At the beginning of 1938, the Austrian government, in an effort to maintain its independence from Germany, ordered a referendum to decide whether to join Germany, and thus reneged on a pledge to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to agree to the merging of the two countries. Pro-independence supporters were expected to prevail in the balloting, and Italy's Prime Minister Benito Mussolini pledged to defend the Austrian regime against a German occupation.
On March 9, Rupert von Trapp completed his medical school studies.
On March 11, after Hitler persuaded Mussolini to renege on his pledge to the Austrians, a coup in Austria coincided with the arrival of German troops to seal the unification of Germany and Austria. The bells of Salzburg were rung in celebration at the insistence of the German military. German laws were adopted quickly that removed Jewish doctors from Austria's state hospitals.
The Von Trapp Family Choir declined an invitation to sing at the celebration of Adolf Hitler's birthday on April 20.
On May 20, in anticipation of a German invasion, the government of Czechoslovakia mobilized their military. A clandestine plot by senior leaders of the German military and civilian leadership determined to depose Hitler by force in the event he order Germany to engage Czechoslovakia in armed combat.
The Trapp family fled Austria in June by train, eventually reaching England, and toured Europe over the summer. The Austrian frontier is sealed shortly after there departure. Against the will of Georg von Trapp, Heinrich Himmler, a chief architect of the Holocaust, takes control of his villa in Aigen.
At this time, it was a matter of common knowledge that political opponents of the Nazi Party were being committed to concentration camps. In the summer of 1938, a concentration camp was opened in Mauthausen, Austria at the site of a quarry operation. The steps leading up from where stone was removed by prisoners became known as the “Stairs of Death.”
In fall, the von Trapp family secured an advance from an American concert promoter and departed for the United States aboard the American Farmer, arriving on October...
Negotiations between allies France and England versus Germany over the summer resulted in the withdrawal of France and Britain's threats of force to defend Czechoslovakian sovereignty over the ethnically German portions of the country known as the Sudetenland. Without the support of its allies, Czechoslovakia allowed German troops to occupy the Sudetenland without armed resistance in early October.
Ernest Hemingway published “The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories” on October 14. The “Fifth Column” refers to a clandestine force of sympathizers who support an invading force by way of espionage and sabotage. People of Germanic heritage were viewed with suspicion as Europe and the United States witnessed the expansion of Germany.
On November 9, anti-Jewish mobs in Germany and Austria carried out extensive vandalism of Jewish businesses, houses, schools, hospitals and synagogues. Local authorities did not intervene as they watched countless window panes shattered and fires lit, earning the event the title “Kristallnacht” - the Night of Breaking Glass. Many Jews were killed in the process, and tens of thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps in the wake of this event, triggered by a reaction to a German diplomat being killed by a Polish Jew.
Johannes von Trapp was born in Philadelphia to Georg and Maria on January 19.
In February, the von Trapp was notified that their visa would not be extended.
In March, they left by ship on the Normandie to tour Scandanvia.
On September 1, German troops invaded Poland.
On September 3, France England declared war on Germany, and Winston Churchill was appointed as Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty.
On September 17, the Soviet Union invaded Poland
On October 6, the former territory of Poland was divided and annexed by the two invaders.
From October 7 to 11, upon returning the the United States aboard the Bergensfjord from their Scandanavian tour, the Trapp Family Choir was taken into custody on Ellis Island by immigration authorities. Rupert was spared incarceration due to his status as an applicant to immigrate.
On November 30, the Soviet Union's Red Army invaded Finland.
On March 13, hostilities between Finland and the USSR ended. The invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union's Red Army in the winter of 1939-40 was repelled by a force that was greatly outnumbered. The Finnish troops were trained to maneuver in Arctic environments, featuring infantry on skis, and camouflagued by white parkas.
On April 9, Germany invaded Norway. The British Navy's assault on Narvik, Norway in the spring of 1940 sought to deprive Germany of strategically important sources of iron ore for their war machine. Austrian mountain troops held the Navy and five times as many British and French troops at bay by holding high ground above the port and its entrances. The British could not contest these positions due to the absence of troops trained in extreme cold and mountainous and snow-covered terrain. Despite their targets proximity to the Arctic Circle, only summer uniforms were brought on board by the British. Norway remains under German occupation until the end of the war.
On May 10, Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands. On the same day, Neville Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill as the British Prime Minister.
On Jun3 22, after British and French forces were pushed back to the sea, an armistice between Germany and France established a German occupation zone in northern France that included all of France's Atlantic coastline.
On July 3, negotiations with the French admiral in command of a large contingent of vessels in Algeria failed to secure British objectives that would at least neutralize the threat that the formidable naval force there would fall into the hands of Germany. A massive barrage of British naval artillery destroyed the WWI era Battleship Britagne, with a thousand sailors on board perishing.
In the summer, German air forces attacked British military targets in Great Britain. British counter attacks on Berlin included a sortie that inadvertantly bombed the civilian population. The Battle of Britain then excalated, as Hitler ordered the daily bombing of London over the course of September and October.
