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The Captain | The Ship | The Battle | The Escape

Escape to Buenos Aires

Graf Spee slipped her lines at 6pm on Sunday 17, December. Thousands of eager spectators gathered along the waterfront and peered from every vantage point around the harbor. Tacoma, A German freighter lying in the harbor, sailed out in Spee's wake. The freighter had discreetly transferred most of the warship's crew during the day. Two tugs and a barge, called in from Argentina, took off the crew in neutral waters and made way for Buenos Aires.

Part of Graf Spee's crew arrive in Buenos Aires
Gigante arrives in Buenos Aires

The doomed pocket battleship anchored about four miles out of Montevideo. Just before 8pm she blew up in a gigantic explosion. Captain Langsdorff and the demolition crew then headed for Buenos Aires in the ship's launch. Two days later, safely landed in Argentina, Captain Langsdorff took his own life with a pistol shot in the head.

Clear information about the incident never became public knowledge in Germany. Meanwhile, uninformed conversations in official circles muttered that Langsdorff had disobeyed standing orders and lost his ship. Furthermore, he had declined a savage battle to break out of Montevideo. Langsdorff's name, with his military reputation, was swept under the carpet.

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Content ©2006, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 Joseph Gilbey.