Karl Dönitz

From Kaiserreich


Captain Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz (born on September, 16 1891 in Berlin, Germany) is a German naval commander. He is known as a strong proponent of an agressive and independant use of submarines within the Kaiserliche Marine, following the strategy experienced during the Weltkrieg.


Dönitz was born in Grünau in Berlin, Germany to Anna Beyer and Emil Dönitz, an engineer. Karl had an older brother, Friedrich. In 1910, Dönitz enlisted in the Kaiserliche Marine. He became a Seekadett on 4 April. On 15 April 1911, he became Fähnrich zur See, the rank given to those who had served for one year as officer's apprentice and had passed their first examination. On 27 September 1913, Dönitz was commissioned as an Acting Leutnant zur See.

When the Weltkrieg began, he served on the light cruiser SMS Breslau in the Mediterranean Sea. In August 1914, SMS Breslau and the battlecruiser SMS Goeben were sold to the Ottoman navy; the ships were retitled the Midilli and the Yavuz Sultan Selim, respectively. They began operating out of Constantinople, under Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, engaging Russian forces in the Black Sea. On 22 March 1916, Dönitz was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See. When Midilli put into dock for repairs, he was temporarily assigned as airfield commander at the Dardanelles. From there, he requested a transfer to the submarine forces, which became effective in October 1916. He served as watch officer on U-39, and from February 1918 onward as commander of UC-25. On 5 September 1918, he became commander of UB-68, operating in the Mediterranean. On 4 October, this boat was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner. He remained a prisoner of war in Britain until the Peace with Honour in 1921.

After his release, he became a Kapitänleutnant. Dönitz commanded torpedo boats by 1928, becoming a Korvettenkapitän on 1 November of that same year. On 1 September 1933, Dönitz became a full Fregattenkapitän and, in 1934, was put in command of the cruiser Emden. On 1 September 1935, Dönitz was promoted to Kapitän zur See. He was placed in command of the 1st U-boat Flotilla Weddigen, which included U-7, U-8, and U-9.

Advocated strategy

When the reconstruction of French and Canadian Navies begun, Dönitz became convinced that a major campaign against merchant shipping was practical and began pressing for the conversion of the German fleet almost entirely to U-boats. He advocates a strategy of attacking only merchant ships, targets relatively safe to attack. He pointed out destroying Britain's fleet of oil tankers would starve the Communal Navy or the Royal Navy in exile of supplies needed to run their ships, which would be just as effective as sinking them. He thought a German fleet of 300 of the newer Type VII U-boats could knock either Syndicalist Internationale or Entente out of the sea warfare.

Dönitz revived the Weltkrieg idea of grouping several subs together into a "wolf pack" to overwhelm a merchant convoy's defensive escorts, which has been abandoned after Erich Ludendorff refused to applicate unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. Implementation of wolf packs had been difficult in the Weltkrieg due to the limitations of available radios. As Germany developed ultra high frequency transmitters which it was hoped made their radio communication unjammable, while the Enigma code machine made communications secure, Dönitz also adopted Wilhelm Marschall's 1922 idea (claiming credit for it) of attacking convoys using surface or very near surface night attacks. This tactic has the added advantage of making a submarine undetectable by sonar.

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