The Luftwaffe and the War at Sea 1939-1945, ed. David Isby

The Luftwaffe and the War at Sea 1939-1945, ed. David Isby

As Seen by Officers of the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe

This is a fascinating collection of mainly German documents looking at the dispute between the German Navy and the Luftwaffe over who should control naval aviation, followed by a series of documents in which the Navy blame the Luftwaffe for all of their failings at sea, while the Luftwaffe claim that everything was perfect, and even if it wasn’t they could soon restore the situation if they were given hundreds of aircraft of a yet to be completed design…

Quite quickly you realise that both sides in this dispute were delusional. On the Kriegsmarine side their early demands were quite ridiculous, and included control of fighter aircraft for coastal defence and aircraft for all operations around the British coast! In addition it took the replacement of Raeder by Doenitz for the Navy high command to realise that they couldn’t win in any significant dispute with Goering’s Luftwaffe as they simply didn’t have the same level of influence with Hitler. Quite where all of these extra aircraft were to come from is never discussed, nor is there any hint of how it would have been possible to decide if an incoming air raid was aimed at the Navy’s coastal zone or the Luftwaffe’s inland zone…

On the Luftwaffe side we read a report from January 1944 in which the author quite serious claimed that the Luftwaffe had been perfectly equipped and organised for all of the tasks it had undertaken so far, had actually sunk far more enemy shipping than the U-boats, and if a handful of minor issues could be solved would transform the nature of the war in 1944. Towards the end of the book we get a March 1944 from the 8th Abteilung of OKL in which they suggested that all the Germans needed to do to win the battle of the Atlantic was to create a new bomber Geschwader with 3 Grupper of at least 36 aircraft each, to be equipped with a new multi-purpose aircraft with a range of 2,500km and capable of carrying a payload of 1,000kg. A mere 80 aircraft of this new type per month, supported by a heavy fighter version of the failed He-177 bomber would be enough to disrupt the convoy system, wipe out Allied air power over the Atlantic and allow the U-boats to operate freely. We also get a list of claiming sinkings from the winter of 1939-40 which at first glance looks impressive, with an array of patrol vessels and minesweepers being sunk by airpower – unfortunately when one examines these claims in detail most turn out to be trawlers out fishing.

Once we reach the more detailed accounts looking at actual operations things become rather more realistic (although as with just about all air actions one has to take victory claims with a pinch of salt). Even here a large part of the effort from both sides goes into blaming the other for the failure of operations (or in the case of Norway for what the air minded author believed would have been the failure of operations if Dunkirk hadn’t intervened and forced the British to retreat from Narvik).

This is a very useful collection of documents. I’m not sure it tells us much about the Luftwaffe’s actual role in the war at Sea, but it does tell us a lot about what the Navy and Luftwaffe believed to be the case, and demonstrates how poor the cooperation was between these two branches of the German armed forces.

I – Overview and Prewar Development

1 – German Naval Air 1933 to 1945, US Office of Naval Intelligence
2 – The German Naval Air Force 1933-September 1939, Oberst (i.G) Walter Gaul

II – The Air War at Sea – Navy and Luftwaffe Views

3 – A Survey from the Naval Point of View on the Organization of the German Air Force for Operations over the Sea 1933-1945, Vizeadmiral Eberhard Weichold
4 – The Operation Use of the Luftwaffe in the War at Sea, 8th Abteilung, OKL
5 – German Army and Air Force Influence on the German Navy During World War II, Naval Historical Team

III: 1939-40

6 – German Naval Air Operations in the First Six Months of the War, Oberst i.G. Walter Gaul
7 – The Role of the Luftwaffe and the Campaign in Norway, General der Flieger Ulrich O.E. Kessler
8 – German Naval Air Operations April-December 1940, Oberst i.G. Walter Gaul

IV: The Battle of the Atlantic

9 – Cooperation of U-Boats and Luftwaffe in Attacks on Convoys, Korvetten Kapitan Otto Mejer
10 – Cooperation of the Luftwaffe with the German Navy during World War II, Kapitan zur See Hans-Jurgen Reinecke
11 – Examples of Luftwaffe Cooperation with U-boats from Wartime Reports, Kapitanleutnant Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen and others
12 – Principles Covering the Conduct of Operation by Fliegerfuehrer Atlantik and an Appreciation of the Types of Aircraft Available, Headquarters Staff, Fliegergfuehrer Atlantik
13 – The Role of the German Air Forces in the Battle of the Atlantic, 8th Abteilung OKL

V: Conclusion

14 – Overview: The Atlantic War (and the Role of Air Cooperation), Grossadmiral Karl Doenitz and Kontreadmiral Gerhard Wagner

Editor: David Isby
Author: Various
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 288
Publisher: Greenhill
Year: 2017

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies