The information and images in this section
are with the kind permission of Michael Emmerich of www.german-navy.de . Please visit Michael's site for more comprehensive information on the German
Navy. The images of Naval awards are by kind permission of www.wehrmacht-awards.com
When World War II started in September 1939, the German
Kriegsmarine was not prepared to challenge the allied naval forces. Unlike the other arms of the German military, the naval construction plan
(Z-Plan) had only started a few months before. Therefore the number and strength
of available ships was not adequate for the needs of a major war.
In the years before the war, the Kriegsmarine believed that
any military confrontation in the near future would not be against Great Britain
again, Poland and France were seen as possible enemies and the naval
construction was directed with these enemies in mind. A possible
confrontation with one of the major sea powers was not believed possible before
or late 1940, at a time whn the Z-Plan should have been completed. As it got
obvious that tensions with Great Britain started to rise in 1938, the fear of a
military confrontation with Great Britain caused the increased speed of the
introduction of the naval construction program. But even at this time, the Kriegsmarine still believed that a war with England was
several years away.
In the early years, the Kriegsmarine archived some remarkable
results, like the invasion of Norway and the destruction of several major
British ships, but this lucky time ended with the sinking of the battleship Bismarck in May 1941. From this time, the major surface units were not used in such an
offensive way as before, now the small number of operational ships made every
loss more important.
The German U-boats could continue their successful operations
until May 1943 - the technological advance of the allied forces made U-boat
operations almost impossible then.
At the end of the war, only two of the major Kriegsmarine
ships were still operational, all other were sunk, either during their
operations or destroyed during the last months and weeks of the war in their