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The Z-Plan

Admiral Eric Raeder, C-in-C of the Reichsmarine in 1928, immediately established strict personal control of the navy. A ‘sacred duty’ to build a world class battle fleet obsessed his plans and actions.

Hitler visits Kriegsmarine
Hitler visits Kriegsmarine

In 1933 President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Admiral Raeder’s plans began to unfold. Hitler authorized a massive naval building program in 1937. Code named ‘ Z-Plan’ this naval expansion would give Germany a premier battle fleet. The navy anticipated ten years of vigorous shipbuilding to complete the plan. However, Hitler’s aggressive actions in 1939 moved Great Britain to declare war on Nazi Germany - too early for the Z-Plan to take form.

Raeder’s shipyards stretched at full capacity to build the Z-Plan. Work progressed rapidly on two 42,000 ton battle ships ( Bismarck and Tirpitz) while an aircraft carrier (Graf Zeppelin) also took shape. Two massive 56,000 ton battle ships had keel plates laid down and signed requisitions promised four more of the same class. Confirmed orders for three 32,000 ton battle cruisers rounded off the initial phase of the Z-Plan.

Nevertheless, Britain’s declaration of war crimped the necessary time to complete the Z-Plan. Germany’s active battle fleet in 1939 consisted of three pocket battleships (Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee) plus two battle cruisers (Gneisenau and Scharnhorst). Raeder needed seven more years to obtain his dream fleet.

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Content ©2006, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 Joseph Gilbey.