AMERICAN and British views on sea warfare are so similar that naval students in the two countries will agree on many conclusions about the opening phases of the present campaign. They will agree, for example, that the present naval war is not likely to provide a major fleet action on the scale of Jutland. The German Navy's strength in capital ships at the outbreak of war was much too low to permit it to challenge the British fleet. Against the fourteen British capital ships in existence -- though not all concentrated in the North Sea, as the Grand Fleet was in 1914 -- Germany could oppose only the two battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Her two new battleships of the 35,000-ton Bismarck class will probably not come into service for many months; nor is it conceivable that even after all four of the new German capital ships have been completed twelve to fifteen months hence they will give battle to the British Main Fleet.
German naval strategy clearly must fall back on the old idea of a raiding war, a constant campaign of pinpricks in which the central objective is to destroy the enemy's commerce. One need not have been clairvoyant to foretell this at any time after 1935, when the Nazis put Admiral Erich Raeder at the head of the German Admiralty and told him to rebuild a navy that would revive the glories of the Kaiser's fleet. For Admiral Raeder was by no means a dark horse. His record in the last war as a Staff Officer with Hipper in the German Battle Cruiser Force was well known. Moreover, after that war he produced two important volumes on "Cruiser Warfare" in which he clearly laid down the lines along which a small force should wage naval warfare against a first-class Power. The plans which he outlined in those volumes he has followed in rebuilding the German Navy and, since last September, in employing it against the Allies. He advocated a cruiser war in which as many enemy naval vessels as possible would be tied up by a constant search for individual German commerce destroyers dispersed far and wide over the seas. He advocated the unrelenting destruction of the enemy's sea-borne commerce by every conceivable means. He advocated attacking the individual warships which were pursuing the raiders -- whenever the warships were less powerful. And he advocated the Blitzkrieg, the infliction of instant and overwhelming damage at the very outset of hostilities.