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World War II: Directive No. 1 for the Conduct of War

(August 31, 1939)


Berlin, August 31, 1939

Directive No. 1 for the Conduct of the War

1. Now that all the political possibilities of disposing by peaceful means of a situation on the Eastern Frontier which is intolerable for Germany are exhausted, I have determined a solution by force.

2. The attack on Poland is to be carried out in accordance with the preparations made for Case White, with the alterations which result, where the Army is concerned, from the fact that it has in the meantime almost completed it. dispositions; Allotment of tasks and the operational target remain unchanged.

Date of attack: September 1, 1939.

Time of attack: 4:45 A.M.

This timing also applies to the operation at Gdynia, Bay of Danzig and the Dirschau Bridge.

3. In the West it is important that the responsibility for the opening of hostilities should rest squarely on England and France. For the time being insignificant frontier violations should be met by purely local action.

The neutrality of Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, to which we have given assurances, must be scrupulously observed.

On land, the German Western Frontier is not to be crossed without my express permission.

At sea, the same applies for all warlike actions or actions which could be regarded as such.

4. If Britain and France open hostilities against Germany, it is the task of the Wehrmacht formations operating in the West to conserve their forces as much as possible and thus maintain the conditions for a victorious conclusion of the Operations against Poland. Within these limits enemy forces and their military-economic resources are to be damaged as much as possible. Orders to go over to the attack I reserve, in any case, to myself.

The Army will hold the West Wall and make preparations to prevent its being outflanked in the north through violation of Belgian or Dutch territory by the Western powers . . .

The Navy will carry on warfare against merchant shipping, directed mainly at England . . . The Air Force is, in the first place, to prevent the French and British Air Forces from attacking the German Army and the German Lebensraum.

In conducting the war against England, preparations are to be made for the use of the Luftwaffe in disrupting British supplies by sea, the armaments industry, and the transport of troops to France. A favorable opportunity is to be taken for an effective attack on massed British naval units, especially against battleships and aircraft carriers. Attacks against London are reserved for my decision.

Preparations are to be made for attacks against the British mainland, bearing in mind that partial success with insufficient forces is in all circumstances to be avoided.


Source: The Avalon Project