delcyros wrote:An interesting read but apart from aspects of speculation I find it interesting that everybody attempts to explain AGS decision making processes from a gunnery perspective, yet Langsdorff had a determined torpedo background, beeing member and CEO of the Torpedoversuchsanstalt earlier, commanded torpedoboats earlier in his career.
Langsdorfs' thinking was clearly set out by Rasenack. Langsdorfs' considerations were from a gunnery point of view, taking into account sea conditions in the South Atlantic, and are logically thought out. In the context given there were sound reasons for closing the range with a cruiser to disable it quickly so that it couldn't use its superior speed to shadow the AGS and keep out of range. What upset Langsdorfs' caculations were three cruisers, a factor only recognised after battle had commenced and Langsdorf was fully committed. Up to that point torpedo considerations weren't relevant.
I disagree with Rasenack and Your interpretaion of Langsdorffs moves. his concepts and decision making processes were clearly not made from a gunnery point of view. I base my position on the comments of the IGO of AGS, who was in charge of directig the main batteries. He complained heavily about Langsdorffs overacting and occupation of possible an imaginary torpedo tracks, a solid gunnery solution was impossible to sustain under conditions of multiple course changes in rapid successions and overruling to shift fire to a different target.
Rasenack created his book with his own agenda, which can be found in painting a favourable picture of Langsdorff, nevertheless, Langsdorff violated standing orders and messed up the action with his repeated interference.
Langsdorff was an officer with background of the Torpedo inspection. He was a torpedo school officer for very much of his career.
The command over ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE indeed was his first primary artillery fighting ship command (!). Throughout the battle he changed courses repeatedly, organised speed and set course changes after potential torpedo lanes and dictated the distances about what he guessed was on the edge of effective torpedoing distance.
All this pretty much ruined the work of the gunnery officer, who preferred a steady course, loosing his firing solutions with every change and had little hope to engage effective rapid fire (order "gut- schnell", requiring at least two successive straddles for confirmed range). That Langsdorff choose his GO´s platform to command the ship from and not the armoured CT probably didn´t made the IGO´s task any easier...
With all respect for him as a respective and sensible personality, he handled the pocket battlship like a DD, not like a cruiser armed with capitalship guns. It´s pretty easy to compare his actions with suggestions entitled in the "Unterlagen zur Bestimmung der Hauptkampfentfernung" and such a comparison is not favourable for Langsdorffs decision making process from a tactical point of view.
Assuming Langsdorff expected a heavy cruiser of the SUFFOLK class to engage, the H.K.E. suggests a desired range of in between 190hm and 260hm (20,780 yard to 28,440 yard) and additionally always keeping a target angle of nearly 40 deg.
Thus, the correct range would have been in excess of 190hm, which Langsdorff ignored and choosed to close in early in the engagement. He also choose a different approach angle and presented the enemy more favourable target angles than those suggested by GKdos-100. This was a very risky move. From long range, he could mainten a steadier course for longer and let his GO doing his job best to exploit the benefits of the bigger 11.1in naval rifles and C/38k firecontroll gear in long range superiority.
That way he really messed up things. That´s at least what can be read in period primary sources dealing with conclusions based on interrogations of the crew. His AO´s from both, the fore and aft FC stations complained much about this and agreed that the poor hitting rate can be attributed primarely to these violations of GKdos-100 and steady heading.
The problem I have with his engagement in the first place is that assuming he expected a valuable convoi than he should also have expected more escorts. You don´t run into all escorts seperated from the convoi at once. There were no merchants spotted but I speculate that he may have been looking for the HIGHLAND PRINCESS which was reported in this area three days ago. Assuming he expected a minor element of the RN than he should have known that he was confronted with parts of a task force searching for him and he should have denied contact (in fact he was informed by the B-service about multiple TF´s set up to look for him and he was lucky not to run into the TF formed around ARK ROYAL and DUNKERQUE). That would have been possible by the time, Diesels take only minutes to go from cruise to full speed while some boilers in case of ACHILLES and EXETER needed to be lit up in the first place to make steam for speed. Langsdorff had an initial ID advantage (even assuming he miss ID ´ed) and the Ar-196 float planes were more often than once used to drive off scout planes before off Spain and later off Norway. Radar was only aviable to AGS so he could have made good his escape in the night.
Langsdorff violated the suggestions written down in GKdos-100 particularely for such a tactical condition, he also messed up the gunnery element of the ship and handling a Panzerschiff like a torpedoboat represents a poor substitute for compromising the single most important asset of the Panzerschiff: It´s battleship guns and firecontroll gears cramped in a cruiser´s hull.
Independent of this, I also firmly believe that british 8in SAP are both, more reliable and more destructive than US 8in APC.