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To the Last Salute

Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander

Georg von Trapp

Publication Year: 2007

The Sound of Music endeared Georg von Trapp (1880–1947) and his singing family to the world, and it also showed us how desperately the Nazis wanted Captain von Trapp for their navy. In To the Last Salute we learn why. Trapp’s own story of his exploits as a submarine commander during the First World War is as exciting as it is instructive, bringing to stirring life a little-known chapter in the naval history of that war.
In his many guises Trapp describes life as captain of Austro-Hungarian U-boats in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, emerging by turn as the Imperial Austrian naval officer, the witty observer of international politics, and the indefatigable and ultimately heartbroken patriot opposing the Allied enemy. He relates deadly duels with submarine sweepers, narrow escapes and excruciatingly close calls, and the spectacular sinking of cargo and war ships—all the while maintaining a keen sense of the camaraderie of seamen from every corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A picture of a lost time, a portrait of a remarkable character, a window on early submarine warfare: Trapp’s story, in English for the first time, offers a rare combination of human interest, historical insight, and true life-and-death adventure.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I never knew my grandfather Georg von Trapp; he died in 1947 when my mother, Eleonore “Lorli,” was sixteen. She speaks of him with great affection; her voice often wavers and tears fill her eyes as she tells stories about him...

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pp. xi-xii

I owe a sincere debt of gratitude to the following people without whom this translation of my grandfather’s book would never have been published. To my parents, Hugh and Eleonore...

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pp. xiii-xxii

Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp was born in Zara on the Dalmatian coast, then Austrian territory, on April 4, 1880, to August and Hedwig Wepler von Trapp. He had a sister Hedwig and a brother Werner. August von Trapp was an Austrian naval officer, who died of typhoid fever when Georg was only...

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The World of To the Last Salute

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

The world that Georg von Trapp was born into was transformed by the war in which he distinguished himself in the service of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The First World War marked the end of the era of powerful European monarchies with the collapse of the Hapsburg...

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One. Between the Islands

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pp. 1-3

S.M. torpedo boat 52 lies docked in Sebenico amid her nine comrades of her torpedo division.1 We had been out all night searching for enemy ships that had been reported, but once again, had found nothing. Far out in the Adriatic we had investigated, looked, and looked, and again came back disappointed...

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Two. U-Boats Mobilized

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pp. 4-11

The torpedo boats take on coal. Then the boat is washed with the help of steam pumps: the exterior, deck, structures, guns, and torpedo apparatus. First the boat; then the men. Coal dust penetrates everywhere, even under the eyelids of tired eyes. We want to sleep and cannot close our eyes because they burn so much. That’s why we all stand around on the dock and talk about the last trip...

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Three. Léon Gambetta

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pp. 11-26

S.M. torpedo boat 52 enters the Bay of Cattaro and passes by the battery of Punta d’Ostro and the island fort Mamula that guard the entrance. Both had already twice withstood the French fleet in battle. On Punta d’Ostro the artillerymen had devised an unusual defense...

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Four. Letters

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pp. 26-29

“So Seyffertitz, the seriousness of life begins. Now the hardest part for me comes—the endless paperwork! Tomorrow you square away the boat until it shines.”...

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Five. Envy

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pp. 30-32

U-5 steers toward the Drin Gulf. Calm weather, bright moonlit night, the second officer, the torpedo master, and a lookout are on guard. I sleep on the floor of the boat. One man awakens me: “The lieutenant asks you to please come on deck.” “Is something in sight?”...

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Six. Trip to the Hinterland

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pp. 32-35

Additional German U-boats have come into the Bocche. Fine chaps who had already sunk many tons around England and en route to the Mediterranean. Those from the North have to get used to our Austrian German at first....

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Seven. The Bomb Exploded

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pp. 35-36

News of Italy’s declaration of war is confirmed. I am not surprised. On the contrary, everyone in the navy has expected it since the beginning of the war. Everyone knows that the Italian border is unprotected...

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Eight. Poor Austrians!

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pp. 36-39

Meanwhile, the German U-boats conduct economic warfare in the Mediterranean and sink freighters. One after the other! And it is so simple: they lie on a steamship route and do not have to look long...

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Nine. Giuseppe Garibaldi

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pp. 39-40

The expected answer to the bombardment of the Italian coast comes in slowly. The Italians establish themselves on Pelagosa, a small, rocky island in the middle of the Adriatic. A lighthouse, visible from far away, stands on the highest point of the island; there the lighthouse keepers’ families live. They are the island’s only inhabitants...

