The Captain von Trapp of the “Sound of Music” (1965) fame. Unfortunately, the musical takes some liberties with the true story of the von Trapp Family. Born Georg Trapp in Zara, Croatia (then a part of the Austria-Hungary Empire), in 1894, he followed his father’s Navy career by entering the naval academy in Fiume. Graduating in 1898, he completed two years of cadet training, including a trip to Australia. While visiting the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific, he fell in love with the islands and always harbored a dream of returning there, even though he never did. In 1900, he was assigned to the cruiser ‘Queen Maria Theresia’ and was decorated for his performance of duty during the Boxer Rebellion in China. Fascinated by submarines, in 1908, he transferred to the newly created U-Boat Division, and in 1910, he was given command of the newly commissioned Austrian submarine U-6. On March 1, 1912, he married Agathe Whitehead, an Englishwoman; they would have seven children. On April 22, 1915, he took command of the submarine U-5, conducting nine combat patrols, and in October 1915, he was given command of the captured French submarine ‘Curie,’ which was redesignated as the U-14, conducting ten additional war patrols. Overall, he sank 12 cargo ships, totaling 45,670 tons, and two warships, the French cruiser ‘Leon Gambetta’ (12,600 tons) and the Italian submarine ‘Nereide’ (225 tons). In May 1918, he was promoted to Captain and given command of the submarine base on the Gulf of Cattaro. At the end of World War I, he was awarded a knighthood (adding the titles Ritter and von to his family name), and the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Maria Theresia. Settling down in Salzburg, Austria, tragedy struck the family in 1922, when Agathe died of scarlet fever, and he began to raise the family by himself. In 1926, the Mother Abbess of the Nonnberg Benedictine Convent sent novice Maria Augusta Kutschera to be the governess to the children of Captain von Trapp. Very quickly, the two fell in love, and on November 26, 1927, he married Maria, and she became the stepmother of 7 children. Two years later, Rosemarie von Trapp was born, the first child of Georg and Marie, and in 1931, Eleonore was born. During the Great Depression, when the family business failed, Georg started a chicken farm to support his family. In 1936, Maria and family friend Monsignor Franz Wasner began the Trapp Family Singers, and they soon became well known when they received high honors at the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival. In 1938, Austria and Nazi Germany were united in the Anschluss (Union), during which Georg made little secret that he was horrified at the rise of the Nazis. German dictator Adolph Hitler invited them to sing at his birthday celebration, but he declined. The Germans also offered Georg a commission as a Captain, with the command of a submarine base; again he refused. With increased Nazi pressure to embrace the new regime, the family decided to leave Austria for the United States. They initially settled down in Merion, Pennsylvania where their last child, son Johannes von Trapp, was born. In 1942, they purchased the old Gale Farm in Stowe, Vermont, which in 1950 became the von Trapp Family Lodge, offering guests sweeping mountain views in an Austrian style main lodge. Unfortunately, Georg died on May 30, 1947. In 1950, Maria published the family story in the book, “The Trapp Family Singers” which eventually was turned into a stage play (1959) and the movie, “The Sound of Music” (1965).
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson