1940s.
At the outbreak of war, the Kriegsmarine had a relatively small fleet of 57 submarines (U-boats). This was increased steadily until mid-1943, when losses through allied counter-measures matched the new vessels launched.
The principal types were the Type IX, a long range type used in the western and southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans; and the Type VII, the most numerous type, used principally in the north Atlantic. Type X was a small class of mine-layers and Type XIV was a specialized type used to support distant U-boat operations – the "Milchkuh" (Milkcow).
Types XXI and XXIII, the "Elektroboot", would have negated much of the Allied anti-submarine tactics and technology, but only a few of this new type of U-boat became ready for combat at the end of the war. Post-war, they became the prototypes for modern submarines, in particular, the Soviet Whiskey class submarine.
During World War II, about 60% of all U-boats commissioned were lost in action; 28,000 of the 40,000 U-boat crewmen were killed during the war and 8,000 were captured. The remaining U-boats were either surrendered to the Allies or scuttled by their own crews at the end of the war.
|Top 10 U-Boat Aces in World War II|
|274,333 tons (47 ships sunk)||Otto Kretschmer|
|225,712 tons (43 ships)||Wolfgang Lüth|
|193,684 tons (34 ships)||Erich Topp|
|186,064 tons (29 ships)||Karl-Friedrich Merten|
|171,164 tons (34 ships)||Victor Schütze|
|171,122 tons (26 ships)||Herbert Schultze|
|167,601 tons (28 ships)||Georg Lassen|
|166,596 tons (22 ships)||Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock|
|162,333 tons (30 ships)||Heinrich Liebe|
|160,939 tons (28 ships), plus the British battleship Royal Oak inside Scapa Flow||Günther Prien|
The military campaigns in Europe yielded a number of captured vessels, many of which were under construction. Nations represented included Soviet Union, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Italy (after the armistice), Yugoslavia and Greece. Few of the incomplete ships were actually commissioned; they were abandoned, wrecked or broken up.
Major enemy warships sunk
|HMS Courageous (Royal Navy)||Fleet Aircraft Carrier||17 September 1939||torpedoed by submarine U-29 while on convoy escort|
|HMS Royal Oak (Royal Navy)||Battleship||14 October 1939||torpedoed at anchor by submarine U-47|
|HMS Glorious (Royal Navy)||Fleet Aircraft Carrier||8 June 1940||sunk by battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst|
|HMS Hood (Royal Navy)||Battlecruiser||24 May 1941||sunk by the battleship Bismarck|
|HMS Ark Royal (Royal Navy)||Fleet Aircraft Carrier||14 November 1941||torpedoed by submarine U-81|
|HMS Barham (Royal Navy)||Battleship||25 November 1941||torpedoed by submarine U-331|
|HMS Audacity (Royal Navy)||Escort Carrier||21 December 1941||torpedoed by submarine U-751|
|HMS Eagle (Royal Navy)||Aircraft Carrier||11 August 1942||torpedoed by submarine U-73|
|HMS Avenger (Royal Navy)||Escort Carrier||15 November 1942||torpedoed by submarine U-155|
|USS Block Island (U.S. Navy)||Escort Carrier||29 May 1944||torpedoed by submarine U-549|
|HMAS Sydney (Royal Australian Navy)||Light Cruiser||19 November 1941||sunk by German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran|
Air and Land units
The Luftwaffe had monopoly on all German military aviation, a major source of ongoing interservice rivalry with the Kriegsmarine. Catapult-launched spotter planes like Arado Ar 196 were manned by the Bordfliegergruppen ("ship-born groups"). Trägergeschwader 186 (Carrier Air Group 186) with two wings (Trägergruppe I/186 and Trägergruppe II/186) was with navalized Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Junkers Ju 87 Stuka assigned for the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin but used from bases on land. Furthermore five coastal groups (Küstenfliegergruppen) with reconnaissance aircrafts, torpedo bombers, minesweepers and air-sea rescue seaplanes supported the Kriegsmarine, although with lesser resources as the war progressed.
The Marine-Schützen divisions ("marine riflemen") protected the naval bases and in 1944 amphibious units unsuccessfully tried to capture the strategic island Suursaari in the Gulf of Finland from Germany's former allied Finland (Operation Tanne Ost). The Atlantic Wall had former battleship crews to man the coastal batteries and other Kriegsmarine personnel to man the Seetakt sea radars.