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Ten. Nereide

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pp. 41-52

U-5 is moored in a small harbor at Lissa alongside Comisa’s breakwater. The pilots have reported an enemy U-boat lying at Pelagosa for defense of the island. The flotillas were fired at several times during the last shelling and now U-5 is to bring down her Italian counterpart...

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Eleven. The Prize

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pp. 52-55

Since the Italian declaration of war, the freighters of the Puglia line, which had supplied Montenegro, have stayed away. Instead, Greek and other neutral cargo vessels travel with weapons and ammunition, clothes, coal, and food to Montenegro. But all these goods have been declared by Austria as “contraband,” and the U-boats..

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Twelve. Gasoline Stupor

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pp. 55-60

The lighthouse on Lagosta reports: “Twenty nautical miles out to sea toward Lagosta a light cruiser Quarto type sighted.” The same day U-5 leaves Rose. The Italians could have designs on the islands that extend up and down the Dalmatian coast...

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Thirteen. America Bluffs

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pp. 60-61

In the summer of 1916 many German U-boats come to the Adriatic. The place is crawling with them, both in the Bocche and in Pola, where they are overhauled when they return from their long trips in the Mediterranean...

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Fourteen. The First Depth Charges

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pp. 61-62

“U-4 is arriving,” the signalman of the Dalmat advises in the officers’ mess. “Hello, Singule, what’s up?” “We torpedoed an English cruiser, Weymouth type; she did not sink. They have invented something...

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Fifteen. Heroes

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pp. 63-65

“U-3 is overdue. She should have arrived long ago.” We officers of the U-boat station sit together in the officers’ mess of the Dalmat, a small navy yacht that was assigned to us as our residence ship....

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Sixteen. Curie

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pp. 65-67

Until autumn 1915 the U-boat station in Rose expands. Five tiny U-boats, each dismantled in three parts, come by train from Germany. Each separate piece is ready to be assembled where it belongs. In Pola they are riveted together, pipelines and cables connected, and they are finished...

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Seventeen. The Oil Spill

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pp. 67-76

I have gotten used to my new boat. I am not very delighted with it, although, in some respects, this boat has advantages over my old Number Five. It worries me greatly that it is really an art to dive with this boat in heavy seas. In spite of everything, it sometimes takes a quarter of an hour to get...

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Eighteen. Deck Paint

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pp. 77-84

Along the northern coast of the island of Corfu U-14 heads toward Santa Quaranta. It has been eight years since I was in Corfu. The German Emperor had at that time undertaken a Mediterranean...

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Nineteen. Bypassing the Official Channels

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pp. 84-88

The requested rebuilding has been granted. U-14 has hardly arrived in Pola when I am ordered to the fleet command so I can personally explain my requests. An entire board of inquiry convenes to judge my petitions. None of those present has actually been on a U-boat, except possibly on a short peacetime trip....

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Twenty. Unrestricted U-Boat War

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pp. 89-90

On January 1, 1917, Austro-Hungarian and German U-boat officers sit together in the officers’ club in Pola. News arrives to everybody’s relief: Germany has declared unrestricted U-boat war. “Thank God, they have finally understood. But it is rather late!”...

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Twenty-One. Reconstruction in the Arsenal

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pp. 90-94

On full moon nights Italian planes fly to Pola. They are usually detected during their approach to the coast from the north because their clatter can be heard from afar, and forts and ships can be warned. But sometimes they appear by surprise from the sea in a glide...

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Twenty-Two. The First Steamers

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pp. 94-100

It is April, the most beautiful season in the South. During this season in peacetime, the pleasure steamers pass through all the Mediterranean harbors, and swarms of happy people pour over onto the sunny land to drink in the sun, the warmth, and the sea...

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Twenty-Three. Transmission of Orders

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pp. 100-103

The chase has brought U-14 so far west that I decide to continue on toward the nearby Strait of Messina. During the night our boat arrives there. The beacons shine as in peacetime and it is easy to get my bearings. In the shadows cast by the mountains...

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Twenty-Four. Fog

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pp. 103-106

U-14 charges her batteries farther out at sea overnight and then cruises along the Sicilian coast. Between Cape Passero and Cape Murro di Porco steamer traffi c has been established along the coast and sure enough, a steamer shows up that is staying close to land and traveling north. During the chase a thick fog rolls...

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Twenty-Five. The Two Greeks

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pp. 107-111

This foggy land is no place for a U-boat, and U-14 steers slowly and carefully to her original hunting territory, Cape Matapan. On the way we meet one steamer traveling singly, and I shoot a torpedo...and miss....