Germany's inability to destroy Britain's coastal defenses pre-empted the launch of Operation Sea Lion, a planned amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain.
On March 11, the third anniversary of the annexation of Austria by Germany, the United States officially ended its neutrality when President Roosevelt signed lend-lease legislation providing financial and material aid to Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Free France, China, and other allies.
On June 22, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, invading the Soviet Union in the largest invasion in the history of warfare. The intentional deprivation of food to foreign troops and civilians in areas that fell under German control led to the starvation of millions.
During the summer of 1941, the United States halted the export of petroleum to Japan. Negotiations were accompanied by the positioning of naval assets by both countries in preparation for battle over the Dutch West Indies, a strategic souce of petroleum and rubber, and the majority of Americans acknowledged the likelihood that the United States would enter the war as combatants.
On December 7, Japan attacked American ships recently deployed to Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiin Islands. Within days the United States declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy.
In May, Hitler and Mussolini meet in Salzburg. In this meeting, Mussolini commits to the large scale deployment of Italy's Eighth Army to the Eastern Front that would follow in June. The force includes three newly created divisions of mountain (alpini) troops.
During the summer, the von Trapps perform for an Army camp in Stowe, Vermont. Later they buy farmland on Luce Hill there.
On January 26, Soviet forces target Italy's Alpini divisions, the last remaining units of the Eight Army.
By February, Italy's Eigth Army no longer exists in Russia, after suffering heavy casualties.
On March 9, on the fourth anniversary of Rupert's graduation from medical school, Rupert and Werner von Trapp report as draftees of the U.S. Army. They become innaugural members of the U.S. Army Ski Troops, the predecessor of the 10th Mountain Division. They soon become U.S. Citizens.
On May 16, the Allies bomb Rome.
On July 10, the Allies invade Sicily.
On July 23, the King of Italy deposes Mussolini.
On September 8, General Eisenhower announces the surrender of Italy. The Allies and Germans battle to occupy Italy over the next 20 months.
October 18 to November 11 – At the Third Moscow Conference, the Allies(China,UK,US,USSR) agree that after the war, Austria will be treated as the first victim of Nazi aggression, and be permitted to regain its independence.
The 10th Mountain Division deploys to Italy.
The allies drop a single bomb on Salzburg's Cathedral. During the war, fifteen allied sorties result in the destruction of close to half the city's buildings.
March 29 – Soviet forces cross Austria's eastern frontier. The Red Army suffers heavy losses, and their victory is followed by their perpetrating vast amounts of sex crimes over several years time, eventually leading the Soviets to strictly garrison its occupation forces in Austria in 1948.
April 29 – French forces cross Austria's western frontier.
May 8 – Germany surrenders. British and American forces enter Austria. Austria is occupied by the Allies(France,UK,US,USSR) until 1955, when its independence is restored. Salzburg becomes the center of American occupation operations in Austria, and Werner and Rupert von Trapp return to Austria as occupying forces in American uniforms.
July 26 – The Allies(China,US,USSR) submit Postdam Declaration of terms for Japaneses surrender. The “prompt and utter destruction” of Japan is threatened.
August 6 – The United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
August 8 – The Soviet Union declares war on Japan, breaking a six year truce.
August 9 – The Soviet Union invades Manchuria, previously occupied by Japan. Later that day, the United States drops a second atomic bomb on Japan, this time in Nagasaki.
August 15 – A recording of the Emperor of Japan is broadcast on radio announcing his acceptance of the Postdam Declaration – ending hostilities in World War II. Japan is occupied by American forces.
The von Trapp brothers return to Vermont.
Rupert von Trapp graduates from the University of Vermont, and marries Henriette Lajoie, whom he had six children.
Werner von Trapp marries Salzburg native Erika Klambauer, a childhood friend of his sister, Martina, and with whom he had six children.
1950 Werner von Trapp erects a stone chapel to honor WWII veterans on the hill above the family home, carrying the stones used to build it up the hill in his ruck sack.
Ski Troops in WWII
The invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union's Red Army in the winter of 1939-40 was repelled by a force that was greatly outnumbered. The Finnish troops were trained to maneuver in Arctic environments, featuring infantry on skis.
The British Navy's assault on Narvik, Norway in the spring of 1940 sought to deprive Germany of strategically important sources of iron ore for their war machine. Austrian mountain troops held the Navy and five times as many British and French troops at bay by holding high ground above the port and its entrances. The British could not contest these positions due to the absence of troops trained in extreme cold and mountainous and snow-covered terrain. Despite their targets proximity to the Arctic Circle, only summer uniforms were brought on board by the British. Norway remains under German occupation until the end of the war.
The United States formed the 10th Mountain Division in 1943, before the advent of recreational skiing in America. Austrian ex-patriots, among them the von Trapp brothers, Rupert and Werner, were instrumental in training American troops with no prior experience on skis or alpine conditions. The 10th Mountain distinguished themselves for valor, suffering among the highest casualty rates of any unit in the war. They exceeded the expectations of their foes, achieving surprise by taking terrain thought to be impassable, leading to the capture of troops and positions that gave the allies a vital strategic advantage.