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mercredi, 15 février 2012

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz

Ex: http://www.globalsecurity.org/

Tirpitz (1849-1930) German admiral and politician, was born at Kiistrin March Iq 1849. He entered the Prussian navy in 1865, and by 1890 had risen to be chief-of-staff of the Baltic station in the Imperial navy. In 1892 he was in charge of the work of the chief-of-staff in the higher command of the navy. He was promoted to be rear-admiral in 1895, and in 1896 and 1897 he was in command of the cruiser division in east Asiatic waters. In 1899 he reached the rank of vice-admiral and in 1903 that of admiral. For the long period of 19 years, from 1897 to 1916, he was Secretary of State for the Imperial navy, and in this capacity advocated the navy bills of 1898, 1900, 1907 and 1912 for increasing the German fleet and successfully carried them through the Reichstag. In 1911 he received the rank of grand-admiral, and he retired in 1916.

Germans had their own word for Tirpite; he was "Tirpitz the Eternal," which freely interpreted meant that among numerous qualities he possest one that was rare in German cabinets; he was the one minister who displayed tenacity in holding his job. No German since Bismarck had held public office so long. The Kaiser had had an endless succession of chancellors, foreign ministers, war ministers and colonial secretaries; but "Tirpitz the Eternal," until he was suddenly displaced early in 1916 on the submarine issue, apparently had a life tenure. With the adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February, 1917, however, he returned to power and on him was placed the chief responsibility for the warfare thereafter was carried on.

The best account of Adml. von Tirpitz's naval achievements and political activities is contained in the book which he published in 1919 under the title of Erinnerungen. In that book he shows how gigantic was the task of creating the new German navy with which Great Britain had to reckon at the outbreak of the World War. Not only had a whole array of subsidiary industries to be established and supplies of raw materials secured; thousands of skilled workmen and hundreds of directing personalities of strong character and exceptional ability had to be found and trained. It has been customary to attribute the creation of the German navy to the Kaiser William II., and it is true that in large part the initiative for successive increases, and the demagogic appeals by which they were supported, originated with the Emperor. On the other hand, it was Tirpitz who not only conducted the practical advocacy of these schemes in the Reichstag, but also organized the service of propaganda in the German press and on the platform, putting popular pressure on the parliamentary representatives of the nation and constraining them to agree to the enormous expenditure which these schemes entailed. William II. was often a hindrance as well as a help, and Tirpitz gives instances in which the work of the construction departments and even that of the Secretary of State were interrupted or hampered by wild-cat Imperial projects for the construction of architecturally impossible vessels or of mechanically impossible machinery. One of these projects, on which an elaborate report had actually to be submitted to the Emperor, was a device for which it was claimed that it had solved the problem of perpetual motion.

Tirpitz advances two contentions; first, that he would have sent the navy into decisive action at an earlier stage of the war; secondly, that he would have made an earlier and more ruthless use of the German U-boats; but his opponents traverse both these claims, and in particular assert that as Secretary of State he had neglected the construction of submarines, so that Germany entered the war with a comparatively small supply of these vessels.

Things that lay on the surface did not really produce the Great War - neither the ultimatum to Serbia nor hurried mobilizations, nor the invasion of Belgium. Back of all these stood in succession a long series of events which as deeply affecting national interests, ambitions, and fears had changed national policies and popular psychology. One fact that probably had most to do in changing the whole morale of the German people within a few years was the German navy and that meant Tirpitz.

He was more than a sailor, politician or administrator; he was a statesman who, for good or ill, fundamentally directed the course of European history. No longer ago than 1890 Lord Salisbury for lands in Africa had given Heligoland back to the Kaiser - that same Heligoland which in the World War served so effectively as a German naval base. The explanation was simple enough ; in 1890 the" German Empire had no fighting fleet. For many years afterward Great Britain still unallied with any other Power could glory in her "splendid isolation." For a generation Russia silently meditating the overthrow of British power in the East, had been playing the part in the British outlook that Germany came to play in later years. In 1893 England and France had been almost on the verge of war over Fashoda. In the nineties the tie that bound Great Britain to her colonies, and especially to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, was slighter than it had been in years, but within fewer than ten years these conditions had so changed that instead of being splendidly isolated, England found herself splendidly allied. France and Russia, hereditary enemies, had become earnest friends and were now England's friends and the colonies and mother country found themselves reunited in a happy family.

