Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was a German Colonel who served in the German East Africa during the World War I as the supreme commander of the German colonial army. In 1916, Indiana Jones and Remy Baudouin attempted to take him hostage, when the attempt backfired and resulted in the three getting lost in the African savannah. During that time, von Lettow ironically acted as a mentor of sorts to his captors, helping guide them to survival. Ultimately, they went their separate ways when Jones was forced to allow von Lettow go free.
Since the start of the Great War, Frederick Selous was hunting von Lettow-Vorbeck, and managed to find him in 1914, in the Karoo mountains. There, von Lettow demonstrated a "brilliant flanking maneuver" and drove Selous' forces away in a hurry.
A military genius, for two years he ran rings around the British lines, constantly outwitting and defeating forces far greater than his. A sleazy shadow according to General Jan Christiaan Smuts, he and Selous considered him their nemesis.
Eventually in 1916, according to British Intelligence major Richard Meinertzhagen, von Lettow was to be found in an encampment near a little lake, 35 miles southwest of their position, posing an extraordinary opportunity for his capture.
Disguised as Boer settlers, Selous and his band of seven from the 25th Frontiersman Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, along with Indiana Jones and Remy Baudouin, rode a wagon toward von Lettow's location. Eventually, they were intercepted by German soldiers and taken to the camp of von Lettow, whom Selous finally met face to face. After exchanging a handshake, von Lettow ordered them to be shot by morning.
That same night, Selous and his men were rescued by Birdy Soames and quickly moved to the Colonel's tent. Selous ordered Indy and Remy to take the prisoner and meet later to the trucks while his men would create a diversion. However, during that time Margaret Trappe alerted the soldiers to the attempt. Indy and Remy pushed the Colonel in a basket and tried to hide inside, when von Lettow shouted for his men to come. It was then when Indy realized that they were in fact inside a basket of an air balloon; untying it and fighting the soldiers who tried to pull the Colonel out, the balloon soared above, while von Lettow was pushed violently in and hit his head in the basket. The balloon was unable to follow Selous and his men in their escape, and floating away.
The next morning von Lettow scolded the Belgian soldiers for their amateur attempt which he thought would see all three of them lost in the field. Indy exclaimed that the muttering Colonel was not unlike his father. Soon after, the German army attacked the balloon. While Indy climbed up to attempt to repair the bullet holes, and Remy threw the load bags at their pursuers in order to gain some altitude. Just as the foremost German soldiers were about to retrieve the Colonel, they suddenly stopped: the balloon was hovering over a cliff.
Lost in the savannah
Soon after, Trappe's biplane attacked and fired on their balloon, further damaging the envelope, but not before Remy hit her plane with a machine gun. Margaret nonetheless attempted to make another run against the balloon, a heroic attempt which von Lettow lauded as commendable. This only caused Indy to fire improperly, causing the gun to walk up and further damage their own balloon. The trio crashed in a savannah, and had to take their guns back from a pack of lions.
Heading to the north toward the Belgian lines, the Colonel showed that it was not a good idea to have him walk behind Indy; he grabbed him and put him in line of Remy's fire. However, Indy pulled von Lettow over easily and brought him to the ground.
Listening to his advice, they had him walk before them. As the evening drew closer, they camped and von Lettow taught them how a termite queen could be roasted and eaten. Indy refused to taste, unlike Remy, who, as a Belgian, also ate snails.
While they were sitting, von Lettow explained why the British were after him, and what makes a military genius. Von Lettow advised Indy that a soldier in any given situation examines his options, weighs the consequences and makes his decision, keeping in mind his criteria: the first is to obey orders and the second is to survive.
The following day, as they walked in the savannah, they were stopped by a hostile African tribe. As warriors started throwing spears at them, the Colonel guided them towards a clearing and Remy was forced to give his pistol back so that they could fight them.
At that moment, Margaret found them surrounded by a hostile African tribe. Firing at them caused the warriors to disperse. As she landed, von Lettow managed to run to her, and from a distance she shot Indy's rifle from his hands.
Indy instead took von Lettow at gunpoint with a pistol but realized that although Remy had him covered against Trappe, the German army was moving in on them, and he had no choice but to let their captive go free. Allowing Margaret and von Lettow return to their army, he and Remy were able to leave to safety. Before leaving, however, the Colonel wished Indy good luck and gave him his compass.
Behind the scenes
Von Lettow was played by Tom Bell.
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles – "Young Indiana Jones and the Phantom Train of Doom" → Phantom Train of Doom