Langsdorff file photo

Hans Langsdorff

Born20 Mar 1894
Died19 Dec 1939
CountryGermany
CategorySea

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff was born on the island of Rügen. His family moved to Düsseldorf in 1898 and befriended the future naval hero Count (Graf) Maximilian von Spee, who influenced Langsdorff to attend the Kiel Naval Academy despite his parents' wishes. During WW1, Lieutenant Langsdorff was awarded the Iron Cross at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

During the inter-war years, Langsdorff served in various roles including the Defense Ministry in Berlin and commanding a torpedo boat flotilla. After a few years in the Interior Ministry, he was posted to the new pocket battleship (later re-classified heavy cruiser) Admiral Graf Spee, named after his former neighbor in Düsseldorf. On 1 Jan 1937 he was promoted to the rank of captain and took over the command of Graf Spee. With him at the helm, Graf Spee successfully sank nine merchant ships in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean in the latter part of 1939, damaging Britain's ability to transport goods to and from her distant territories without any loss of German life. His righteous upbringing made him a merciful conqueror of the sea: during the nine sinkings he spared every British life, placing every prisoner in his supply ship Altmark before sinking the beaten ships. His successful raids attracted over twenty Allied warships to hunt for him, and he was found by British Hunting Group G, under the command of Commodore Henry Harwood, at River Plate off South America. After a 90-minute battle with two light cruisers and a heavy cruiser, the British ships disengaged. Langsdorff, whose ship also sustained heavy damage, sailed for the neutral port of Montevideo. Requesting the port for two weeks' time for repairs, he was granted only 72 hours. When the time was up, Graf Spee was still in no sailing shape, especially with a large British fleet that Langsdorff thought must be waiting for him outside the port. He berthed his sailors aboard German freighters at Montevideo, wrapped himself in the colors of Imperial Germany, not the Nazi swastika, gave the order to scuttle the ship, then committed suicide. His suicide note read "[f]or a captain with a sense of honor, it goes without saying that his personal fate cannot be separated from that of his ship."

Langsdorff now rests in the German section of the La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Sources: the Last Lion, Wikipedia.

Hans Langsdorff Timeline

20 Mar 1894 Hans Langsdorff was born.
19 Dec 1939 Hans Langsdorff passed away.

Photographs

Lansdorff as a midshipman, 1912Lansdorff addressed his crew aboard Admiral Graf Spee, possibly commissioning ceremony, 6 Jan 1936Funeral procession of Captain Hans Langsdorff, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 21 Dec 1939




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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. CM Taylor says:
    10 Dec 2006 11:57:41 AM

    Please double check burial site. I just returned from Buenos Aires, and I believe Langsdorff is in Las Flores Cemetery, and not in Chacarita. This info was given to me by someone familiar with the citys history.
  2. clive morris says:
    28 Feb 2008 05:06:14 AM

    A couple of weeks ago I visited Hans Langsdorff's grave in Buenos Aires. He is buried at Chacarita cemetery but not in the main section. You have to walk on the outside of the cemetery to the German section. His grave is there. He is buried with four of his fellow officers and also listed are the sailors who died in the battle.
  3. Anonymous says:
    15 Jun 2009 08:05:43 AM

    Why is it not possible for this hero of Germany, who spared so many allied and german lives to be buried in his hometown. Had the Captain of the Bismarck had these ideas perhaps the 2000 lives lost, after the sensible thing to do when the ship was dammaged, unable to escape or to return fire, was to surrender.
    One is a true hero, the other, a fool. The families of the 900+ sailors saved by Langsdorff, and those of the British Navy who lived, when they might have died should make sure that their savior is properly repatriated to his hometown, and family.

    His honor demands this small tribute.
    yours,
  4. Anonymous says:
    15 Jun 2009 08:18:40 AM

    Patton may have been a good source for quotes, but he was a gloryhound, and recklessly endangered his units. Headlong attack without more caution needlesly wastes lives, and can lead to disaster when cut off at the flanks. Patton was lucky that his army did not suffer a terrible defeat. I would venture that he was very, very close to disaster more than once.
    Alleged German fear of Patton was a ruse to lure him to his doom. An even worse leader tho was A.H., and this I am certain saved Patton.

    One can only whistle past the graveyard a limited number of times. Also his political comments were unbridled, and megalomaniac. A far better geeneral was Omar N. Bradley. Eisenhower was a politician and never a military general. Capable only of grand strategy, and perhaps ideas such as attack on a broad front and slowly wear the enemy down by brutal slugfest ala general Grant. Use your industrial base to wear the enemy down, expend your men and supply even at losses of two to one, knowing that a country the size of Montana, cannot fight forever. One of his good decisions however was not to attack Berlin, in favor of the general wartime US/British strategy to let the Russian allies take the losses. This decision I am certain was that of the Combined Joint Chiefs.
  5. Anonymous says:
    2 Jul 2009 07:46:42 AM

    I recently visited the National War shrine Yakusini in Tokyo Japan where kamikaze pilots are still honored. I note that the men of that generation still had a sense of personal honor (and shame) which is largely lost today, and not just in the military but in civilized life. Who would go down with his ship today? Or take his own life because he lost a battleship? Maybe I am just getting old...
  6. G.Lesuma says:
    17 Jan 2010 01:55:27 AM

    In January 2010 I paid a visit to Hans Langsdorff's grave in La Chacarita Cemetery, and found that the entrance to the German section of La Chacarita is on Av. Elcano, the street outside the cemetery that follows the right hand boundary of the main cemetery. A beautifully kept section of the cemetery so tranquil and respectful. One can certainly imagine Herr Langsdorff resting in peace here.
  7. Ray says:
    21 Jun 2013 02:31:29 PM

    Captain Langsdorff had a tough problem the neutral port was not so neutral.

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Event(s) Participated:
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Hans Langsdorff Photo Gallery
Lansdorff as a midshipman, 1912
See all 3 photographs of Hans Langsdorff



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