Graf Spee weakness?

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paul mercer
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Graf Spee weakness?

Post by paul mercer » Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:17 pm

Many years ago when discussing why the Graf Spee ran at the River Plate battle, someone put forward a theory that because she was an all welded ship and as she had engaged the British ships on either beam that somehow the recoil had 'opened' some of the welds by twisting the ship in opposite directions at the same time, thus causing serious leaks.
Is this total bull.... or could there be some truth in it?
Personally, I don't think the Germans would have built something so badly, but was'nt hull welding still fairly new?
Any thoughts?

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Post by Bgile » Wed Dec 13, 2006 5:31 pm

Yes, welding was a very new technology in shipbuilding. Some ships did suffer from faulty welds, but I've never heard of that being a serious problem for AGS.

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RF
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Post by RF » Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:25 am

Paul, was the theory backed by actual evidence?

The Uruguayan inspection team didn't mention any underwater damage in their report, otherwise the Uruguayans would have had to allow AGS more than the 72 hours to repair the damage.
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Post by paul mercer » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:13 pm

RF wrote:Paul, was the theory backed by actual evidence?

The Uruguayan inspection team didn't mention any underwater damage in their report, otherwise the Uruguayans would have had to allow AGS more than the 72 hours to repair the damage.
No, I think it was a theory that was put forward as to the reson that she turned and ran when it appeared that she was winning hands down. She had, after all, effectively disposed of the Exeter and only had 2 x 6" cruisers to deal with. I've often wondered if it is possible that firing at the the same time on opposite sides with 11" guns might have contributed to the lack of seaworthiness that Capt Langsdorff claimed for his ship, as he did try to get a longer time in harbour. The twins, with their 11" guns, were a much stronger build than the Graf Spey and would not have suffered the same problem (also, I don't think they were welded)
Anyway, it's a theory!

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Post by RF » Thu Dec 21, 2006 1:19 pm

The ''turning away'' you referred to happened at the point Langsdorf was slightly wounded and briefly knocked out, ie. AGS wasn't under proper command temporarily, and was forced on the Germans by Harwood's two-pronged attack.

The ''seaworthiness damage'' I understand related to a two metre shell hole in the AGS bow, and also that the galley's were wrecked so that hot food couldn't be prepared.

As an aside the rapid manoeuvering and the firing of 28 cm guns on two flanks was given as the reason by Rasenack for the ineffectiveness of the AGS 15 cm guns during the battle.
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:57 pm

Many commanders had lost their nerve in middle of the battle.
Xerxes lost his nerve in the aftermath of Thermopylae; King Darius of Persia did it in front of Alexander; the Roman Army´s consul at Cannae did it in front Anibal; Gates lost his nerve at Camden as Hooker did at Chancerlorville or Burnside at Fredricksburg; Napoleon III at Sedan or Villeneuve just before Trafalgar; Ike lost his at the Falaise Gap and Collin Powell in 1991 at the Gulf War... Langsdorf lost his nerve in the battle and ran to seek refuge in Montevideo (while he can go to Buenos Aires) instead of destroying his enemies and clearing the way as Lutjens lost his nerve after DS.
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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by marcelo_malara » Sat Aug 09, 2008 4:52 pm

to seek refuge in Montevideo (while he can go to Buenos Aires)
His decision to enter Montevideo instead of Buenos Aires was correct. To access Buenos Aires he had to sail the channel that starts just in front of Montevideo. This channel is more than 100 miles long and there is no way that a ship so big could exit it. So once there, she would had to go all the way back to open waters. The British would just station a couple of ships in the channel entrance and torpedo her while she is coming in straight course.

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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by RF » Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:43 pm

Which leaves Montevideo itself even more of a mousetrap..... the only way being out....
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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:01 pm

paul mercer wrote: Is this total bull.... or could there be some truth in it?
Personally, I don't think the Germans would have built something so badly, but was'nt hull welding still fairly new?
Any thoughts?
It's total bull and there's no truth in it. The welding done on the new construction German warships wasn't really primative by modern standards. Most of the techniques, and the materials, are pretty much what is still used in ship building today. The ST52 construction steel was developed specifically for welded marine construction. The welding consumable for ST52 was the E52K and that was one of the first "low hydrogen" welding rods.

