Hitler declares the air war to be a requirement for invasion

If the results of air warfare are unsatisfactory invasion preparations will be stopped.

Göring:

First of all, success is to be achieved within the target areas of Luftflotten 2 and 3. Only a complete victory over the RAF in southern England can give us the possibility of further attacks on enemy forces stationed in the depth of the country.

Raeder:

[Hitler] admitted that the invasion of England would be an extremely daring enterprise. He agreed that we could not expect to effect a surprise landing, and that we would be facing a most resolute opponent who controlled the water area we had to cross. Also he conceded that to keep the invasion force of approximately 40 divisions supplied after they had landed would present the utmost difficulty. An absolute prerequisite for the whole operation would be the complete supremacy in the air and an effective minefield protection along both flanks of the crossing channel, plus the added protection of a barrage from heavy guns installed on the French side of the Straights of Dover. He concluded by saying that owing to the lateness of the seasons, the main operation would have to be completed by 16 September, and therefore if all preparations had not been completed in time for the landing to begin by the first of September, then other plans would have to be considered.

Raeder reports to Hitler at a Joint Staff conference

Keitel, Jodl, von Brauchitsch and Halder are also present at the Berghof.

All preparations are in full swing.

Minesweeping has begun with exploratory sweeps but can be carried out according to plan only if we have air superiority. It will take three weeks if the weather is favourable... Mine-laying will begin at the end of August if we have air superiority.

Two windows are available with favourable moon and tides:

  • 20-26 August
  • 19-26 September

He concludes: "the best time for the operation, all things considered, would be May 1941."

Raeder:

In the presence of the Commander in Chief of the Army and the Chief of the General Staff I explained the difficulties, and called extra attention to the fact that the weather in the Channel got notoriously worse in the fall.
The British Fleet, I emphasized, undoubtedly would make its appearance. The safe transport of the troops was the most vital consideration. The Air Force could not effectively protect three beachheads stretching over 100 kilometres of coastline. Therefore, I said, the landings should be restricted to the single area at Dover, and all the efforts of the Army and Air Force should be concentrated on this single narrow space. I concluded that the wisest thing would be to postpone the invasion until May 1941.

Hitler, however, decided that the attempt should be made, and set 15 September as the date for the landing. But the actual signal for the operation to commence was not to be given until after the Air Force had made concentrated attacks on the English southern coast for a whole week. If these showed powerful effects, the landing was to be carried out; otherwise, it was to be postponed until May 1941. In any case, however, despite the Navy's warning, the preparations were to continue on the Army's plan for a broad invasion front.

Hitler remarks to the Army chiefs:

Britain's hope lies in Russia and the United States. If Russia drops out of the picture America too is lost to Britain, because elimination of Russia would tremendously increase Japan's power in the Far East.

Russia is the Far Eastern sword of Britain and the United States, pointed at Japan. Here an evil wind is blowing for Britain. Japan, like Russia, has her program which she wishes to carry through before the end of the war.

OKW issue order relating to Seelöwe preparation

OKW issue an order resulting from the previous day's conference, signed by Keitel:

The Armed Forces High Command
WFA/Abt. L 1 Nr. 33189/40 g.K.Chefs.
Führer Headquarters
1 Aug. 1940
Eight Copies
Top secret

Re: Operation "Seelöwe"

Following the report of the Commander in Chief, Navy of 31 Jul. to the effect that preparations for operation "Seelöwe" cannot be completed prior to 15 Sep. 1940, the Führer decided as follows:

  1. Preparations for "Seelöwe" are to be continued, and also the Army and the Air Froce should try to be ready for 15 Sep.
  2. 1 or at the most 2 weeks after the beginning of the large scale air offensive against England, which can start on approximately 5 Aug., the Führer will decide, depending to the results of this battle, whether operation "Seelöwe" is still to take place this year or not.
  3. If a decision is made against execution of "Seelöwe" in September, nevertheless all preparations should continue, but in a form which will not damage seriously the economy through paralysing inland shipping.
  4. The operational preparations should for the time being continue on the previously planned wide scope, in spite of the objection of the Navy that it can safeguard only a narrow strip (westward about as far as Eastbourne).
  5. The orders in Directive 16, No. 3, second paragraph remain in effect, but transfer to the vicinity of Führer Headquarters should take place only shortly before the operations, and parts of the Army High Command can remain in the previous Army headquarters.

