Karl von Müller

Karl von Müller

Infobox Military Person
name=Karl von Müller
lived=June 16 1873 - March 11 1923
placeofbirth=Hanover, Prussia

allegiance=German Empire
serviceyears= 1891-1919
rank=Kapitän zur See
branch=Kaiserliche Marine
commands=SMS Emden
awards=Iron Cross 1st class
Pour le Mérite

Karl Friedrich Max von Müller (June 16 1873 – March 11 1923) was Captain of the famous German commerce raider, the light cruiser SMS Emden during World War I.

Early life and career

The son of a Prussian Army Colonel, he was born in Hanover. After attending gymnasium at Hanover and Kiel, he entered the military academy at Plön in Schleswig-Holstein, but transferred to the Imperial Navy, on Easter 1891. He served on the schoolship "Stosch", then on the 'cruiser-frigate' "Gneisenau" on a voyage to the Americas. He then became signal lieutenant of battleship "Baden" in October 1894, and later, on her sister ship the "Sachsen" as well.

Von Müller was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See, and posted to the gunboat "Schwalbe". During the "Schwalbe's" deployment to German East Africa, he caught malaria which would trouble him for the remainder of his life. After returning to Germany in 1900, he served ashore before becoming second gunnery officer of the battleship "Kaiser Wilhelm II". An appointment to the staff of Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia would prove his big break. After receiving high praise and ratings from his superiors, he was promoted to the rank of Korvettenkapitän in December 1908, and assigned to the Reichs-Marine-Amt in Berlin where he impressed Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz.

In command

As a reward, von Müller was given command of the "SMS Emden" in the Spring of 1913. Soon he achieved fame and notoriety in both the German and other imperial powers' newspapers for initiative and skill in shelling rebellious forts along the Yangtze at Nanjing (or Nanking). He was awarded the Order of the Royal Crown Third Class with Swords.

At the outbreak of World War I, "Emden" was anchored in the German base at Tsingtao. She departed in the evening of July 31 1914. On August 4 she intercepted and captured the Russian mail steamer "Ryazan" (Rjasan), the first prize taken by the Imperial German Navy (Or Kaiserliche Marine) of the Great War. "Emden" then rendezvoused with the Asiatic Squadron of Admiral-Graf (Count) Maximilian von Spee in the Mariana Islands.

It was during a conference at the island of Pagan there, that Müller proposed a single light cruiser of the squadron be detached to raid Allied commerce in the Indian Ocean while the remainder of von Spee's Squadron continued east across the Pacific. Kapitän von Müller and "Emden" were given the assignment.

In the following 12 weeks the "Emden" and Müller would achieve a reputation for daring and chivalry unequalled by any other German ship or Captain. Müller was highly scrupulous about trying to avoid inflicting non-combatant and civilian casualties. While taking fourteen prizes, the only merchant sailors killed by the "Emden's" guns were five victims of a shore bombardment of British oil tanks at the port of Madras, India, despite the precautions Müller had taken so the line of fire would miss civilian areas of the city. "Emden" also sank the Russian cruiser "Zhemchug" and the French destroyer "Mousquet" during a daring raid on Penang, Malaya. Thirty-six French survivors from "Mousquet" were rescued by the "Emden", and when three died of their injuries, they were buried at sea with full honours. The remaining Frenchmen were transferred to a British steamer, "Newburn", which had been stopped by the German ship, but not attacked, so as to enable them to be transported to Sabang, Sumatra, in the neutral Dutch East Indies.

Defeat and captivity

When the "Emden" was finally cornered by the Australian light cruiser HMAS "Sydney" and defeated by its longer range guns, Müller with the rest of his surviving crew were captured and taken to Malta. A detachment of the crew which had gone ashore was missed, and escaped to Germany under the leadership of "Emden's" first officer Hellmuth von Mücke. On October 8 1916, two days after the German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, Müller was separated from the rest of the "Emden" crew prisoners and taken to England where he was interned at a prisoner of war camp for German Officers located at the Midlands Agricultural and Dairy College (now the Sutton Bonington Campus of the University of Nottingham). In 1917 he led an escape of 21 prisoners through an underground tunnel, but was recaptured. The climate of England disagreed with his malaria, and he was eventually sent to the Netherlands for treatment as part of a humanitarian prisoner exchange. In October 1918 he was repatriated to Germany.

Final years

After some controversy, Müller was awarded the Pour le Mérite (or "Blue Max") and finally promoted to Kapitän zur See. In early 1919, he retired from the Navy on grounds of ill health, and settled in Blankenburg. A modest man, he politely refused requests to write a book detailing his skillful service and gallant exploits.

He was elected to the provincial parliament of Brunswick (Braunschweig) on an anti-class platform as a member of the German National Party. He died there quite suddenly, most likely weakened by frequent malarial bouts, on March 11 1923. Selfless and chivalrous until the end, a major concern of his final years was the welfare of the surviving "Emden" crew.

References and links

*"The Last Corsair: The Story of The Emden" by Dan Van Der Vat, 1984. ISBN: 0 586 06265 3
*"The Last Gentleman of War. The Raider Exploits of the Cruiser Emden" by R.K. Lochner, Naval Institute Press:. 1988. ISBN: 0-87021-015-7
*"The Last Cruise of the Emden: The Amazing True WWI Story of a German-Light Cruiser and Her Courageous Crew" by Edwin Palmer Hoyt, Globe Pequot Press, 2001 ISBN-13: 9781585743827
*cite book
title=The "Emden,"
author=Hellmuth von Mücke, Helene Schimmelfennig White

* [http://www.historynet.com/air_sea/naval_battles/7557922.html "Karl Friedrich Max von Müller: Captain of the Emden During World War I" by John M. Taylor]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9A05E7DC1738E633A25752C1A9679D946596D6CF "New York Times: German Cruiser Emden Destroyed", November 11, 1914 a PDF of NYT's report on Emden's sinking along with some praise for its captain.]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9807E1D6103FEE3ABC4B52DFB266838A639EDE&oref=slogin "New York Times: Captain of Emden Killed?", a PDF of an NYT article dated April 13, 1921]
*cite news
work=Time Magazine

* [http://www.underwater.com.au/article.php/id/1438 "Diving Pulu Keeling National Park and the Emden", A story about diving on the remains of the wreck of the Emden, along with pictures and a brief account of her final battle.]

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