Comparative ranks (during World War II)
|Kriegsmarine||US Navy/Royal Navy|
|Großadmiral||Fleet Admiral/Admiral of the Fleet|
|Vizeadmiral||Rear Admiral (Upper Half)/Rear Admiral|
|Konteradmiral||Rear Admiral (Lower Half)/Commodore Admiral|
|Kommodore||Commodore Junior Grade/ Commodore|
|Kapitän zur See||Captain|
|Oberleutnant zur See||Lieutenant (Jg.)/Sub-Lieutenant|
|Leutnant zur See||Ensign/Acting Sub-Lieutenant|
|Oberfähnrich zur See||Midshipman (Senior Grade)|
|Fähnrich zur See||Cadet/Midshipman (Junior Grade)|
Seamen and Petty Officers
- Matrose (Seaman Recruit)
- Matrosengefreiter (Seaman Apprentice)
- Matrosenobergefreiter (Seaman)
- Matrosenhauptgefreiter (Seaman with 4 ½ years time-in-service)
- Matrosenstabsgefreiter (Seaman with 6 years time-in-service)
- Matrosenoberstabsgefreiter (Seaman with 8 years time-in-service)
- Bootsmannsmat (Petty Officer 3rd Class)
- Oberbootsmannsmat (Petty Officer 2nd Class)
- Bootsmann/Feldwebel (Petty Officer 1st Class)
- Stabsbootsman/Stabsfeldwebel (Petty Officer 1st Class with 12 years time-in-service)
- Oberbootsman/Oberfeldwebel (Chief Petty Officer)
- Stabsoberbootsman/Stabsoberfeldwebel (Chief Petty Officer with 10 years time-in-service including 3 years time-in-grade)
Many different types of uniforms were worn by the Kriegsmarine, here is a list of the main ones:
|kleiner Dienstanzug||Small Service Suit|
|Ausgehanzug||Suit for Walking Out|
|Tropen-und Sommeranzug||Tropical and Summer Suit|
|große Uniform||Parade Uniform|
|kleiner Gesellschaftsanzug||Small Party Suit|
|großer Gesellschaftsanzug||Parade Party Suit|
- Glossary of German military terms
- Alwin-Broder Albrecht
- Karl Dönitz
- Erich Raeder
- Horst Wessel
- List of Kriegsmarine ships
- List of Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross recipients of the Kriegsmarine
- List of ships of the German navies
- ↑ Pipes, Jason (1996–2006). Organization of the Kriegsmarine. Feldgrau.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-31.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Feldgrau :: Organization of the Kriegsmarine in the West 1940–1945
- ↑ Uboat.net, U-boats in the Mediterranean – Overview
- ↑ Uboat.net, U-boat Operations – The Monsun U-boats
- ↑ Submarines: an illustrated history of their impact Paul E. Fontenoy p.39
- ↑ German Mine Sweeping Administration (GMSA) (in German), accessed: 9 June 2008
- ↑ Google book review: German Seaman 1939–45 Page: 41, author: Gordon Williamson, John White, publisher: Osprey Publishing, accessed: 9 July 2008
- ↑ 
- ↑ Deutschland History
- ↑ E. Gröner, Die Schiffe der deutschen Kriegsmarine. 2nd Edition, Lehmanns, München, 1976. C. Bekker, Verdammte See, Ein Kriegstagebuch der deutschen Marine. Köln, Neumann / Göbel, no date.1976,
- ↑ E. Gröner, Die Schiffe der deutschen Kriegsmarine. 2nd Edition. 1976, München, Lehmanns Verlag.
- ↑ Ireland, Bernard (2003). Battle of the Atlantic. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books, 32. ISBN 0-8441-5001-1.
- ↑ Ireland, Bernard (2003). Battle of the Atlantic. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books, 225. ISBN 0-8441-5001-1.
- ↑ Battleships sunk by the Kriegsmarine
- ↑ Carriers sunk by the Kriegsmarine
- ↑ Bordfliegergruppe 196
- ↑ Trägergruppe 186
- ↑ Luftwaffe naval-air units
- ↑ Feldgrau.com
- ↑ Kriegsmarine - The Navy 1935-1945
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Kriegsmarine|
- German U-Boats and Battle of the Atlantic. uboataces.com. Retrieved on 2007-01-20.
- Kriegsmarine History. german-navy.de. Retrieved on 2007-01-20.
- The U-boat War 1939–1945. uboat.net. Retrieved on 2007-01-20.
- Bismarck & Tirpitz. bismarck-class.dk. Retrieved on 2007-01-20.
- Deutschland in Spanish Civil War. bismarck-class.dk. Retrieved on 2007-01-20.
- The photo album of Kriegsmarine minelayer ‘Roland’ crew member. Photos of minelayers on combat missions and various Kriegsmarine vessels.