The man chiefly responsible for this change was Tirpitz and his famous "preamble," which as put into the naval law of 1900, formed a new basis for the future history of Europe. "Germany must have a fleet of such strength," the preamble read, "that a war, even against the mightiest naval Power, would threaten the supremacy of that Power." No nation had ever before announced a national policy in such challenging fashion. Germany had declared her purpose to build a navy so strong that it could destroy the navy of Great Britain.

Hence came a change in British foreign policy, an abandonment of "isolation," and that series of alliances, ententes, understandings, and good feeling, that ultimately left Germany and her Austrian ally with no friend in Europe except the Turk. Despite official explanations, magazine articles, and interviews, Englishmen saw only one purpose in a steadily increasing German sea-power which in case of war was to isolate Great Britain and ferry a German army across the Channel. So long as Great Britain remained the greatest naval Power and Germany the greatest military Power, there had been no possibility of conflict. Germany's army and Britain's navy both served similar national ends; each protected the nation from obvious dangers, but neither could fight the other.

As the elder Moltke was the directing genius of German militarism, so Tirpitz started Germany on the path of navalism which was to become the Kaiser's absorbing passion. In looking for the real inspiration of the German fleet one had, however, to go beyond Tirpitz and the Kaiser. The inspiring mind was not a German but an American ; a man who wrote a book which, soon after its appearance, became the Kaiser's inseparable companion - Admiral Mahan and his "The Influence of Sea Power in History." "I have not read your book." said the Kaiser on meeting Mahan. "I have devoured it!"

Tirpitz's origin, although very respectable, was comparatively bourgeois; his father was a lawyer and judge in Frankfort-on-the-Oder. Tirpitz was born in the Mark of Brandenburg, more than one hundred miles from the sea. He grew up a somewhat raw-boned, ungainly, loutish boy, not especially marked for talent, distinguished only by a certain force of character and fixt determination. To his father he presented something of a problem and when only sixteen was placed on board one of several frigates which composed the Prussian navy and at that time served chiefly as havens for the younger sons of impecunious Prussian noblemen. In after years youthful aristocrats were often pained at Tirpitz's habit of advancing sons of tradesmen over their heads and would run to the Kaiser for consolation. "You'll have to pet along with him as well as you can," the Emperor would say, "That's what I have to do."

Once a ball-room favorite was discussing with Tirpitz his chances of naval promotion. "You have very white hands for a man who hopes to command a cruiser," was all the comfort he received. Another candidate for advancement discovered that, in the eyes of Tirpitz, he had one insuperable disqualification; he was a splendid dancer. "The fact that you waltz so divinely," said the Grand Admiral, "proves that you have no sea-legs. Sailors in the German navy can not waltz their way to the bridge. Go learn the hornpipe."

He never regarded social graces as desirable attributes for men who expected to fight battles at sea, and always frowned upon the practise of using warships in foreign ports for balls and receptions. His talents so stood upon the surface - initiative, industry, knowledge, commanding personality, the evidence which he gave, in every act and work. of a capacious brain - that his career became one success after another. He was a lieutenant at twenty; a lieutenant- commander at twenty-five and twenty years after entering the navy was flying the pennant of a rear-admiral. He first attracted the attention of the Kaiser by reorganizing the German torpedo fleet. He was also instrumental in establishing the German outpost of Kiaochow which was directly under his jurisdiction as Minister of Marine.

After serving on a commission for torpedo experiments, Tirpitz entered the Admiralty as chief of staff at Kiel, the headquarters of the fleet. In the prime of life, with his varied training and experience, he had now reached a position where his talent for organization and his initiative had full sway. Von Tirpitz had the imaginative constructiveness of the mathematician and the genius of the engineer. Under his fostering care the torpedo service became a flourishing branch of the German navy where formerly it had consisted of a few unimportant mosquito boats.

