In The Sound of Music, how can Capt. von Trapp be a veteran of landlocked Austria's navy?

On escaping from Austria, Agathe von Trapp, who just died, said that instead of crossing mountains they just simply walked across the street and boarded a train.


LINK TO COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1205/in-em-the-sound-of-music-em-how-can-capt-von-trapp-be-a-veteran-of-landlocked-austrias-navy

MODERATOR COMMENT: PLease note that this thread is from Dec 2010, until revived in Post #6 in June 2014. We’re OK with reviving old threads if there’s new information, but I just want y’all to be aware of the revival, and don’t fret trying to reply to someone from four years ago. – CKHD

The Austro-Hungarian Navy existed at a time when the Empire was not landlocked. That Wikipedia article specifically refers to Captain von Trapp near the end. And the article about von Trapp states that family members have given varying accounts of their departure from Austria.

Just a reminder, cesld, when you start a thread about a column, it’s helpful to other readers to provide a link to that column. Saves searching time, and (with luck) helps keep us all on the same page. No biggie, I’ve edited the link in for you, and you’ll remember for next time.

In real life, they didn’t escape to Switzerland, but to Italy. But Rodgers and Hammerstein figured that most Americans in 1959 wouldn’t understand how it helped to flee from Hitler to Mussolini. The answer, of course, was that Mussolini wasn’t about to take orders from foreigners, even if they were his allies.

They weren’t the only musicians to escape Hitler because of bureaucracy. Composer Emmerich Kàlmàn had lived and worked in Vienna for many years, but when the Anschluß came, he was still technically a Hungarian citizen, so the Austrian Nazis had to hand him over to Hungary. That saved his life, because he was so popular in Hungary that they quietly let him slip away to America, after a failed attempt to make him an “honorary Aryan”.

How else would Horthy have become an Admiral ? Being a traitor was his way of repaying them… Actually the Austro-Hungarian Navy was quite decent.

I recently downloaded a Christmas torrent of no less than 666 forms of Monti’s Csárdás from a well-known site compiled from many many LPs by a demonic devotee. Emmerich, greatest of them all, was on there natürlich. Hitler adored him.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

“We did tell people that we were going to America to sing. And we did not climb over mountains with all our heavy suitcases and instruments. We left by train, pretending nothing.”

  • Maria Von Trapp 2003 (via an interview with Opera News)

Her book is really quite interesting.

The events that happened in the musical, in reality, took place in a different time frame – they had been married for over 10 years when the family left Austria… the kids were much older ( the eldest son was a physician at the time ) and Maria and the Captain had younger kids of their own.

They WERE hard-core Austrian patriots ( the captain had a 30ft Austrian flag hanging in the grand entrance of their home ) and cash-poor at the time they fled, as the captain had patriotically moved all his investments into an Austrian bank during the years leading up to the war …and he lost it all when that bank failed.

They had dual Italian citizenship and left for Italy by train on their Italian passports, getting out shortly before the borders were closed. Captain VT had a small amount of money waiting for him in Italy - just enough to get the family to America - aside for that they walked away from everything they owned when they fled - (they did get it back after the war.)

Their life had been uneasy in Austria under the Nazi’s…they refused to display the Nazi flag, the younger kids were repeating anti-German sentiments they heard at home in the wrong places and the Nazis had made them several “offers they couldn’t refuse” - a military commission for the Captain, a singing tour for the family and a staff physician job for the eldest son. So they left.

Another fun fact --both of their sons enlisted and served in the US military when the US entered the war.

As long as the thread’s been revived, what did happen to the Austro-Hungarian Navy after World War I? Did they scuttle their own ships like the Germans did or were they confiscated by another country? And what happened to all the sailors and officers? Were they integrated into the army or just out of work? Yugoslavia was one of the successor states to Austria-Hungary and it had a coastline - did it get to keep part of the Austro-Hungarian navy?

According to Wikipedia, Kaiser Karl avoided surrendering his ships by granting them to the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, formed from his southernmost provinces, which became the Kingdom of the same, and thence into Yugoslavia.

Otherwise I presume the Italians would have grabbed them, or maybe D’Annunzio, Duce of Fiume.
As it was they hit two of the ships with limpet mines, and the French stole one ship.

What? Wikipedia has an article on the Austro-Hungarian Navy?

