Spee, Maximilian, Graf von (mäkˌsēmēˈlyän gräf fən shpā) [key], 1861–1914, German admiral. At the start of World War I he commanded a squadron in East Asia. In Nov., 1914, he met and defeated the English commander Admiral Cradock off Coronel; however, he was defeated by Sir Frederick Sturdee near the Falkland Islands (Dec., 1914) and went down with his vessel. The incident became famous in German tradition. A German battleship was later named the Graf Spee. It sank many British cargo ships in the South Atlantic early in World War II before it was finally damaged heavily by three British cruisers in Dec., 1939, and scuttled by its crew.