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Unrestricted Submarine Warfare (December 22, 1916)

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If the work previously done in the battle against shipping capacity allows us to believe that further action along these lines has a good chance of success, then the unusually dire shortfall in this year’s harvest in bread grains and animal feedstuff throughout the world has provided us with a unique chance. Failing to take advantage of it would be irresponsible. Starting in February, North America and Canada will probably no longer be able to ship any grain to England. England’s supplies will have to come on the long path from Argentina and, insofar as Argentina will not be able to supply very much on account of its own bad harvest, from India, and, above all, from Australia. The enclosed document shows in detail that such an extension of the shipping path requires an increase in tonnage of 720,000 tons of freight for grains. Practically speaking, this means that beginning in August 1917, of the 1 ¾ million tons available, ¾ million will have to be used for purposes previously unnecessary.

Given such auspicious preconditions, a strong hit against English shipping, conducted with all our energy and with all our power, promises to be a guaranteed success, so I can only repeat my statement of August 27, 1916: “our task in this war, which we can clearly see, is to bring about a decision in our favor by destroying transportation capacity” and “from a military standpoint it is irresponsible not to use the submarine weapon even now.” I am not afraid of saying that, given the way things now stand, with unlimited submarine warfare we can force England to sue for peace in five months. This, however, applies only to unlimited submarine warfare; it does not apply to the present submarine warfare against cruisers, even if the submarines were allowed to sink all armed ships.

Based on the assumption – already mentioned – of a monthly destruction of 600,000 tons of shipping space by unlimited submarine warfare and on the expectation – described in the enclosed document – that through unlimited submarine warfare at least two-fifths of neutral shipping will be scared away from travelling to England at all, we can calculate that after five months English sea traffic will have been reduced to approximately 39% of the present amount. England would not be able to tolerate this, neither in regard to its expected condition after the war nor in regard to the possibility of continuing the war. Today, England is already facing a shortage of foodstuffs, which is forcing it to attempt to introduce the very same measures to extend its supplies that we, as a blockaded country, were compelled to adopt in the course of this war. The preconditions for such an organization in England are completely different, that is to say, incomparably worse. England lacks the officials, the authorities, and has not educated its people to fall into line and to accept such constraints. And there is another reason why the proportional and uniform reduction of the bread ration for the population as a whole can no longer be carried out in England. In Germany this reduction was possible at a time when other foodstuffs were temporarily available to offset the sudden decrease in the bread ration. This moment has passed in England and cannot be brought back. With only approximately three-fifths of the maritime traffic, the supply of foodstuffs cannot be sustained without a proportionally strong rationing of the consumption of bread grains if the war industries are to be maintained at the same time. The argument against this, that England might have enough grain and raw materials in its own country to get through the dangerous period until the next harvest, is refuted in detail in the enclosed document.

On top of this, unlimited submarine warfare would mean that England would no longer be supplied by Denmark and Holland, which would cause an immediate shortage of fats, as one-third of all the butter that England imports comes from Denmark and all of the margarine is imported from Holland. Furthermore, this would mean an intensification of the scarcity of iron ore and wood by threatening the importation of iron and wood from Scandinavia, and would at the same time improve our ability to seize Spanish iron ore imports. With this, coal mining would be directly affected and decreased, as the wood that is necessary for it would not be available. Furthermore, the production of iron and steel would be reduced, as would munitions production as it depends on both. To conclude, this finally gives us the opportunity, which we have so long desired, of doing something effective against the import of neutral munitions, and in so doing to make things easier for our army.

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