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Mediterranean Strategy of the Kriegsmarine (Mittelmeerstrategie der Deutschen Kriegsmarine)
This new article has been online since 2010, and can be seen complementing my books titled “The German and the Austrian Navies: Volume Number One and Volume Number Two / Die Deutsche und die Österreichische Marine: Band Nummer Eins und Band Nummer Zwei” (published by CreateSpace of Santa Cruz, California). Here is the link to the new press release and media distribution for my German and Austrian Navy books done on January 24, 2012: http://www.prnewschannel.com/2012/01/24/complete-listing-of-every-german-naval-vessel-to-ever-sail-also-explores-importance-of-sea-born-trade-to-european-world-history/. My books on the German and Austrian Navies have been reviewed by Walter “Winn” Price of the Naval Historical Foundation with a strong “buy” recommendation (May 2012). The foundation is located in the old Washington, D.C. Navy Yard and is an integral part of the U.S. Navy. My navy books have 21,462 “likes” and “shares” on their site.
Important geopolitical updates related to developments in the European Union (EU) are to be found on my website page titled “Financial and Economic Updates by Marc Nonnenkamp.”
My book on the German Navy has many professional endorsements, including from the California Center for Military History (part of the U.S. Army National Guard), Friends of Historical Ships (of Vienna, Austria) and www.german-navy.de. This book is featured on 27 websites in 8 countries. My writings on the German and Austrian Navies have been read by more than 90,456 people on this site, in paperback format or e-book format since November 2007. Thank you very much for your interest and for your visits! My German & Austrian Navy books are on the Amazon “Bestseller” list in the USA, the UK, Germany and Austria (top 3 percent of retail products) and with Barnes & Noble (top one percent). Special thanks for compliments from Gerd Nonnenkamp, Nicole Nonnenkamp, Rusty & Susie Leopoldshagen, William F. Benecke, A. Armsen, George Afferden, “Little” Barskamp, Barbara B. Tigerfeld, Jonar Cruz, Bob Olsen, Scott Rice, John Spaulding, Bob & Pauly Skiba, Bob Roth, Bob Moon, Dito Borromeo, Tom & Jean Roth, Jack & Deloris Barrett, Jim Shortle, Randy Diego, Sonny Hasenmoor, Fred Perry, Gitta Tost, Joyce Krause, Lucie Chaput and Francisco M. from Portugal. The brand new second editions of my German & Austrian Navy books (in full color and with many more illustrations than the first editions) have been read by 19,456 people thus far.
Introduction and Background (Einleitung und Hintergrund)
The World War Two German Empire reached the height of its power in between the summers of 1940 and 1941, or in between the defeat of France in the West and before the invasion of the former Soviet Union in the East. It is true that the first two years of the war in Russia were marked by massive German territorial conquests – to the borders of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the North, Moscow in the East and to the Volga River and the Caucasus Mountains in the South. But these impressive victories were tactical and not strategic in nature. In other words, the Soviet state was still very much alive and able to fight back – which it did after the Battle of Stalingrad (today known as Volgograd) was concluded with a decisive Russian victory in February 1943.
In early June 1941, fully 59 percent of the world’s population was living under the rule of Germany and its axis allies or under the rule of neutral nations friendly to Germany. This figure does not even include the Soviet Union, which was trading with Germany – selling her raw materials and energy necessary to the German economy, offering safe passage to German merchantmen and warships, and offering bases to German submarines. Including the population of the Soviet Union, axis allies and friendly neutrals comprised more than 70 percent of the world’s population. The primary power blocs outside of this group were those of Mainland China, the United States, the Commonwealth (the British Empire) and much of Latin America.
Germany’s allies included Italy, Japan, Slovakia, Finland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Vichy France and Thailand. Germany had absorbed Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Northern and Western France into her empire. Italy occupied Albania, Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia whereas Japan occupied Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Manchuria and a large part of Eastern Mainland China. Vichy France controlled French colonies in North Africa, Central Africa and the Caribbean. Friendly neutrals trading with Germany included Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland and much of Latin America. Beyond this was the Soviet Union, which showed no inclination to attack Germany. The Russians had four million troops on their Western borders and one million troops elsewhere throughout Central Asia and Siberia, but their posture was purely defensive in nature. The German Naval leadership considered Russia to be something of a “timid giant” prior to June 1941, which was very accurate.
The invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 was the result of Adolf Hitler’s own personal megalomania, his racial outlook and inflated sense of his own prowess as an alleged military commander. Hitler was a master politician, a spell-binding orator and a highly successful demagogue – but he was no military leader. During the First World War (1914-1918) he served as an enlisted man (below the level of non-commissioned officers) in the Bavarian Army infantry on the Western Front.
One hundred percent of the World War Two Wehrmacht German General Staff within the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) and the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) were opposed to an invasion of the Soviet Union. The reason was simple – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was still at war with Germany due to the postponed planned seaborne invasion of England (“Operation Sea Lion”) and the German failure during the air war over Great Britain (“The Battle of Britain”). Even in the Wehrmacht-Heer (German Army) and Waffen-SS (the armed SS which was separate from the infamous civilian “secret police” and “security service” SS) more than 95 percent of the members of the General Staff were opposed to an invasion of the Soviet Union. Their reasoning was easy to understand. Frankly, they believed that the task at hand would simply be too large to undertake and complete. The intelligence arm of the Wehrmacht-Heer was led by the brilliant General Reinhard Gehlen, who would survive World War Two to establish and lead the intelligence service of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1956 to 1967. Even he concurred that it was not possible for the German Army to win a war against the Soviet Union militarily. He did believe that it was possible to win the war on a political level by gaining the support of civilian population in the Soviet Union. Initial German contact with Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Ukrainians and even Russians would prove him absolutely correct – but Hitler’s racial policies and program of ethnic persecution and cleansing would ruin this immense reservoir of goodwill toward Germany. General Gehlen warned Hitler about this fact and strongly urged him to change his policy, but to no avail.
The most ambitious plan for the German seaborne invasion of England in the summer or fall of 1940 called for 150,000 soldiers to cross the English Channel mostly at its narrowest point (the Straits of Dover). There were other landing points located along the Southern coast of England, as well as drop points for Fallschirmjäger (German air force paratroopers) behind enemy lines. Of the initial 150,000 troops, perhaps 25,000 would have been paratroopers. The German conquest of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France had left 2,500,000 German land troops on the Western front whereas the somewhat earlier defeat of Denmark and Norway had left 150,000 German troops in Scandinavia. About 350,000 German Army soldiers were on the Eastern border in occupied Poland and Slovakia. Germany’s allies in the East (such as Finland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria) had an additional 500,000 troops. Italy (Germany’s ally in Southern Europe) occupied small areas of Southeastern France in addition to Albania, Libya and Somalia in the South in the Balkans, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, respectively.
The plan for Operation Sea Lion was postponed indefinitely due to the failure of the Battle of Britain – the air war over the Island of Great Britain. The German economy and the German military were simply not prepared for a war in September 1939. It was Hitler’s reckless diplomacy which brought this war about. Hitler was actually very surprised when both France and the United Kingdom declared war upon Germany after the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Upon hearing the dire news, he sat in a literal trance in his chair, surrounded by close aids and generals. When he looked up, he looked directly at his personal political crony Hermann Göring and asked him the dumbfounded question “Was nun?” in German (“What do we do now?”).
The German Air Force (die Deutsche Luftwaffe)
The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 had forbidden Germany from possessing an air force. In spite of this, the Reichswehr in particular under the leadership of Colonel General Hans von Seeckt (who was the commander in chief of the German Army from 1920 until 1926) built what was the nucleus of a clandestine air force. The pilots did much of their training in Russia, which was something of an ally of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). Upon Hitler’s coming to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, German rearmament progressed at a much faster and broader pace. The Luftwaffe’s first chief of staff was Lieutenant General Walter Wever, who led the German air force’s development until his untimely death in an air accident in June 1936. Germany’s best interwar fighter aircraft was the Fokker DVIII, which was based upon the World War One Fokker DVII (the best fighter of the Great War). The first generation of Luftwaffe aircraft after 1933 included fighters such as the Heinkel He-51 and the Arado Ar-65, medium bombers such as the Dornier Do-11 and the Dornier Do-23, dive bombers such as the Heinkel He-50 and reconnaissance aircraft such as the Heinkel He-45 and the Heinkel He-46. The Junkers Ju-52 transporter was also used as a medium bomber before more modern aircraft were available. All told, 4,845 Junkers Ju-52 transporters were built from 1930 until 1947. 725 Heinkel He-51 biplane fighters were made from 1933 until 1943. 512 Heinkel He-45s were manufactured from 1932 until 1936, and they also served as light bombers. 210 Dornier Do-23 medium bombers were built from 1934 until 1936.
The second generation of Luftwaffe aircraft was among the most modern in the world. This included fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf-109 (35,000 examples built in Bavaria from 1935 until 1945), the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 (20,051 units manufactured in Bremen, Germany from 1939 until 1945) and the Messerschmitt Bf-110 heavy fighter (6,050 examples built in Bavaria from 1936 until 1945). The second generation of medium bombers was also very modern for its time. This included aircraft such as the Junkers Ju-88 (14,980 examples built from 1939 until 1945), the Heinkel He-111 (7,300 units manufactured from 1935 until 1944), the Junkers Ju-87 dive bomber (5,709 examples made from 1935 until 1944) and the Dornier Do-17 (2,237 units built in 1939 and 1940). 19,000 Luftwaffe personnel gained valuable combat experience with their aircraft and tactics in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), where both Germany and Italy supported the Spanish nationalists, conservatives and Catholics under General Francisco Franco.
