Operation Sealion , planned German invasion of British Isles

I believe most of historical reviews except fancy what if alternate reality historian or German military fans , agree that so called German invasion plan had been nothing but a bluff. Simply German military or Third Reich had nowhere enough sea lift capacity , naval tonnage of shipping or any landing craft worthy enough for such an operation. Luftwaffe airborne and air transport arms were badly crippled during invasion of Low Countries and Norway Campaign. German Navy suffered griveously during invasion of Norway also , losing three cruisers and ten destroyers , four U-Boats and 24 merchant and naval transport vessels totalling 122.000 tons. By 1940 summer entire German Navy had only three cruisers and eight destroyers left operational. Most of the harbours in Western Europe had been in shambles after Fall of France and Low Countries. Planning to tow non propolsion flat bottomed river barges to transport men and material across choppy and badly downcast English Channel was a ridiculous idea. Not to mention cooperation between German Navy and Luftwaffe had been terrible , no combined arms operation or operational HQ organisation existed (unlike Allied SHEAF which combinned all Allied naval , air and ground staffs together) Luftwaffe and German Navy waged their own operations seperately and independently of each other during 1940 and afterwards and no one asked or exercised with German Army for any invasion of Britain plan.

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From William Shrier’s “The Rise and Fall of Third Reich”

Nothing had been done in the High Command about continuing the war against Britain.

The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander has decided:

That a landing in England is possible, providing that air superiority__can be attained and certain other necessary conditions fulfilled. The__date of commencement is still undecided. AH preparations to be
_begun immediately._Hitler’s lukewarm feeling about the operation and his belief that it would__not be necessary is reflected in the concluding paragraph of the directive"

All preparations must be undertaken on the basis that the invasion is still only a plan, and has not yet been decided upon. When Count Ciano saw the Fuehrer in Berlin on July 7, he got the impression, as he noted in his diary, that the Nazi warlord was having trouble making up his mind.

On July 11 Hitler began assembling his military chiefs on the Obersalzberg to see how they felt about the matter. Admiral Raeder, whose Navy would have to ferry an invading army across the Channel, had a long talk with the Fuehrer on that date. Neither of them was eager to come to grips with the problem – in fact, they spent most of their time together discussing the matter of developing the naval bases at Trondheim and Narvik in Norway.

Hitler, judging by Raeder’s confidential report of themeeting, was in a subdued mood. He asked the Admiral whether he thoughthis planned speech to the Reichstag ”would be effective.” Raeder replied that it would be, especially if it were preceded by a ’”concentrated” bombing attack on Britain. The Admiral, who reminded his chief that the R.A.F. was carrying out ”damaging attacks” on the principal German naval bases at Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg and Kiel, thought the Luftwaffe ought to get busy immediately on Britain. But on the question of invasion, the Navy Commander in Chief was distinctly cool. He urgently advised that it be attempted ”only as a last resort to force Britain to sue for peace.”

"He [Raeder] is convinced that Britain can be made to ask for peace__simply by cutting off her import trade by means of submarine warfare, air attacks on convoys and heavy air attacks on her main centers. . .
_The C. in C., Navy [Raeder], cannot for his part therefore advocate__an invasion of Britain as he did in the case of Norway . . ._Whereupon the Admiral launched into a long and detailed explanation of__all the difficulties involved in such an invasion, which must have been most__discouraging to Hitler. Discouraging but perhaps also convincing. For Raeder__reports that ”the Fuehrer also views invasion as a last resort.”

Two days later, on July 13, the generals arrived at the Berghof above Berchtesgaden to confer with the Supreme Commander. They found him still baffled by the British. ”The Fuehrer,” Haider jotted in his diary that evening, ”is obsessed with the question why England does not yet want to take the road to peace.”

