Bill Terra is obsessed with a long, lean German model. No, it’s not Heidi Klum. The model he fawns over is a 1/20-scale replica of a WWII-era German battleship — the Admiral Graf Spee, which the Germans launched in 1933 and lost six years later at the beginning of the war.
Terra, a resident of Levant, Maine [near Bangor], began constructing his model — from scratch — in 1995, and since then it’s been the perfect project for a “retired guy with nothing to do,” he says.
“Detail work can be consuming,” he continues, “but the winters are long in Maine and you’ve got to keep yourself busy.”
The original Graf Spee was a light battleship that served as a commerce raider in the South Atlantic early in World War II, but was scuttled by Captain Hans Langsdorff and his crew in the wake of a losing battle with Allied ships. (Captain Langsdorff subsequently committed suicide, and the surviving crew spent the rest of the war in captivity.)
Today a likeness of the Graf Spee lives on in the form of Terra’s model, which is 30 feet long, has a beam of 52 inches, weighs 700 pounds, and cruises at 15 mph, powered by a 15 horsepower outboard engine located under the rear gun turret. The craft is capable of accommodating commander Terra and a crew of one, and Terra admits he enjoys “cruising the lakes of Maine, including Pushaw Lake in Orono, while listening to Wagner,” as well as various battle hymns.
Terra claims that people “go ballistic” (in a good way) when they see him out on patrol — men, women and children alike. But he admits catching some flak for lionizing a German warship, as opposed to an American one.
Fortunately, Terra has a YouTube account.