After the untimely demise of Lieutenant General Walter Wever in June 1936, the German air force became a victim to political infighting and meddling in its affairs. Both Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring had little technical, tactical or strategic knowledge. Göring had been a good fighter pilot during World War One, but he was a drug addict and had no leadership abilities. Officers such as Colonel Robert Knauss, Colonel Helmuth Wilberg (who was half Jewish), General Wilhelm Wimmer, Major General Hugo Sperrle (who led the German “Condor Legion” during the Spanish Civil War), Major General Wolfram von Richthofen (a relative of the famous “Red Baron” from World War One), Field Marshall Albert Kesselring (a Bavarian), General Kurt Student (commander of the German paratroopers) and General Hans-Jürgen Stumpf had much more leadership talent, but they were unable to assert themselves effectively enough over Hermann Göring and his personal cronies. Men such as Colonel General Hans Jeschonnek trusted Hitler blindly and did not prepare the air force for a long war. Colonel General Ernst Udet (another fighter ace from World War One) had little technical knowledge and gave the order that all future bombers be designed as dive bombers. Field Marshall Erhard Milch (the interwar CEO of the German airline Lufthansa) was another officer who was unable to assert himself over the Hitler crony Hermann Göring. The German air force was not prepared for a world war in September 1939, but it performed very well against the much smaller and obsolete Polish air force. In April 1940, it saved the day for the German army and navy over the skies of Denmark and Norway, where it thwarted landings by the British Marines and drove the Royal Navy away from Scandinavia. The Luftwaffe repeated its success in May 1940 in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France where it defeated a numerically superior but tactically inferior foe. The Luftwaffe had not spent the peaceful interwar years collecting valuable intelligence on the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, because Adolf Hitler had told them that there would be no war against England. The Luftwaffe had plenty of valuable intelligence on the air forces of Czechoslovakia, Poland and France – because these air forces were believed to be Germany’s primary enemies.
The third generation of Luftwaffe aircraft suffered even more from the duration of the war, the increased scope of the war (the invasion of the Soviet Union) and the political intrigue of Hitler, Göring and their national socialist cronies. These impressive aircraft included the world’s first operational jet fighter (the Messerschmitt Me-262, of which 1,433 examples were built in between 1942 and 1945), the Heinkel He-177 heavy bomber (which should have been built with four separate engines instead of with two dual engines – 1,167 examples of which were made in between 1939 and 1945), the Messerschmitt Me-410 night fighter and light bomber (1,121 units manufactured from 1942 to 1944), the Junkers Ju-188 medium bomber (1,076 examples built from 1942 to 1945), the Messerschmitt Me-210 heavy fighter (352 units made from 1939 until 1942), the Heinkel He-162 jet fighter (300 examples built in 1944 and 1945), the Heinkel He-219 night fighter (286 units made from 1942 until 1944), the world’s first operational jet bomber aircraft (the Arado Ar-234, 274 examples of which were built from 1943 until 1945), the Focke-Wulf Ta-152 high-altitude fighter (220 units made from 1942 to 1945) and the unique Dornier Do-335 high-speed fighter (90 units built from 1943 until 1945 – this plane featured front and rear mounted propeller engines and had a top speed of more than 480 miles per hour).
In spite of such problems, the Luftwaffe may very well have succeeded in securing all-important air supremacy over Southern England in 1940. But the high command under Adolf Hitler and “Reichsmarschall” Hermann Göring insisted on launching a strategic bombing campaign of terror over English cities. This decision on their part was irresponsible, reckless, and immoral. It diverted scarce resources and cost Germany the war against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. If they had not committed this mortal error, the Royal Air Force may have been defeated and Operation Sea Lion might have been launched. England could have been overrun by a land army for the first time since the Norman invasion in 1066. Other reasons behind the German failure in the “Battle of Britain” air war included a lack of military intelligence about targets within Britain and the fact that German bomber aircraft were not escorted by fighters beyond Southern England. German fighter aircraft did not possess adequate range at the time. The lack of military intelligence was due to the fact that Britain was not considered to be a potential enemy of Germany until war actually broke out. The English are a Germanic people, and Hitler did not want war with the English due to his twisted racial philosophy.
Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen “Seelöwe” – die geplante Englandinvasion)
The planned German invasion of England in the summer and fall of 1940 was to have transported an initial 125,000 army troops in four groups to the Southeastern coast of England. The eventual number of German soldiers to be deployed on English soil was to have surpassed one million men. The vessels needed for Sea Lion were initially gathered in Hamburg, and were to have made their way down the coasts of Germany, the Netherlands, Flanders and France. Transport group “B” under Vice Admiral Hermann von Fischel was based in Dunkirk, Ostend and Rotterdam. They were to depart from Calais and land in Dover and Folkestone. The transport vessels in group “B” included the 3rd, 4th and 16th Minesweeping Flotillas plus 100 tugboats, 58 steamers and 15 motorboats. Transport group “C” under Captain Gustav Kleinkamp was to have departed from Calais and Antwerp and land in between Folkestone and Eastbourne. Their vessels included the 1st, 15th and 32nd Minesweeping Flotillas plus 100 tugboats, 60 steamers and 14 motorboats. Transport group “D” under Captain Werner Lindau was based in the French port of Boulogne and was to land near Eastbourne. Their force included the 2nd and 18th Minesweeping Flotillas plus 160 tugboats. Transport group “E” under Captain Ernst Scheurlen was based in Le Havre and was to land in between Eastbourne, Brighton and just east of Portsmouth. Their vessels included the 12th Minesweeping Flotilla plus 25 tugboats, 50 steamers, 200 motorboats and 100 yachts. Many other transport vessels were to have been deployed, and all of the vessels listed above were to have been escorted by numerous motor torpedo boats (fast attack craft), torpedo boats (equivalent to small destroyers in the Allied navies), destroyers, cruisers and battleships. Above them was to have been deployed a protective air umbrella. The Luftwaffe had many single engine fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf-109 and Focke-Wulf Fw-190, dual engine fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf-110 and medium bombers such as the Heinkel He-111, the Junkers Ju-88 and the Dornier Do-17. Dive bombers such as the Junkers Ju-87 “Sturzkampfbomber” or “Stuka” for short would have been useful in a strictly tactical role supporting the invasion along the coast. Most of the transport planes to be used for the 25,000 paratroopers were the Junkers Ju-52 “Tante Ju” plus gliders such as those manufactured by Gotha and DFS (“Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für Segelflug,” or “German Development Institute for Gliders”). 1,500 units of the DFS-230 were manufactured from 1937 until 1940.
One aircraft which could have been much more useful to the German Navy was the Dornier Do-217 medium bomber – a more advanced development of the Dornier Do-17. It had a longer range, higher speed and could carry a heavier load. 1,887 examples of the Dornier Do-217 were built in between 1938 and 1943. Air-dropped magnetic mines were already quite advanced, but not enough were manufactured. The German development of air-dropped torpedoes was not advanced enough, but the Japanese were very advanced in this field – they were an ally of Germany and could have been a source for such valuable technology. As it was, Germany manufactured 276 examples of the Focke-Wulf Fw-200 naval bomber from 1938 until 1944. This plane was converted from a civil airliner, and was thus not purpose built to a military task. In spite of this, it proved very useful against allied shipping. But there were simply not enough such aircraft built by Germany.
Hitler was never very enthusiastic about the prospect of Operation Sea Lion. He was under the false impression that the United Kingdom could be persuaded into accepting a negotiated peace with the German Empire. Furthermore, he had something of a “love-hate” relationship with the UK for the simple reason that the English people were kindred Germanic folk to the German people – his reasoning was thus based upon his own individual racial prejudices. Hitler and Hermann Göring were the ones who decided upon a bombing campaign against British civilian targets, a failed campaign which became known as the “Blitz” in the English-speaking countries. Early tactical forays over the British Isles on the part of the Luftwaffe resulted in some mistaken civilian casualties – these were not the goal during the early part of the air war over Britain. In retaliation, the Royal Air Force launched two small bomber raids over the German capital city of Berlin. The German response was that of the so-called “Blitz.” The failed “Blitz” was thus the substitute for Operation Sea Lion.
The Wehrmacht-Heer (German Army) was initially very enthusiastic about the prospect of Operation Sea Lion, but the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe were not. The Army wanted to finish the job left incomplete after the fall of France – they wanted to defeat the United Kingdom. The Luftwaffe leadership (i.e., Hermann Göring) was under the false impression that a bombing campaign alone could defeat Britain. The Kriegsmarine was apprehensive about Operation Sea Lion for the simple fact that the German Navy was so small compared to the Royal Navy. Furthermore, the barges and other small craft required to launch the invasion would have taken these vessels away from Germany’s civilian economy where they were very much needed.
