Fifty years ago today, Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck passed away at the age of 93. Lettow-Vorbeck was commander of the German military in East Africa during WWI, and despite the 20-to-1 odds against him (and that only when his army was at full strength, which it only was for a very brief time), he remained undefeated in field engagements and was the only German commander to successfully invade British territory during the entire war. Much of his success came from working well with and understanding his troops. He spoke Swahili fluently, and (despite it being contrary to the prevailing “wisdom”/custom of the time) appointed many black officers, insisting that there was no difference in capability based on race or national upbringing.
He operated a successful guerrilla campaign with his remaining force of less than two thousand troops until the war’s end, and was successfully capturing towns when he was told of the armistice.
When WWII rolled around, Hitler offered Lettow-Vorbeck a prestigious ambassadorship; Lettow-Vorbeck allegedly told the dictator to go f—- himself (but according to an eyewitness, he did not “put it that politely”).