The Supreme Commander of the Armed Foces
OKW/WFSt/Abt. L (IL Op.) Nr. 44 095/41 g.K.Chefs.
6 Feb. 1941
Directive No. 23
Guiding principles for the conduct of the war against the British war economy.
The effect of our conduct of the war against Britain up to the present:
Contrary to our original belief, the best effects in the war against Britain's war economy have been achieved in the losses- due to attacks on her shipping tonnage by our naval and air forces. This effect was further increased by demolishing harbor installations, destroying great stores of supplies and forcing ships to sail in convoy, resulting in less effective utilization of shipping space.
We can expect these results to be increased to a considerable extent, since more submarines will be used this year. This can lead to the collapse of British resistance before very long.
- It is more difficult to appraise the effect of air attacks aimed directly against the British armament industry. However, a considerable decrease in production can certainly by expected as a consequence of the destruction of numerous plants and the resulting disorganization of the armament industry.
- The least perceptible effect, so far, has been that made upon the morale and the resistance of the British people.
- Contrary to our original belief, the best effects in the war against Britain's war economy have been achieved in the losses- due to attacks on her shipping tonnage by our naval and air forces. This effect was further increased by demolishing harbor installations, destroying great stores of supplies and forcing ships to sail in convoy, resulting in less effective utilization of shipping space.
- Conclusions for our strategy:
The effect of naval operations against enemy merchantmen will presumably be increased in the course of the next few months, since we will be using additional submarines and surface forces. On the other hand, the volume of our air attacks cannot be sustained, since commitments in other theaters compel us to withdraw increasingly larger portions of the Air Force from assignment against the British Isles.
Therefore in the future it will be necessary to concentrate the air attacks still more and to aim primarily at targets whose destruction will have results similar to those achieved by our naval warfare. Only thus can a final decision be expected within a reasonable time.
Therefore the aim of further operations against the British homeland must be to concentrate all means of naval and air warfare against the enemy's' supplies, to slow down the British aircraft industry and, if possible, to cause further damage to it.
For this purpose the following will be necessary:
To destroy the most vital British import harbors, especially harbor installations and ships* at anchor or under construction.
* Handwritten marginal note: Warships and merchantmen.
- To fight shipping with all means at our disposal, especially inbound traffic.
- To destroy systematically the nerve centers of plane production; also the anti-aircraft industry and industries producing powder and explosives.
These missions must be carried out by the forces remaining in this area even ifs strong units of the Air Force are withdrawn to other theaters of operation during the course of the year.
- To destroy the most vital British import harbors, especially harbor installations and ships* at anchor or under construction.
In carrying-out this task the following will be observed:
Sinking merchantmen is more important than combatting enemy warships.
This applies also to the use of aerial torpedoes.
Decrease of enemy tonnage not only intensifies the effects of the all-important blockade, but at the same time it renders any operation in Europe or Africa more difficult for the enemy.
- The attacks on harbor cities and plants of the aircraft industry are to be continually repeated even if good effects have been observed.
- The enemy's losses and his sense of insecurity are to be increased by continuous mining operations.
- When the British move their shipping to. the smaller ports because of our attacks against the principal import harbors, our attacks must follow, so far as the range of our planes permits.
Only if objectives named in paragraph 3. cannot be attacked on account of the weather or other operational conditions, are attacks justified against other armament factories or cities of primary importance to the war economy, as well as against supply depots in the interior and communication facilities.
No decisive results can be expected, on the other hand, from systematic terror attacks on residential districts, or operations against coastal fortifications.
- Sinking merchantmen is more important than combatting enemy warships.
- Up until regrouping begins for operation "Barbarossa", air and sea attacks are to be steadily increased, if possible, not only in order to cause as much damage as possible to Britain, but also to create the impression that we still plan to invade the British Isles this year.
- Separate orders will be issued for reconnaissance at sea, to provide the necessary cooperation between sea and air warfare.
- Directive No. 9 of 29 Nov. 1939, tile supplement to Directive No. 9 of 26 May 1940, and Directive No. 17 of 1 Aug. 1940 are cancelled.
signed: Adolf Hitler