The leadership of the Kriegsmarine under Erich Raeder much preferred a Mediterranean strategy – something that was within both Germany’s tactical reach and which would have negatively impacted the United Kingdom over a longer period of time. It was practical, and the human and material cost would have been much less to Germany compared with 1) a risky invasion of the British Isles and 2) the disastrous invasion of the Soviet Union which was Hitler’s brainchild in June 1941. The Mediterranean strategy of the Kriegsmarine (and no German invasion of Soviet Russia) would likely have led to a negotiated peace with the United Kingdom and German hegemony over Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and West Africa. Russia would have maintained hegemony over Eurasia (Soviet Europe, Siberia and Central Asia) plus the Persian Gulf and the Indian Subcontinent. Japan would have maintained hegemony over East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific – with the exception of U.S. possessions such as the Philippines, Guam, Samoa, Alaska and Hawaii.
Early Luck of Hitler and his National Socialists (die frühen Erfolge von Adolf Hitler und die NSDAP)
Up until June 1941, Adolf Hitler had been amazingly fortunate and lucky to say the least. His National Socialist German Workers’ Party (“Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,” or abbreviated to “Nazi” in German) was the merely the 10th largest party in Germany until 1931. The global stock market crash which resulted in massive bankruptcies and unemployment catapulted his party into second place and finally first place during 1932 and 1933. In spite of this, the Nazi Party received only 44 percent of the popular vote in Germany in March 1933, which was the last free election on German soil until 1946. The old style German Nationalists (the German National Peoples’ Party, or “Deutschnationale Volkspartei”) formed a coalition government with the Nazis in January 1933, thus enabling Adolf Hitler to become the Chancellor, or Prime Minister of Germany. When President Paul von Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler assumed the additional title of President of Germany (which he changed to “Führer,” or “Leader”). Hindenburg had represented a wide democratic coalition of Christian Democrats, Catholics, Social Democrats, Free Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives and Nationalists until 1932. The opposition to the democratic center was represented by the Nazis on the extreme right and by the Communists on the extreme left.
Hitler repudiated the detested Treaty of Versailles of 1919 in 1935, reintroducing conscription and replacing the 100,000 man voluntary “Reichswehr” with the new 500,000 man conscript “Wehrmacht” (armed forces). The German General Staff made the mistake of accepting a personal armed forces oath of loyalty to Hitler instead of to the German constitution as they had always done in the past. They also made the fatal error of accepting the National Socialist insignia of the swastika or “hooked cross” on the German national flag, armed forces battle flag on the uniforms of the armed forces.
The first territorial change or addition to German territory came in 1935, when the Saarland chose to rejoin Germany in a free and democratic election. France had annexed the Saarland in 1919. The second change came in 1936, when German troops remilitarized the Rhineland, or West bank of the Rhine River. France had wanted this territory to be demilitarized since the end of World War One in November 1918. Although this act violated the Treaty of Versailles, both France and the United Kingdom chose to accept it because they realized how unfair and how unpopular the Treaty of Versailles was in Germany. The Saarland and the Rhineland were and remain pure German territory.
The third change came in 1938 when Germany annexed German Austria. Austria (the states of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Vienna, Burgenland, Styria, Salzburg, Carinthia, Vorarlberg and the Tyrol) was what was left over when the great Austro-Hungarian Empire was involuntarily dismembered in 1918. German Austria had wanted to unite politically with Germany in November 1918, but the Western Allies did not allow this wish of the German and the Austrian people to be realized. In addition to this, the German-speaking peoples of the South Tyrol and the Sudetenland (the German-speaking border region of Bohemia and Moravia in the brand new Republic of Czechoslovakia) also wanted to unite politically with Germany in November 1918. Once again, the Western Allies of France and the United Kingdom chose not to oppose Germany uniting with Austria in early 1938. They felt remorse for the harsh Treaty of Versailles of 1919, and certainly did not want war with Germany again.
The fourth change came in the fall of 1938, when France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany met at Munich to give the German-speaking Sudetenland region to Germany. Czechoslovakia was initially not consulted about this move, but all parties involved agreed to do this because it represented the wishes of the peoples of Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland since November 1918.
The fifth change came in early 1939, when German troops occupied central Bohemia and Moravia in violation of the 1938 Munich agreement. Central Bohemia and central Moravia were and remain overwhelmingly Czech and Moravian in character, with a small German-speaking minority. Hungary and Poland partook in this armed partition of Czechoslovakia, and Slovakia itself used the opportunity to declare political independence from Prague. Germany also demanded and received the Memelland region from Lithuania – a German-speaking territory which Lithuania had annexed from Germany at the end of World War One in 1919.
The difference this time was that the United Kingdom and France finally and belatedly awoke to the fact that Hitler had territorial ambitions that went far beyond ethnic German lands. But Hitler’s amazing fortune and luck did not yet stop. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, she did so with the active help of Slovakia and most important of all with the agreement and help of the Soviet Union. The Free City of Danzig and Upper Silesia were still very German in population, while a significant German minority inhabited West Prussia, Posen and South Prussia. Poland also had large numbers of Lithuanians, White Russians and Catholic Ukrainians in Eastern Poland as well as the largest Jewish community in the world. The European Jews of 1939 were overwhelmingly German in language, culture and outlook. Most European Jews of the time spoke, read and wrote in Yiddish or “Jewish German.” This was yet another large reservoir of potential goodwill which Hitler and his Nazi ideology destroyed. The German occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1945 was particularly brutal in nature.
In April 1940 the German Navy played a critical role in the conquest of both Denmark and Norway. Losses to the Navy were high in both Cruisers and Destroyers, but the strategic value of both Scandinavian countries would prove to be immense for the remainder of the Second World War. Cruisers lost included the Heavy Cruiser “Blücher” plus the Light Cruisers “Königsberg” and “Karlsruhe.” May and June of 1940 witnessed the German conquest of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. French bases on the Atlantic also proved to be utterly valuable to the German Navy for the remainder of the war. After Italy’s failed invasion of Greece in the fall of 1941, Germany came to Italy’s aid and overran Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. Hungary, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria all became military allies of Germany and Italy.
Italy entered yet another conflict where her failures required immediate German help – this time involving an invasion of British Egypt from the Italian colony of Libya. The German answer was to send the highly successful and innovative Panzer General Erwin Rommel to North Africa with up to 50,000 German armored troops – eventually to be christened as the famous “Afrika Korps.” Erwin Rommel was among the trio of Germany’s greatest and most innovative army leaders, the other men being Heinz Guderian and Erich von Manstein. These men formulated and put into action a new brand of armored and mechanized warfare which the world knows to this day. Allied media and German propagandists called it “Blitzkrieg” which literally translates to “lightning warfare” in German. The British had introduced armored warfare to the world on the Western Front in 1917 and France had the largest and likely best armored force in the world up to 1940. But it was this trio of famous German generals who revolutionized armored warfare. Instead of spreading armored and mechanized forces thin, they insisted on creating entire divisions of armored troops (“Panzer” divisions) and mechanized troops (“Panzergrenadier” divisions). These highly armed, highly mobile and elite formations would act with a large degree of independence, striking well ahead of the infantry and the cavalry – and disregarding traditional military obsession with flanks. They would strike deep into enemy territory, creating confusion. They would engage in large pincer movements, encircling huge numbers of enemy infantry, cavalry and artillery. They would perfect the Prussian-German General Staff concept of “Kesselschlacht” (battles of encirclement) which was undertaken by the cavalry during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.
By the fall of 1942 the recently promoted Field Marshall Erwin Rommel would advance his combined German and Italian forces of at least 250,000 men to the Egyptian town of El Alamein, not far from the Egyptian capital city of Cairo. 200,000 men of Army Africa were Italians and 50,000 were Germans.
The world now remembers El Alamein as Germany’s first major World War Two defeat, a turning point in the war which would eventually lead to Germany’s defeat in May 1945. But if the German General Staff and German naval leadership had directed the war, things would have been very different. There would have been no massive invasion of the Western Soviet Union, and the Afrika Korps would have been a much larger force of at least twice the size (500,000 or more soldiers). The Afrika Korps of the German Army under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was to have worked in unison with the German Navy’s planned Mediterranean strategy under the leadership of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder.
The Z-Plan (der Z-Plan der Deutschen Reichsmarine und Kriegsmarine)
The “Z-Plan” was the first major strategic plan of the interwar German Navy (the “Reichsmarine”) and the German Navy of the Third Reich (the “Kriegsmarine”). The Z-Plan was the plan for a balanced fleet of both surface and submarine combat vessels. The core of the expanded German fleet were the new battleships “Scharnhorst” (38,900 tons and armed with nine 11-inch guns in three triple turrets), “Gneisenau” (a sister ship of “Scharnhorst”), “Bismarck” (50,900 tons and armed with eight 15-inch guns mounted in four dual turrets) and “Tirpitz” (52,600 tons full displacement and a sister ship of “Bismarck”). These four battleships were to have been complemented by the six super-battleships of the “H-39” or “Hindenburg” class. The first two units of this class (the “Hindenburg” and the “Friedrich der Große” were laid down in 1939 but scrapped in 1940 due to the outbreak of World War Two). The remaining four ships of this class were to have been named “Moltke,” “Ludendorff,” “Großdeutschland” and “Führer.” Displacement was planned at 68,000 tons and primary armament at eight 16-inch guns mounted in four dual turrets. In essence, the ships of the “Hindenburg” class were merely enhanced versions of the “Bismarck,” – somewhat longer, wider, heavier, with thicker armor plating, with larger guns and with superior steaming radius. From 1940 until 1944, studies for even larger battleships were undertaken. They were basically larger, heavier, more heavily armored and more heavily armed versions of the “Hindenburg” class.
