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December 17, 1939 - The German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee (right) is scuttled following the Battle of the River Plate.  A Deutschland-class panzerschiffe (armored ship), Admiral Graf Spee was named for VAdm. Maximilian von Spee who had won the Battle of Coronel during World War I.  Dubbed a "pocket battleship" by foreign navies due to its small size but potent punch, Admiral Graf Spee entered service in 1936 and took part in the non-intervention patrols off Spain during the Spanish Civil War.  Sent to the South Atlantic in August 1939, it was in place to commence commerce raiding when World War II began on September 1.  Attacking Allied shipping through the fall, Admiral Graf Spee was engaged by Cmde. Henry Harwood's Force G at the Battle of the River Plate on December 13.  In the course of the fighting, the cruiser's fuel processing system was destroyed necessitating it to make port.  Entering neutral Montevideo, Uruguay, Admiral Graf Spee became the center of a political controversy as British authorities lobbied to have it expelled before the repairs could be completed. With the Uruguayan government refusing to allow his ship to stay and having received false intelligence suggesting that a large British force was waiting at sea, Capt. Hans Langsdorff elected to scuttle Admiral Graf Spee in the River Plate on December 17 to spare the lives of his men.  His actions were severely condemned by German leader Adolf Hitler and he committed suicide two days later.    

 World War II - Axis Warships:

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

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