How the Sinking of Lusitania Changed World War I

How the Sinking of Lusitania Changed World War I

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On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the British-owned luxury steamship Lusitania, killing 1,195 people including 128 Americans, according to the Library of Congress. The disaster immediately strained relations between Germany and the neutral United States, fueled anti-German sentiment and set off a chain of events that eventually led to the United States entering World War I.

Germany broke naval rules.
Lusitania, owned by the Cunard Shipping Line, was launched in 1906 to carry passengers on transatlantic voyages. The British Admiralty subsidized the ship’s construction with the understanding it would be pressed into military service if war broke out. After World War I began in 1914, Lusitania remained a passenger ship, although it was secretly modified for war.

By February 1915, German naval commanders knew British merchants were arming their ships and that both merchant and passenger ships were transporting weapons and supplies from the United States to Europe.

As a result, Germany declared the waters surrounding the British Isles a war zone and stopped following international naval “prize laws,” which warned ships of a submarine’s presence. This break from naval protocol angered and troubled the United States and the European Allies.

Germany attacked a ship With civilians aboard.
Days before Lusitania was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool in early May 1915, the Imperial German Embassy in Washington D.C. placed ads in American newspapers reminding Americans that Britain and Germany were at war. They warned potential travelers that “vessels flying the flag of Great Britain or of any of her allies are liable to destruction” and should be avoided.

Since it was assumed Germany would still allow passengers to get into lifeboats prior to an attack, the cautions were largely ignored.

On May 7, 1915, six days after leaving New York for Liverpool, Lusitania took a direct hit from a German U-boat submarine—without any warning—and sank within 20 minutes.

The backlash aroused anti-German sentiment in America.
As word spread about Lusitania’s tragic fate, so did the outrage. American citizens were saddened and stunned but not ready to rush to war. President Woodrow Wilson wanted to proceed with caution and remain neutral while former President Theodore Roosevelt demanded swift retaliation.

Germany defended its aggression, claiming Lusitania had carried weapons and war supplies and was therefore fair game. As they continued to divert blame, British propaganda against them snowballed. Throngs of vengeance-seeking Brits rushed to enlist, and anti-German riots broke out in London.

Said Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, “The poor babies who perished in the ocean struck a blow at German power more deadly than could have been achieved by the sacrifice of 100,000 men.”

Before entering the war, the U.S. issued a warning.
In August 1915, a German submarine sunk the British ocean liner S.S. Arabic and claimed self-defense. The event further strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany. President Wilson warned Germany that if it was determined they’d sunk the ship without cause, the United States may cut diplomatic ties and enter the war.

Germany caved, and in September announced they’d no longer sink passenger ships without warning. Satisfied, at least for the moment, President Wilson chose not to declare war on Germany despite being encouraged otherwise by some of his cabinet members.

The Zimmerman telegram was the final straw.
The sinking of Lusitania was a public relations nightmare for Germany as public opinion in the United States turned against them. But President Wilson still wasn’t ready to take his country to war.

Then, in early 1917, Britain intelligence intercepted a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the German Minister to Mexico Henrich von Eckhardt.

The Zimmerman telegram stated that Germany planned to return to unrestricted submarine warfare and would sink all ships – including those carrying American passengers – located in the war zone. The telegram also proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico should the United States decide to join the European Allies.

President Wilson was outraged but still didn’t enter the war. However, when Germany officially resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, Wilson and the American public had had enough. In April 1917, the United States Congress voted to declare war on the Central Powers and entered World War I.

The U.S. still doesn’t enter the war, but is now ready.
The sinking of Lusitania didn’t directly cause the United States to enter the war. It did, however, fuel virulent anti-German sentiment in Britain and the United States and hinder diplomatic relations between Germany and the United States.

It also showed the world that Germany was willing to do almost anything to win the war, which incited the Allies to fight harder and signaled to the United States that permanent neutrality was likely futile.

How did the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 affect World War I? The United States declared war on Germany. Germany continued its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Germany restricted its submarine warfare in response to international outrage. The United States began a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

C) Germany was desperate for naval success, so they began attacking all ships regardless of neutrality or civilians aboard.

c)Germany restricted its submarine warfare in response to international outrage

Q1: What was the United States’ stance at the beginning of World War I?