The speech of July 19 (where Hitler’s so called “appeal to reason” , it was a basically a bluff crowned bythreats) worked with the German people, but not with the British. On July 22 Lord Halifax in a broadcast
made the rejection of Hitler’s peace offer official. Though it had been expected, it somehow jolted the Wilhelmstrasse, where I found many angry faces that afternoon. ”Lord Halifax,” the official government spokesman told us, ”has refused to accept the peace offer of the Fuehrer. Gentlemen, there will be war!”
It was easier said than done. In truth neither Hitler, the High Command nor the general staffs of the Army, Navy and Air Force had ever seriously considered how a war with Great Britain could be fought and won. Now in the midsummer of 1940 they did not know what to do with their glittering success; they had no plans and scarcely any will for exploiting the greatest military victories in the history of their soldiering nation. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Third Reich. At the very moment when Hitler stood at the zenith of his military
power, with most of the European Continent at his feet, his victorious armies stretched from the Pyrenees to the Arctic Circle, from the Atlantic to beyond the Vistula, rested now and ready for further action, he had no idea how to go on and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. Nor had his generals, twelve of whom now bandied field marshals’ batons.

There is, of course, a reason for this, although it was not clear to us at the time. The Germans, despite their vaunted military talents, lacked any grand strategic concept. Their horizons were limited – they had always been limited– to land warfare against the neighboring nations on the European Continent. Hitler himself had a horror of the sea∗ and his great captains almost a total ignorance of it. They were land-minded, not sea-minded. And though their armies could have crushed in a week the feeble land forces of Britain if they
had only been able to come to grips with them, even the narrow waters of the Dover Straits which separated the two – so narrow that you can see across to the opposite shore – loomed in their minds, as the splendid summer began to wane, as an obstacle they knew not how to overcome."

In truth, the Army showed little interest in it. Nor was the Fuehrer himself much concerned. On June 17 Colonel Walter Warlimont, Jodl’s deputy, informed the Navy that ”with regard to the landing in Britain, the Fuehrer . . .__has not up to now expressed such an intention . . . Therefore, even at this time,__no preparatory work of any kind [has] been carried out in OKW.” Four days later, on June 21, at the very moment Hitler was entering the armistice car at Compiegne to humble the French, the Navy was informed that the ”Army__General Staff is not concerning itself with the question of England. Considers__execution impossible. Does not know how operation is to be conducted from__southern area . . . General Staff rejects the operation.”

None of the gifted planners in any of the three German armed services knew how Britain was to be invaded, though it was the Navy, not unnaturally, which had first given the matter some thought. As far back as November 15, 1939, when Hitler was trying vainly to buck up his generals to launch an attack in the West, Raeder instructed the Naval War Staff to examine ”the possibility of invading England, a possibility arising if certain conditions are fulfilled by the further course of the war.” It was the first time in history that any German
military staff had been asked even to consider such an action. It seems likely that Raeder took this step largely because he wanted to anticipate any sudden aberration of his unpredictable Leader. There is no record that Hitler was consulted or knew anything about it. The furthest his thoughts went at this time was to get airfields and naval bases in Holland, Belgium and France for the tightening of the blockade against the British Isles."

By December 1939, the Army and Luftwaffe high commands were also giving some thought to the problem of invading Britain. Rather nebulous ideas of the three services were exchanged, but they did not get very far. In January 1940, the Navy and Air Force rejected an Army plan as unrealistic. To the Navy it did not take into account British naval power; to the Luftwaffe it underestimated the R.A.F. ”In conclusion,” remarked the Luftwaffe General Staff in a communication to OKH, ”a combined operation with a landing in England as its object must be rejected.”

The first mention in the German records that Hitler was even facing the possibility of invading Britain was on May 21, the day after the armored forces drove through to the sea at Abbeville. Raeder discussed ”in private” with the Fuehrer ”the possibility of a later landing in England.” The source of this information is Admiral Raeder, whose Navy was not sharing in the glory of the astounding victories of the Army and Air Force in the West and who, understandably, was seeking means of bringing his service back into the picture. But Hitler’s thoughts were on the battle of encirclement to the north and on the Somme front then forming to the south. He did not trouble his generals with matters beyond these two immediate tasks.

The naval officers, however, with little else to do, continued to study the problem of invasion, and by May 27 Rear Admiral Kurt Fricke, Chief of the Naval War Staff Operations Division, came up with a fresh plan entitled Studie England. Preliminary work was also begun on rounding up shipping and developing landing craft, the latter of which the Germany Navy was entirely bereft.