Yes, they certainly due. Bless them Wikipedians. They really need to get a life.

Talking about not having a life, I read that article and noticed it mentioned Admiral Horthy, the leader of WWII Hungary. Talking about Naval titles in land locked countries.

And talking about landlocked countries with navies, look at Bolivia. (Yes, there’s a Wikipedia article about that too). The navy includes a 1200 man force including 600 marines.

Bolivia lost its access to the sea in 1879, but is determined to recover it.

Horthy’s actual naval service was with the Austro-Hungarian navy. As any retired officer may, he continued to use his title (“Admiral”) in civilian life. However, his importance following WW1, right through 1944, was political. He became “Regent of Hungary”, and somehow or other managed to out-maneuver any attempt to restore an actual king.

As to the Bolivian Navy, they serve on Lake Titicaca. Some analysts divide navies into “brown-water” (rivers and lakes), “green-water” (home seas), and “blue-water” (full ocean) classes. There aren’t very many blue-water navies nowadays.

Still, you have to figure the Bolivian Navy must have a tough time getting recruits. What can they offer them? “Join the Navy and see Bolivia.”

On a related note, I’ll point out that while Lake Titicaca is Bolivia’s largest body of water, its second largest body of water is Lake Poopo. Which leads me to wonder if the first Viceroy of Bolivia was a ten year old.

Well, you’re pretty well guaranteed promotion if you hang in there. Admiral looks nice and stern on social cards.
And, of course, no great risk of half a dozen unknown battleships looming over the horizon.

About one… call it none.

Actually, Bolivia officially regards part of the Pacific coast as having been stolen by Chile in the War of the Pacific, so it’s pretty easy for the Bolivian Navy to recruit. Everyone who joins is an implicit “Up yours!” to their sworn genetic enemy.

True. But this all happened in 1883. You have to figure potential recruits must realize by this point that recapturing the coast is not likely to happen on their watch.

Under Pinochet, and General Banzer, then dictator of Bolivia, Pinochet offered Bolivia a small strip of land between Arica, Chile and the Peru border. This would technically have given Bolivia access to the sea although there’s no place to put a port, and there’s no network of transportation that would extend from Bolivia to the Pacific.

Bolivia refused the offer because the original treaty that ended the War of the Pacific stated that territory could not be exchanged between two of the countries without the third (this case being Peru) approval.

You’d think the Argentines would have come to the same conclusion about those little islands off their coast at about the same time, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Territorial aspirations die hard.

Back for a moment to the Austro-Hungarian navy: I can’t refrain from mentioning – hoping, vaingloriously, to perhaps make a convert or two – the IMO utterly splendid historical novels, with a comic slant, by the British author John Biggins: four in all, purporting to be the memoirs written in old age in his adopted country Britain, of a former officer in that navy, one Ottokar Prohaska. These books are briefly mentioned in the Wiki article linked-to in post #2.

Three of the novels – A Sailor of Austria, The Emperor’s Coloured Coat, and The Double-Headed Eagle – tell of Prohaska’s doings in World War I, and just before. Like von Trapp (who gets a bit-part in one of the novels), his service is principally in submarines; though he spends time also, involved in other aspects of the war. This last is partly because – though a basically “don’t-rock-the-boat” type – he tends, through sheer misfortune, to get into trouble with the powers that be, and to be “exiled” for various periods, to unenviable assignments. One such (a wonderfully farcical episode) involves his doing a spell in truly “inland” duty for the navy, on a small gunboat on the River Danube. I love these books – excellently researched, and a combination of the comical, and the tragic and heartbreaking.

Paraguay – Bolivia’s neighbour and at times adversary in war – also lacks a sea-coast, but has a navy: per Googling, currently numbering about a dozen vessels and several thousand personnel. Paraguay’s possessing a navy, is perhaps a little less bonkers than Bolivia’s doing so: the Paraguayan fleet operates on the big rivers Paraguay (bisecting the country) and Parana (along the country’s southern border) – and it is physically possible for it to get to the open sea, along the Parana through Argentina.

I can give no cite for the following; but I’ve read that in the past, the Paraguayan navy had a number of vessels which could function for only a few months of the year, in the wet season – the rest of the time, their draught was too great for the normal depth of the rivers. Corruption as regards ordering and contracting, led to the purchasing of vessels which everyone knew had too much of a draught to be usable year-round…