My first military history book I wrote was Cruise of the Sea Eagle. It was the story of Count Felix Von Luckner who, in WWI, went raiding on the high seas in the three-mastered windjammer. No, I am not making this shit up. Von Luckner raided the Atlantic and Pacific – only taking one life in his operations. His ship was wrecked on an island in the Pacific (cue the Gilligan’s Island theme) and he was captured by New Zealanders, and escaped. His story is amazing on many levels. But today, I’d like to focus on one instance in particular – the saving of his hometown, Halle.
US National Archives. Sketches of the Sea Eagle (Seeadler)
By WWII, Von Luckner was an old man. The Nazi’s didn’t want anything to do with him, because he didn’t buy into their ideology. He was relegated to living in his home town, Halle.
On April 19, 1945, 75 years ago, the US Army came to liberate the town. It had been spared a lot of carnage and devastation in the war. The German commander was prepared to slug it out, making the Americans lay waste to the city. Graf Luckner sneaked through the battle lines and connected with General Terry Allen of the US Army. Von Luckner acted as an intermediary, negotiating the German surrender of Halle, saving his home town.
In doing research for the book, my wife and I went to Halle, which had just emerged from being part of East Germany. The city was very much as it appeared during WWII. Much of this is because Von Luckner had spared the city. Ironically, the East German’s version of events is that the American Army was never there – that the Russians had liberated the town. Revisionist history at its worst.
Today being the 75th anniversary of their liberation is special and brings me back to our visit there. We have some wonderful memories of this beautiful German town and look forward to our return one day.
You can take part in the Von Luckner story by being part of his historical society. Von Luckner Society