The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces High Command

signed: Keitel

Raeder disucsses invasion front with Hitler

I took the matter directly to Hitler, and requested his personal decision as to whether the invasion was to take place on the broad front envisioned by the Army or on the narrow front advocated by the Navy. I pointed out again my opinion that Operation Sea Lion should be regarded only as a last resort in case England could not be forced to negotiate for peace by any other means.
Hitler agreed, but wanted to speak again with the Commander in Chief of the Army, as the breadth of the invasion front might be a decisive factor in the whole ensuing land campaign. At this time the strength of the military forces in England was estimated to be in excess of a million and a half men. Of these 300,000 were seasoned English, French and Canadian troops rescued from Dunkirk and some 150,000 retrieved from other continental Channel ports. They had been rearmed. The would defend the island.
The opposing views of the Army and Navy as to the breadth of the landing front were reconciled temporarily by a compromise proposal for the Supreme Command of Armed Forces. Then Hitler made the final decision that the army had to arrange its operations in accordance with what the Navy believed its own forces could achieve.
It was still an open question as to whether the Air Force would actually succeed in attaining complete mastery of the air. At the end of August, according to the reports of the Air Force, the prospects seemed very good. In reality, however, the German Air Force had attained no significant superiority over the Royal Air Force, and although some weakening of the enemy's defences was apparent, the British fighters, bombers, and, most important, minelaying planes, were still everywhere in the sky. Our own anti-aircraft defence was not good enough to prevent continuous enemy air activity over the Channel ports, with the result that our congregating shipping and our embarkation areas were under steady observation and attack. On 13 September alone we lost 80 transport barges to enemy air attacks.

OKW directive for Seelöwe

The Armed Forces High Command
WFSt/L 1 Nr. 33229/40 g.K.Chefs.
Führer Headquarters
16 Aug. 1940
Eight Copies
Top secret

Re: Operation "Seelöwe"

  1. The Führer decided on 15 Aug. as follows:
    1. Preparations for operation "Seelöwe" are to be continued for 15 Sep., including assembly of all necessary naval personnel.
      The decision concerning execution of the operation will be reserved until the over-all situation becomes clearer.
    2. Preparations for a landing in Lyme Bay are to be discontinued because of the lack of sufficient defence possibilities.
      The ships are to be assembled along the coast between Ostend and Le Havre, so as to avoid concentration in a few harbours close to the enemy coast, and confuse the enemy's picture of our landing plans.
    3. Preparations must be made in such a way that they do not preclude a crossing on a narrow front, if this should be ordered on a week's notice; on the other hand it should remain possible to cross once in the direction of Brighton, without further reinforcement of heavy equipment.
  2. On the basis of this Führer decision, the Commanders in Chief, Army and Air are asked to make suggestions for the use of paratroopers and airborne troops, and especially to express an oppinion as to whether these should be used together with the first landing wave, or whether these should be kept back as a reserve, depending on the situation in the Channel.

The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces High Command

signed: Keitel

OKW directive for Seelöwe dates

The Armed Forces High Command
WFSt/L 1 Nr. 33255/40 g.Kdos.Chefs.
Führer Headquarters
3 Sep. 1940
Eight Copies
Top secret

Re: Operation "Seelöwe"

For the time being the following dates have been decided upon for the preparations for operation "Seelöwe":

  1. The earliest date for departure of the transport fleets is 20 Sep., and for S day (day of the landing) 21 Sep.
  2. The order for the start of the operation will be issued on S minus 10 day, in other words probably on 11 Sep. 1940.
  3. The final decision on S day and S time (the beginning of the first landing) will be made at the latest at noon on S minus 3 day.
  4. All preparations must be made in such a manner that the operation may be stopped as late as 24 hours before S time.

The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces High Command

signed: Keitel

Hitler further postpones the Seelöwe order for three days

S-Tag now slips back to 27 September which is outside the window given by OKM as suitable tide conditions for the landing, the weather forecast is also unfavourable. Air attacks on London are to be expanded.