We could look to the GS's sister ships as a guide. These ships fired their guns on opposite beams on several occasions and never had this type of problem. The Scheer passed through the Denmarck St with 40 foot breakers crashing into it and had no failed welds. Anything major of that sort would have forced a mission abort. During the Scheer's 5 month raiding cruise the Scheer encountered several violent storms including getting caught in a typhoon, and used it's big guns in anger several times, and no weld failures are reported in the literature.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by RF » Wed Aug 13, 2008 12:45 pm

It is interesting that the Germans thought (particulary the Propaganda Ministry) that the US Liberty ships would make easy targets because of their welded together sections... the U-boat commanders soon had a very different view as they took in some cases up to five torpedo hits before sinking.
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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by tommy303 » Wed Aug 13, 2008 5:28 pm

Seems odd that a few would take so many torpedo hits, particularly as a number of Liberties sank as a result of hull failures not connected with combat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Ship

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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by Gerard Heimann » Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:12 pm

RF, do you have any citations regarding Liberty ships that took such punishment before sinking? I would be willing to research such sinkings in the uboat.net website if you can provide the uboat number or the Liberty Ship name. As Tommy offers, the "backs" of these ships were notoriously prone to breaking in combat or storm conditions. The beauty of these ships is that they were built so quickly, more quickly in fact, than the uboats were able to sink them. As in most cases with things made in haste, they were not durably built.

Gerard

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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by RF » Thu Aug 14, 2008 12:44 pm

Gerard, I would specifically refer you to two Liberty ships sunk by U-862 in Australian waters, one of them being Robert J Walker sunk 24/12/1944 sixty miles out of Sydney, and David Stevens book ''U-boat far from home.'' In this case defective torpedoes were a problem, but these two ships took out most of the subs torpedo supply.

In another incident I recall the George Clymer had to be scuttled by the Alcantara after its engines broke down and it was hit by two torpedoes from Esau, the LS boat operated by hilfskreuzer Michel. Apparently Alcantara couldn't get the ship to sink with shellfire (having no torpedo armament) and only succeeded in capsizing the ship when depth charges were put under the hull. The ship was abandoned to founder in its own time.
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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by Gerard Heimann » Thu Aug 14, 2008 2:28 pm

RF, yes, U-862's Commander, Heinrich Timm liked to empty his gun! A bit surprising considering his distance from home in Pacific waters with the associated difficulty in reloading. In general, the Liberties were easy to sink, usually requiring one to two torpedoes. I took a look at 19 sinkings on uboat.net, starting with the first Liberty sunk, George Calvert, through Jeremiah Wadsworth and found that the average torpedoes needed was 2. This sampling included a 5 shot sinking of the John Winthrop. In some cases, one or two of the torpedoes included were coup de graces, used to hasten the sinkings of doomed ships. In this case, it appears that the Propaganda Ministry didn't exaggerate the relative ease of sinking these ships.

Regards,
Gerard

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Re: Graf Spee weakness?

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:39 pm

I have studied some of the American problems with welded construction, including the reports on the problems of the Liberty Ships.

The Liberty Ship problems can be boiled down to two primary factors. First the construction steel wasn't ductile enough, particularly when exposed to cold temperatures. This was the primary problem determined by the post war investigations. The second primary problem was the use of welding consumables, such as the E6010, that were not low hydrogen. Cracked and fractured welds, (that fracture at lower tensile stress than they should) are usually the result of hydrogen inclusions.

Another potential problem based on my own experience was the use of automatic welding. Automatic welding just doesn't produce high quality welds consistantly, but for long, deep, joints, such as clear across a deck for many meters, automatic welding can do in a few hours what would take a team of skilled welders weeks to do manually.

We should not assume that all welded ship construction had more or less the same sets of drawbacks and advantages during the WWII era. There were big differences between the typical welded construction of something like the Liberty Ships and warships.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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