Graf Spee was a German
- more commonly referred to as a pocket battleship
- of the Deutschland
class. Laid down on October 1, 1932 by Wilhelmshaven Navy
, she was launched on June 30, 1934 and commissioned on January 6, 1936. In the tension immediately prior to the outbreak of World War II
, the Graf Spee was deployed under the command of Captain Hans Langsdorff
on August 21, 1939, and began commerce raiding when hostilities between Germany and the Allies began on September 1.
One month into the war, the British Admiralty learned of the Graf Spee as it sank its first merchant ship on September 30. Pressure was placed on the ship and her crew only six days later as eight British and French task forces were created with the goal of hunting down and destroying the ship. In December of 1939, one of these task forces encountered the Graf Spee off Montevideo and, in the Battle of the River Plate, succeeded in forcing her into the port to make repairs. The ship was scuttled by the captain when it was realized that there was no hope of either victory over, or escape from, the British fleet.
During her brief tour of duty in the war, the Admiral Graf Spee sank nine merchant ships, or fifty thousand tons of shipping. This was a totally inadequate return for such an expensive unit. Part of the weakness of the Graf Spee and her two sister ships, the Deutschland and the Admiral Scheer, was that the class of ship had not been designed to battleship specifications. Meant to be powerful enough to sink anything they could not outrun and fast enough to outrun anything they could not sink (except for the HMS Hood, HMS Renown and HMS Repulse, three British battlecruisers), these "Panzerschiffe" ("armored ships") were built to light cruiser standards in terms of speed and protection. They were equipped with a main battery of guns that was extremely disproportionate to their size.
Displacement: 11,700 tons standard, 16,200 tons full load
Dimensions: 610x71x24 feet (189x22x7.5 meters)
Armament: Two triple 11-inch guns, eight single 5.9-inch guns, three dual 4.1-inch guns, eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, numerous smaller AA