Twelve small battleships of the “Kreuzer-P” (or “Cruiser-P”) class were planned as corsairs to raid enemy merchant shipping. The plan called for a displacement of 25,689 tons each, primary armament of six 11-inch guns mounted in two triple turrets (one fore and one aft), four aircraft and a very impressive speed of 33 knots. The plan for twelve such ships was eventually replaced with a plan for three new battlecruisers of 38,200 tons each, armed with six 15-inch guns mounted in three dual turrets (two fore and one aft), four aircraft and an even more impressive speed of 35 knots. “Schniedheim” and “Wallenstein” were two planned names for these “O-Class” battlecruisers which were never laid down due to the onset of World War Two.
Four aircraft carriers of the “Graf Zeppelin” class were also planned. “Graf Zeppelin” was 85 percent complete by the start of World War Two, but she was never completed. Her sister ship “Peter Straßer” was laid down but she was later scrapped due to the start of the war. Each carrier was to have displaced 34,000 tons full load, and was to have been armed with fifteen six-inch guns and 40 aircraft. Top speed was a very impressive 35 knots or more. The requirement for such aircraft carriers was eventually raised from four to eight units. During the course of the Second World War, plans were made (but never enacted) to convert suitable passenger liners into auxiliary aircraft carriers.
The three so-called “pocket battleships” of the “Deutschland” class were complete and in service by 1936. The “Deutschland” displaced 15,900 tons full load, whereas her sister ships “Admiral Scheer” and “Admiral Graf Spee” displaced 16,200 tons each. Armament was comprised of six 11-inch guns mounted in two triple turrets (one fore and one aft) and two aircraft. Top speed was a very respectable 28 knots or more.
Three of the five new heavy cruisers of the “Admiral Hipper” class were completed whereas the two remaining units were already launched. “Admiral Hipper” and “Blücher” displaced 18,200 tons each, “Prinz Eugen” displaced 18,400 tons and “Lützow” was planned at 19,800 tons. “Seydlitz” was to be converted into a light aircraft carrier at 18,000 and armed with 18 aircraft – work on the flight deck had already commenced before the end of the war. “Lützow” was sold to the Soviet Russian Navy prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Heavy cruiser primary armament was comprised of eight 8-inch guns mounted in four dual turrets (two fore and two aft) and three aircraft, and top speed was a very impressive 32 to 33 knots or more.
Six new light cruisers were already in service by 1935. These were the “Emden,” “Königsberg,” “Karlsruhe,” “Köln,” “Leipzig” and “Nürnberg.” The “Emden” was based upon the last small cruiser of the Imperial Navy in World War One – the “Dresden.” The five newest units were armed with nine 6-inch guns mounted in three triple turrets (one fore and two aft). All turrets were mounted in line in the two newest ships, whereas the two aft turrets were “staggered” in the three “K-Class” cruisers to provide a wider arc of fire. The Z-Plan called for a grand total of 44 German light cruisers by 1948. The newest design for 24 of the largest units (the “M-Class”) had a planned displacement of 10,400 tons, primary armament of eight 6-inch guns mounted in four dual turrets (two fore and two aft) and two aircraft, plus a top speed of 35.5 knots. The 14 remaining units were planned as smaller scout cruisers of either 5,900 or 7,500 tons each. Primary armament was to have consisted of six 6-inch guns mounted in three triple turrets (one fore and two aft) and one aircraft, plus a very good top speed of 36.2 knots.
The Z-Plan also called for 68 destroyers, 90 torpedo boats and 249 submarines (later adjusted upward to 300 submarines). The new German ships were among the most modern, most advanced, fastest and largest of their kind in the world. Large German destroyers were the equivalent of enemy light cruisers, whereas large German torpedo boats could match enemy destroyers. Diverse types of support vessels were all planned in addition to the combat vessels mentioned above. These included tenders, auxiliary cruisers, auxiliary aircraft carriers, depot ships, minelayers, minesweepers, yachts, fishery protection vessels, landing ships, landing boats, sloops (escorts), survey ships, training ships, motor torpedo boats, fast attack craft, patrol boats and tugboats.
The German Navy in June 1941 (die Deutsche Kriegsmarine im Juni 1941 – vor der Rußlandinvasion)
The great German battleship “Bismarck” had been sunk by a numerically superior force of 34 Royal Navy warships in May 1941, and her sister battleship “Tirpitz” was the most powerful remaining surface unit of any navy at 52,600 tons. After her came the battleships “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” at 38,900 tons each. Modern heavy cruisers included the “Prinz Eugen” (18,400 tons) and the “Admiral Hipper” (18,200 tons). The two remaining so-called “pocket battleships” inherited from the interwar “Reichsmarine” had been reclassified as heavy cruisers in 1940. These included the “Admiral Scheer” (16,200 tons) and the “Lützow” (15,900 tons). The latter ship had been launched as the “Deutschland” in 1931, but was renamed in 1940. Pre-dreadnought battleships inherited from the Imperial Navy included the obsolete “Schlesien” and “Schleswig-Holstein” at 14,900 tons each. These two vessels were relegated to training and other duties in the Baltic Sea. Other obsolete pre-dreadnought battleships included the “Hessen” (14,218 tons) and the “Zähringen” (12,798 tons).
The aircraft carrier “Graf Zeppelin” (34,000 tons) was 85 percent complete. Planned aircraft carrier conversions from civilian passenger liners included the “Europa” (56,500 tons) and the “Potsdam” (23,500 tons). The “Seydlitz” (18,000 tons) was a planned heavy cruiser which was now to be completed as a light aircraft carrier. The captured French cruiser “De Grasse” (11,400 tons) was yet another planned light aircraft carrier conversion project.
Large submarine tenders included the “Franken” and the “Ermland” at 22,850 tons each. They were followed by the trio of “Dithmarschen,” “Nordmark” and “Uckermark” at 20,858 tons each.
Auxiliary cruisers included the “Pinguin” (17,600 tons), the “Atlantis” (17,000 tons), the “Widder” (16,000 tons), the “Orion” (15,000 tons), “Michel” and “Coronel” (11,000 tons each) and the “Hansa” (9,144 tons).
Light cruisers included the not yet launched captured Dutch cruisers “De Zeven Provincien” and “Eendracht” (12,165 tons each), the “Nürnberg” (9,040 tons), the “Leipzig” (8,382 tons), the “Köln” (8,130 tons) and the “Emden” (6,990 tons).
Destroyers, torpedo boats (equivalent to small destroyers in allied navies), motor torpedo boats (fast attack craft) and submarines were operating from ports in occupied Norway and France to attack shipping headed to and from the British Isles. The Luftwaffe was still active in bombing British targets, as well as in defending German cities from the Royal Air Force and in supporting the German Navy in the Atlantic Ocean. The invasion of Russia in June 1941 would divert German air strength from the British Isles, from the defense of German cities and from the Atlantic Ocean to the vast expanse of European Russia. German air attacks over the British Isles would virtually cease until the advent of the V-1 flying jet and the V-2 rocket attacks of 1944 and 1945. German flights over the Atlantic Ocean would also virtually cease, thus leaving German submarines at the mercy of the Allied air forces and naval air units. The defense of German cities would also become much weaker, thus opening the future to the increasingly devastating raids over civilian targets from 1942 until 1945. The terrible fire bombing of Hamburg in 1942 (40,000 dead) would be an omen of even worse air attacks to come. The German bombing campaign over Great Britain cost 65,000 lives whereas the Allied bombing campaign over Germany cost up to 644,000 lives. German and Austrian cities with the largest number of civilians killed included Dresden (250,000), Breslau (170,000), Berlin (50,000), Hamburg (50,000), Vienna (30,000), Wesel (23,000), Pforzheim (17,000), Darmstadt (12,000), Kassel (10,000), Heilbronn (6,000), Nürnberg (6,000), Wuppertal (6,000) and Frankfurt (5,000). The worst casualties were the result of incendiary fire bombing, which easily destroyed many very old structures in the center of large German cities. Many historical areas were completely obliterated, never to be rebuilt in the original style. Most of the civilians who perished were not protected by specially built modern bomb bunkers with their own ventilation systems. They usually suffocated to death in cellars located beneath large buildings. Certain large cities did have well-built bunkers which kept civilian casualties much lower. The cities themselves were still flattened in air raids, but at least more lives were saved.
The only British strongholds in and around the Mediterranean Sea included the port of Gibraltar, the island of Malta, the island of Cyprus, Eastern Egypt and Palestine. Everything else was under German, Italian or Vichy French control.
The Imperial Japanese forces in Asia would eventually conquer Burma, which was in effect the easternmost part of British India. British India included modern Burma, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. British influence extended to Afghanistan. Central Asia belonged to the Soviet Union. Both Iran and Iraq were neutral countries with a friendly attitude towards Germany. The rest of the Persian Gulf region had been under strong British influence since the end of World War One in 1919, and Turkey (left over from the former Ottoman Empire) was still neutral.
