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Tuesday, 18 June, 2024
20December 1939

Hans Langsdorff, captain of scuttled Graf Spee, kills himself

The former captain of the warship Admiral Graf Spee, Hans Langsdorff, killed himself on this day following the loss of his ship.

Following the Battle of River Plate, the Graf Spee was severely damaged. After limping into the Uruguayan port of Montevideo for repairs, the ship was given 72 hours by the neutral state to leave. Faced with the choice of remaining, and seeing his ship be impounded by the Uruguayan authorities, and leave to face a suicidal battle with waiting Royal Navy warships, the captain chose instead to scuttle the Graf Spee just off the coast, watched by 20,000 locals and the crew of the ship.

Since the scuttling of his warship, Captain Langsdorff had stayed in Buenos Aires. Distraught at the loss of his ship, and worried about criticism of himself and his crew, he chose to kill himself.

I can now only prove by my death that the fighting services of the Third Reich are ready to die for the honour of the flag. I alone bear the responsibility for scuttling the panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee. I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag. I shall face my fate with firm faith in the cause and the future of the nation and of my Führer.

Hans Langsdorff, writing shortly before he killed himself.

Hans Langsdorff laid the Graf Spee ensign flag on the floor of his hotel room, laid down upon it and shot himself. The 45 year old was buried in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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