Tag: Autobiography

“The Sound of Music” and the Real Captain von Trapp

 

I see that this year marks the 60th anniversary of “The Sound of Music” as a Broadway play.  If you’ve seen the 1965 move that was based on this play…and who hasn’t?…you’ll remember Captain von Trapp.  The real Captain’s real-life children were not thrilled with the way he was portrayed in the movie–according to them, he was by no means that rigid disciplinarian who summoned the children with a bosun’s whistle and required them to line up in military formation.  (The bosun’s whistle was real, but only for communication purposes on the large estate…no lining-up involved.)

The movie was indeed correct that Captain von Trapp was a former naval officer whose services were much desired by the Nazis after their takeover of Germany and, later, Austria… and that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. His memoir, To the Last Salute, was originally published in German in 1935 and later translated into French; an English translation has only become available fairly recently.

Member Post

 

What novels, memoirs, and films with a business setting do you like? Most fiction seems to be about people who are lawyers, policemen, criminals, soldiers, spies, students, politicians, and noble but struggling writers. But there are indeed some works of fiction, and some vivid personal memoirs, in which business plays a central role without being […]

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‘Lady Death’ the Story of a Successful Sniper

 

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.

In it she recounts her life, with a primary emphasis on her wartime experiences. She shows how she became an expert marksman before the war, joining shooting teams at work and in school, becoming fascinated with both the machinery of the rifle and the art of shooting.

Jet Engines, GE, and Herman the German

 

General Electric has fallen on hard times, but it has some valuable assets. Of those operations that will remain following the spinoffs and divestitures, the crown jewel is, by general agreement, the jet engine business. I’m reminded of Gerhard Neumann, who played a major role in creating that business and who wrote a wonderful memoir.

This is the autobiography of a man who was born to a Jewish family in Germany, apprenticed as an auto mechanic, attended engineering school, moved to China in 1938, was interned by the British as an enemy alien in 1939, transferred to the American forces, joined Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, repaired the first Japanese Zero fighter to be captured in potentially-flyable condition, became a U.S. citizen by special act of Congress, and went on to run GE’s entire jet engine business, which he played a major role in creating. (The preceding may be the longest single sentence I’ve ever written in a blog post.) The book should be of interest to those interested in aviation, technology, management, social history, the WWII era, and/or China.