Langsdorff of the Graf Spee at
Home Blog Buy the Books The Graf Spee Adminral Raeder's Navy

Epilogue by Joseph Gilbey: 11 January, 2019.

After twenty-plus years of intensive research into the Graf Spee saga and publishing a couple of books I have unearthed an incredible military cover-up. Maybe the best kept secret in German naval history!

On December 13, 1939 the Battle of the River Plate erupted in South Atlantic waters. "Graf Spee" scudded into Montevideo, sorely damaged. Three British cruisers entrapped her in the Uruguayan neutral port for four days. Then she sailed out to the offshore limits and scuttled in a spectacular explosion. Meanwhile, her crew evacuated to Buenos Aires in three small Argentinian vessels. In early morning December 21, "Graf Spee's" charismatic captain gave up his life in suicide, to honor his ship and naval service. Global media of 1939 - wireless and newsprint - devoured and digested every fact and fairy tale emitting from the saga. International interest was captivated.

Throughout Admiral Graf Spee's 1939 mission, Captain Hans Langsdorff wrote in his log book (kriegstagebuch) detailed evidence of his ship's engine problems. Equipped with eight M.A.N. diesel engines, Graf Spee could not maintain a reliable speed above 20-knots. This fundamental technical problem was common to Germany's three diesel driven pocket battleships. It also implicated two H-class super battleships under priority construction in 1939. These monsters were designed to use larger but similar M.A.N. two stroke compression-less diesel propulsion.

At the beginning of 1940 Germany's naval yard space and special materials were stretched to maximum capacity. Two new battleships Bismarck & Tirpitz, plus one aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin were well advanced. But Raeder's navy could not build 300 submarines that Captain Doenitz had requested - without a drastic schedule adjustment. Should the navy cancel or postpone the two H-class giants because of engine uncertainties and switch to U-boats? C-in-C Admiral Raeder decided to "bide his time."

International interest in naval affairs quickly waned and refocused on spectacular German military successes in Europe. In May 1940 Germany perched on military success against Great Britain. France was already occupied except for B.E.F. forces crushing into Dunkirk. Although, Raeder had achieved an amazing rejuvenation of the high seas fleet, he needed powerful battleships to round off his "post war" Z-plan ambitions. Admiral Raeder decided to rely on the navy to fix the H-class "teething problems". He cut back on J-39 but continued building H-39. Please stay tuned - - Work in progress.

Joseph Gilbey, Hillsburgh, Ontario, 11 January, 2019

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