Grand Admiral Erich Raeder and especially Field Marshall Erwin Rommel wished to advance German forces in the direction of British India, with the eventual goal of meeting Japanese forces. This ambitious goal would have been very attainable simply based on manpower (the strength of the German Army versus the strength of the British Army) and the only obstacle would have been that of supply lines. In June 1941, the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine were both able enough to meet this task. The main obstacle for the Luftwaffe was the British base on Malta, which was bombed by the German air force on a very regular basis. The Kriegsmarine had light forces in the Adriatic Sea, which was the former home of the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy until November 1918. The main German surface and submarine units would have to come from Germany and from German bases in Norway and France through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea. This was no small task, but with Russia and America not in the war it would have been very doable – certainly for the German submarine fleet if not for the surface fleet. Russia did not want to go war against Germany, whereas America wanted to do so very much on behalf of the United Kingdom. Hitler and Mussolini waged war against Russia in June 1941 and both dictators obliged Imperial Japan by declaring war on the United States on December 11, 1941. These were major foreign policy and strategic blunders which were to destroy Germany, Italy, Japan and all of the Axis nations by September 1945.
The relatively small (compared to the Royal Navy) surface forces of the German Navy were extremely active worldwide from September 1939 until the battleship “Bismarck” was lost in late May 1941. They need not have confined themselves to the frozen seas thereafter – this was the result of yet more poor “leadership” on the part of Hitler. Furthermore, the naval leadership of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder was too “rigid.” It did not allow other flag officers (i.e., German Admirals) to exercise enough independent decisions. Two such great Admirals were General Admiral Hermann Boehm (1884-1972) and General Admiral Wilhelm Marschall (1886-1976). Both men were temporarily relieved of their duties due to not following orders to the letter. In the case of General Admiral Marschall, his exercise of independent leadership led to success against the Royal Navy and to the preservation of the lives of the men serving under his leadership – exactly what a good officer should be doing. Admiral Günther Lütjens (commander of the battleship “Bismarck”) followed Grand Admiral Raeder’s orders to the letter – which likely led to the loss of the ship and the loss of 2,200 German sailors.
European and Global Power Politics (Weltpolitik in Europa)
Some people say that Soviet Russia had “secret” plans of attacking Europe in 1941 or 1942, but I believe that this is nothing more than a false conspiracy theory. Nothing in Russia’s past (Communist going back to 1917 or Tsarist before that) or in the Cold War history of the former Soviet Union would support such a theory.
I would generally say the same thing where German history is concerned. What transpired from 1939 to 1945 was primarily due to Hitler’s uniquely reckless personality. War was by no means popular in Germany in September 1939, and the German General Staff did not want to risk war in either 1938 (Czechoslovakia) or 1939 (Poland). Hitler would continually accuse his generals and admirals of being timid, but in truth most people were “timid” compared to Hitler. He was a genius, but he was an evil person with a reckless personality.
What happened in 1914 during the tragic chain of events leading to up to World War One was a different and unique case again. The leaders of Europe did not value peace enough and did not fear the consequences of modern war – perhaps because virtually none of them had experienced war in person. Austria-Hungary was looking for an excuse to wage a so-called preventive war against Serbia much like the United States wished to do in Iraq in 2002. Austria also had territorial ambitions in the Balkans (Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Romania). Germany wanted to solve the problem of her encirclement by a hostile France and Tsarist Russia, in addition to gaining more colonial territory in Central Africa. Italy had territorial ambitions against Austria in the Tyrol and the against the Austrian South Slav regions of Slovenia, Croatia, Dalmatia and Montenegro. France had territorial ambitions against Germany in the Alsace, Lorraine, the Saarland and the Rhineland. Russia had territorial ambitions against Austria-Hungary in the Balkans and against Ottoman Turkey around the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Ottoman Turkey had territorial ambitions in Greece, North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Bulgaria had territorial ambitions in Greece and Serbia. The United Kingdom wanted to eliminate the maritime and commercial threat represented by Germany. Germany wanted to replace the United Kingdom as the world’s greatest maritime and commercial nation. The United States wanted to expand its influence in Latin America. Mexico wanted to regain the American Southwest, once held by Mexico and Spain. Japan wanted to expand its sphere of influence in virtually all of Asia. One massive problem with all these so-called political ambitions is that they paid no attention to the wishes of the human populations in these territories. Majority population groups should be able to determine their own national allegiance, and minority population groups in the said areas should retain the right to their own language, culture, religion, media and schools.
Whereas Hitler launched World War Two in Germany’s name, the First World War was by no means Germany’s sole responsibility. The political personality of the Hohenzollern Monarchy of Brandenburg-Prussia made German policy very inept, but they were not evil per se. The lack of tact which they displayed internationally was not different from how they had treated other German states going back to the time of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
The maintenance of the global balance of power was much better served during the long period of rule which ended with the Habsburg-Lothringen Monarchy in Germany and Central Europe. Their forefathers gained the throne of the Frankish Kingdom in the fifth century after Christ, which matured into the First German Empire (the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) by the ninth century after Christ. This endured until the Austrian Empire and her German allies (the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Kingdom of Hanover, the Grand Duchy of Baden, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen and many smaller German states) were defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia and the Kingdom of Italy during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.
It is tragic that Austria and her German allies were not able to modernize their states to the degree reached by Brandenburg-Prussia. If they had done this, world history may have turned out very differently.
The Twilight of Austria-Hungary (das Ende der Donaumonarchie im November 1918)
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Habsburg-Este and his wife the Duchess of Hohenberg in June 1914 was tragic for many reasons. Generals such as Conrad von Hotzendorf persuaded Kaiser Franz Josef I of Habsburg-Lothringen to wage a “preventive” war against the Kingdom of Serbia, which did not want war with Austria-Hungary. Germany chose to back Austria-Hungary and Russia chose to back Serbia, virtually with so-called blank checks. Germany opted for a “preventive” strike against France through neutral territory in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom decided to use violated Belgian neutrality as an excuse to declare war on Germany and thereby eliminate the “threat” posed by the German naval and merchant fleets to British economic supremacy. Italy was looking for some flimsy excuse to violate her alliance with Austria, because she wanted so much Austrian territory for herself. Too many politicians and so-called military leaders were looking for cheap excuses to wage war and thereby obtain spoils. The cost was to be the lives of tens of millions of young men in the trenches and mud of Europe, the destruction of the world’s greatest Christian monarchies and elimination of worldwide socioeconomic stability and political peace.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his successor who became the last Emperor of Austria in 1916 (Karl of Habsburg-Lothringen) wanted to expand political rights to include the Slavic peoples of the empire. The Hungarians had achieved political autonomy in 1867, but the Slavs had yet to achieve it. This was to have included the Czechs, Moravians, Slovaks, Ruthenes (Catholic Ukrainians), Poles, Slovenes, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Montenegrins. This broad move would have defused the political tension represented by extremist nationalist terrorist groups such as the “Black Hand” of Serbia, which claimed responsibility for the dual assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and his spouse.
Unlike monarchs in Russia (who were murdered by the Bolshevik Communists) and in Germany (who abdicated and many of whom went into exile in neutral countries), the Habsburg-Lothringen monarchs never formally abdicated or renounced their noble titles. Kaiser Karl and his wife Kaiserin Zita attempted to regain the throne of Hungary in between 1919 and 1921. Their attempts were thwarted by the fascist dictator Admiral Horthy, who was the self-proclaimed regent of Hungary. Kaiser Karl died of influenza on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1922. He was succeeded by his ten year old son Otto, who is now retired in Bavaria. Otto’s eldest son Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen (born in 1961) lives in Austria and Otto’s second son Georg von Habsburg-Lothringen (born in 1964) resides in Hungary today. Otto von Habsburg-Lothringen is a citizen of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire of 1914 sought to expand its sphere of influence into Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Albania and the Greek islands of the Mediterranean. The Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy (“Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine” in German) had its headquarters at Pola (now named “Pula” in modern Croatia) with other large bases in Triest, Ragusa (“Dubrovnik” in Croatia), Zara, Fiume (“Rikeja” in Croatia) and Cattaro (“Kotor” in modern Montenegro). The German names for these ports included Polei (Pola) and Sankt Veit am Pflaumb (Fiume). Fiume was the home of the Imperial and Royal Naval Academy and the official port of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Navy had a history of deployment on the coasts of Morocco, Greece and Lebanon in addition to colonial activity in the Indian Ocean and China.
The German Kriegsmarine of the Second World War was looking at very much the same parts of the world prior to the failed invasion of the Soviet Union in late June 1941. These regions would have secured even more vital energy reserves and would have countered the maritime position of the United Kingdom. Another important goal of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder of the Kriegsmarine which was thwarted by Adolf Hitler included the absorption of the French naval units into the German Navy.
The British Royal Navy, the Vichy French and the Italian Navies (die britische Marine, die Marine von Vichy Frankreich und Italien)
In September 1939 the French Navy had 7 battleships and battlecruisers, 2 aircraft carriers and 19 cruisers (heavy and light cruisers included). After the German defeat of France in 1940, two of the French battlecruisers and both aircraft carriers were either far abroad and/or made it to a British port.
