German battleship Admiral Graf Spee

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Admiral Graf Spee

Career Image:Kmensign.png
Laid down: October 1, 1932
Launched: June 30, 1934
Commissioned: January 6, 1936
Fate: Scuttled December 17, 1939
General Characteristics
Displacement: 12,100 t standard; 16,200 t full load
Length: 610 ft (186 m)
Beam: 71 ft (21.6 m)
Draft (max.): 24 ft (7.4 m)
Armament: Six 11 inch (280 mm) guns (2 triple turrets), eight 5.9 inch (150 mm) guns, eight 21 inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes (2 quadruple)
Rate of fire: 11 inch guns: 2.5 rounds/minute/gun 5.9 inch guns: 67ndash;8 rounds/minute/gun
Gun range: 11 inch guns at 40° (armor-piercing shells): 36,475 m
Estimated gun life: 11 inch guns: ca. 340 rounds; 5.9 inch guns: ca. 1,100 rounds
Munitions supply: 11 inch (280 mm) guns: 105–120 rounds/gun
Armor: 5.5 inch (140 mm) turret face, 2.3 inch (58 mm) midships belt, 1.6 inch (41 mm) deck
Aircraft: Two Arado 196 seaplanes, one catapult
Propulsion: Eight MAN diesels, two screws, 52,050 hp (40 MW)
Speed: 28.5 knots (53 km/h)
Range: 8,900 nautical miles at 20 knots (16,500 km at 37 km/h)
or 19,000 nautical miles at ~10 knots (35,000 km at ~18.5 km/h)
Crew: 1,150

Admiral Graf Spee was a pocket battleship (Panzerschiff, later reclassified as heavy cruiser) launched by Germany in 1934 and named after the World War I Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee. Although Admiral Graf Spee is often called Graf Spee for short, it must not be confused with the uncompleted World War I German battle cruiser SMS Graf Spee.

Admiral Graf Spee sailed from Wilhelmshaven, Germany, in August 1939, her mission to act as a raider in the South Atlantic. Supported by her supply ship, the tanker Altmark, her orders were to sink British merchant ships but to avoid combat with strong enemy forces, thus threatening vital Allied supply lines and drawing British naval units off their stations in other parts of the world.

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The cruise of Admiral Graf Spee with ships sunk

In 1939 Admiral Graf Spee sank a number of merchant ships in the south Atlantic and Indian Ocean, the first on September 30, 1939. The crews of these ships were transferred to her tanker Altmark. Later, these 299 crew members were freed by force in neutral Norwegian territorial waters by the British destroyer HMS Cossack (the Altmark Incident).

Technologically, the Admiral Graf Spee was ahead of her time, especially in terms of her speed. At one point the Allies were convinced that two such ships must exist so as to explain her near-simultaneous appearance in distant locations, unexplainable by conventional sea travel at the time.

Britain formed seven hunting groups in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean to look for her, totalling three battleships, four aircraft carriers, and 16 cruisers. More groups were assembled later.

On December 13, 1939, she was found by the British Hunting Group G — the 8 inch (200 mm) gunned cruiser HMS Exeter, and 6 inch (150 mm) gunned light cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles — and the battle of the River Plate ensued. After taking spectacular-looking but actually relatively superficial damage and retreating to the neutral port of Montevideo, the ship was scuttled by Captain Hans Langsdorff to avoid risking the crew in what he expected to be a losing battle. Captain Langsdorff shot himself to death three days later.

In 1997 one of Admiral Graf Spee's secondary gun turrets was raised and restored, and can now be found outside Montevideo's National Maritime Museum.

In February 2004 a salvage team began work raising the wreck of Admiral Graf Spee. The operation is in part being funded by the government of Uruguay, in part by the private sector, as the wreck is now a hazard to navigation. The first major section, the 27-ton heavy gunnery control station, was raised on 25 February, 2004. It is expected to take several years to raise the entire wreck. Film director James Cameron is filming the salvage operation. After it has been raised it is planned that the ship will be restored and put on display at the National Marine Museum in Montevideo.

Most of the surviving sailors do not approve, considering the wreck to be an underwater historical monument which must be respected; one of them, Hans Eupel, former specialist torpedo mechanic, 87 years old in 2005, added "this is madness, too expensive, and senseless. It is also dangerous, as one of the three explosive charges we placed did not explode."

Commanding Officers

  • Kapitn zur See Konrad Patzig: January 1936 – October 1937
  • Kapitn zur See Walter Warzecha: October 1937 – October 1938
  • Kapitn zur See Hans Langsdorff: October 1938 – 17 December, 1939

External links

hu:Admiral Graf Spee nl:SMS Admiral Graf Spee ja:アトミラル・グラーフ・シュペー (装甲艦) pl:Admiral Graf Spee


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