United States remained unbiased until 1917 in WWI. However, the attacks by German U-boats on American ships led it to enter the war. On April 6, 1917, two days after the U.S. Senate votes 82 to 6 to declare war against Germany, the U.S. House of Representatives endorses the decision by a vote of 373 to 50, and the United States formally enters the First World War.

Question 2: What was the name of the telegram sent by Germany’s foreign minister to Mexico asking them to join Germany in a war against the U.S.?

Germany’s foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann sent a telegram to the German ambassador to Mexico proposing a Mexican-German alliance in the case of war between the United States and Germany. The telegram is known as, “Zimmermann Telegram”.

Question 3: Who was arrested after making a series of speeches against World War I and was a prominent Socialist?

Debs was famous for his speech disapproving American involvement in World War I, which led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921.

Question 4: Open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, end international trade barriers, reduce armaments are all aspects of Wilson’s peace plan known as the:

The Fourteen Points were a statement of principles for peace that was to be used for peace negotiations to end World War I.

Question 5 Germany’s decision to expand submarine attacks from Allied warships to include commercial ships belonging to both belligerent and neutral nations was known as:

Unrestricted submarine warfare

By early 1915, Germany decided to expand submarine attacks from strictly Allied warships to also include any commercial ships belonging to both aggressive and neutral nations. This action began what is known as unrestricted submarine warfare.

Question 6 What was the name of British passenger liner, with 128 Americans on board, sunk by a German submarine in May 1915?

The plummeting of the Cunard ocean liner RMS Lusitania happened on Friday, 7 May 1915 during the First World War, as Germany waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom which had implemented a marine blockade of Germany. The ship was identified and torpedoed by the German U-boat U-20 and sank in 18 minutes.

Question 7: The migration of blacks from the South to the North that accelerated during WWI was known as?

During the Great Migration, African Americans started to build a new place for themselves in public life, actively challenging racial prejudice as well as economic, political and social challenges to create a black urban culture that would exert enormous influence in the decades to come.

Question 8: Who was known as the developer of the first mass produced automobile and for improving the assembly line?

In 1913, Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to two hours and 30 minutes.

Question 9 What law provided penalties for spying, sabotage, and obstructing the war effort that was passed in 1917?

Espionage act provided penalties for spying, sabotage and obstructing the war effort and also threatened individuals convicted of obstructing the draft (military recruitment) with $10,000 fines and 20 years in jail. The U.S. Congress amended the Espionage law with the Sedition Act of 1918. Its purpose was to make it illegal to write or speak anything critical of American involvement in the war.

Question 10 What was the international organization designed to keep peace after WWI that America refused to join?

The League of Nations was established at the end of World War I as an international peacekeeping organization. Although US President Woodrow Wilson was an enthusiastic proponent of the League, the United States did not officially join the League of Nations due to opposition from isolationists in Congress.

Question 11: A more extreme form of socialism where workers would share the means of production and distribution

The more extreme form of socialism would be communism, a society without class divisions or government, in which the production and distribution of goods would be based upon the principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Marx’s followers, especially the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, took up this distinction.

Question 12: What created a common cultural experience for thousands of Americans in the 1920s?

Radio united the nation and molded a national culture like never as people across the country enjoyed the same shows and heard the same news reports.

Due to 5000 characters limit the rest of the questions are added as screenshots

The Sinking of The Lusitania, America’s Entry into World War I, A Bonanza for Wall Street

On this day 99 years ago, a German U-boat sunk the RMS Lusitania off the southern Irish coast with the loss of 1,195 lives, including 128 Americans. 94 children perished, 31 of them mere babies. This incident became the major catalyst for drawing a reluctant America into the European slaughter pens of World War 1.

But was the sinking of the Lusitania one of those unfortunate acts that occur randomly during war or was there a more sinister and deliberate hand at work?

In a disputed incident like this, one often gets to the truth of the matter by asking the question, “Cui bono?” “Who benefits?” After a detailed examination of the facts, one can only come to the conclusion that it was the banksters who benefitted, and grossly at that.

