Georg Ludwig von Trapp

Georg Ludwig von Trapp

Infobox Person
name = Georg von Trapp

image_size = 200px
birth_date = birth date|1880|4|4|mf=y
birth_place = Zadar, Austria-Hungary
death_date = Death date and age|1947|5|30|1880|4|4
death_place = Stowe, Vermont
nationality = Austrian
spouse = Agathe Whitehead (1890-1922)
Maria Kutschera (1905-1987)
children = Rupert von Trapp (1911-1992)
Agathe von Trapp (1913)
Maria Franziska von Trapp (1914)
Werner von Trapp (1915-2007)
Hedwig von Trapp (1917-1972)
Johanna von Trapp (1919-1994)
Martina von Trapp (1921-1951)
Rosemarie von Trapp (1929)
Eleonore von Trapp (1931)
Johannes von Trapp (1939-)

Korvettenkapitän Georg Ritter von Trapp (April 4, 1880 – May 30, 1947) headed the Austrian singing family portrayed in "The Sound of Music". His exploits at sea in World War I earned him numerous decorations, including elevation to the Austrian nobility.

Birth and naval career

Georg Ludwig von Trapp was born in Zadar, Dalmatia, then part of Austria-Hungary, now in Croatia. His father, August von Trapp, died in 1884, when he was four. His older sister was the Austrian artist Hede von Trapp. He also had a brother, Werner Von Trapp who died in World War I in 1915. In 1894, he followed his father's career into the Austro-Hungarian Navy, entering the naval academy at Fiume. He graduated four years later and completed two years of follow-on training voyages including a trip to Australia. In 1900 he was assigned to the armored cruiser "Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia" 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. While in command of the U-5 he sank:

*The French armored cruiser "Leon Gambetta" at 39.30N, 18.15E on April 21, 1915, 15 miles south of Cape Santa Maria di Leuca

*The Italian submarine "Nereide" at 42.23N, 16.16E on August 5, 1915, 250 yards off Pelagosa Island

He captured:
*The Greek steamer "Cefalonia" off Durazzo on August 29, 1915

He is sometimes credited with sinking the Italian troop transport, "Principe Umberto" but in reality, this was sunk by the U-5 under Von Trapp's successor Friedrich Schlosser (1885-1959) on June 8, 1916 after Von Trapp was transferred to the "U-14".

On October 14, 1915 he was transferred to the captured French submarine "Curie", which the Austrian Navy redesignated "U-14". While in command of the U-14, he sank:

*The British tanker "Teakwood" at 36.39N, 21.10E on April 28, 1917
*The Italian steamer "Antonio Sciesa" at 36.39N, 21.15E on May 3, 1917
*The French steamer "Italia" at 39.45N, 19.00E on May 30, 1917
*The Greek steamer "Marionga Goulandris" at 35.38N, 22.36E on July 5, 1917
*The French steamer "Constance" at 36.51N, 17.25E on August 23, 1917
*The British steamer "Kilwinning" at 35.26N, 16.30E on August 24, 1917
*The British steamer "Titian" at 34.20N, 17.30E on August 26, 1917
*The British steamer "Nairn" at 34.05N, 19.20E on August 28, 1917
*The Italian steamer "Milazzo" 34.44N, 19.16E at on August 29, 1917
*The British steamer "Good Hope" at 35.53N, 17.05E on October 18, 1917
*The British steamer "Elsiston" at 35.40N, 17.28E on October 18, 1917

He conducted ten more war patrols, until, in May 1918, he was promoted to "Korvettenkapitän" (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, 11 cargo vessels totalling 45,669 tons sunk, 1 cargo vessel captured, the French armored cruiser "Leon Gambetta" (12,600 tons) and the Italian submarine "Nereide" (225 tons). Among other honors, he received a knighthood [German title Ritter] 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.


