General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Great War in Africa
‘If all military histories were as thrilling and well written as African Kaiser, I might give up reading fiction.’ — Washington Post
At the turn of the twentieth century, European colonial powers scrambled in Africa for trade, land and political advantage. When the First World War broke out, they were forced to contend with one another not just in trenches on the Western Front, but in East Africa’s swamps and savannahs. In that unforgiving landscape, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and a small cadre of hardened German officers fought as equals with their African troops against the Allies, creating the first truly integrated army of the modern age.
African Kaiser is the fascinating tale of a forgotten guerrilla campaign: of rhino charges and artillery duels with scavenged naval guns; of hunted German battleships hidden up unmapped river deltas; of a desperate army in the wilderness, cut off from the world, enduring starvation, malaria, and dysentery; and of the remarkable intercontinental voyage of Zeppelin L59, whose improbable 4,000 mile journey to the Equator and back made aviation history. But mostly, it is the incredible true story of General von Lettow-Vorbeck, the only undefeated German commander of the Great War.
‘If all military histories were as thrilling and well written as African Kaiser, I might give up reading fiction and literary biography. … Gaudi writes with the flair of a latter-day Macaulay. He sets his scenes carefully and describes naval and military action like a novelist. His sentences are models of clarity and vivacity, sometimes further enlivened with wry authorial comments.’ — Washington Post
‘African Kaiser is an entertaining and insightful read. Gaudi is superb on what made von Lettow such a formidable exponent of irregular warfare and on the reasons why his African soldiers would have followed him to the ends of the earth.’ — Literary Review
‘Robert Gaudi combines a researcher’s meticulous precision with a novelist’s consummate storytelling skill to piece together a thousand shards of forgotten history into this astonishing and irresistible confection.’ — Madison Smartt Bell
Robert Gaudi is a freelance writer and historian. At one time or another, he has worked for the National Endowment for the Arts, tended bar, and managed a classic car restoration shop. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia.