Hipper Takes Command of the High Seas Fleet

Admiral Franz von Hipper (1863-1932), pictured in 1916.

August 11 1918–Admiral Holtzendorff, the German Chief of the Naval Staff, had been one of the leading proponents of unrestricted submarine warfare.  By August 1918, however, it was clear that the campaign had failed to defeat Britain and had mainly resulted in the arrival of an ever-growing American army, despite his pledge on his “word as a naval officer that no American will ever set foot on continental soil.”  Increasingly in conflict with Hindenburg & Ludendorff, and suffering from a severe heart condition, Holtzendorff stepped down on August 11, and was replaced by Admiral Scheer, head of the High Seas Fleet.  Scheer moved his headquarters to Spa to be closer to Ludendorff.  He also immediately proposed a vast expansion of the submarine campaign, which would involve building 36 new submarines a month.  This was not possible given Germany’s strained resources, and Germany had enough to worry about on land at the moment.

Taking Scheer’s place with the High Seas Fleet was Admiral Hipper, who had previously commanded Germany’s battlecruisers.  Hipper would be the final wartime commander of the High Seas Fleet.  After the Armistice, he would refuse to be the one to lead the fleet into internment, instead passing off the task to a subordinate, and went into a mostly-quiet retirement in Germany.

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Sources include: Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel.