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Alan Zimm on the River Plate

 
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Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 5:32:05 PM   
Zorch

 

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Alan Zimm analyzes the Battle of the River Plate in the current issue of USNI's Naval History, and is very critical of Commodore Harwood. Unfortunately this article is for subscribers only. You may be able to pick up a copy of Naval History at your local bookstore.

https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2019/august/battle-badly-fought
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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 6:38:21 PM   
RangerJoe


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I am not a subscriber, maybe my local library has it. But what is the problem with engaging a superior armed and armored vessel thus damaging it, chasing it into a neutral port, with said ship then scuttling itself? The British stayed on patrol waiting to engage the vessel again and/or to follow it while heavier vessels came to play. That is exactly what those much lighter British ships were designed for.

_____________________________

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“Illegitemus non carborundum est (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down”).”
― Julia Child


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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 7:14:12 PM   
Zorch

 

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Zimm argues that the British ships higher rate of fire, used properly, combined with Graf Spee's thin armor, should have been decisive. I'm not so sure.

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 8:44:44 PM   
warspite1


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Shame I can't read it as its subscription only. Would have been interesting to read what Zimm would have done that would have yielded so much better results.

Thanks to Langsdorff's wilful disobedience of his orders, Graf Spee went looking for battle. He got it. As a result of the following action, Graf Spee was so badly damaged she had to put into port. There was no way she was going to make it back to Germany in the state she was in.

In return, Graf Spee had inflicted serious damage on HMS Exeter, which also had to withdraw from the fight. However, the German ship did not slip away through the fingers of the British and the two remaining light cruisers - Ajax and Achilles (the latter a Kiwi manned ship (the New Zealand Navy was at that time a squadron of the RN)) - shadowed her every move.

Given the Graf Spee's two-turret arrangement (2 x 3 11-inch) Commodore Harwood's plan to split the German fire (8-inch heavy cruiser on one side and 2 x 6-inch light cruisers on the other) appears perfectly sensible. As was the case almost throughout the war, the German accuracy was greater (although still not great due to battle damage inflicted) but despite this the British ships got the job done.

I would love to know what Zimm thinks Harwood did so very wrong.

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 8:47:17 PM   
bazjak

 

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I love these armchair genarals
That ship was far more powerful than the British ships
Bigger guns = longer range
I think at the end of the day Admiral Loudendorf (excuse my spelling) of Graf Spey knew what would happen if he set sail with all those battleships that where supposed to be waiting for him (They never were of course)
So both Commanders should be congratulated on the lives that were saved
As the saying go's " Hindsight is a wonderful thing "

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 9:33:55 PM   
ezzler

 

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https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=A-ovGFIQg-sC&lpg=PA36&ots=xui6NnDF4K&dq=len%20deighton%20blood%20tears%20and%20folly%20graf%20spee&pg=PA36#v=onepage&q&f=false

Blood tears and folly.

The 3 ships provided 3 different answers to the question what should a cruiser be?
A light vessel, fast, 32 knots with small, 6" guns like ajax and achillies?
A medium, with 8" guns, like exeter?
Or a heavy ship with massive 11" guns? So formidable it was called a pocket battleship? But unable to exceed 26 knots.

No wonder the german camouflage experts had painted a huge, curling wave, across the bow. It would never make such a wave in real life. And now she was too slow to speed away.

Ajax got a Seafox spotter plane into the air. The only time such a warship got a plane into the air during a surface action.

< Message edited by ezzler -- 7/10/2019 9:34:49 PM >

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 10:08:13 PM   
demyansk


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Is this this WW1? Lettow Vorbeck

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/10/2019 10:31:26 PM   
Zorch

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: bazjak

I love these armchair genarals
That ship was far more powerful than the British ships
Bigger guns = longer range
I think at the end of the day Admiral Loudendorf (excuse my spelling) of Graf Spey knew what would happen if he set sail with all those battleships that where supposed to be waiting for him (They never were of course)
So both Commanders should be congratulated on the lives that were saved
As the saying go's " Hindsight is a wonderful thing "


Having said this...please be aware that Alan Zimm is a respected historian (The Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions) and game designer (Action Stations). Respected by me, that is.

