During the period of the end of the Second World War, the once powerful fleet of Nazi Germany was in a state that could be described in one word - ruins. About half of the ships were destroyed during the hostilities, part of the Germans themselves flooded before surrender. All four German battleships, three so-called "pocket battleships", two of three heavy cruisers were killed. The hull of another unfinished heavy cruiser was located in Koenigsberg, in Szczecin, the unfinished aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin sank. Of the six light cruisers, only one survived, of the 42 25 destroyers killed in the fighting, another 4 were scuttled or badly damaged in their bases. 1188 submarines 778 were destroyed during the war, 224 flooded the crews themselves during the surrender. According to rough estimates, about a third of German ships remained afloat, much of which was of varying degrees of damage.
Our trophies fleet by the end of the war were relatively small. Like the fascist ground forces, German sailors sought to go west and surrender to our allies. Incidentally, this was also demanded of them by the order of Grand Admiral K. Doenitz, commander-in-chief of the German Navy, appointed by Hitler's successor. In the ports occupied by the Soviet troops, mainly either heavily damaged or unfinished ships and auxiliary vessels that could not go to sea remained. When the Soviet government raised the question of dividing the ships of the German fleet, the British, in the control zone of which the bulk of the German ships were located, were modestly silent, while the Americans seemed to be more concerned about what to do with their giant fleet at that time, because peacetime was too expensive even for them. Therefore, the allies regarding the division of the German fleet mainly supported the Soviet side.
According to the memories of N.G. Kuznetsova, back in April 1945, I. Stalin instructed him to consider the use of captured German ships. By the beginning of the Potsdam Conference, the Main Naval Staff prepared for the Soviet delegation preliminary data on the composition and fate of the German fleet. 23 May I. Stalin sent letters to W. Churchill and G. Truman, where it was stated that, since the surviving ships and ships of Nazi Germany had surrendered to the British and Americans, the question arises of allocating its share to the Soviet Union. The USSR "can with good reason and in justice count at least one-third of the German military and merchant fleet." Stalin also insisted that Soviet specialists should have access to materials on the surrender of the German military and merchant fleets and the opportunity to become familiar with their actual condition.
Our party did not receive a concrete answer to this appeal, but both addressees suggested including this issue on the agenda of the upcoming Big Three meeting.
On the morning of July 19, a meeting of the Big Three foreign ministers was held in Potsdam. V.M. Molotov, on behalf of the Soviet delegation, made proposals for the division of the German fleet. They boiled down to the following: transfer to the Soviet Union a third of the German ships, including those that were built and repaired on the day of surrender; hand over a third of the weapons, ammunition and supplies; transfer to the USSR a third of the German merchant fleet; finish the transfer to 1 November 1945 g .; to receive and transfer ships to create a technical commission of representatives of the three powers.
At a meeting of heads of government, which began a few hours later, Churchill proposed to separate questions about the fate of the German merchant fleet and the Navy. Not objecting in principle to dividing the first, he insisted that the German merchant ships should soon be used in the interests of the war with Japan and should be divided later, within the framework of the reparation payments of Germany. Considering the difficulties of transferring them to another theater and the fact that many of them needed serious repairs before, their military use was very problematic. Thus, the British tried to delay the solution of the issue.
Speaking of the Navy, Churchill proposed to destroy the main part of the German submarines and divide only a few of them among the allies to learn new technology and experiments. Churchill’s next sentence apparently alerted Stalin: “As for surface ships, they should be equally distributed between us, provided that we reach a general agreement on all other issues and that we will break away from here in the best possible way.” The head of the Soviet delegation sharply remarked that the Russians are not asking for a gift from the allies and believe that they claim the right of a third of the German fleet. The Soviet side demanded recognition by the allies of this right, but did not object to the use of German merchant ships in the war with Japan. Having achieved this recognition, Stalin offered to return to this issue at the end of the conference. In a conversation with Kuznetsov, he dropped: "I hope that changes will take place in the British delegation soon. Then we will resume the conversation." Changes in the composition of the British delegation really happened - the conservative party lost the parliamentary elections of July 5, which was announced on July 26. The British delegation at the conference was headed by the new Prime Minister C. Attlee.
30 July new Soviet proposals were submitted for consideration by the conference. They took into account the point of view of the British delegation on the fate of German submarines - the main part of them was proposed to be destroyed. At the same time, the British delegation made their proposals. In a detailed memorandum on this issue, the British reaffirmed their position with regard to submarines and, without disputing the need for dividing surface ships, indicated that the Romanian and Bulgarian ships inherited by the USSR should be taken into account and the share of France should be singled out. Obviously, to a certain extent they tried to smooth the unpleasant aftertaste in relations with the French, which remained after the British formation struck at the French ships in Algeria controlled by the Vichy government in July 1940. As for the Romanian and Bulgarian ships, then, as you know, at the Potsdam Conference, the Soviet delegation, given that at the last stage of the war, these countries were on the side of the anti-Hitler coalition, demanded a different attitude to them than to defeated Germany. Most of the Bulgarian, and then the Romanian ships, inherited by the USSR in 1944, were returned to these countries shortly after the war.
In addition, the British believed that the section would take considerable time: it would require the compilation of lists of ships, an inventory, and the coordination of many technical issues. And finally, since the German crews remained aboard their ships, the British delegation feared their sinking, as happened after the end of the First World War. Therefore, the British insisted that the entire preparation for the section remained secret.
31 July gathered a special commission to develop recommendations on the distribution of the German naval and merchant fleets. The Soviet side in the commission was represented by the Narkom Navy Admiral of the Fleet N. G. Kuznetsov and the head of the political department of the Soviet military administration in Germany A. Sobolev. The US delegation to the commission was headed by Vice Admiral S. Cook, the British delegation was Rear Admiral E. McCarthy. The Commission recommended that all German surface ships be separated, with the exception of the sunken and taken by the Germans from the Allies (the latter returned to their previous owners), as well as ships under construction and repair, which could be brought to a state of readiness for launching to sea within six months. At the same time, the works were to be completed without an increase in the number of skilled workers in German shipyards and without the resumption of the activities of German shipbuilding and related industries.
This moment is especially important, since the strict deadlines for the completion and repair of ships established by the conference now sometimes cause bewilderment. The fact is that the decision on the division of the fleet should not have come into conflict with another decision of the conference — on the demilitarization of Germany, including the elimination of military production. The commission did not agree on the fate of submarines: the British and Americans proposed to divide no more than 30 submarines between the allies, the Soviet side believed that this figure should be three times as much. Looking ahead, we note that in the final decision of the conference passed the proposal of the Western allies. The Commission recommended to ensure that the ships transferred under the division of stocks of weapons, supplies and ammunition. To address the specific issues of the distribution of the German ships, it was proposed to create a triple naval commission, which was supposed to begin work on August 15. The section of the German fleet should have been completed by February 15 1946, i.e. six months after the start of this commission.
In the evening of July 31, a meeting of senior naval commanders - members of the delegations gathered. N. Kuznetsov, who chaired, as well as fleet admirals E. King (USA) and E. Cunningham (Great Britain), took part in it, and diplomatic advisers and naval experts were present. After long disputes, Kuznetsov proposed to divide all the ships into three approximately equal groups, and then draw lots. This offer was accepted. The next day, he was approved at a meeting of heads of government. Now it was necessary to implement the decision.
The Soviet side in the Tripartite Naval Commission was represented by Admiral GI Levchenko and Rear Engineer Admiral N.V. Alekseev. The delegation’s technical staff included 14 people. It was planned to attract officers from the squads formed in the Baltic Fleet for acceptance of German ships and from the Naval Division of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany. The British delegation included Vice Admiral J. Miles and Rear Admiral V. Perry, the American delegation, Vice Admiral R. Gormley and Commodore X. Rap. A preliminary informal meeting of the commission members took place on August 14. It was decided that the heads of the delegations would take turns to chair the meetings in alphabetical order and that a technical subcommittee would be created to compile and refine the lists of German ships.