The British Royal Navy was still very large and powerful in 1939 – but much less so compared to its strength at the start of World War One in 1914. In September 1939 the Royal Navy had 15 battleships and battlecruisers, 6 aircraft carriers and 59 cruisers. Most of these vessels were older and slower compared to their continental European counterparts.
The French Navy was based in the Mediterranean port of Toulon, and included the modern battleships “Strasbourg” and “Dunkerque” of 35,500 tons each. Strasbourg is the German-speaking capital of German-speaking Alsace, known as Strassburg in German. Dunkirk (English spelling) is the Flemish-speaking capital of French Flanders (German spelling of “Dünkirchen”). Flemish is closely related to Dutch. High Dutch is closely related to both Afrikaans (the Cape Dutch of Southern Africa) and to the Lower German “Plattdeutsch” dialects of Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Pomerania, Prussia and Courland. Other large French warships sought by Grand Admiral Erich Raeder for the Kriegsmarine included the battleships “Provence” (28,500 tons), “Jean Bart” (26,000 tons) and “Concorcet” (19,450 tons). Beyond this were many cruisers, destroyers, torpedo boats, fast attack craft, submarines and non-combat support vessels. The Vichy French fleet would have enlarged the German Navy by 71 percent, but the British Royal Navy still would have enjoyed a three-to-one numerical advantage in capital ships.
The “Dunkerque” and the “Strasbourg” were modern ships, having been commissioned in 1937 and 1938, respectively. They were armed with eight 13-inch guns mounted in two forward turrets and had a top speed of 31.06 knots. “Jean Bart” and “Provence” were dreadnought battleships which were commissioned in 1913 and 1915, respectively. “Concorcet” was a pre-dreadnought battleship which was commissioned in 1911. The two modern battleships would have been useful on the high seas, whereas the older ships could only be deployed much closer to the coast. They were much slower, with “Jean Bart” being the best of the three with a top speed of just 22.6 knots. The French Navy was based in the port of Toulon on France’s Southern coast.
In addition to this was the Italian Navy. The Italians had a bad track record of performance during the Austro-Prussian War (1866), World War One (1915-1918) and World War Two (1940-1945). But their lack of good performance was primarily due to bad leadership. For instance, officers and enlisted men did not eat together and were even provided with different food – much better for the officers and much worse for the enlisted ranks. This lowered the morale and performance of ordinary soldiers. Italian troops performed significantly better under German and Austrian leadership – Austrian leadership during World War One (ethnic Italians from places such as Trient and Triest) and German leadership during World War Two (Italian soldiers and officers under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in the famed “Afrika Korps.”).
The Italian Navy had high-quality battleships such as the “Vittorio Veneto,” the “Italia,” the “Roma” and the “Imperio” (46,215 tons each). Beyond this were the “Ciao Duilio” and the “Andrea Dorea” (29,391 tons each) plus the “Conti de Cavour” and the “Giulio Cesare” (29,100 tons each). Main German Naval bases in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Seas included Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Palermo, Venice, Tunis, Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk. Secondary bases (all on Greek soil) included Salonica, Volos, Salamis and Crete. The main German Naval base on the Black Sea was Nikolayev in the Ukraine (just west of the Crimean Peninsula). The combined units of the Vichy French and the Italian Navies would have enlarged the entire German Navy by an impressive 186 percent. This would have made things far more difficult for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.
The “Vittorio Veneto” (1940), the “Italia” (1940), the “Roma” (1942) and the “Imperio” (launched in 1939 but never commissioned into active service) were all very modern battleships armed with nine 15-inch guns. Top speed was a good 31.42 knots, and they would have been very useful to the German Navy. The other battleships in the Italian Navy were all dreadnought battleships from World War One, but they had decent primary armament (12 inch guns) and acceptable performance (27 to 28.25 knots top speed) – considerably better than the dreadnought era battleships of other navies. In fact, they would have been much like the battlecruisers of World War One, which were faster and more useful compared to their dreadnought battleship counterparts.
Adding the Italian Navy’s strength to that of the Kriegsmarine and the Navy of Vichy France would have evened the playing field somewhat more. The British Royal Navy’s numerical advantage in capital ships over the Axis powers in Europe would have fallen from about three-to-one to about 70 percent.
Benito Mussolini’s Italy entered the land war against France late, and accomplished little. Mussolini demonstrated some strategic foresight by asking Hitler for Italian territorial concessions in Corsica, Tunisia and Algeria – but because Mussolini had nothing with which to bargain Hitler gave him nothing. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder wanted some French ships, but did not consider outright confiscation of the French Navy. He considered the latter alternative to be far too humiliating for any country. Hitler promised French Admiral Jean Francois Darlan that Germany would make no demands upon any French Navy ships either upon the armistice between Germany and France or in the future. For his part, Darlan said that no other country would ever get any Vichy French ships, and that the Vichy French fleet was to remain neutral. This agreement between Hitler and Darlan made the German Naval usage of skilled French dockworkers much easier to obtain. The fall of France greatly improved the strategic position of both the German and the Italian Navies vis-à-vis the British Royal Navy, but the French Atlantic ports were always within easy striking distance of the Royal Air Force. This was yet one more reason why the Mediterranean strategy of the Kriegsmarine became the German Navy’s second major strategic plan under the leadership of Erich Raeder. The first plan under his leadership was the famous “Z-Plan” for German Naval ship construction prior to the outbreak of World War Two.
Both major centers of British Naval power in the Mediterranean were seen as vulnerable to German and axis attack. These were Gibraltar in the West and the Suez Canal in the East. If the German Navy were able to capture these two key British bases, Germany would have been able to force the British Royal Navy out of the Mediterranean Sea, free the considerable Italian Navy for deployment in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and hasten an eventual German victory over Britain by making possible the maximum deployment of German force against British oceanic communications.
The capture of both Gibraltar and the Suez Canal would have necessitated German troop movements through regions such as France, Spain, French North Africa and French West Africa. Once this was achieved, bases in Spain and French West Africa as far South as Dakar would have become available for use by both the German and the Italian Navies. Such a situation would have seriously threatened British South Atlantic and Indian Ocean commerce. Furthermore, these new bases would have been out of the reach of the British Royal Air Force. This advantage would have been particularly important to surface ships which were most vulnerable to enemy air attack while in port. And the acquisition of additional repair yards would have enabled domestic shipyards in Germany to finally concentrate on the construction of new shipping – especially submarines. Another goal of the German Navy was to establish bases in the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain.
The German Naval plans for the Eastern Mediterranean involved the capture of the Suez Canal from the British. This would have necessitated a much larger Afrika Korps, which would have been extremely feasible with no invasion of the Soviet Union. As it was, German and Italian troops already occupied much of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Western Egypt. After the Suez Canal was under the control of German troops, the next goals were Palestine (modern Israel) and Syria. At the time, Palestine was a British Mandate and Syria belonged to the French. These important strategic moves would have placed Turkey and the Balkans beyond the reach of the British Empire. Turkey was still neutral and the Balkans were already under German control. The communications to Italian East Africa (modern day Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia) would have been preserved and the region would have been saved for Germany and her Italian allies. This would have been yet another position from which to threaten trade with British India and the all-important oil supplies in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region.
One can clearly see how all of these plans were extremely doable with no German invasion of the Soviet Union – with no major Eastern Front for the German Empire. With a passive, neutral and even somewhat friendly Soviet Union, it would have been nearly impossible for Vichy France and Spain to refuse German pressure to allow access to Gibraltar via French and Spanish territory. The only major land powers in the world of 1940 were Germany, Russia (the Soviet Union), China, Japan and the United States. China and Japan were occupied in a land war with each other, the United States was still technically neutral, Russia was neutral to somewhat friendly to Germany and Germany was at the peak of her geopolitical might. Germany would have had access to new military bases in places such as Gibraltar, Spanish Morocco and the Canary Islands. Other very possibilities would have existed in French North Africa, French West Africa and in the eventual capture of British Malta.
The overwhelming power of the German Army and Luftwaffe would have made it very difficult if not impossible for Spain and Vichy France to resist German pressure in the Mediterranean. This would have made the Mediterranean strategy of the Kriegsmarine come true. Turkey was to have been pressured into becoming a German ally, just as she had been during the First World War. The leadership of the German Navy considered the Soviet Union (i.e., Russia) to be a “timid giant,” – which was very accurate. Soviet Russia was to have been offered very generous geopolitical concessions in Iran, Afghanistan and British India. Even today, modern Russia maintains a tremendous interest in these nations – proof that the World War Two German Navy interpreted Russian political aspirations correctly. The German-Russian nonaggression pact of 1939 had already given Soviet Russia control over the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Eastern Poland to the Curzon Line (not much different from Poland’s current Eastern border with Belarus and the Ukraine) and Russia had annexed some territory from Finland by force of arms – territory which the Russian Federation still has today.