I read the article quickly thinking I could read it on the USNI web site. I'll have to go back and read it more carefully.

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/11/2019 12:24:15 AM   
HighwayStar

 

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Zimm postulates that Harwood, as a former member of the faculty at the Royal Naval College' Senior Officer's War Course from 1934 to 1936, would have been familiar with the tactics to be used when encountering one of the panserschiffes. Extensive war games were simulated and a set of rules, C.B.3011, were formulated that showed a positive outcome would be probable. Not only would it be proper to split his force, which he did, the two light cruisers were to have closed the range to take advantage of their far superior rate of fire to overwhelm the Graf Spee, which he didn't until late in the action. Once he did close the range, the Graf Spee began to take a beating, forcing Langsdorf to flee. Harwood then received an erroneous report that his flagships main battery was down to 20 percent ammunition (440 rounds), so he slipped back to shadow the Graf Spee. Zimm believes that had Harwood pressed the action, even with the remaining rounds, the Graf Spee would have been beaten. All this is from Zimm's article, and as some have said, he wasn't sitting in Harwood's chair.

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/11/2019 12:26:52 AM   
HighwayStar

 

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In any case, it is good to see Alan Zimm is still around, still thinking about surface warfare.

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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/11/2019 2:53:29 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: HighwayStar

Zimm postulates that Harwood, as a former member of the faculty at the Royal Naval College' Senior Officer's War Course from 1934 to 1936, would have been familiar with the tactics to be used when encountering one of the panserschiffes. Extensive war games were simulated and a set of rules, C.B.3011, were formulated that showed a positive outcome would be probable. Not only would it be proper to split his force, which he did, the two light cruisers were to have closed the range to take advantage of their far superior rate of fire to overwhelm the Graf Spee, which he didn't until late in the action. Once he did close the range, the Graf Spee began to take a beating, forcing Langsdorf to flee. Harwood then received an erroneous report that his flagships main battery was down to 20 percent ammunition (440 rounds), so he slipped back to shadow the Graf Spee. Zimm believes that had Harwood pressed the action, even with the remaining rounds, the Graf Spee would have been beaten. All this is from Zimm's article, and as some have said, he wasn't sitting in Harwood's chair.
warspite1

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. I'm sure Mr Zimm has studied this closely and is knowledgeable about his specialist subject, but the sentence in bold is the key for me.

Yes, I'm quite sure that could have happened. It is also true that Graf Spee's 11-inch shells could have blown the light cruisers out of the water in the process.

Charging into action all 'Light Brigade stylee' was one option - but so was a more measured approach. You've mentioned the British withdrawing to shadow Graf Spee, but the intention was to launch a torpedo strike at night. I wonder if Zimm makes mention of the issues the light cruisers were having in landing their shells on target. Harwood wasn't to know that would happen. So it is entirely possible that a 'better' result could have been achieved had this not happened (but with the tactics actually adopted) - it is also entirely possible that a 'worse' outcome could have happened had Graf Spee's forward turret not been playing up.

It's right that battles should be re-appraised - I have no problem with that - and there is usually more than one way of looking at things but I wonder how balanced this article is (no way of knowing without reading it unfortunately) and I wonder, in this piece that seeks to criticise the victor of the battle, Zimm makes any critical commentary on the man who - against explicit orders - initiated the battle?

Let's be clear, Langsdorff was 11,000 miles from home. He spotted an enemy cruiser force and it was he who chose to engage. He chose to engage knowing he would have to sink all three ships in short order with minimum damage to his own ship. If not he would run the risk of being shadowed, he would also have 11,000 miles to sail home potentially crippled and/or with reduced speed, and/or low on ammunition.(Note: I can't recall if Langsdorff was aware of the turret issue before deciding on battle).

