Plan Z, or How Not to Prepare for The Battle of the Atlantic

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Jonathan Dimbleby, The Battle of the Atlantic

Jak P. Mallmann Showell, German Navy Handbook 1939-45

Empire of the Deep, Ben Wilson

Philips Payson O’Brien, How the War was Won

Corelli Barnett, Engage the Enemy More Closely

The Encyclopedia of Sea Warfare

Crypto, Incompetech

Stormfront, Incompetech

46 thoughts on “Plan Z, or How Not to Prepare for The Battle of the Atlantic

  1. Ellipsis22 says:

    Sorry, but your analysis here is flawed. Plan Z was actually a great plan for the German navy. The Kriegsmarine still needed surface vessels to challenge the RN, submarines could not do it all. Look at Convoy PQ-17. That convoy was mauled because the Germans used subs, aircraft, and the threat of surface action to break up that convoy. It doesn’t matter if the RN can outbuild the Germans, you forgot about the great equalizer in naval warfare in WWII: air power. Without even a dedicated air arm, the Luftwaffe smashed the RN off Crete. The Japanese sank Repulse and Prince of Wales with only aircraft. This wasn’t like WWI where the RN could sit back from a distance. During the Blitz, German bombs damaged Prince of Wales. Had they made a concerted effort, the Germans could have decimated the fleet with air power alone. The RN had to evacuate Scapa Flow. If the Germans had a larger surface fleet it would have put the British in a bind. Imagine hunter killer groups in the Atlantic with a couple pocket battleships, and a few cruisers and destroyers. The British had their hands full chasing just one pocket battleship alone. And these ships don’t even have to find a convoy to have an impact. They can delay the shipment of convoys and disrupt traffic across the Atlantic by the mere fact that they are loose. So the Germans absolutely needed a larger surface fleet, the British can be thankful they didn’t have enough time to build it.

  2. SinJim Smythe says:

    …and the germans should either have 1) tried to delay war with major powers until 1943/44, or 2) tried to win almost immediately through total and brutal and unremittingly violent conquest of the European mainland

    I’m not saying I would like o if they did number 2, just that it was the only option

    They weren’t ready for wide scale war war in 1939/40, not quite, and as such the only option was to wage war horrifically aggressively with no regard for human life of any race.

    …and in fact that second option would have brought the uk into the war earlier, and more aggressively. Maybe even the USA

    They should have waited. They were winning the arms race, and no one would have stopped an arms race with Germany through waging aggressive war against them if they had stayed within their borders during that military growth period

  3. SinJim Smythe says:

    The capital ship end of the surface Kriegsmarine fleet was basically a very expensive series of static deterrent defences built out of steel

  4. Petar Dragiyski says:

    It would have changed the course of the war in North Africa, it would have brought more Air Raids over England, more people would have died, maybe the war would have gone into 1946-47, and maybe the US would have spend more resources fighting Germany if they had more U-boats in 1939-40. Germany and the Axis would have lost the war nevertheless. The post war years would have been a lot different tho. Stalin would have grabbed whole of Central Europe, maybe even France, the UK would have been economically and industrially gutted and all colonies lost, most of Japan would be a nuclear wasteland and probably 10 to 20 million bigger death toll…

  5. Donitz could had won WWII before it even started, luckily the germans have a PHD in losing wars lol

  6. IrishCarney says:

    For the same tonnage as the 2 Bismarck class battleships, 2 Scharnhorst class battleships, 3 Deutschland class "pocket battleships" / heavy cruisers, and 3 Admiral Hipper class heavy cruisers, the Germans could have made a whopping TWENTY SEVEN fast light cruisers of the USS Atlanta style. Fast enough to outrun British capital ships, bristling with dual purpose guns able to shoot down aircraft (whether land or carrier based) or sink destroyers. Ideal commerce raiders.

  7. Nate Randall says:

    If Germany had produced 20+ U-boats per month for just a year, they would've quickly overwhelmed allied shipping. Big fumble there; fortunate for the allies.

  8. Is it irony that the Imperial Japanese military all but ignored their land forces in favor of their navy. While the German military did the exact opposite?

    And in the end, became a big factor of their defeat?

  9. Maximilian Hollesen says:

    I dont understand why you call Scharnhorst and Gneisenau Battlecruisers, thats false. They are Battleships. The German Navy never used the term
    Battlecruiser. And by that i mean every german Navy. They were planed, build and used as Battleships and not Battlecruisers. I mean why dont you call the Deutschland class ships not heavy crusiers? Because the german Navy says they are not. They are Panzerschiffe and following that you call them correctly so. But the same logic should be used on Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. For the britisch they may be "only" Battlecruisers but that dosen' t matter, because we are talking about german ships.