The Armed Forces High Command
WFSt/Abt 1 Nr. 33287/40 g.K.Chefs.
Berlin
14 Sep. 1940
Eight Copies
Top Secret

At the conference with the Commanders in Chief of the branches of the Armed Forces on 14 Sep. the Führer made the following decisions;

  1. Operation "Seelöwe"
    1. The beginning of the operation is being postponed further. A new order (referring to OKW/WFSt/Abt.L Nr. 332255/40 g.Kdos.Chefs. of 3 Sep. 1940, number 2) will be issued on 17 Sep. All preparations are to be continued.
    2. The Air Force is to carry out the attack on British long-range batteries firing on the French coast, as soon as preparations to that effect are concluded.
    3. Under these circumstances it is not necessary at this time fully to carry out the special measures provided for the coastal areas (OKW Nr. 2332/40 g.K.Chefs. Abw.III(C) of 29 Aug. 940, Translator's note: Not included.) However, measures for defense against spies and for deception purposes are to be intensified according to agreement to be reached between the Armed Forces Intelligence Division and the Army High Command or the corresponding Armed Forces commanders for the various coastal sectors.
  2. Air attacks on London
    Air attacks on London should be expanded, continuing primarily against important military targets and those vital to the city (including railroad stations), as long as there are worthwhile targets.
    Terror attacks against purely residential sections are to be kept as a last resort, and are not to be used for the time being.

The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces High Command

signed: Keitel

Hitler postpones Unternehmen Seelöwe indefinitely

An operation in October is not ruled out but unlikely.

At a Luftwaffe conference a report titled "Air Situation, September 15" is presented that states on the 15th they had mounted over 1,000 sorties with 56 aircraft lost. They were forced to concluded that Fighter Command had adequate reserves of aircraft.

Raeder is concerned that invasion barges are being sunk by R.A.F. bombers, recently over 80 were sunk in one night. He suggests: "The present air situation does not provide the conditions for carrying out the operation, as the risk is still too great. A decision should be left over until October."

The German War Diary records: "The enemy air force is still by no means defeated; on the contrary it shows increasing activity. … The Fuhrer therefore decides to postpone Sealion indefinitely."

Two days later a directive is given to scale down preparations and barges are moved back from the Channel ports.

Raeder:

Even Hitler admitted that the invasion could not be made at this time, and therefore would have to be postponed. However, because of the psychological effect on the English public, the decision for the postponement was not to be made public, and the threat of a landing, plus the air attacks on London was to be kept up for its over-all effect.

I had to agree with the reasons Hitler gave, but the most satisfactory thing for me was that, with the landings postponed, the probability was that they would never be carried out. So outwardly all preparations were to be continued until 12 October, when Hitler privately me informed us that the preparations were to be carried out throughout the winter, but only to keep military and political pressure on England. If the movement was to be revived the following year, he said, he would give the necessary orders. To my mind this definitely buried any project for the invasion of England. From the first the Naval War Staff had never budged from its standpoint that an invasion across the Channel was so risky that it should be considered only as the ultimate operation in case all other measures against England Failed.

OKW releases ships allocated to invasion

The Armed Forces High Command
WFSt/Abt. L 1 Nr. 33294/40 g.Kdos.Chefs.
Berlin
19 Sep. 1940
Eight Copies
Top secret

Re: Operation "Seelöwe"

The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces has made the following decisions:

  1. Concentration of the transport fleet is to be stopped, insofar as it has not already been completed.
  2. The ships assembled in the ports of departure are to be dispersed in such a way that losses from enemy air attacks will be reduced to a minimum. However, it should remain possible to reassemble the ships at the ports of departure on 10 days notice under favorable weather conditions.
  3. The 10 steamers from the Norway traffic earmarked for operation "Herbstreise"* should be returned to their normal tasks. Six other steamers earmarked for operation "Seelöwe" should be withdrawn over a period of time unnoticeably, and should be used until further notice to speed up supplies for group XXI.
  4. The Commander in Chief, Air is to increase the Air defenses in the invasion ports to the greatest possible extent.

The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces High Command

signed: Keitel

* Landing on the coast of Scotland planned as a diversionary operation in connection with "Seelöwe". Four empty ocean liners and 11 transport steamers heading towards Britain between Newcastle and Aberdeen whist the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper attempted to break out into the Atlantic via Iceland and the Faroes.