With no German invasion of the Soviet Union and with the implementation of the Mediterranean strategy of the German Navy, the course of the Second World War would have been very different. The Mediterranean Sea would have become an axis “lake,” controlled by Germany, Italy and their likely new allies in Vichy France and Fascist Spain. Even Portugal and Turkey would have found it very hard to resist from being drawn into the axis orbit. French North Africa and West Africa would have become an additional base for the axis Army Africa (the “Afrika Korps”) and for the German and the Italian Navies – both surface and submarine units included. The lower North Atlantic Ocean would have become a very dangerous place for the British Royal Navy. With Soviet Russia neutral and eventually in control of Afghanistan (then under British influence), India (then a British Crown colony) and Iran (a neutral nation friendly to Germany until the Americans supported a coup d’etat which established the Pahlevi Dynasty), the likelihood of a negotiated peace between the German Empire and the United Kingdom would have increased tremendously – especially if German demands would have been reasonable. With no more war in Europe, the “America First” policy of isolationism would have been given a fresh breath of life in the United States.
Britain would have been left with the British Isles (Britain and Ireland but not the Channel Islands, which were taken by Germany in 1940), Iceland (a Danish Crown colony which the British occupied in 1940), Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belize, the British Caribbean, Guyana and the Falkland Islands.
The Naval war in the Mediterranean was very active from the start. The British Royal Navy succeeded in sinking the old Vichy French battleship “Bretagne” with the loss of 977 French lives. The new battleship “Dunkerque” was crippled by hits from 15-inch British shells, and the old battleship “Provence” had to be beached by her French crew to prevent her from sinking. The incomplete Vichy French battleship “Richelieu” was torpedoed by British carrier aircraft while in the port of Dakar. On November 11, 1940 twenty aircraft were launched from the British carrier “H.M.S. Illustrious” to attack the Italian Naval base at Taranto. The effects of this small raid were immense. The old battleship “Cavour” was sunk in shallow water, putting her out of active duty permanently. The old battleship “Duilio” was damaged by a torpedo and took six months to repair. The new battleship “Littorio” survived three hits and took three months to repair. The remaining ships were withdrawn to the port of Naples, thus resulting in a strategic victory for the Royal Navy.
Nevertheless, other and larger opportunities existed for the axis powers. If Soviet Russia had not been invaded by Germany, the potential for these opportunities were very significant. Germany signed a ten year defensive alliance with Imperial Japan in June 1940. Soviet Russia signed a non-aggression pact with Imperial Japan in April 1941. The Germans wanted the Japanese to attack British colonies in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Malaya, Brunei and Hong Kong – which they did. The Germans also wanted the Japanese to overtake the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) and French Indochina (modern day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) – all of which the Japanese did as well. But the German Naval leadership wanted the Japanese to bypass the American colonies of the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii. The Kriegsmarine did not want the United States in the war, and instead wanted the Japanese to put pressure on British India – which did commence with the Japanese conquest of Burma.
The spring of 1941 witnessed the Balkan campaign in Europe due to Italy’s failed invasion of Greece from Italian-occupied Albania. Slovakia had been an ally of Germany since 1939, but now Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria all joined the Germans. Yugoslavia split into independent parts. Slovenia was occupied by the German Empire and became the Province of Carniola, which it had been in Austria-Hungary until November 1918. Croatia became a German ally and occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina (which had been part of Austria-Hungary from 1878 until 1918). Serbia and Montenegro were occupied by German forces, and Macedonia was occupied by Bulgaria. Greece was overrun by the German Army and the island of Crete was taken by German paratroopers. 5,000 of the 22,000 German paratroopers were either killed or wounded during the conquest of Crete. The Italian Navy launched a sortie against the British Royal Navy off the coast of Crete, but this was yet another disaster for the Italians. The new battleship “Vittorio Veneto” was badly damaged and had to be escorted back to her base. The Italians lost the cruisers “Pola,” “Zara” and “Fiume” to a force of British battleships and destroyers.
But the British were not without their own problems. The Afrika Korps was advancing into Eastern Libya and Western Egypt. Furthermore, German submarines were now operating in the Mediterranean Sea. U-81 under Korvettenkapitän (Lieutenant Commander) Friedrich Guggenberger torpedoed and sunk the British carrier “H.M.S. Ark Royal” on November 13, 1941. U-331 under Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant) Hans Dietrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen torpedoed and sunk the dreadnought battleship “H.M.S. Barham” on November 25, 1941. Three weeks later the British lost the light cruiser “H.M.S. Galatea” to torpedoes from U-557. Italian midget submarines damaged but did not sink the British battleships “H.M.S. Valiant” and “H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth.” Although the ships were not lost, they did have to withdraw from the Mediterranean to undergo repairs. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy lost the battleship “H.M.S. Prince of Wales” and the battlecruiser “H.M.S. Repulse” to a Japanese land-based air assault in Malayan waters in January 1942. The new carrier “H.M.S. Indomitable” had been accidentally grounded during a training cruise in the Caribbean Sea in November 1941.
The United Kingdom and the United States (Großbrittannien und Amerika)
The primary opponents of the German Navy in both world wars were the United Kingdom (during the entirety of both wars) and the United States (from 1917 to 1918 during World War One and from 1941 to 1945 during World War Two). Germany was at a severe disadvantage vis-à-vis the United States compared to the United Kingdom due to the fact that the United Kingdom had the world’s most powerful navy and due to the fact that English was the common language of the United States. This in spite of the fact that ethnic German-Americans were then and continue to be today the largest single ethnic group in the United States, comprising 20 percent of the entire American population. The first German-Americans settled in Germantown (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania in 1683 and the largest wave of German immigration to the United States came after the failed democratic revolutions of 1848. Among German-American political leaders in 1848 were Carl Schurz, who served in the cabinet of Republican President Abraham Lincoln. Later U.S. Presidents with German surnames included Herbert Clark Hoover (“Huber” in Southern German, Austrian and Swiss-German) and Dwight David Eisenhower (“Eisenhauer” in German).
German immigration tapered off after 1871, when the modern Prussian-German Empire was established and when the German economy became ever more able to provide economic opportunity for people at home. The American states with largest ethnic German populations today include Wisconsin (63 percent), North Dakota (48 percent), South Dakota (47 percent), Nebraska (46 percent), Iowa (45 percent), Minnesota (43 percent) and Pennsylvania (34 percent). The capital city of North Dakota is named after former Prussian-German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Most German immigrants to American entered ports such as New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans and settled in the farm country of the American Midwest. They are mostly Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic, with very large concentrations of German Baptists (Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, Hutterites and Schwenkfelders) and German-Jews. Of 63 million German-Americans today, about 20 million are of pure German ancestry and 22 million are of partial German ancestry but see themselves primarily as German-Americans. The remaining 21 million are of partial German heritage but indentify primarily with an ethnic group other than German-American. 1.7 million Americans speak German at home, and 5.1 million Americans indentify German as their native or first language. Millions more speak at least some German, and German is the third most popular foreign language in the United States after Spanish and French.
The Prussian General von Steuben was an important military leader who fought on the American side against Great Britain during the Revolutionary War of American Independence (1774 to 1783). Many German Hessian mercenaries on the British side also deserted to fight for the American side instead. Other famous German-Americans include Dolly Madison (the wife of President James Madison, Roebling (the great engineer who designed the famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York City), Boeing (who founded the famous airplane manufacturing company in Washington state), the Studebaker brothers (horse-drawn carriages and automobiles from Indiana), Stutz (luxury automobiles from Wisconsin), the Duesenberg brothers (luxury automobiles from Indiana), Eckardt (horse-drawn carriages and later luxury automobiles from Auburn, Indiana), General John Pershing (commander of the U.S. Army during World War One), Spaatz (commander of the U.S. Army Air Force over Europe during World War Two) and Chester Nimitz (an admiral who served in the Pacific theater in the U.S. Navy during World War Two). Nimitz was born and raised in New Braunfels, Texas – one of many American cities founded by German immigrants.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now just Northern Ireland) is comprised of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales on the island of Great Britain. The Scots, the Welsh, the Manx (on the Isle of Man) and the Irish (Irish Catholics in the Republic of Ireland and Scotch-Irish Protestants in two-thirds of Northern Ireland) are Celts whose ancestors spoke Celtic languages such as Gaelic. The English comprise roughly 80 percent of the population of the modern United Kingdom and are of German ancestral stock. Their ancestors were Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Normans (all Germanic tribes) who migrated to Britain. Old English was closely related to German, and modern English remains a Germanic language with a good deal of Latin roots. The Royal Family of England is the House of Windsor, but this name was adopted in 1917 due to anti-German sentiment during World War One. Their real name is the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which is a German noble house within the Wettin family of Saxony and Thuringia in Central Germany. Until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 the English Royal Family was known as the House of Hanover, which is the same Royal House of the Kingdom of Hanover and the Grand Duchy of Brunswick in Lower Saxony in Northwestern Germany. Great Britain and Germany had mostly cordial relations until the outbreak of World War One in 1914, in spite of the fact that the Royal Navy had a history of restricting armed trade as far as the German Bay in the North Sea. The armed vessels of the Hanseatic Cities of Northern and Central Europe were armed for defensive purposes and never had hostile intent toward the Royal Navy. The largest Hanseatic Cities in Germany today remain Hamburg, Bremen, Bremerhaven (formerly called “Wesermünde”) and Rostock.