This was some gamble. And being an admiral, general or air marshall is a results based business. Captain Langsdorff - seemingly a decent man - took a gamble that had a better than even chance of failing - and lost.

And let's be clear, although Graf Spee was scuttled, she was scuttled for a reason. After the engagement with Harwood's cruisers, she was in no fit state to participate in further battle. With her speed about halved, with holes in the side (one at waterline) and other damage, had she not retreated to Montevideo she would have likely been finished off - either by torpedo attack by the cruisers or by the heavy units on their way south.


Damage to Graf Spee reported at Montevideo:

- The forward 11-inch gun was behaving erratically (as it had for most of the battle)
- To compound this problem, the main rangefinder was broken
- 11-inch shell supply was enough for a further 40 minutes of action
- The port ammunition hoists for the 5.9-inch guns were out of action
- The forward Anti-Aircraft director was no longer working
- Starboard 4.1-inch gun out of action
- One barrel of the port 4.1-inch gun out of action
- Starboard chain hoist for the 4.1-inch shells no longer operable
- She no longer had the ability to fire torpedoes
- A large hole in the bows made sea-keeping in rough waters hazardous if not impossible
- Her engines were limited to a top speed of 17 knots
- Key auxiliary boiler that supplied steam to the distilling plant for fresh water was broken
- Fuel and lubricating oil purifier was broken
- The level of useable fuel was limited to 16 hours [this I have not been able to confirm]
- Main galley and baking facilities out of action
- Flour store contaminated with sea water

She was beaten.

< Message edited by warspite1 -- 7/11/2019 6:15:46 AM >


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England expects that every man will do his duty. Horatio Nelson October 1805



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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/11/2019 10:20:47 AM   
RangerJoe


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The problem with too many people, it appears to me, is the emphasis on the "decisive" conclusion to a situation instead of an ambiguous one. They seem to want the Graf Spee to sink at sea during the action instead of having her retreat to a neutral port and then being scuttled. The same thing with the Bismarck supposedly being scuttled instead of dramatically blowing up like the HMS Hood. But we get to see everything and our thoughts on what should have been done is predicated on that. We need to look at what each commander and command staff knew at the precise time of their actions and judge accordingly.

_____________________________

Seek peace but keep your gun handy.

I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing!

“Illegitemus non carborundum est (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down”).”
― Julia Child


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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/11/2019 5:39:22 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: RangerJoe

They seem to want the Graf Spee to sink at sea during the action instead of having her retreat to a neutral port and then being scuttled. The same thing with the Bismarck supposedly being scuttled instead of dramatically blowing up like the HMS Hood.
warspite1

.... and the same with Midway. How many carriers did the US actually sink? I mean let's ignore that they were floating, and still burning, hulks but they were scuttled by the Japanese not sunk by the Americans.

Some people wouldn't know common sense if it got up and smacked them in the face with a wet fish.


_____________________________

England expects that every man will do his duty. Horatio Nelson October 1805



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RE: Alan Zimm on the River Plate - 7/11/2019 7:45:30 PM   
RangerJoe


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The same thing with the Lexington being scuttled during the battle of the Coral Sea. To me, if a ship was so badly damaged by enemy action that it was intentionally sunk by either scuttling or by friendly fire, that should be the same as sunk by enemy action. Granted more live can be saved and that is important but the ship is completely unavailable to the owning side. While some ships might have been able to have been boarded and towed to port, trying to fix an enemy combat ship during wartime is difficult although it did happen to a US 4 piper. It took over a year to fix it and it was considered more like a gunboat than a destroyer. It was recaptured later.

USS Stewart

Just think how long it would have taken to refurbish an aircraft carrier or another capitol ship in that condition. The Propaganda would have been great.

_____________________________

Seek peace but keep your gun handy.

I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing!

“Illegitemus non carborundum est (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down”).”
― Julia Child


(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 14
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