The RMS Lusitania was one of the world’s biggest ships and the pride of the Cunard Line at the time of her demise. “RMS” stands for “Royal Mail Steamer” which meant that the Lusitania was certified to carry the mail, earning her owners an annual fee of some 㿰,000.

At the time of her final voyage, leaving New York for Liverpool on May 1 st , 1915, Europe was embroiled in war. Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom to be a war-zone and German U-boats were wreaking havoc on enemy shipping. 300,000 tons of Allied shipping were sunk every week and one out of every four steamers leaving Britain never returned. Britain was virtually cut off from her allies and her waters were fraught with danger.


In contravention of the rules of war at the time (the Hague Conventions and the Cruiser Rules) the RMS Lusitania was carrying a considerable amount of ammunition, explosives, and other war matériel for the armies of England and France.

As G. Edward Griffin wrote in The Creature From Jekyll Island, “…she [The Lusitania] was virtually a floating ammunition depot.” This meant that she wouldn’t have the status of a non-military ship and could be fired upon without warning. It was widely known that the Lusitania was entered into the Admiralty fleet register as an armed auxiliary cruiser and was so listed in Jane’s Fighting Ships and in The Navy Annual.

The Germans knew that The Lusitania was carrying military supplies bound for Germany’s enemies on the Western Front. The German embassy in Washington even took the precaution of placing an advertisement in 50 U.S. newspapers warning civilians not to sail on the Lusitania. Due to the intervention of the State Department most of the notices were not published. However, the Des Moines Register carried the following advert which was placed beside an ad for the Lusitania…


“TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.
“Washington, D.C., April 22, 1915.”

In the early stages of the War, England and France had borrowed heavily from American investors and had selected J P Morgan, partner and front man for the Rothschilds, to act as sales agent for their bonds. Morgan was also selected as a purchase agent to buy war materials when the bond money was returned to the States. Morgan was in the happy position of receiving lucrative commissions in both directions, which, in the case of England and France amounted to some $30 million. That’s not counting commissions on hundreds of millions of dollars of business done with Russia, Italy, and Canada.

J. P. Morgan

Furthermore, through holding companies, the House of Morgan directly owned many of the manufacturing firms receiving production contracts for military goods from England and France. (Undoubtedly these firms were the foundation of the ‘military-industrial complex’ later referred to by President Eisenhower.) Soon, J P Morgan became the largest consumer on earth, spending up to $10 million per day. Morgan was in the privileged position of being buyer, seller, and producer and amassing profits from all sides.

However, when the War began to go badly for England and France, Morgan found it impossible to get new buyers for the Allied war bonds. There was a real fear in Whitehall at the time that England was about to lose the war. If the Allies were to default, Morgan’s large commissions would come to an end and his investors would suffer gigantic losses (some $1.5 billion). On top of that, Morgan’s war production companies would go out of business. Something needed to be done urgently.

As the RMS Lusitania departed Pier 54 in New York on May 1 st , 1915, Morgan surmised that if the cruiser were to be sunk by a German submarine, the resulting furore would certainly bring America into the War on the side of the Allies. Not only would Allied bonds be in great demand but Morgan’s war production companies would have to go into overdrive to outfit over four million American soldiers who would be mobilized for the European War.

Six days later, on the afternoon of Friday, May 7 th , 1915, the Lusitania approached within 12 miles of the southern Irish coast. Winston Churchill, the Lord of the Admiralty, knew that German U-boats were operating in the area after three ships had been sunk in the previous 2 days. Not only did Churchill not come to the assistance of the Lusitania but he ordered her planned escort, the destroyer Juno, to return to Queenstown harbour. Earlier, the Lusitania had been ordered to reduce speed by shutting down one of her four boilers (ostensibly to save coal). She was a sitting duck and the entire Admiralty knew it.

At least one of Churchill’s officers, Commander Joseph Kenworthy, was disgusted at the cynicism of his superior. In his 1927 book, The Freedom of the Seas, he would write: “The Lusitania was sent at considerably reduced speed into an area where a U-boat was known to be waiting and with her escorts withdrawn.”