In September 1939 German steamship companies had about 400 commercial ships (two million tons) abroad. One quarter of them succeeded in safely reaching German ports while the remaining three quarters sought refuge in neutral harbors around the world. The German economy did not suffer as much in 1939 compared to 1914 because of two primary reasons. First, much stockpiling of goods and materials had been successfully accomplished for a number of years. Second (and even more important), foreign trade was still being conducted with the Soviet Union, East Asia, Eastern Europe, Switzerland, Italy and Scandinavia. German submarines were immediately offered overseas bases in Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union. The offers from Italy and Japan were accepted, whereas Hitler made the mistake of turning down the offer from the Soviet Union. Norway and Sweden supplied German heavy industry with 11 million tons of iron ore per year.
Historical Production Figures in German and Austria to date (ordered, planned, launched and/or commissioned):
- Fishing Vessels: 25,000 units
- Submarines: 8,421 units (includes midget submarines)
- Fast Attack Craft: 7,093 units
- Merchant Vessels (less than 1,000 tons total displacement): 7,002 units
- Merchant Vessels (more than 1,000 tons total displacement): 4,309 units
- Minesweepers: 3,750 units
- Transporters and Landing Vessels: 2,978 units
- Torpedo Boats: 1,699 units
- Auxiliary Vessels: 1,513 units (many converted to Tenders)
10. Training Vessels: 1,015 units
11. Corvettes: 958 units
12. Frigates: 274 units
13. Destroyers: 250 units
14. Light and Small Cruisers: 147 units
15. Zeppelin Airships: 132 units
16. Battleships and Battlecruisers: 125 units
17. Gunboats, Monitors and Patrol Boats: 103 units
18. Heavy and Large Cruisers: 31 units
19. Aircraft Carriers: 24 units
20. Tenders: 9 units
21. Survey Ships: 4 units
Military Aircraft (until 1929):
- Fokker Fighter Aircraft: 3,256 units
- Albatros Fighter Aircraft: 2,248 units
- AEG Reconnaissance Aircraft: 1,267 units
- Hannover Fighter-Bomber Aircraft: 1,056 units
- LVG Reconnaissance Aircraft: 1,000 units
- Friedrichshafen Naval Aircraft: 838 units
- Pfalz Fighter Aircraft: 780 units
- DFW Reconnaissance Aircraft: 600 units
- Gotha Bomber Aircraft: 299 units
10. Siemens-Schuckert Fighter Aircraft: 280 units
11. Junkers Fighter-Bomber Aircraft: 274 units
12. Brandenburg Naval Aircraft: 204 units
13. Zeppelin Heavy Bombers: 10 units (note: these were not airships)
Military Aircraft (from 1930 until 1950):
- Messerschmitt Bf-109 Fighters: 35,000 units
- Fieseler Fi-103 “Reichenberg” Flying Jet Bombs (the “V-1”): 29,000 units
- Focke-Wulf Fw-190 Fighters: 20,051 units
- Junkers Ju-88 Medium Bombers: 14,980 units
- Elektromechanische Werke A-4 Rockets (the “V-2”): 10,000 units
- Heinkel He-111 Medium Bombers: 7,300 units
- Messerschmitt Bf-110 “Destroyer” Heavy Fighters: 6,050 units
- Junkers Ju-87 Dive Bombers: 5,709 units
- Junkers Ju-52 Transporters: 4,845 units
10. Fieseler Fi-156 “Stork” Reconnaissance Aircraft: 2,500 units
11. Dornier Do-17 “Pencil” Medium Bombers: 2,237 units
12. Bücker Bü-181 “Bestmeister” Trainers: 2,000 units
13. Dornier Do-217 Medium Bombers: 1,887 units
14. Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für Segelflug DFS-230 Gliders: 1,500 units
15. Messerschmitt Me-262 “Swallow” Jet Fighters: 1,433 units
16. Heinkel He-177 “Greif” Heavy Bombers: 1,167 units
17. Messerschmitt Me-410 “Hornet” Night Fighters: 1,121 units
18. Junkers Ju-188 Medium Bombers: 1,076 units
19. Junkers Ju-86 Medium Bombers: 900 units
20. Focke-Wulf Fw-56 “Stößer” Biplane Fighters: 900 units
21. Focke-Wulf Fw-189 “Uhu” Reconnaissance Aircraft: 894 units
22. Messerschmitt Bf-108 “Typhoon” Fighters: 887 units
23. Henschel Hs-126 Reconnaissance Aircraft: 802 units
24. Heinkel He-51 Biplane Fighters: 725 units
25. Heinkel He-45 Light Bombers: 512 units
26. Arado Ar-196 Naval Floatplanes: 401 units
27. Heinkel He-115 Torpedo Bombers: 400 units
28. Messerschmitt Me-210 Night Fighters: 352 units
29. Heinkel He-162 “Peoples’ Fighter” Jet Fighters: 300 units
30. Heinkel He-70 “Lightning” Reconnaissance Aircraft: 296 units
31. Heinkel He-219 “Uhu” Night Fighters: 286 units
32. Blohm und Voss BV-138 Flying Boats: 279 units
33. Focke-Wulf Fw-200 Naval Bombers: 276 units
34. Arado Ar-234 “Lightning” Jet Bombers: 274 units
35. Dornier Do-24 Naval Reconnaissance Aircraft: 255 units
36. Focke-Wulf Ta-152 High Altitude Fighters: 220 units
37. Dornier Do-23 Medium Bombers: 210 units
38. Heinkel He-60 Reconnaissance Aircraft: 205 units
39. Dornier Do-215 Medium Bombers: 101 units
40. Dornier Do-335 “Arrow” Fast Piston Fighters: 90 units
Military Aircraft (since 1950):
- Messerschmitt Bölkow Blohm “Tornado” Jet Fighter Bombers: 809 units
- Dornier Do-27 Monoplanes: 478 units
- Messerschmitt Bölkow Blohm MBB-105 Helicopters: 439 units
- Dornier G.91 Jet Fighter Bombers: 411 units (under license from Fiat)
- Focke-Wulf P.149D Basic Trainers: 376 units
- Dornier UH-1D “Iroquois” Helicopters: 344 units (under license from the USA)
- Dornier Alpha Jet Fighter Bombers: 175 units
- Nord-Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke N.2501 Transporters: 173 units
- Messerschmitt Bölkow Blohm C-160 Transporters: 160 units
10. Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke-Fokker CH-53 Helicopters: 133 units
11. Dornier Do-28 “Skyservant” Transporters: 105 units
Armored Fighting Vehicles (historical production to date):
- Sonderkraftfahrzeuge (Half-tracked Vehicles): 21,880 units
- Armored Mine Removers and Demolition Vehicles: 8,972 units
- Panzerkampfwagen Pz-IV “Karl”: 8,544 units
- Panzerkampfwagen “Leopard 1”: 7,000 units (post-WW2)
- Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Guns and Artillery: 6,170 units
- Panzerkampfwagen Pz-III “Ferdinand”: 6,157 units
- Panzerkampfwagen Pz-V “Panther”: 5,976 units
- Jagdpanzer (Tank Destroyers): 5,363 units
- Panzerkampfwagen “Leopard 2”: 5,292 units (post-WW2)
10. Schützenpanzer M-113: 5,270 units (post-WW2)
11. Panzerspähwagen (Reconnaissance Vehicles): 4,843 units
12. Flakpanzer “Gepard”: 2,293 units (post-WW2)
13. Schützenpanzer Neu M1966 “Marder”: 2,136 units (post-WW2)
14. Panzerkampfwagen Pz-II: 1,814 units
15. Panzerkampfwagen Pz-I: 1,566 units
16. Panzerkampfwagen Pz-38 “Wirbelwind”: 1,396 units (from Czech Army)
17. Panzerkampfwagen Pz-VIA “Tiger”: 1,354 units
18. Armored Observation Vehicles: 1,351 units
19. Armored Ammunition Carriers: 1,225 units
20. Spähpanzerwagen 11-2: 1,100 units (post-WW2)
21. Armored Maintenance Vehicles: 910 units
22. Jagdpanzer 4-5 “Kanone” Tank Destroyers: 770 units (post-WW2)
23. Armored Command Vehicles: 732 units
24. Panzerkampfwagen Pz-VIB “King Tiger”: 487 units
25. Schützenpanzer “Saurer” 4K4F: 460 units (post-WW2 Austrian)
26. Spähpanzerwagen 12-3: 460 units (post-WW2)
27. Spähpanzerwagen “Luchs”: 408 units (post-WW2)
28. Armored Flame-Throwing Vehicles: 345 units
29. Panzerkampfwagen 68: 320 units (post-WW2 Swiss)
30. Jagdpanzer “Rakete” M1966 SS-11: 316 units (post-WW2)
31. Panzerwerfer 42: 300 units
32. Panzerkampfwagen 35: 244 units (taken from Czech Army in 1938)
33. Panzerhaubitze 2000: 250 units
34. Panzerkampfwagen “Wildkatze”: 240 units
35. Panzerkampfwagen 61: 150 units (post-WW2 Swiss)
36. Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen A7V: 100 units (late WW1 in 1918)
37. Armored Bridging Vehicles: 25 units
38. Panzerkampfwagen VIII “Maus”: 5 units (heaviest armored vehicle in history – up to 160 units ordered but never built due to the end of WW2)
Note: all German armored vehicles built for the Wehrmacht (1935-1945) had “Sonderkraftfahrzeug” identifying numbers – including all battle tanks which reached production and active duty deployment during World War Two.
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