In this connection Dr. Gottfried Feder, the economic crank who had helped Hitler draft the party program in the early Munich days and who was now a State Secretary in the Ministry of Economics, where his crackpot ideas were given short shrift, produced plans for what he called a ”war crocodile.” This was a sort of self-propelled barge made of concrete which could carry a company of two hundred men with full equipment or several tanks or pieces of artillery, roll up on any beach and provide cover for the disembarking troops and vehicles. It was taken quite seriously by the Naval Command and even by Haider, who mentioned it in his diary, and was discussed at length by Hitler and Raeder on June 20. But nothing came of it in the end.

To the admirals nothing seemed to be coming of an invasion of the British
Isles as June approached its end. Following his appearance at Compiegne on
June 21, Hitler went off with some old cronies to do the sights of Paris briefly∗
and then to visit the battlefields, not of this war but of the first war, where
he had served as a dispatch runner. With him was his tough top sergeant of
those days, Max Amann, now a millionaire Nazi publisher. The future course
of the war – specifically, how to continue the fight against Britain – seemed the
least of his concerns, or perhaps it was merely that he believed that this little
matter was already settled, since the British would now come to ”reason” and
make peace. Hitler did not return to his new headquarters, Tannenberg, west
of Freudenstadt in the Black Forest, until the twenty-ninth of June. The next
day, coming down to earth, he mulled over Jodl’s paper on what to do next.
It was entitled ”The Continuation of the War against England.” Though
Jodl was second only to Keitel at OKW in his fanatical belief in the Fuehrer’s
genius, he was, when left alone, usually a prudent strategist. But now he shared
the general view at Supreme Headquarters that the war was won and almost
over. If Britain didn’t realize it, a little more force would have to be supplied
to remind her. For the ”siege” of England, his memorandum proposed three
steps; intensification of the German air and sea war against British shipping,
storage depots, factories and the R.A.F.; ”terror attacks against the centers of
population”; ”a landing of troops with the objective of occupying England.”
Jodl recognized that ”the fight against the British Air Force must have top
priority.” But, on the whole, he thought this as well as other aspects of the
assault could be carried out with little trouble.

Together with propaganda and periodic terror attacks, announced as reprisals, this increasing weakening of the basis of food supply will paralyze and finally break the will of the people to resist, and thereby force its government to capitulate.

This was what Hitler thought too and he immediately set to work on his peace speech for the Reichstag. In the meantime, as we have seen, he ordered (July 2) some preliminary planning for a landing and on July 16, when no word of ”reason” had come from London, issued Directive No. 16 for Sea Lion. At last, after more than six weeks of hesitation, it was decided to invade Britain, ”if necessary.” This, as Hitler and his generals belatedly began to realize, would have to be a major military operation, not without its risks and depending for
success on whether the Luftwaffe and the Navy could prepare the way for the troops against a far superior British Navy and a by no means negligible enemy Air Force.

Was Sea Lion a serious plan?

To this day many have doubted it and they have been reinforced in their opinions by the chorus from the German generals after the war. Rundstedt, who was in command of the invasion, told Allied investigators in 1945:"The proposed invasion of England was nonsense, because adequate__ships were not available . . . We looked upon the whole thing as a__sort of game because it was obvious that no invasion was possible
when our Navy was not in a position to cover a crossing of the__Channel or carry reinforcements. Nor was the German Air Force__capable of taking on these functions if the Navy failed . . . I was__always very skeptical about the whole affair . . . I have a feeling that__the Fuehrer never really wanted to invade England. He never had__sufficient courage . . . He definitely hoped that the English would__make peace . . .

Blumentritt, Rundstedt’s chief of operations, expressed similar views to Liddell Hart after the war, claiming that ”among ourselves we talked of it [Sea Lion] as a bluff.”

I (William Shrier) myself spent a few days at the middle of August on the Channel, snooping about from Antwerp to Boulogne in search of the invasion army. On August 15, at Calais and at Cap Gris-Nez, we saw swarms of German bombers and fighters heading over the Channel toward England on what turned out to be
the first massive air assault. And while it was evident that the Luftwaffe was going all out, the lack of shipping and especially of invasion barges in the ports and in the canals and rivers behind them left me with the impression that the Germans were bluffing. They simply did not have the means, so far as I could see, of getting their troops across the Channel.

