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Command Decisions: Langsdorff and the Battle of the River Plate

Command Decisions: Langsdorff and the Battle of the River Plate

by David Miller


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This compelling new study of the Battle of the River Plate concentrates on Kapitn zur See Hans Langsdorff, the commander of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee and is written from his point of view. The story of his mission at the start of the Second World War to prey on merchant shipping is graphically retold, and Langsdorffs command decisions are the primary focus of David Miller's gripping narrative.

He considers in vivid detail the factors Langsdorff had to consider as he assessed the situation of his ship and choose his course of action. He describes the intelligence Langsdorff received and his knowledge of the position and strength of the forces of the Royal Navy that were arrayed against him. Langsdorffs interpretation of his mission and the tense calculations he had to make in order to carry it out are the essential elements of this dramatic story.

Langsdorff, operating alone and thousands of miles away from home and with no prospect of support, had to grapple with the enormous burden of a lone command. He made grave mistakes, and these are ruthlessly exposed. But this fascinating reexamination of his actions and his leadership does nothing to diminish his reputation as a brave and honorable officer.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781526796974
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 06/30/2021
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

David Miller has had seventy books published on subjects ranging from Richard the Lionheart, through the samurai, to U-boats and the Battle of Waterloo. His great love is the sea – his father was a naval officer – and this book is the outcome of many years’ study of Captain Langsdorff, one of the most admired officers of the German Second World War Kriegsmarine.

Table of Contents

Maps viii

Introduction xii

Acknowledgements xiv

Foreword - Langsdorff: The Man xv

Part I The Historical Background - German Surface Raiders in the First World War 1

Chapter 1 The First World War 3

Chapter 2 The Lessons of the First World War 26

Part II The Ship - The Design of the Deutschland-class Panzerschiffe 31

Chapter 3 What's in a Name? 33

Chapter 4 Ship Design 39

Chapter 5 Armament 45

Chapter 6 Propulsion 52

Chapter 7 The Aircraft 56

Chapter 8 The Crew 62

Chapter 9 Communications, Command and Control 66

Chapter 10 Replenishment at Sea 71

Chapter 11 Summary 80

Part III The War Cruise of the Graf Spee 83

Chapter 12 Deployment: Narrative 85

Chapter 13 Active Operations, Phase I: Clement to Africa Shell Narrative 90

Chapter 14 Active Operations, Phase II: Indian Ocean Narrative 95

Chapter 15 Active Operations, Phase III: Return to the Atlantic 98

Chapter 16 Prisoners 106

Chapter 17 The Mid-Ocean Meeting: Narrative 112

Chapter 18 The Battle 117

Chapter 19 Battle Damage: Narrative 126

Chapter 20 The Run to Montevideo 131

Chapter 21 In Montevideo: Narrative 137

Chapter 22 The State of the Ship 153

Chapter 23 Langsdorff Takes His Own Life: Narrative 158

Part IV Conclusions 167

Chapter 24 Conclusions 169

Annex A German Kriegsmarine Officers' Ranks 175

Annex B Graf Spee - Officers 176

Annex C Langsdorff's Appreciation of the Situation: 26 November 1939 179

Bibliography 181

Index 184

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