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Georg Ritter von Trapp

Georg Ritter von Trapp (April 4, 1880 - May 30, 1947) headed the famous Austrian singing family memorialized in the musical The Sound of Music. His exploits at sea in World War I earned him numerous decorations, including the honor of adding "von" to his name.

Georg Trapp was born in Zara[?], Dalmatia and in 1894 he followed his father's career into the 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 SM U-6[?], which was christened by Agathe Whitehead, granddaughter of the American Robert Whitehead[?], inventor of the torpedo. Georg and Agathe were married on March 1, 1912. He commanded SM U-6 until 1913.

On April 22, 1915, he took command of SM U-5[?] and conducted nine combat patrols. In October 1915 he was transferred to the captured French submarine Curie[?], which the Austrian Navy redesignated SM U-14[?]. He conducted ten more war patrols, until, in May 1918, he was promoted to Korvettenkapitän and given command of the submarine base in the Gulf of Cattaro[?].

At the end of World War I, von Trapp's wartime record stood at 19 war patrols, 12 cargo vessels totalling 45,669 tons sunk, the French armored cruiser Leon Gambetta (12,600 tons) and the Italian submarine Nereide (225 tons). Among other lesser honors, he received a knighthood and the Knight's Cross of the Order of Maria Theresie[?]. (His title is sometimes translated as "Baron," but Ritter is closer to the British "Sir.") Despite Ritter von Trapp's valor, Austria was defeated and stripped not only of its Navy, but of its entire sea coast.

Ritter von Trapp attempted to settle down with his wife and seven children, but in 1922, four years after the war, an epidemic of scarlet fever killed his wife Agathe. He began raising his family alone. When one of his daughters fell ill with the same scarlet fever that had killed Agathe, he hired a novice from a local convent to nurse her. The family had always shared a love of music (they often sang three-part harmony lieder together) and the novice, Maria Kutscher, joined in the children's musical education. She and Georg married in 1927. Maria would bear the Ritter three more children.

When the economy crashed in 1932 (the European side of the Great Depression), the von Trapps lost most of their money. They began singing as a way to raise some money, and received high honors at the Salzburg Music Festival[?] of 1936. Their fame brought them invitations to sing all over Europe. Hitler asked the family to sing at his birthday party, but the von Trapps declined that honor. The Nazis made other offers to the famous naval hero, but even command of a submarine base did not tempt von Trapp.

Unlike many Austrian aristocrats, the von Trapps were horrified by the Anschluss of 1938. Georg made no secret of his feelings; allegedly, the Gestapo ordered the von Trapps to display the Hakenkreuzflagge (swastika flag) for Hitler's visit to Salzburg, but Georg replied, "I can do a better job with one of my Persian carpets[?]."

An offer to give a series of concerts in the United States was their opportunity to escape. Dressed for a short hiking trip with only small backpacks, the von Trapps took a train into Italy, whence they wired the Charles L. Wagner agency in New York for ship passage. At this time Maria was pregnant with her third child (Georg's tenth). The von Trapps arrived in America in 1938, and spent the next eighteen years on the road.

In 1942 they bought property in Stowe, Vermont, where they ran a farm and converted it to an Austrian style home. Georg Ritter von Trapp died on May 30, 1947. His children by Agathe were Maria, Rupert, Agathe, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina; those by Maria were Rosmarie, Eleonore and Johannes.



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