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SM U-5 in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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SM U-5



   Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5 was built in 1907 and launched in 1909 and was used as a training boat until the beginning of the war. Her second commander in the war was Georg Johannes von Trapp. Von Trapp had entered the Royal Austro-Hungarian naval academy at the age of fourteen, following his father’s footsteps. He traveled the world, doing a cruise to Australia and toured the Biblical sites in the Holy Land. He brought seven bottles of water from the River Jordan which was later used to baptize his first seven children. After his graduation from the academy he was assigned to the cruiser SMS Kaiserin und Konigin Maria Theresia and he was decorated for his performance during the Boxer Rebellion. He was fascinated by submarines and in 1908 he transferred to the newly formed submarine division. He was given command of the U-6, launched by his wife, Agatha Whitehead.

Von Trapp took command of the U-5 on April 17, 1915 and conducted nine combat patrols. The largest ship sunk was the French armored cruiser Leon Gambetta, sunk south of Cape Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy.

Before the war Von Trapp’s wife, Agatha Whitehead’s father, Robert Whitehead, opened up a torpedo factory in Fiume (Croatia). Robert Whitehead was the inventor of the modern torpedo and when the invention was rejected by the British government the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef invited him to open his factory in his empire. Agatha’s inherited wealth sustained the couple and she gave Georg von Trapp seven children. After the war Agatha died of scarlet fever that she contracted from her daughter Agatha. Von Trapp acquired a villa in Aigen, a suburb of Salzburg and moved his family there in 1924. In 1926 his daughter Maria was unable to go to school due to an illness so Von Trapp hired Maria Augusta Kutschera from the nearby Nonnberg Abbey to tutor his daughter. Von Trapp married Maria in 1927 and had three more children with her. In 1935 Von Trapp tried to help a friend in the Austrian banking business by withdrawing his money from a bank in England and depositing it in an Austrian bank. A hostile Germany was bringing economic pressure on Austria and the bank failed, wiping out most of the family’s fortune. Maria took charge of providing for the family and had the family sing at various events to earn money. After Germany took over Austria Von Trapp was offered a commission in the Germany Navy in 1938. Von Trapp was opposed to Nazi ideology and turned down the offer. He knew there would be a chance he would now be arrested so he decided to leave Austria with his family.

The movie The Sound of Music is based upon his life with Maria. Unlike the movie, the Von Trapp’s were considered Italian citizens since George Von Trapp had been born in the Italian territory of Zara. The family left Austria by train and went to Italy in daylight. From there the family booked passage to the United States for their first concert tour in 1939. They returned to Europe to tour Scandinavia and returned to Salzburg for a few months in 1939. The family eventually settled in Vermont in 1941. Georg von Trapp died in 1947 in Stowe, Vermont.

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Those known to have served on

SM U-5

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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