Dave Bender wrote:In August 1914 the Kaiserliche Marine was not configured for trade protection. The only overseas German naval base was located at Tsingtao. And that base had only token land defenses consisting of a single reinforced marine battalion (III. Seebataillon). Hence the HSF was limited to operating from Wilhelmshaven. A combination of geography (i.e. Britain astride the Baltic approaches) and the low endurance of the German ships made it impossible to provide trade protection during WWI. Anyone who could read a map would have known this before the war started. The HSF was designed for coast defense. And like so many government programs, it just kept getting bigger without providing additional benefits.
The Z plan is proof that Admiral Raeder did not learn much from WWI. Otherwise he would have constructed long range submarines and maritime interdiction aircraft rather then large surface warships.
Dave, interesting that you mention how Germany should have constructed more submarines and maritime interdiction aircraft. I found at least one author who agrees with you (I'm just kidding about one, I think most historians say the same thing and I certainly agree). I have a copy of "What If? Strategic Alternatives of World War II" published by Emporer's Press (Chicago) 1997. On pages 233-234 author Robert W. Love Jr has a section titled "What if the Germans had adopted a naval building policy and strategy before and during World War II more consistent with their resources and political objectives?" I'll quote a little from it:
"What was also unsound was to deny the German Navy any control over the design, production, or operation of most land-based maritime patrol bombers. Equally mistaken was German failure to provide for a truly unified anti-shipping command with naval officers exercising control of anti-shipping aircraft and coastal defense operations."
He then goes on to state that the Z plan was even more self-defeating, and that the German Navy (high command) failed to appreciate the naval lessons from the first war. He states that the material that went to build the battleships and heavy cruisers would have built 200-300 more submarines, and Germany would have had far more than the 60 or less that she had in September 1939.
"The active presence of very large numbers of fast torpedo boats on the French coast in 1944, supporrted by night-fighters and maritime partrol bombers and backed up by a large fleet of minelayers, would not only have menaced the establishment of an allied lodgment on the Contentin Peninsula but also would have diverted Allied resources that were devoted to transatlantic and cross-channel shipping into costly escort and minesweeping duties. If the German Navy had adopted a prewar and wartime building policy that eschewed battleships and heavy cruisers and instead stressed U-boats, submarine tankers, E-boats, coastal minelayers, shore-to-shore landing ships, and maritime patrol bombers armed with the modern air-launched anti-ship bombs and torpedoes, Britain might truly have been endangered. Once France capitulated and Britain rejected Hitler's peace terms, the war at sea was clearly to be won or lost within the war zone in the English Channel, around the British Isles and along the coast of occupied Europe."