On January 10, 1911, Trapp married Agathe Whitehead, who had christened his first command, the U-boat "U-6". She was the granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of the torpedo, which earned him a fortune. Agathe's wealth, inherited from her family, sustained the couple and permitted them to start a family. Their first child, Rupert von Trapp (November 1, 1911 - February 22, 1992),Social Security Death Index as "Rupert Vontrapp" 1 November 1911 - 22 February 1992; 05672 (Stowe, Lamoille, VT); 127-14-1082; Social Security issued in New York] was born in 1911 at Pola and the marriage produced six more children: Agathe von Trapp (March 12, 1913), born at Pola, Maria Franziska (August 28, 1914 ), born at Zell am See, Werner von Trapp (December 21, 1915 - October 11, 2007), born at Zell am See,cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Susan Hoyt, Teacher, Sets July Wedding |url= |quote=The engagement of Susan Thatcher Hoyt to Bernhard Rupert von Trapp has been announced by her mother, Mrs. G. Chamberlin Hoyt of Short Hills, New Jersey. Mr. von Trapp is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Werner von Trapp of Waitsfield, Vermont and Salzburg, Austria. A July wedding is planned. |publisher=New York Times |date=March 23, 1980, Sunday |accessdate=2007-07-21 ] Hedwig von Trapp (July 17, 1917- September 14, 1972), born at Zell am See, Johanna von Trapp (September 7, 1919 - November 25, 1994), born at Zell am See and Martina von Trapp (February 17, 1921 - February 25, 1951), born at Klosterneuburg.

On September 3, 1922, Agathe, the mother, died of scarlet fever contracted from the children. She asked her husband to marry again, because the children needed another motherly influence. In 1923 , von Trapp purchased a villa in Aigen, a suburb of Salzburg, into which the family moved in 1924.

About 1926, one of the children, Maria Franziska, was recovering from an illness and was unable to attend school. Trapp hired a tutor for Maria Franziska from nearby Nonnberg Abbey. The name of the tutor was Maria Augusta Kutschera. She was a young novice at the convent, and had been chosen by its abbess for the position.

Maria Augusta and Georg married on November 26, 1927 and - according to daughter Maria Franziska - and information given out by the von Trapp family today, their first child, Rosemarie, was born on February 8, 1929 in Salzburg. (However, both Maria von Trapp's declaration of intention in 1944 and petition for naturalization in 1948 state that Rosemarie's birth occurred the year before, on February 8, 1928.)

Georg and Maria would have two more children, Eleonore ("Lorli") (May 14, 1931) , born in Salzburg and Johannes (January 17, 1939), born in Philadelphia, bringing the total number of Georg's children to ten.cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Maria von Trapp, whose life was 'Sound of Music', is Dead |url= |quote=Maria Augusta von Trapp, the guiding force behind a family of singers who won world renown when their story was portrayed in the play and film "The Sound of Music," died of heart failure yesterday in Morrisville, Vermont, three days after undergoing surgery. She was 82 years old and had lived in Stowe, Vermont, for more than 40 years. ... She is survived by a son, Johannes, of Stowe; two daughters, Eleonore Campbell of Waitsfield, Vermont, and Rosmarie Trapp of Pittsburgh; two stepsons, Rupert, of Stowe and Werner, of Waitsfield; three stepdaughters, Agathe von Trapp of Glyndon, Maryland, Maria Franziska von Trapp of Papua, New Guinea and Johanna von Trapp of San Diego and by 29 grandchildren. |publisher=New York Times |date=March 29, 1987 |accessdate=2007-07-21 ] In her autobiography, Maria noted that she had a number of miscarriages due to kidney trouble, the last of which occurred in September 1947, a few months after Georg's death.

Economic disaster and new career

In 1935, Georg's money, inherited from his first wife, Agathe, was safely invested in a bank, the famous Lloyd's of 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, Auguste Caroline Lammer (1885-1937), in the banking business, Georg withdrew most of his money from Lloyd's of London 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 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 depicted in "The Sound of Music") and then to the United States. After living for a short time in Merion, Pennsylvania, where their last child Joannes was born, the family settled in Stowe, Vermont in 1941. They purchased the old Gale Farm where they built a home which they named "Cor Unum" (One Heart).

In January 1947, major general Harry J. Collins turned to the Trapp Family in the USA pleading for help for the Austrian people, having seen the residents of Salzburg suffer when he had arrived there with the famed 42nd Rainbow Division after World War II. The Trapp Family founded the Trapp Family Austrian Relief Inc. in impulse, with the headquarters situated in Stowe, Vermont.

Georg Ritter von Trapp died of lung cancer on May 30, 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 and gasoline 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.

His children by Agathe were Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina; those by Maria were Rosemarie, Eleonore and Johannes. Johannes succeeded Maria as manager of the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, which remains among Vermont's most popular tourist attractions and is one of the major concert sites of the Vermont Mozart Festival.The von Trapp family estate in Salzburg, Austria was recently opened to the public as a hotel (2008),and was attended by Maria Franziska von Trapp.



Further reading

* Trapp, Georg von. "To the Last Salute: Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander." Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. 196 pages. ISBN 0803246676
*Willam Anderson, David Wade, The World of the Trapp Family, 1998

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