Why U-Boat Warfare Failed

ONE of the first orders which the German Naval Staff received from the Fuehrer on the outbreak of World War II read: "The Naval High Command is to wage the war at sea in such a manner that incidents with the United States are avoided under all circumstances." In September 1939, however, Grand Admiral Raeder was of the opinion that the United States would enter the war sooner or later regardless of how German naval warfare was waged. It is to be assumed that Adolf Hitler held the same view. The objective, therefore, was to delay the entry of the United States into the war until Germany's military position was sufficiently secure. In World War I the German Army High Command believed that its military position was secure after the conquest of Rumania in the winter of 1916-1917, and that the time for unrestricted submarine warfare had therefore arrived. The High Command was wrong. In 1939, the German leaders resolved not to repeat the error in judgment.

In World War II the German Naval High Command accepted from the start the restrictions which were imposed for political reasons, and it worked with the Foreign Office without friction. As was its duty, it constantly sought to sharpen the effectiveness of the methods employed in submarine combat, but it always recognized the primary position of policy in the conduct of the war.

In 1936 the German Government had accepted the London submarine agreement of 1930. This agreement provided that a merchant ship could be sunk only after visit and search, and after adequate provision had been made for the safety of the crew. It was not deemed "adequate" if the crew were merely given the opportunity to put out in lifeboats on the high seas. These provisions were quoted almost word for word in the new German prize rules which were promulgated shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and U-boat commanders received orders to conform strictly to them. In agreement with accepted international law

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