On August 15, the first meeting of the Tripartite Naval Commission took place in the building of the Allied Control Council in Berlin. It was decided that first of all it was necessary to compile lists of German ships with the name, type, place of stay and state of each. Decided first to do section minesweepers, submarines, and then the rest of the ships. However, the head of the British delegation said that he would not discuss the issue of minesweepers and submarines until they received their full list and additional instructions. In addition, Admiral J. Miles suggested that the auxiliary ships of the German Navy, previously registered with Lloyd, be considered commercial and exclude them from the section. The heads of the USSR and US delegations did not agree with this and decided: let each delegation present its own version of the definition of what to consider as an auxiliary naval vessel. Soon the Americans proposed to consider as such special construction ships and converted from commercial ones. The head of the Soviet delegation, Admiral Levchenko, supported this proposal. The British agreed.
A Technical Subcommittee was created to compile the lists of ships to be divided. The Soviet side was represented by Rear Admiral N.V. Alekseev and the engineer-captain of 1 rank V.I. Golovin, English - Lieutenant Commander G. Watkins and American - Captain A. Graubart. To conduct on-site inspections, tripartite groups of experts were formed who had to refine the lists, familiarize themselves with the technical condition of the ships and pre-divide them into three groups: A - ships that do not require repair, B - unfinished and damaged ships, which alert will take no more six months, and C - the ships, the bringing of which in readiness will take longer and therefore must be destroyed. The first group of experts flew to England, the second worked in the ports occupied by Soviet troops, the third, went through Copenhagen to survey the Norwegian ports, the fourth was formed in the United States of those who were there.
The work of experts continued from the end of August to the second half of September. The ports adjusted the lists of ships in the ports, clarified their technical condition. As a result, the original list, which included the ship's 1382, expanded to 1877 units. Inspecting groups inspected the order of 30% of ships, mostly typical. It was not possible to do more because of the lack of time and due to the fact that a significant part of the ships and vessels were at sea at the crossings, or in the places of carrying out sweeping works. As it turned out, the British had already transferred part of the ships to the Danes and Norwegians. At the same time, the technical maintenance and operation of the ships were carried out by German crews who retained the ship’s organization, form and insignia of Kriegsmarine.
Soviet representatives faced obstacles posed by the British. They did not allow for detailed inspection of ships, prevented the survey of German crews. However, many of the auxiliary mechanisms on the ships were dismantled, and the British took some of the equipment (especially radio and radar). Thus, complete data on auxiliary vessels could not be obtained. However, extensive material was obtained that served as the basis for further work.
We give data on the state of some large German ships, the fate of which is usually of particular interest. The aircraft carrier "Count Zeppelin" was sunk by its crew in shallow water with a technical readiness of the ship of approximately 85%. After the ship was lifted by the BF emergency response service (ACC), the degree of readiness was estimated at about 50%. Turbines were blown up on an aircraft carrier. The completion of the ship required three to four years, and it was classified by experts as category C. Heavy cruisers ("pocket battleships") "Admiral Scheer" and "Lyuttsov", as well as light cruisers "Emden" and "Cologne", according to experts not subject to. There were no boilers on the Cologne cruiser, and its hull was cut almost to the diametric plane in a collision with the heavy cruiser Prince Eugen. Unfinished heavy cruiser Seydlitz damaged by Soviet aviation and flooded by the crew, the ACC BF was raised. The ship's readiness with operational mechanisms was about 65%, but there was no armament. It was impossible to finish the ship according to the German project, and remaking it under ours weapon it would be too expensive, especially since there were no ready-made 203 mm caliber artillery systems in the USSR.
To be continued.
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