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To the Last Salute: Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander Hardcover – March 1, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Captain von Trapp's narrative of his wartime U-boat exploits has lurked in German and French for generations and now finds an adequate translator into English in one of his granddaughters. He almost certainly always tried to put his best foot forward, and he emerges from his account as a man of great skill, considerable compassion (even for his victims), and sufficient tact and tolerance to handle the kind of polyglot crews that sailed for the Dual Monarchy. In two submarines, the antique U-5 and the French prize, U-14, he became the highest scoring Austro-Hungarian submariner, despite equipment that was sometimes more dangerous to him and his men than to the enemy. He fought on to the end, knowing that the Dual Monarchy he served so well was crumbling. In the end, he gave the last salute of the title when the imperial flag was hauled down for the last time. Appealing to von Trapp family admirers, of course, and also to naval buffs, regardless of how they respond to music. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“[A] lively, amusing, at-times-gripping memoir of naval warfare in the Mediterranean, and U-boat life. . . . One of its fascinating aspects is the glimpse it offers into the multiethnic makeup of this imperial navy, and the admirable attitudes and behavior of a patriotic officer on the losing side of a great conflict.”—The Atlantic
(The Atlantic )

“In his personal account, translated by his granddaughter Elizabeth Campbell, von Trapp captures the feeling of a bygone era where chivalry and love of country were paramount. . . . His amazing exploits in the Great War and life-and-death experiences as a commander of various U-boats will enthrall readers.”—Military Heritage
(Military Heritage )

“[von Trapp] almost certainly always tried to put his best foot forward, and he emerges from his account as a man of great skill, considerable compassion . . . and sufficient tact and tolerance to handle the kind of polyglot crews that sailed for the Dual Monarchy. [H]e became the highest scoring Austro-Hungarian submariner, despite equipment that was sometimes more dangerous to him and his men than to the enemy. He fought on to the end, knowing that the Dual Monarchy he served so well was crumbling.”—Booklist
(Booklist )

“Interesting and informative, the text is a rare history of an Austro-Hungarian involved in War. . . . [To the Last Salute] is highly recommended to those interested in the von Trapp family, the musical The Sound of Music, World War I from an Austro-Hungarian view, and U-boats.”—Curled Up With a Good Book
(Curled Up With a Good Book 20070409)

"To the Last Salute is a professional account of submarine operations during World War I by one of the ace skippers of the k-u-k Navy. . . . This work provides an often gripping tale of some long forgotten but interesting naval actions during the Great War."—NYMAS Review
(NYMAS Review )
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803246676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803246676
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #763,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nathaniel Peters on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
To the Last Salute is Georg Ritter von Trapp's memoir of commanding a U-boat in the Austrian Navy during World War I. While his style of writing does take some getting used to, von Trapp provides an engaging and suspenseful tale of life on a primitive submarine during an oft-neglected period of military history. The book also gives us an insight into von Trapp as a man, more insight than one finds in other books on the life of his famous family. His accounts of the horrors of war and the loss of his beloved navy at the end of the war are especially moving. For those interested in von Trapp, the Austrian Navy, World War I, and the history of submarine warfare, the book will be especially useful; anyone interested in the story of an intriguing, thoughtful, and courageous man will enjoy the chronicle of von Trapp's adventures as well.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By TimJPharmD on June 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In his slim (188 page) memoir, Captain von Trapp brings light to the life of a WWI Austrian submarine captain. For the first time translated into English, his descriptions of the perils of the silent service take the reader beneath the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas of WWI.

Highlights of the Captain's writing include his humor, the relationships between the different ethnic groups of his crew, and the front-line reality of restricted versus unrestricted submarine warfare. The brutal conditions under which the submariners operated are brought to life in haunting detail. When the sub is not ventilated before an emergency dive, the crew starts to pass out one by one; will the submarine be forced to surface before the last man succumbs?

Yet another highlight is extensive introductory material that assists the reader in understanding the family (yes, this is THAT Captain von Trapp!) and geopolitical context of Captain von Trapp's memoir.

Pick up a copy of "To the Last Salute" at your favorite bookseller or library. You won't be disappointed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William H. Perry on March 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the Trapp Family Singers, this book is of marginal interest. However, if you are interested in the history of early submarine warfare in WWI, then this book is important.

As regards WWI submarine warfare, the British and the Germans like to claim they invented all the successful techniques. Read von Trapp's memoirs to find out otherwise. It is a wonder that von Trapp could sink anything at all, given his wretched boat and marginal torpedoes. It is a wonder he could maintain an efficient crew, given the polyglot composition thereof. But sink he did and lead he did. Von Trapp comes across as a modest man, scarcely even aware of the innovations in submarine warfare he was making. His tactics of lying inshore may have been necessitated by his lack of a movable periscope, and facilitated by the relative small size of his vessel, but they would be found effective by the most daring submarine commanders of WWII, both German and American. But NOBODY had sunk a cruiser by moon light before von Trapp. I won't spoil the rest of the book.

I would recommend this book to all students of naval warfare for two reasons: 1) history of tactics and 2) what a naval officer should be.

PS: For those of you familiar with the Trapp Family beyond "The Sound of Music," this book will explain why his children loved him, how Rodgers and Hammerstein got him wrong, and how trying at times it must have been for him to put up with the "real" Maria.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John E. Dennis on October 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is reasonably light read broken into bite-size chapters covering a variety of experiences surrounding the author's service as a WWI Austrian U-boat captain, the boat technologies of the time and the everyday impact of the politics as Austria's empire unraveled. Austria's relationship with it's wealthy and larger German ally is seen from another perspective as well as the polyglot nature of the many ethnic groups belonging to and participating in the Austrian war effort. A fine military account from the man responsible for "The Sound of Music."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on February 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This should have been translated much earlier! Forget about the later success with music--that's irrelevant here. The Kaiserliche und Konigliche Navy is the heart of the book. The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, with Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, who was also King of Hungary (hence the Imperial and Royal Navy) was a mixture of nationalities. Naval bases were few, and the Dual Monarchy's emphasis was on its army rather than its navy. Trapp served on torpedo boats for a while, and became commander of a submarine--the K und K's submarines were definitely third-rate compared to those of Germany. The gasoline (rather than diesel) engines meant that after even a short time underwater (with the hatches closed) the buildup of gasoline fumes would incapacitate most of the crew: there are scenes where only 2-3 of the crew are conscious at crucial times. There are also no bunks for the men--a visiting German submarine captain is horrified at the living conditions compared to the superior German craft.

Nonetheless, Trapp made the most of his vessel, sinking a French cruiser, an Italian sub, and other ships. There's a map of the Adriatic (another map or two would have been helpful) and plenty of photographs. Much of the story is understated, and there are some mentions of what must have been fascinating tales--such as transporting a camel from Africa.

It's all too brief--that's the one drawback. Happily, however, if you've enjoyed the book, there's another book on the same subject--drawn in part, I think, from some of Trapp's experiences. This is a novel--John Biggins' excellent A Sailor of Austria, which I would recommend highly. Biggins also has two other novels with the same protagonist, but these are not as much about the navy.
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