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Henning von Holtzendorff

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.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Prinz Albert Wilhelm Heinrich von Preußen
Commander-in-Chief of High Seas Fleet of the Imperial German Navy
Succeeded by
Friedrich von Ingenohl

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