With his forked beard, large, round face, huge bulk, he incarnated physically the sea-god Neptune. With a genuine sailor he could easily unbend. He could roar out a sailor's ditty with the best of them. His business and his relaxations were all nautical and he had one favorite topic of conversation - the disgraceful inadequacy of the Kaiser's fleet and the necessity of placing German sea-power on a plane with its military strength. If he had one enthusiasm, it was the British Navy; he admired its history. traditions and great achievements. Nelson, Drake, Hawkins. and other great sea-rovers had been the guiding influences of his life. When he came to the United States with Prince Henry in 1902. American naval officers found him a delightful and congenial comrade as well as a wide-awake observer.

The task enjoined upon him by the Kaiser was a definite one; to create an effective German fleet. Public opinion, and public opinion only, as he manipulated it, created the German fleet. Before he was admiral, or a naval statesman, Tirpitz became a press-agent - probably the most successful in the world; certainly the one who operated on the largest scale. America never organized a press bureau that could compare with Tirpitz's.

His Navy League - started in 1898 - was the parent of all similar organizations. While Tirpitz organized his Flotten-verein Prince Henry was placed at its head, purely for the purpose of being the main instrument in a "campaign of education." Tirpitz sought to teach the German people why they needed a navy, what kind they needed, and how they could get it. The league had branches not only in every province, city, town, village, and hamlet in the empire, hut in every part of the world where Germans lived. Even England - the country against which the German navy was aimed - had branches of the German Navy League, and it had thousands of loyal and contributing members in the United States. It poured forth an unending stream of naval information. in the shape of newspaper articles, interviews, pamphlets, and lithographs; it had motion-picture shows and lecturers who visited the remotest villages. It even introduced its propaganda into public schools. As a result the most benighted Pomeranian peasant who had hardly known that salt water existed and had never imagined what a warship was began to discuss glibly the relative values of destroyers and light cruisers and to debate the possibilities of dreadnoughts and submarines.

The German navy, almost as much as the army, began to figure as a bulwark of the empire. Besides the Navy League, Tirpitz organized a regular press bureau. These agencies, always active. displayed particular liveliness when legislation was pending. He organized special excursion trips from the interior to the seaboard, at extremely low rates, so that the everyday German farmer and workman, with his wife and babies, might have an opportunity to see the Kaiser's battleships, inspect big guns, and so feel himself a part of a machine he had helped to pay for.

When the Reichstag met and took under consideration naval estimates they found they had a new master; back of Tirpitz were the "folks at home." He was not only a great press agent but a finished wire-puller and button-holer. He did not stiffly remain aloof and request the Reichstag to do certain things, but went among its members with an ingratiating smile and a quiet voice. making individual appeals. He cultivated members, joked with them told them funny stories, made them his friends.

In the United States von Tirpitz was later identified with the submarine campaign and that policy of ruthlessly sinking merchant-vessels, without warning, which brought the United States into the war, but the admiral was long an opponent of the submarine. For many years he favored the torpedo-boat above the U-boat as an effective naval weapon. In December, 1905, he wrote that the submarine was valuable for certain narrowly limited purposes only; in April, 1910, he still admonished the German Naval Department to place the interests of the torpedo-boat fleet before those of the submarine; as late as 1912 he gave little favor to the submarine.

The Dreadnought apparently destroyed at a stroke the strong navy that Tirpitz had laboriously built up on conventional lines, but Tirpitz saw the situation in another light. It really furnished him the great opportunity he had been seeking. The dreadnought was the most colossal instance of miscalculation that naval history records. It was true that, as Sir John had foreseen, it made obsolete the German navy, but it made obsolete the British Navy as well. After it was launched, the first-line battle strength of all navies would be measured by dreadnoughts and by dreadnoughts alone. This meant that, in the race for naval supremacy, every nation would start on even terms. England had had such a great lead that, had the status quo been preserved, Germany could never have caught up with her but when England voluntarily pigeon-holed her whole fleet, she lost this enormous handicap. Tirpitz sprang at this opportunity with all the rapidity of genius.

In 1908 the Reichstag amended its program so that an ultimate German navy of fifty-eight dreadnoughts became Tirpitz's answer to Sir John's challenge and an appropriation of $50,000,000 for rebuilding the Kiel Canal, so that these ships could pass through was promptly voted. Sir John had asserted that Germany, in 1906, hadn't a single slip big enough to build a dreadnought; three years later she had seventeen. Tirpitz had called together all the biggest shipbuilders and told them to prepare to build these warships. Such an enormous spurt followed in shipping equipment as the world had never seen before.

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