But one reporter can see very little of a war and we know now that the Germans did not begin to assemble the invasion fleet until September 1. As for the generals, anyone who read their interrogations or listened to them on crossexamination at the Nuremberg trials learned to take their postwar testimony with more than a grain of salt. The trickiness of man’s memory is always considerable and the German generals were no exception to this rule. Also they had many axes to grind, one of the foremost being to discredit Hitler’s military leadership. Indeed, their principal theme, expounded at dreary length in their memoirs and in their interrogations and trial testimony, was that if they had been left to make the decisions Hitler never would have led the Third Reich to

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for posterity and the truth, the mountainous secret German military files leave no doubt that Hitler’s plan to invade Britain in the early fall of 1940 was deadly serious and that, though given to many hesitations, the Nazi dictator seriously intended to carry it out if there were any reasonable chance of success. Its ultimate fate was settled not by any lack of determination or effort by German side but by the fortunes of war, which now, for the first time, began to turn against him.

On July 17, the day after Directive No. 16 was issued to prepare the invasion and two days before the Fuehrer’s ”peace” speech in the Reichstag, the Army. High Command (OKH) allocated the forces for Sea Lion and ordered thirteen picked divisions to the jumping-off places on the Channel coast for the first wave of the invasion. On the same day the Army Command completed its detailed plan for a landing on a broad front on the south coast of England. The main thrust here, as in the Battle of France, would be carried out by
Field Marshal von Rundstedt (as he would be titled on July 19) as commander of Army Group A. Six infantry divisions of General Ernst Busch’s Sixteenth Army were to embark from the Pas de Calais and hit the beaches between Ramsgate and Bexhill. Four divisions of General Adolf Strauss’s Ninth Army would cross the Channel from the area of Le Havre and land between Brighton and the Isle of Wight. Farther to the west three divisions of Field Marshal von Reichenau’s Sixth Army (from Field Marshal von Bock’s Army Group B),
taking off from the Cherbourg peninsula, would be put ashore in Lyme Bay, between Weymouth and Lyme Regis. Altogether 90,000 men would form the first wave; by the third day the High Command planned on putting ashore a total of 260,000 men. An armored force of no less than six panzer divisions, reinforced by three motorized divisions, would follow in the second wave and in a few days it was planned to have ashore a total of thirty-nine divisions plus two airborne divisions. (which German Air Force did not have at this point nor enough transport planes )

But Raeder and the Naval High Command were skeptical. An operation of such size on such a broad front – it stretched over two hundred miles from Ramsgate to Lyme Bay – was simply beyond the means of the German Navy to convoy and protect. Raeder so informed OKW two days later and brought it up again on July 21 when Hitler summoned him, Brauchitsch and General Hans Jeschonnek (Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff) to a meeting in Berlin. He appreciated the Navy’s difficulties but stressed the importance of ending the war as soon as possible.

But the Navy, faced with the appalling task of transporting a large army across the choppy Channel in the face of a vastly stronger British Navy and of an enemy Air Force that seemed still rather active, was not so sure. On July 29 the Naval War Staff drew up a memorandum advising ”against undertaking the operation this year” and proposing that ”it be considered in May 1941 or thereafter.”

Hitler, however, insisted on considering it on July 31, 1940, when he again summoned his military chiefs, this time to his villa on the Obersalzberg. Besides Raeder, Keitel and Jodl were there from OKW and Brauchitsch and Haider from the Army High Command. The Grand Admiral, as he now was, did most of the talking. He was not in a very hopeful mood. “September 15”, he said, would be the earliest date for Sea Lion to begin, and then only if there were no ”unforeseen circumstances due to the weather or the enemy.” When Hitler inquired about the weather problem Raeder responded with a lecture on the subject that grew quite eloquent and certainly forbidding. Except for the first fortnight in October the weather, he explained, was ”generally bad” in the Channel and the North Sea; light fog came in the middle of that month and heavy fog at the end. But that was only part of the weather problem. ”The operation,” he declared, ”can be carried out only if the sea is calm.” (an impossible situation in English Channel) If the water were rough, the barges would sink and even the big ships would be helpless, since they could not unload supplies. The Admiral grew gloomier with every minute that he contemplated what lay ahead. Even if the first wave crosses successfully under favorable weather conditions, there is no guarantee that the same favorable weather will carry through the second and third waves . . . As a matter of fact, we must realize that no traffic worth mentioning will be able to cross for several days, until certain harbors can be utilized.

