During WWI off the tip of Italy a submarine fired two torpedoes into a large French cruiser, the Leon Gambetta.  The commander of the U-Boat was a young Austrian named Georg von Trapp. The ship sank in nine minutes, killing 684 sailors. For the younger products of the American education system, WWI was fought by Germany, Austria and the Ottoman empire on one side and UK, France and Russia before the revolution and after the exit of Russia by the USA. The immediate cause of the war was the assassination of the Prince of Austria by a Serbian nationalist, and, shish, don’t tell anyone, a Socialist.  Of course it was not that simple.  Serbia was backed by Russia and Germany supported Austria in the impasse.  Italy first declared itself neutral and then came in on the side of Britain, France and the US.  None of that mattered at all to the 684 Italians that drowned or were blown to tatters or for that matter to the Austrian Naval Officer.  Why Austria a landlocked country even had a navy is another subject for another time.  For our story it is enough to know that the young Austrian officer was very good at what he did, sinking in total 13 Allied ships.  He was considered so heroic they even made a postage stamp in his honor.  After WWI the Austrian navy ceased to exist and the officer never forgot his disgust at submarine warfare.  He called it “the cold blooded drowning of men by ambush”.

He would later be pressured to join the Navy of the Third Reich also known as the Nazi’s who were of course German, and, shish, don’t tell anyone, socialists.  He tried to refrain from being a part of the Navy because he despised the Nazis’ and was of course, shish, don’t tell anyone a nationalist.  Not a German nationalist but an Austrian.  His mother, and this is for Harry Potter fans, was named Hedwig, and Von Trapp named one of his 7 children Hedwig.  Hedwig and the rest of the children lost their mother after the war and Von Trapp hired a tutor by the name of Maria Kutschera to teach them.  Five years later he married her and the rest, as they say is history, which means it is beyond the ken of many Americans of a certain age.

“Ken” was the first word I looked up when I auditioned for a part in a musical in High School.  The second word I looked up was roue’.  HInt – Ken is not referring to Barbie’s boyfriend and roue’ is not a boiled down gravy.  I learned a long time ago to look things up if you don’t know what is going on.  Too bad other people haven’t learned the lesson. The lyrics went like this –

You are sixteen going on seventeen
Baby, it’s time to think
Better beware, be canny and careful
Baby, you’re on the brink
You are sixteen going on seventeen
Fellows will fall in line
Eager young lads and roues and cads
Will offer you food and wine
Totally unprepared are you
To face a world of men
Timid and shy and scared are you
Of things beyond your ken
You need someone older an wiser
Telling you what to do
I am seventeen going on eighteen
I’ll take care of you

This song was sung by a guy named Rolf to a gal named Liesel whose real name was Agathe.  Later some songs are song by other of the naval officers children, among them Marie who would later become a missionary to New Guinea.  If you haven’t figured out what is going on yet I will leave you in suspense until tomorrow.  In the meantime you might want to look some things up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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