Langsdorff was the Commander of the ‘pocket battleship’ Graf Spee. Before he was trapped by the Royal Navy in 1939 he sunk nine British commerce ships totaling 50,000 tons. But on 13 December 1939 the British cruisers Ajax, Exeter and Achilles cornered the Graf Spee near Montevideo Harbor off the coast of Uruguay. The ensuing battle was called the Battle of the River Plate. Realizing that escape was impossible Langsdorff landed his crew and 300 prisoners of war before scuttling his ship and committing suicide. An honorable man, Langsdorff had insured that not one British life was lost on any of the British merchant vessels he had destroyed.