Henning von Holtzendorff (January 9, 1853 - June 7, 1919) was a German admiral during World War I who became famous for his December 1916 memo to Kaiser Wilhelm II about unrestricted submarine warfare against the United Kingdom. He received the Pour le Mérite in 1917 and was made a Grand Admiral in 1918.
Admiral Holtzendorff claimed that unrestricted submarine warfare would starve the British into submission within five months, well before the Americans could act. And even if the "disorganized and undisciplined" Americans did intervene, he assured Wilhelm II, "I give your Majesty my word as an officer, that not one American will land on the Continent."
Holtzendorff served as a commander in the High Seas Fleet from 1909-1913. He was forced into retirement due to his opposition of rapid German naval expansion in direct competition with the British Royal Navy. When World War I broke out, he was recalled to duty to serve as head of the German Navy General Staff. Holtzendorff had been converted during his "retirement" to a strong belief in unrestricted submarine warfare. He published a memo in December 1916 that was presented to Kaiser Wilhelm II, and approved at the Pless conference in January 1917. The belief that aggressive adoption of submarine warfare would starve Britain and bring about its demise was predicted with the statement to the German Third Supreme Command that "England will be forced to sue for peace within six months as the result of launching an unrestricted U-boat war".
Holtzendorff was retired in 1918 after his policy succeeded in destroying British ships, but failed to destroy Britain before the Americans joined the war. He died in 1919.
Decorations and awards
- Order of the Black Eagle with Collar (Prussia, 19 September 1912)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle with oak leaves and swords on rings (Prussia)
- Order of the Crown, 1st class (Prussia)
- Pour le Mérite (22 March 1917) with oak leaves (1 February 1918)
- Commander of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Star and Swords
- Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class
- Service Award (Prussia)
- Commander Second Class of the Order of the Zähringer Lion (Baden)
- Military Merit Order, 1st class with Swords (Bavaria)
- Hanseatic Crosses of Bremen and Hamburg
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Griffon (Mecklenburg)
- Honorary Grand Cross of the House and Merit Order of Peter Frederick Louis (Oldenburg)
- Friedrich August Cross, 1st class (Oldenburg)
- Grand Cross of the House Order of the White Falcon (Weimar)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (Württemberg)
- Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold (Austria)
Prinz Albert Wilhelm Heinrich von Preußen
|Commander-in-Chief of High Seas Fleet of the Imperial German Navy
Friedrich von Ingenohl
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