How Hitler's Pocket Battleship Was Sunk

By USN [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Warfare History Network, Michael D. Hull

Security, Europe

The German Navys commerce raiding pocket battleship came to grief at the hands of her own crew after the Battle of the River Plate.

RIP Graf Spee: How Hitler's Pocket Battleship Was Sunk

When German dictator Adolf Hitler loosed his troops into Poland on Friday, September 1, 1939, he hoped that a lightning conquest would result in a negotiated peace with Great Britain and France.

Hitlers previous territorial moves during the appeasement years had failed to provoke the two nations into action, so he was stunned when the British and French, honoring guarantees to Poland, declared war on Sunday, September 3. Two decades after the end of World War I, another bloodletting was about to engulf Europe.

But neither side was fully prepared. Britain had a small army and a partly modernized air force, and only her formidable navy was ready to confront an enemy. Germany, on the other hand, boasted a powerful army and air force, but her navy was not up to strength because Hitler, having no experience or interest in naval matters, had ignored the advice of his admirals. They knew that their fleet was hopelessly ill equipped for war. The Führer had, in fact, ordered Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, the Kriegsmarine chief, to be ready for war with Britain by 1944 at the earliest.

When the hostilities started, the German fleet comprised three 11,700-ton pocket battleships, the Deutschland, Admiral Sch....

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