Germany's naval renaissance : ideology and sea power in the Nazi era / by Donald Paul Steury.
This dissertation examines navalism as a decisive factor in twentieth-century naval development. Its central focus is navalist strategic theory in Germany, and its impact upon naval development in the Third Reich. German naval development is singled out because of its unique character, and because of the decisive role played by German naval policy in determining the course of World War II at sea. Navalism dominated Western naval thought in the first half of the twentieth century. Its influence was of profound importance in determining the parameters of maritime war. At the heart of the navalist ideology was the concept of command of the sea--control of sea lines of communication through the destruction of the enemy's battle fleet. Achieving this end through decisive battle was the goal of navalist strategy and the centerpiece of a maritime war. The survival of German navalism into the Third Reich provided the ideological underpinnings for Germany's naval renaissance after defeat in World War I. But it also isolated the Reich's naval policy from its foreign policy: the assumptions that drove German naval planning were irreconcilably opposed to the strategic ideology of the political leadership, which focused on the continent, and the conquest of economic autarky in Eastern Europe. Until 1942, the political and economic structure of the Reich was such that a choice between these mutually-opposed ideologies did not have to be made. Initially, Hitler posited a series of quick, isolated offensives (Blitzkriege) that would conquer the territorial basis for autarky without the rigors of total mobilization. Within this Blitzkrieg structure there existed the basis for the creation of a semi-autonomous center of naval strength, as an offensive weapon to balance British and French intervention on the continent. Despite the increasingly continental orientation of German economic and foreign policy, Germany's naval leaders thus were able to build a small, but balanced fleet. The outbreak of war in 1939 put a premature end to Germany's naval renaissance, and saw German naval strategy stripped of its navalist character and subordinated to Nazi continental ambitions.
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