Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck 1870 - 1964

Discussion in 'Military Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (20 March 1870 - 9 March 1964)

    was a German general, the commander of the German East Africa campaign in World War I, the only colonial campaign of that war where Germany remained undefeated.

    Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was born into the Pomeranian nobility while his father was stationed as an army officer at Saarlouis in the Prussian Rhine Province. The young Paul was educated in boarding schools in Berlin and joined the corps of cadets at Potsdam and Berlin-Lichterfelde. He was commissioned Leutnant in 1890.
    In 1900, Lettow-Vorbeck was posted to China as a member of the international alliance forces to quell the Boxer Rebellion.
    Afterwards, Lettow-Vorbeck was posted to Africa. Between 1904 and 1906 he was assigned to German South-West Africa (now Namibia) during the Hottentot and Herero revolt and genocide. Lettow-Vorbeck suffered an injury to his left eye and was forced to recuperate in South Africa where he met Jan Smuts. Later he would fight against Smuts during World War I.

    In 1907 he was promoted to major and assigned to the staff of 11th Army Korps. From March 1909 until January 1913 Lettow-Vorbeck was commander of the marines of II. Seebatallion [2nd Sea Battalion] at Wilhelmshaven in Lower Saxony, Germany. As lieutenant colonel in October 1913 he was appointed to command the German colonial forces known as the Schutztruppe [protection force] in German Kamerun (today Cameroon apart from a portion in Nigeria). Before he could assume this new command, his orders were changed and he was posted to German East Africa, effective 13 April 1914.

    Although he never had more than 3, 000 German and 11, 000 African troops (Askaris) under his command, he tied down Allied armies almost ten times as large through aggressive hit-and-run tactics, proving himself a master at motivating his motley army and of improvising to compensate for his material inferiority. He remained undefeated at the time of the Armistice and surrendered only when news of this reached him.

    He considered, however, that as a German soldier faithful to the fatherland he must honor the armistice. Lettow did so on November 23rd. Technically speaking, he did not surrender, but merely disbanded his troops and put himself at the disposal of the British commander. Lettow ended his campaign with 155 Europeans and even more askaris (three thousand) than he had started the war with. More than 300,000 troops were deployed during the course of the war to hem in and defeat Lettow's army, yet he did not suffer a single defeat. The Allies suffered sixty thousand casualties including twenty thousand British and Indian dead in East Africa during the war.

    Lettow returned to Germany in 1919 and retired in 1920. He entered politics and served ten years in the Reichstag, Germany's Parliament. He opposed the National Socialists. When the Nazis offered him an ambassadorial post, he refused. After the German defeat and collapse in World War II, he lived in poverty.

    Smuts, down in Johannesburg, who always had profound respect and admiration for Vorbeck and was determined to give him help. He worked out an arrangement whereby Lettow-Vorbeck, an enemy general, received a pension from the victors ! He continued to receive this pension until his death on March 9th, 1964.

    Summary of Oberst Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's extraordinary military campaigns against the allies
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I found this picture and didn't note the source .... I'd be glad to take it down if anybody objects to it being here !

    But I love it because it's the two adversaries together in friendship and I admire Smuts for what he did to help his old enemy later in life !

    Annie :)

    German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, left, photographed at a dinner in London early December 1929, with General Jan Christiaan Smuts. A unique picture of the two famous war time enemies.

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