    It's like with Tanks of WW2. The Panther had more mass than the Pershing, but still the Panther was a medium tank and the Pershing a heavy tank. Why? Simply because the germans classified there tanks by caliber and the allies by total mass.

    May be Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had less mass or firepower as for example the battlecruiser Hood. But that do not automaticly mean that Scharnhorst and Genisenau were also Battlecruisers. The Kriegsmarine called and used them as Battleships, so you should also call them that and nothing else.

    Best Greetings.

  10. It's always fascinated me that Britain didn't seem to invest much in submarines at the time, unless I am mistaken. I wonder why

  11. Jeffrey Knickman says:

    You're all of you aware that Raeder was a traditionalist admiral, which means that his strategy wasn't built around u-boats. Pre-war, American boats were expected to attach big ships (battleships & cruisers). There's no reason to think that Raeder didn't plan on using U-boats the same way. The Brits certainly did. Plus, in some ways the title of this video is misleading, There was no real way for Raeder to know the Anglo-German treaty would be abrogated early. That wasn't his call. He was planning for the late 40's war that Hitler had planned on at the time. Thus, the conception for the Battle of the Atlantic (built on Mahan, like every other pre-war naval strategy) was different from what actually happened. Besides, prior to WW2, submarines had never been a decisive weapon. The short version is that Plan Z wasn't built around commerce raiding

  12. Your Average Scotsman says:

    One thing I love about Plan Z, is that it involves the Royal Navy doing absolutely nothing in retaliation to it.

    When the Bismarck was launched, the Brits already had several agents and spies there to watch the fucking thing get set into the water.

    Imagine that Germany starts building more ships. What will Britain do? It will, most likely, begin to rearm and build more ships to fight the Germans.

  13. Rafael David says:

    Also mentioned that Hitler wasn't a huge fan of the kriegsmarines (German navy), that's why he only requested U boats for the entire war, and the Bismark class purpose was only to guard occupied Norway, also finally he just sweep plan Z under the rug, since he just wanted Britain to surrender eventually, especially his wet dream was able to launch "operation barborrossa" (crushing Soviet union in the process). But bc of several failed naval attempts, pretty much stretched out their war reserves, that's why they can't supply their troops rapidly during the operation, eventually stalled in the harsh russian winter.

    Sry if this was long.

  14. Ben Laskowski says:

    300 U-boats.

    What Doenitz could have done with that. . .😳

  15. Voice Test says:

    I feel that the contribution of Canada to the escort fleets isn't fully underscored in this video.

    Given that by the end of the war, Canada had a standing fleet of over 400 ships that were mostly focused on fleet escort.

  16. Luca Cassar says:

    aircraft carriers< Graf zeppelin, rhien, Erich Lowdenheart, Weser, Manfred von Ritchoften and more

  17. Anja Erdmann says:

    Imagine how the war would have come out if the Germans would have build all these ships.

  18. Michael Foulis says:

    Apparently the Royal Navy had 2300 + ships in 1945! Mostly patrol vessels but still a pretty HUGE number!

  19. The thing about surface ships, especially the big ones such as battleships and carriers, is that they are so much more impressive than subs even though subs are far more dangerous. The UK had a large navy because they had a vast network of seaborne trade routes built up over centuries of empire building. But the UK's navy was really built up before the advent of subs so the UK had become used to having a large navy. Germany was never going to be able to catch up. They had neither the means, money or manpower to build the vast navy Raeder envisaged. It was simply beyond them. Even if WW2 hadn't started the UK and others would have built more ships to counter the Germans anyway. Also Hitler was an army man and that is were he wanted the defence budget to go. More tanks, artillery and soldiers. A big navy was no good to him in the war against a land power like Russia.

  20. Michael D. Uchiha90 says:

    Easy to sai with the knowledge of today.🤷‍♂️

  21. Oskar Ståhl says:

    If Dönitz had 300 u-boats, most of which were Type VII, in 1939, there wouldn't have been a WW2. Britain would have been forced to negotiate and the war would have remained a local european affair. Hitler probably woukd have gone down in history as a second Napoleon or something, and the German Reich might still stand.

  22. Philip Humphrey says:

    I'm not sure about the argument that if the Germans had built more U boats they could have won. Simply because the British would have noticed the ramping up of production of U boats and that would have prompted them to build more escort vessels and other countermeasures in response. Perhaps where the Germans missed a trick was they could have built more FW Condors and other long range anti ship aircraft relatively quickly and that would have given the British a real headache to counter.

  23. FreeMan4096 says:

    This assumes Germany was building fleet to wrestle with UK. in fact Germany really ignored UK for the most part. Plan Z was to enable crossing of Atlantik. You cant send army and supplies in u-boats.

