Lowell Thomas was one of the most successful newscasters on radio during the latter part of the 1930s. On the NBC Prime Time news my father was glued to the radio every week evening. Thomas was already an immensely popular world traveler and writer. He was the first to acquaint a world public with Lawrence of Arabia. He was, as well, the author of many books about heroes and adventurers he personally met in his travels.
I seem to recall that I first read his story, about Count Felix von Luckner after I returned from World War ll in the late forties. It was entitled, The Sea Devil.It was as page-turner, the rip-roaring adventures of a warrior during the First World War. What distinguished him we was not only the unique and wild success of his combat experiences, but the old world integrity of a true knight’s honor. After the armistice he was not only respected and honored by Germany, the defeated nation, but by his victorious enemies. Only Rommel, the “Desert Fox”, the German general in North Africa, earned that honor after World War ll.
Thomas had never heard of Felix von Luckner, nor was the name familiar in the U.S. He first saw the great German hero when they coincidentally awaited different flights in Germany during their travels. He noticed that all the airport personal saluted the tall, broad-shouldered man as he debarked his plane and others crowded around him as they awaited their flights. Thomas inquired his identity and learned that the fellow traveler was non other than the famous sea raider of the recent war, known as The Sea Devil, and the most revered postwar hero in Germany. They chanced to meet and became acquainted at a hotel, again on their travels. A friendship evolved. Von Luckner, visiting New York, visited with Lowell at his home. There the story of The Sea Devilunfolded.
Thomas/’s book, With Lawrence in Arabia, published in 1924 (a year after my birthday) was enormously popular and his best seller. He realized that von Luckner’s story was as exciting, heroic and compelling as the Lawrence of Arabia account.
When I came across the book I could hardly have dreamed that I would actually meet the great man and have dinner with him and his wife years later. Let me give the reader a very brief outline of Count von Luckner’s adventures.
Young Felix was born into the German nobility class in 1881. Both father and grandfather were celebrated generals, famous for their commands of the Von Luckner Cavalry. He disappointed his father…