That would leave the Army in a fine pickle, stranded on the beaches without supplies and reinforcements. Raeder now came to the main point of the differences between the Army and the Navy. The Army wanted a broad front from the Straits of Dover to Lyme Bay. But the Navy simply couldn’t provide the ships necessary for such an operation against the expected strong reaction of the British Navy and Air Force. Raeder therefore argued strongly that the front be shortened – to run only from the Dover Straits to Eastbourne. The
Admiral saved his clincher for the end.

”All things considered,” he said, ”the best time for the operation would be__May 1941.”

But Hitler did not want to wait that long. He conceded that ”naturally” there was nothing they could do about the weather. But they had to consider the consequences of losing time. The German Navy would not be any stronger visa-vis the British Navy by spring. The British Army at the moment was in poor shape. But give it another eight to ten months and it would have from thirty to thirty-five divisions, which was a considerable force in the restricted area of the proposed invasion.

A fortnight before, the Naval War Staff had estimated that to fulfill the demands of the Army for landing 100,000 men with equipment and supplies in the first wave, along a 200- mile front from Ramsgate to Lyme Bay, would necessitate rounding up 1,722 barges, 1,161 motorboats, 471 tugs and 155 transports. Even if it were possible to assemble such a vast amount of shipping, Raeder told Hitler on July 25, it would wreck the German economy, since taking away so many barges and tugswould destroy the whole inland-waterway transportation system, on which the economic life of the country largely depended. At any rate, Raeder made
it clear, the protection of such an armada trying to supply such a broad front against the certain attacks of the British Navy and Air Force was beyond the powers of the German naval forces. At one point the Naval War Staff warned the Army that if it insisted on the broad front, the Navy might lose all of its ships.

But the Army persisted. Overestimating British strength as it did, it argued that to land on a narrow front would confront the attackers with a ”superior” British land force. On August 7 there was a showdown between the two services when Haider met his opposite number in the Navy, Admiral Schniewind, the Chief of the Naval War Staff. There was a sharp and dramatic clash. ”I. utterly reject the Navy’s proposal,” the Army General Staff Chief, usually a very calm man, fumed. ”From the point of view of the Army I regard it as__complete suicide. I might just as well put the troops that have landed straight__through a sausage machine!”

According to the Naval War Staff’s record of the meeting∗ Schniewind replied that it would be ”equally suicidal” to attempt to transport the troops for such a broad front as the Army desired, ”in view of British naval supremacy.”

It was a cruel dilemma. If a broad front with the large number of troops to man it was attempted, the whole German expedition might be sunk at sea by the British Navy. If a short front, with correspondingly fewer troops, was adopted, the invaders might be hurled back into the sea by the British Army. On August
10 Brauchitsch, the Commander in Chief of the Army, informed OKW that he ”could not accept” a landing between Folkestone and Eastbourne. However, he was willing, albeit ”very reluctantly,” to abandon the landing at Lyme Bay in order to shorten the front and meet the Navy halfway.

This was not enough for the hardheaded admirals, and their caution and stubbornness were beginning to have an effect at OKW. On August 13 Jodl drafted an ”appreciation” of the situation, laying down five conditions for the success of Sea Lion that seemingly would have struck the generals and admirals as almost ludicrous had their dilemma not been so serious. First, he said, the British Navy would have to be eliminated from the south coast, and second, the R.A.F. would have to be eliminated from the British skies. The other conditions concerned the landing of troops in a strength and with a rapidity that were obviously far beyond the Navy’s powers. If these conditions were not fulfilled, he considered the landing ”an act of desperation which would have to be carried out in a desperate situation, but which we have no cause to carry out now.”

If the Navy’s fears were spreading to Jodl, the OKW Operations Chiefs hesitations were having their effect on Hitler. All through the war the Fuehrer leaned much more heavily on Jodl than on the Chief of OKW, the spineless, dull-minded Keitel. It is not surprising, then, that on August 13, when Raeder saw the Supreme Commander in Berlin and requested a decision on the broad versus the narrow front, Hitler was inclined to agree with the Navy on the smaller operation. He promised, to make a definite ruling the next day after he
had seen the Commander in Chief of the Army.909 After hearing Brauchitsch’s views on the fourteenth, Hitler finally made up his mind, and on the sixteenth an OKW directive signed by Keitel declared that the Fuehrer had decided to abandon the landing in Lyme Bay, which Reichenau’s Sixth Army was to have made. Preparations for landings on the narrower front on September 15 were to be continued, but now, for the first time, the Fuehrer’s own doubts crept into a secret directive. ”Final orders,” it added, ”will not be given until the
situation is clear.” The new order, however, was somewhat of a compromise. For a further directive that day enlarged the narrower front. Main crossing to be on narrow front. Simultaneous landing of four to five thousand troops at Brighton by motorboats and the same number of airborne troops at Deal-Ramsgate. In addition, on Dminus-1 Day the Luftwaffe is to make a strong attack on London, which would cause the population to flee from the city and block the roads.

Although Halder on August 23 was scribbling a shorthand note in his diary that ”on this basis, an attack has no chance of success this year,” a directive on August 27 over Keitel’s signature laid down final plans for landings in four main areas on the south coast between Folkestone and Selsey Bill, just east of Portsmouth, with the first objective, as before, a line running between Portsmouth and the Thames, east of London at Gravesend, to be reached as soon as the beachheads had been connected and organized and the troops could
strike north.

On September 1 the movement of shipping from Germany’s North Sea ports toward the embarkation harbors on the Channel began, and two days later, on September 3, came a further directive from OKW.

_The earliest day for the sailing of the invasion fleet has been fixed__as September 20, and that of the landing for September 21.__Orders for the launching of the attack will be given D-minus-10 Day,__presumably therefore on September 11._Final commands will be given at the latest on D-minus-3 Day, at__midday.
_All preparations must remain liable to cancellation 24 hours before__zero hour._KEITEL913

This sounded like business. But the sound was deceptive. On September 6 Raeder had another long session with Hitler. ”The Fuehrer’s decision to land in England,” the Admiral recorded in the Naval Staff War Diary that night, ”is still by no means settled, as he is firmly convinced that Britain’s defeat will be achieved even without the ’landing.’

But on the tenth Hitler decided to postpone his decision until the fourteenth. There seem to have been at least two reasons for the delay. One was the belief at OKW that the bombing of London was causing so much destruction, both to property and to British morale, that an invasion might not be necessary.

The other reason arose from the difficulties the German Navy was beginning to experience in assembling its shipping. Besides the weather, which the naval authorities reported on September 10 as being ”completely abnormal and unstable,” the R.A.F., which Goering had promised to destroy, and the British Navy were increasingly interfering with the concentration of the invasion fleet. That same day the Naval War Staff warned of the ”danger” of British air and naval attacks on German transport movements, which it said had ”undoubtedly been successful.” Two days later, on September 12, H.Q. of Naval Group West sent an ominous message to Berlin:

Interruptions caused by the enemy’s air forces, long-range artillery___and light naval forces have, for the first time, assumed major significance. The harbors at Ostend, Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne_cannot be used as night anchorages for shipping because of the danger of English bombings and shelling. Units of the British Fleet now able to operate almost unmolested in the Channel. Owing to__these difficulties further delays are expected in the assembly of the__invasion fleet.

The next day matters grew worse. British light naval forces bombarded the chief Channel invasion ports, Ostend, Calais, Boulogne and Cherbourg, while the R.A.F. sank eighty barges in Ostend Harbor. In Berlin that day Hitler conferred with his service chiefs at lunch. He thought the air war was going very well and declared that he had no intention of running the risk of invasion. In fact, Jodl got the impression from the Fuehrer’s remarks that he had ”apparently decided to abandon Sea Lion completely,” an impression which was accurate for that day, as Hitler confirmed the following day – when, however, he again changed his mind. Both Raeder and Haider have left confidential notes of the meeting of the Fuehrer with his commanders in chief in Berlin on September 14. The Admiral managed to slip Hitler a memorandum before the session opened, setting forth the Navy’s opinion that the present air situation does not provide conditions for carrying out the operation [Sea Lion], as the risk is still too great.

