Georg Ludwig von Trapp (1880- 1947)
Georg Ludwig von Trapp was born in Zadar, Dalmatia, then part of Austria-Hungary, now in Croatia. In 1894, he followed his father`s career into the Austro-Hungarian Navy, entering the naval academy at Fiume. In 1900 he was assigned to the armored cruiser Kaiserin und Konigin Maria Thereasia and was decorated for his performance during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1902 he passed the officer`s examination.
He was fascinated by submarines, and in 1908 he seized the opportunity to be transferred to the newly-formed U-boot-Waffe. In 1910 he was given command of the newly-constructed U-6, which was christened by Agathe Whitehead, granddaughter of the Englishman Robert Whitehead, inventor of the torpedo. He commanded U-6 until 1913.
On April 22, 1915, he took command of U-5 and conducted nine combat patrols. In October 1915 he was transferred to the captured French submarine Curie which the Austrian Navy redesignated U-14. He conducted ten more war patrols, until, in May 1918, he was promoted to Korvettenkapitan (equal to Lieutenant Commander) and given command of the submarine base in the Gulf of Kotor.
At the end of World War-I, Trapp`s wartime record stood at 19 war patrols, 12 cargo vessels totaling 45,669 tons sunk including the French armored cruiser Leon Gambetta (12,600 tons) and the Italian submarine Nereide (225 tons). For his service, Trapp was raised to the nobility and granted the right to use the word Von (of in English) before his name. Among other honors, he received a knighthood and the Knight`s Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa.
The end of the First World War saw the defeat and collapse of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. In the process, Austria was reduced in size to its German-speaking core, losing its seacoast, and had no further need for a navy, leaving von Trapp without a job. However, Agathe`s wealth, inherited from her family, was able to sustain the family.
In 1911, Trapp married Agathe Whitehead, who had christened his first command, the U-boat U-6. Their first child, Rupert von Trapp (1911 - 1992), was born in 1911, and the marriage produced six more children: Agathe von Trapp (1913 - ), Maria F. von Trapp (1914 - ), Werner von Trapp (1915 - 2007), Hedwig von Trapp (1917-1972), Johanna von Trapp (1919 - 1994) and Martina von Trapp (1921 - 1951/2).
In 1922, Agathe died of scarlet fever contracted from the children.
About 1926, one of the children, Maria, was recovering from an illness and was unable to attend school. Trapp hired a tutor for Maria from a local convent. The name of the tutor was Maria Kutschera. She and Georg married on November 26, 1927, and, according to daughter Maria and information given out by the von Trapp family today, their first child, Rosmarie, was born on February 8, 1929. Yet, Maria von Trapp`s declaration of intention and petition for naturalization states that Rosmarie`s birth occurred the year before, in 1928. Georg and Maria would have two more children after that, Eleonore (b. 1931) and Johannes (b. 1939) bringing the total number of Georg`s children to ten.
Economic disaster and new career
In 1935, Georg`s money, inherited from his first wife, Agathe, was safely invested in a bank in London. At that time, however, Austria was under economic pressure from a hostile Germany, and Austrian banks were in a precarious position. To help a friend in the banking business, Georg withdrew most of his money from the London bank and deposited it in an Austrian bank. The Austrian bank thereafter failed, which wiped out most of the family`s fortune. As Maria further indicates in her book, Georg was thoroughly demoralized and depressed at this turn of events, but was unable to engage in other gainful activities, and believed that it was beneath the dignity of the family to sing in public or otherwise work for a living. (Prior to the loss of the family fortune, the family had engaged in singing as a hobby.)
Faced with an impossible situation of little or no money, and a husband effectively incapable of providing for her or for the family, Maria took charge and arranged for singing engagements, and otherwise began to make arrangements for the family to sing at various events as a way of earning a livelihood. At about that time, a Catholic priest, Franz Wasner, came to live with them. About the same age as Maria, he became the musical director of the group. In May of 1938, the family was "offered", meaning ordered, to perform at Berchtesgaden, Adolf Hitler`s private retreat on the German side of the Austrian Alps.
In early May, the family, opposed to Hitler`s annexation of Austria, his ordering them, and having received offers to perform in the United States, left Austria, and fled to Italy by train (not to Switzerland on foot as in the film) and then to the United States.
Georg Ritter von Trapp died of lung cancer in 1947 in Stowe, Vermont. In The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria points out that there was a high incidence of lung cancer among World War-I U-Boat crews due to the diesel fumes and poor ventilation, and that his death could be considered service-related. Maria also acknowledges in her book, published in 1949, that the Captain was a heavy smoker.
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||Georg Ritter von Trapp, World War-I Austro-Hungarian Navy submarine commander