Friday, March 02, 2012

Submarines and "The Sound of Music"

Most everyone who has ever watched the movie "The Sound of Music" (originally released on this day in 1965) knows that the movie is loosely based on the real-life story of Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp and his family.

As in the movie, the real Captain Von Trapp had been a highly successful submarine captain for the Austro-Hungarian Navy during the First World War.

However, the story's connection to the "silent service" doesn't end there...
Captain Von Trapp's first wife was Agathe Whitehead, granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, inventor of the first successful self-propelled torpedo, one of the inventions that would make the submarine successful in combat.

Agathe was heir to the Whitehead fortune and she and Captain Von Trapp had, to all accounts, a happy marriage. Agathe bore Captain Von Trapp seven children. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1922, and by 1926, the widowed Captain needed a tutor for one of his daughters. This tutor, Maria, was the inspiration for Julie Andrew's character in the movie.

Just as in the movie, Captain Von Trapp fled his native Austria rather than serve in the navy under Nazi leadership.

So, the singing Von Trapp children were not only the sons and daughters of a skilled and successful submarine captain, they were the direct descendants of one of the pioneers of submarine technology, and both the torpedoes on display here at AIMM, as well as the cutting edge torpedoes carried on America's nuclear-powered submarines can trace their history back to the Whitehead torpedoes, and indirectly, to the singing Von Trapp family from "The Sound of Music".

Photo of Maria Von Trapp from her immigration application, courtesy of the National Archives.