The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
OKW/WFSt/Abt. L Nr. 00354/41 g.K.
28 Feb. 1941
I am acquainted with the differences in opinion prevailing in the Navy and the Air Force concerning organization of coastal reconnaissance in the coastal areas and at sea from the written and oral reports of the Commanders in Chief of these branches.
Both branches agree on the tasks to be performed by this reconnaissance and on the forces needed. However, the Navy demands, on the basis of the agreement reached in 1939 between the Commander in Chief, Air and the Commander in Chief, Navy, that all coastal air forces set up for the purposes of naval warfare should bee paced under its command.
The Commander in Chief, Air is of the opinion, however, that only those air forces should be under the tactical command of the Navy which operate exclusively for naval warfare, but that for the best possible use of the forces involved the Air Force should have unified command over air forces engaged in operations concerning both aerial and naval warfare, At times such operations are of greater importance to naval warfare, at times to aerial warfare,changing frequently. Often reconnaissance forces, become available for new tasks, and then again more planes must be supplied by the Air Force.
I make the following statement concerning these differences of opinion:
The agreement reached in 1939 between the two Commanders in Chief was based on the, supposition that the operations areas of the Navy and of the Air Force would generally be separate. At that time it was not possible to foresee to what extent the Air Force would be involved in operations at sea which would require previous reconnaissance. Briefly only the course of this war has brought out the close interrelation, of naval and aerial warfare, For this reason the agreements reached in 1939 cannot be considered binding and excluding any other course which may appear advisable during this war.
If all forces needed for carrying out certain tasks were permanently placed under each branch of the Armed Forces, also when these forces by their nature belong to another branch, this would be simplest and most convenient for each branch, but it would be extravagant and wasteful from an over-all point of view, particularly at times when all available forces are needed.
Since only a few air forces can be used against the British Isles in the spring, they must-be utilized as economically as possible. Reconnaissance and bombing missions of the coastal air forces and of the Air Force are largely carried out in the same areas, and therefore must be under the unified command of the Air Force.
I therefore issue the following orders:
The Navy will remain in charge of reconnaissance north of 520 N in the Skagerrak and the Baltic Sea entrances. In addition to submarine protection in this area, it takes over this function in the English Channel as far as Cherbourg. For this purpose, the Commander, Naval Air remains under the tactical command of the Navy.
The Air Force takes over reconnaissance off the Norwegian coast, and in the northern North Sea inclusive of the Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Islands by means of a special "Commander, Reconnaissance, Norway". Air escort in this area is also his task.
The demarcation line between the areas defined under 1 and 2 can be determined only after their forces have been allocated for these tasks to the Commander, Naval Air and-the Commander, Reconnaissance, Norway.
The Navy has the right to request assistance in reconnaissance and escort from the Commander, Reconnaissance, Norway in the area along the borderline of the two reconnaissance areas.
The Air Force will continue to carry out reconnaissance in the Channel area and fighter protection south of 52° N as far as the latitude of Cherbourg, except for submarine escort (paragraph B, 1) and subchase already previously assigned to the forces of the Commander, Naval Air.
The Commander in. Chief, Air will be in charge of air reconnaissance and air cover for convoys in the Atlantic. For this purpose he will set up an Air Commander, Atlantic, based at Lorient. This position should be filled by an Air Force officer familiar with the problems of naval warfare, who will guarantee that the needs of aerial and naval warfare will be met equally, Naval officers are to be appointed to his staff.
The tasks of the Air Commander, Atlantic are as follows:
- Reconnaissance for submarine warfare.
- Escort and reconnaissance during operations of naval surface forces in the Atlantic and convoy escort in the coastal area.
- Weather reconnaissance.
- Bombing missions against ships at sea in areas to be agreed upon between the Air Force and the Navy.
The reconnaissance and escort missions have priority over all purely combat missions.
Forces of the Air Commander, Atlantic may be used for operations against the British Isles only if this does not curtail the requirements or reconnaissance and escort for naval warfare.
Furthermore, the Commander in Chief, Air is making preparations for setting up an Air Commander, Baltic Sea, to whose staff naval officers should like-wise be appointed. I will issue orders as to when this command is to be set up, what forces are to be allocated, and what tasks are to be carried out.
The setup outlined under paragraphs 1-4 will become effective on 15 Mar., insofar as the present organization is affected.
The necessary details are to be determined between the Navy and the Air Force, and are then to be submitted for approval or if necessary for decision. They are to concern themselves with the following:
- Distribution of forces in the various reconnaissance areas.
- Measures which must be taken so that air reconnaissance and escort will not break off when ships pass from one area into the other.
- The air reconnaissance and escort requirements of the Naval Group Commands must be met to the fullest extent, and any decrease in the reconnaissance forces made on 15 Mar. or their transfer to another command area must be submitted to the Navy for approval or to me for a decision.
- Safe and direct communications between the naval group commanders and the commanders of reconnaissance and escort must be assured.
- Agreement must be reached on codes, reconnaissance wave lengths, and maps.
This decision covers only an emergency situation such as will prevail in the spring, without being a final settlement of the problem of naval air forces.
However, the commanders who carry out reconnaissance for naval as well as for aerial warfare must be aware of their great responsibility with regard to over-all warfare at sea, and especially with regard to those air forces which were established and trained for the purposes of naval warfare.
The persons responsible for combined reconnaissance and escort operations must strive to, think beyond the limits of only one branch of the Armed Forces, and to regard warfare within their sea areas as one unified operation, for the benefit of which reconnaissance and escort forces operate with changing emphasis.
signed: Adolf Hitler