- "He's not just an ordinary grave robber. He's an archaeologist. That man is a traitor to his profession."
- ―Indiana Jones[src]
Professor Gustav von Trappen was an archaeologist who was publicly recognized for his work on Egyptian artifacts and beimg in possession of a furnace capable of shaping any tool for a dig and test any metal object, but in secret von Trappen doubled as a naval intelligence captain for his Kaiser and government. Though he had worked in London several times, the doctor's undercover activity was intended to center around the Middle East where his speciality as an archaeologist lay.
Certain that a war against Germany was coming, von Trappen headed to Egypt with soldiers from his nation's navy aboard an ocean-faring yacht — a gift from his government — to undermime British influence in the country and their empire's control of the Suez Canal.
After the American Davis declared that all the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings had been found, von Trappen took advantage of the man's concession to dig in the Valley, and paid Davis to set up his own expedition to serve as a front to hole up munitions in preparation for the oncoming conflict. During months of digging, von Trappen uncovered a tomb previously undiscovered purely by chance and found it filled with archaeological treasures. He took a ring of Osiris for himself but instead of seeing a prize-filled tomb, he saw a perfect storehouse for the weapons. In 1913, the doctor declared that his 'expedition' had ended in defeat.
A week later, von Trappen returned to his Luxor hotel to find a young Indiana Jones trying to find out who was using the German's room. Von Trappen introduced himself to the boy who played to his vanity, unaware that Jones was trying to find the identity of the grave robber that had stolen the ring. After a brief conversation, von Trappen excused himself and left.
The next evening, after Von Trappen had left the dig site, his men were alerted to the sound of tools clattering on the ground. Though they failed to catch anyone, for the following night, von Trappen placed a guard at the entrance of the tomb to feign sleeping to catch out any intruders. He did, and when the sentinel fetched von Trappen, the archaeologist found it was Jones and a friend of the boy named Sallah. Jones warned von Trappen of a terrible curse they'd found in the tomb and tried to encourage the archaeologist to bury it once again. In gratitude, he slapped the boy across the face then turned on Sallah.
In a blur of motion, Jones cut von Trappen with the end of a whip he'd found and disarmed the guard. Taking the rifle and turning it on von Trappen, the professor simply directed him to the dozen other weapons pointed at the boys and they were taken prisoner.
Von Trappen tended to his cut then ordered men to load a statue of Tutankhamon from the site on a truck. He brought the children aboard his vessel at his base of operations on the bank of the Nile River and revealed his plot to destroy the Suez Canal. To Jones's disgust, von Trappen also declared the fate of the artifacts: while some of the gold and jewels could be useful to fund unrest and rebellion by the Egyptians against English control, the remaining relics would simply be destroyed in the river to leave no trace of a trail that would lead back to the secret armory. In the bowels of his yacht, Von Trappen had the precious statue destroyed in the furnace he'd converted into a powerful smelter. Then he prepared to have the two boys join it.
The German asked who wished to die first and Sallah stepped forward. Sallah quickly threw the molten gold into the faces of von Trappen and his men, then he and Jones fled. When von Trappen had caught up, he found the children had trapped themselves down in the hold with crates of dynamite. The German encouraged them out when Jones produced a stick of dynamite. The sailors dropped their guns but von Trappen laughed. There was no firing cap. Amidst machine gun fire, Jones and Sallah dived overboard and von Trappen happily observed, well aware that if his guns didn't get them, the crocodiles would.
In a last desperate show of defiance, Jones brought up his fist to shake it in gesture to von Trappen when a bolt of lightning suddenly burst from the Ring of Osiris on Jones' finger, stolen from the archaeologist's hotel room, and destroyed the yacht in a huge fireball which took Gustav von Trappen along with his men to a fiery grave.