  24. One Smooth Stone says:

    Thank you for the "p in p" graphics.
    They really help geeks w/technical questions like me.

  25. There was little money for the R.N. to enlarge and modernise like it did before the first world war…..However it was still supreme, it has been noted that he who controls the sea controls everything, and will eventually prevail. It still holds true today. Take the U.S. navy, the aforementioned successor, able to project power and influence anywhere in the world. Thank goodness war came when it did, with a German naval arm like that we would have withered. People talk with the benefit of hindsight, and that a democratic government can just simply start spending money hand over fist on armaments on a war that might or might not happen. While many children went without shoes, food and decent housing. We were still recovering from the great depression and desperate not to repeat the horrors of the trenches.

  26. A little bit of false advertising; I'd rather hear more about the ships of plan Z than what we already know about the battle of Atlantic.

  27. Ocean liner History says:

    I think Bismarck should have been taken because German navy would have faced a modified Bismarck under another name.

  28. Totally not the flash :3 says:

    They should've press the ~ key to open console Commands and type IC, instant navy. Smh.

  29. Kido Butai says:

    8 carriers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that's accurate, the plan called for only four carriers to support 10 battleships. Thanks for the video.

  30. Sounds like the "small boy" mentality, prevalent in many men; "Look at my big battleship. Bigger/ longer, faster than yours".
    But you cannot say that about a submerged U- boat, which is more deadly.

  31. Timothée Toury says:

    I think the management of the kriegsmarine is wierd from the start, nazi germany choose the blitzkrieg tactic but prioritize capital ships not seeing see the utility , range of action and the firepower that could have a aircraft carrier, and his escort ships of course (and so why not u boat in theses escorts too) against giants slow battleships and convoys with big smoke in the middle of the sea, without the construction of the bismarck and the tirpitz they could have build 2 carriers and maybe make a coordiante attack with uboats against scapaflow for example or make an operation to invade island making it a base to attack convoys, bomb the port of arkangelsk in russia.
    Or some missons like with the bismarck, only 1 escort ship? and a big one why not 2 destroyers or light cruisers able to maneuvre faster and/or screen the ship if needed and no uboat that could have help them protecting the bismarck why germany?
    I agree that naval battle with theses type of ships are badass as fuck but such a waste of time and ressources for the best of the kriegsmarine finally not doing so much, its like the yamato, the japanes where so scared of losing it that when they finally decided to use it, it was too late he had not enough escort and got rekt

  32. Moses Racal says:

    Japan be like: Yo dawg, heard you like aircraft carriers and your submarines are really few

    So I put an aircraft carrier in a submarine

  33. John Sater says:

    I would LOVE to know what would've happened if Doernitz had the ear of German command earlier on in the war. And historical speculation isn't really something I really even like!

  34. Dillon Thatch says:

    One day i would love to finally hear a British person say the letter “Z” properly. I laugh almost everyone I hear “Zed” lol

  35. The Shoreham Boy says:

    So there plan was to build a navy that was smaller than the Royal Navy and that were outclassed by the Royal Navy in any case

  36. Kelley Sauer says:

    Submarines could not support an invasion. The mistake was not in trying to build more capital ships. The mistake was in not having more submarines when the war started. Hitler started the war EARLY, after telling his military to be ready by 1947 – 1944 at the earliest.

  37. Scuba Steve says:

    War Thunder has all the appearance of being realistic without any of the actuality of it. Not that I hold you responsible for Gaijin’s marketing.

  38. neniAAinen says:

    1. You can build u boats during the war. You can't really do it with capital ships. When decisions were made, no one has planned for a war in 1939, kriegsmarine just tried to re expand itself back into meaningful capability.
    Many of key prewar programs were really reaching reaching service only by 1940-41, with sharp fall afterwards.
    2.British weren't the only enemy, and until 1938 weren't even considered to be the likely one. Main target was the French.
    3. Massive building of submarines in advance hasn't worked terribly well for literally anyone who tried. If anything, because wrong sorts of submarines were typically prioritized.
    4. Surface fleet opened Norwegian bases, and knowing that France will fall the way it actually did in 1930s was… impossible. France had the strongest army in the world.
    U-boating UK into submission from Wilhelmshafen is unrealistic.
    5. Significant part of u-boat successes can be attributed to disruptions caused by surface raiders.
    6. All kriegsmarine warships in service had nothing to do with plan Z.
    Everything up to and including Bismarck class battleships, graf Zeppelin class carriers and admiral Hipper class heavy cruisers predated it.
    7. Also, just a small rant, but video about plan Z would certainly benefit from explaining what plan Z actually was, and how it was supposed to work…

    All in all: it's good to be smart afterwards, and assuming that everything will happen just the same, but with hordes of type VIIc's in 1939. It will not.

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