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Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
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Military Personnel
    (March 20, 1870-March 9, 1964)
    Born in Saarlouis, Germany
    Commander of German forces in East Africa during World War I
    He ignored direct orders from the governor of German East Africa to not mobilize his troops.
    The guerilla war he fought had a devastating effect on the local population; a doctor in his army noted, ‘Behind us we leave destroyed fields, ransacked magazines and, for the immediate future, starvation.’
    He was forced to resign from the Army after supporting the Kapp Putsch (1920), a right-wing attempt to overthrow the German government.
    He was wounded in the eye and chest by shrapnel during an uprising in Namibia (1904).
    Unlike many European commanders in Africa, he was fluent in a native language, Swahili.
    He appointed Africans as officers, with one historian writing, ‘It is probable that no white commander of the era had so keen an appreciation of the African’s worth not only as a fighting man but as a man.’
    Despite never having more than 14,000 troops (3,000 Germans and 11,000 Africans), he kept an Allied force of over 300,000 tied up for the duration of the war.
    He was described by one military historian as having led ‘the greatest single guerrilla operation in history, and the most successful.’
    He declined when Hitler offered him a post as ambassador to Great Britain.
    Later, a reporter said to one of the general’s nephews, ‘I understand that von Lettow told Hitler to go fuck himself,’ to which the nephew replied, ‘That's right, except that I don't think he put it that politely.’
    After that, he was kept under constant surveillance by the Nazis.
    During World War II, his two sons died in combat and his house was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid.

Credit: C. Fishel

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