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Twenty-Six. Salute to Africa

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pp. 111-112

Near the North African coast U-14 pursues a steamer. During the night we had torpedoed the ship; but he has kept enough buoyancy to continue on, his stern deep in the water. It has taken hours for us to finally get within range, because one of our engines is damaged, and we can continue with the other one only with difficulty...

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Twenty-Seven. One Comes, the Other Goes

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pp. 112-115

U-14 has been at sea for thirty days. The last torpedo has been fi red and the fuel is running low, as is the fresh water. We must return home, repair all the minor damage, take on new torpedoes and fuel oil, and get ready for the next trip...

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Twenty-Eight. Gjenovic

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pp. 116-122

It has been more than a year since I was in the Bocche and everything has changed. With the increase in U-boats Rose could not provide enough room, and in Gjenovic´ stone barracks were built, efficient workshops were set up, also supply depots and our own hospital. Motorboats are available and the former makeshift circumstances have ended...

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Twenty-Nine. Otranto

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pp. 123-127

The watch on the Strait of Otranto becomes increasingly tighter. From Italy toward the island of Fanò near Corfu a net is stretched which is supposed to block U-boats from leaving the Adriatic. It reaches deep enough that the U-boats cannot dive beneath it, and the buoy that marks the end of the net constantly shifts eastward...

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Thirty. Loot

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pp. 128-136

Two days later U-14 arrives at the hunting grounds that should be the most promising according to the reports of the most recently arrived U-boats. One steamer route is the course from Cape Passero to Cerigo, the other from Malta to Port Said...

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Thirty-One. Entertainment on Board

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pp. 137-140

The last few days have been strenuous, with attacks day and night, and everyone is pleased that for one whole long, sunny afternoon, the enemy is nowhere to be seen. A day of rest is very welcome...

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Thirty-Two. U-Boat Trap

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pp. 141-148

The “Allo” messages about the last two sunken ships lead us to surmise that the steamer route has been shifted again and now U-14 looks twenty miles farther north. In the night a convoy comes in sight, this time from the west. The moon has just set: too...

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Thirty-Three. Sheet Lightning

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pp. 149-152

I am sitting in a compartment of the Bosnian train on my way home. The train is overloaded with men on military leave, and whoever did not claim a seat long before the uncertain departure of the train in Castelnuovo must remain standing overnight. But we are going home and such small problems are endured gladly because out of all the cars songs resound...

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Thirty-Four. Bravo, Bim!

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pp. 153-154

I go via Pola intentionally because I have business to do on the flagship Viribus Unitis. I want to look up my old friend, the admiral’s aide. “Hello there, Bim! What’s happening here in the fleet? Lots to write about?”...

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Thirty-Five. Autumn Journey

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pp. 155-162

In the Strait of Otranto U-14 must submerge in front of a group of fishing trawlers and continue submerged aft of them. Slowly the vessels move away and, after a short while, our boat surfaces again...

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Thirty-Six. Internal Duty

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pp. 163-165

The northwester had blown itself out. At first it brought more heavy rainsqualls, but then the sky lightened and the wind increased to force 8. An attack is impossible in the heavy seas. Two hospital ships steam by to the north...

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Thirty-Seven. Intermezzo

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pp. 166-167

U-14 is getting a new battery and travels via the Dalmatian islands toward Pola. Then a motorboat comes toward her and brings the order to moor at Olive Island near the docks. At 8:00 in the morning Emperor William will come...

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Thirty-Eight. In the East

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pp. 167-170

In Romania a small Russian U-boat is captured on the Danube and I receive an order to evaluate whether it could be used in the Adriatic. I am to travel to Bucharest to inspect it. They know nothing there. I am sent on. I should get information in Braila near the Danube monitors....

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Thirty-Nine. The Fire Goes Out

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pp. 171-179

In Fiume large U-boats are under construction. Two at 700 and two at 500 tons. The commander of U-4 and I are to get the two larger boats, and, until their completion, I take over the command of the U-boat station in the Gulf of Cattaro....

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Forty. Durazzo

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pp. 180-183

The Austrians at the Albanian Front have to retreat because Bulgaria refuses to help and the Austrian army, decimated by malaria, can no longer hold the Front. On the 28th of September, they get the order to evacuate within two weeks....

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Forty-One. To the Last Salute

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pp. 183-188

The wildest news comes tumbling out of Albania. No one can verify it. Guerrilla bands of up to a thousand men, well armed, are forming in the rear of the army. Any scattered groups of soldiers that fall into their hands are plundered, and the officers are murdered without exception....


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pp. 189-190

E-ISBN-13: 9780803206380
E-ISBN-10: 0803206380

Publication Year: 2007