Körner, Emil (1846–1920)

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Körner, Emil (1846–1920)

Emil Körner (b. 10 October 1846; d. 25 March 1920), German army officer and founder of the modern Chilean army. Emil Körner Henze, as he was called in Chile, was born in Wegwitz, Saxony. He entered the army in 1866. He was a student and later taught at the Artillery and Engineer's School (Charlottenburg) and was decorated after Sedan. He graduated from the Kriegsakademie (staff school) in 1876 and served in Italy, Spain, and Africa. After nearly twenty years of service in the kaiser's army, Captain Körner had established a good record but, as a Saxon and a commoner, had a limited future as an officer of the imperial army. His military career took a sharp turn in 1885 because of the Chilean government's decision to professionalize its army. Impressed with what he had read of Chile's recent victory over Peru (War of the Pacific, 1879–1884), Körner accepted an offer to teach artillery, infantry, cartography, military history, and tactics; to serve as sub-director of the Escuela Militar; and to oversee establishment of a Chilean staff school. In Chile he ultimately rose to the rank of inspector general.

A year after his arrival he helped inaugurate the Academia de Guerra, and the Chilean army began a new life. Under Körner's direction the new staff school provided advanced training and the army adopted the general staff system in order to be prepared for war at any time. By 1889, the popular Körner was advocating wide-reaching reforms in military training. Two years later he helped the forces of the National Congress with the support of the Navy and some Army leaders to win a civil war against President José Manuel Balmaceda. Subsequently Körner was given great latitude in the continual modernization of the army. He attracted several German missions to Chile in the last decade of the century, and by 1910, when he retired, Chile's army was superficially a creole copy of the kaiser's. Körner died in Berlin, but his remains were brought to Santiago in 1924.

See alsoWar of the Pacific .


Frederick M. Nunn, "Emil Körner and the Prussianization of the Chilean Army: Origins, Process, and Consequences, 1885–1920," in Hispanic American Historical Review 50 (May 1970): 300-322.

Frederick M. Nunn, Yesterday's Soldiers: European Military Professionalism in South America, 1890–1940 (1983).

Carlos Sáez Morales, Recuerdos de un soldado, vol. 1, El ejército y la política (1933).

Additional Bibliography

Núũez P., Jorge. 1891, crónica de la guerra civil. Santiago de Chile: LOM Ediciones, 2003.

Sater, William F., and Holger H. Herwig. The Grand Illusion: The Prussianization of the Chilean Army. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

                                     Frederick M. Nunn