At the beginning of the conference, the Nazi warlord displayed a somewhat negative mood and his thoughts were marred by contradictions. He would not give the order to launch the invasion, but neither would he call it off as, Raeder noted in the Naval War Diary, ”he apparently had planned to do on September

What was wrong, then? Why hesitate any longer in launching the invasion? The trouble was, Hitler conceded:

The enemy recovers again and again . . . Enemy fighters have not yet been completely eliminated. Our own reports of successes do__not give a completely reliable picture, although the enemy has been__severely damaged.

On the whole, then, Hitler declared, ”in spite of all of our successes the__prerequisite conditions for Operation Sea Lion have not yet been realized.” (The emphasis is Halder’s.)

Having come to that negative conclusion, Hitler thereupon gave way to soaring hopes that the Luftwaffe might still bring off the victory that so tantalizingly and so narrowly continued to evade him. ”The air attacks up to now,” he said, ”have had a tremendous effect, though perhaps chiefly on the nerves. Even if victory in the air is only achieved in ten or twelve days the English may yet be seized by mass hysteria.”

To help bring that about, Air marshal Hans Jeschonnek of the German Air Force begged to be allowed to bomb London’s residential districts, since, he said, there was no sign of ”mass panic” in London while these areas were being spared. Admiral Raeder enthusiastically supported some terror bombing. Hitler, however, thought concentration on military objectives was more important. ”Bombing with the object ofcausing a mass panic,” he said, ”must be left to the last.”

Admiral Raeder’s enthusiasm for terror bombing seems to have been due mainly to his lack of enthusiasm for the landings. He now intervened to stress again the ”great risks” involved. The situation in the air, he pointed out, could hardly improve before the projected dates of September 24-27 for the landing; therefore they must be abandoned ”until October 8 or 24.” But this was practically to call off the invasion altogether, as Hitler realized, and he ruled that he would hold up his decision on the landings only until September 17 – three days hence – so that they still might take place on September 27. If not feasible then, he would have to think about the October

Thus though Hitler had put off for three days a decision on the invasion he had by no means abandoned it. Give the Luftwaffe another few days to finish off the R.A.F. and demoralize London, and the landing then could take place. It would bring final victory. So once again all depended on Goering’s vaunted Air Force. It would make, in fact, its supreme effort the very next day. The Navy’s opinion of the Luftwaffe, however, grew hourly worse. On the evening of the crucial conference in Berlin the German Naval War Staff reported severe R.A.F. bombings of the invasion ports, from Antwerp to Boulogne.

. . . In Antwerp . . . considerable casualties are inflicted on transports – five transport steamers in port heavily damaged; one barge__sunk, two cranes destroyed, an ammunition train blown up, several__sheds burning.

The next night was even worse, the Navy reporting ”strong enemy air attacks on the entire coastal area between Le Havre and Antwerp.” An S.O.S. was sent out by the sailors for more antiaircraft protection of the invasion ports. On September 17 the Naval Staff reported:

The R.A.F. are still by no means defeated: on the contrary they are__showing increasing activity in their attacks on the Channel ports and__in their mounting interference with the assembly movements.

That night there was a full moon and the British night bombers made the most of it. The German Naval War Staff reported ”very considerable losses” of the shipping which now jammed the invasion ports. At Dunkirk eighty-four barges were sunk or damaged, and from Cherbourg to Den Helder the Navy reported, among other depressing items, a 500-ton ammunition store blown up, a rations depot burned out, various steamers and torpedo boats sunk and many casualties to personnel suffered. This severe bombing plus bombardment from heavy guns across the Channel made it necessary, the Navy Staff reported, to disperse the naval and transport vessels already concentrated on the Channel and to stop further movement of shipping to the invasion ports. Otherwise [it said] with energetic enemy action such casualties will occur in the course of time that the execution of the operation on the scale previously envisaged will in any case be problematic.

It had already become so.

In the German Naval War Diary there is a laconic entry for September 17.

The enemy Air Force is still by no means defeated. On the contrary, it shows increasing activity. The weather situation as a whole does_not permit us to expect a period of calm . . . The Fuehrer therefore
decides to postpone ”Sea Lion” indefinitely.
The emphasis is the Navy’s.