At 2.10 in the afternoon of that fateful Friday, Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger of U-boat U-20 spotted the Lusitania and gave the order to fire one torpedo. The torpedo struck the Lusitania on the starboard bow, just beneath the wheelhouse. A few moments later, much to everyone’s surprise including the watching Germans, a second huge explosion took place within the hull and the ship began to founder rapidly. 18 minutes later, the Lusitania disappeared beneath the waves.

Irish rescuers sailed out from Cork, over 11 miles away, and plucked some 764 survivors from the cold waters.

Many researchers today believe that the second explosion was caused by some of the 600 tons of pyroxyline explosive, 6 million rounds of .303 bullets, 1248 cases on shrapnel shells, plus an unknown quantity of munitions that filled the holds on the lower deck.

Ever since, the British Government have endeavoured to keep the Lusitania’s cargo a secret. As late as the 1950s the Royal Navy used the wreck of the Lusitania for target practice by dropping depth charges in order to destroy any evidence that the ship breached Cruiser Rules of war or the Hague Conventions.
After the sinking, the British ordered an official enquiry under the direction of Lord Mersey. The Admiralty manipulated Lord Mersey to find the master of the Lusitania, Captain Turner, at fault for the disaster. Lord Mersey complied with the Admiralty’s wishes but, in a crisis of conscience, refused payment for his services and requested that henceforth he be “excused from administering His Majesty’s Justice.” Mersey’s only comment in later years was: “The Lusitania case was a damn dirty business.”

The sinking of the Lusitania was a major catalyst for America’s later entry into the World War. Total deaths from the War are estimated between 9 and 15 million souls American casualties of dead and wounded were in excess of 300,000.

But the House of Morgan, House of Rothschild, and other banksters were thoroughly pleased at America’s entry into the War. It meant that they continued to benefit hugely from the wholesale slaughter and misery of millions of programmed human beings.

When one thinks of Pearl Harbour, Gulf of Tonkin, 9/11, and other false flags it seems that some things never change. The lessons of history are quickly forgotten. The public has always been so utterly gullible and predictable.

But thanks to the Internet and social media, that is all now beginning to change…

NTS Notes: Yes, the Lusitania was indeed carrying illegal armaments for the British war effort, and I have long suspected that these monsters actually wanted the ship sunk to inflame hatred in Germany and to convince the American public to come into the war on the side of the Allies. It would answer so many questions about why the ship took such an unusual route and actually slowed down thus allowing the U20 to get into position to fire a single torpedo into its hull.

Divers in a salvage operation in 1982 went down to the Lusitania that is still at the bottom of the Irish Sea, and what they discovered was indeed a massive cache of illegal ammunition on board. That evidence proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ship was indeed not as innocent as we had always been taught and that the Germans had every right to shoot a torpedo into its hull. It is indeed shocking to realize that the real criminals who knew full well the ship was a target allowed those 1195 passengers to be sacrificed just so they could have their global war.

More real history fully revealed. It shows again that what we have been told in our so called "history books" is indeed a bunch of lies and untruths. As far as I am concerned, every aspect of history, including the so called "genocides" of the Second World War should be open for full re-evaluation. We deserve to know the truths about our past.

Revisiting the Lusitania's cultural war

When the Titanic sank, Germans mourned. Shortly after, as 1,200 civilians died during the sinking of the Lusitania, they cheered. Author Willi Jasper tells DW how intellectuals encouraged such shocking views.

In May 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania, a large British passenger ship. It sank within just a few minutes, causing the death of almost 1,200 people, among which many prominent figures of American society, as well as women and children.

By firing on a civil ship without warning, the Germans not only breached international laws, they created a precedent which shocked the world, just like the September 11 attacks would years later. These events would influence the United States to join the war in 1917.

Building on the American historian George F. Kennan, who describes World War I as "the great seminal catastrophe of this century," professor Willi Jasper, author of the book "Der Untergang der Lusitania. Kulturgeschichte einer Katastrophe" (The Sinking of the Lusitania, Cultural History of a Catastrophe), sees the sinking of the Lusitania as the seminal event leading to the totalitarian violence of World War II.

His book is the first to analyze how the German cultural elite positioned itself in the propaganda war following these events.

Willi Jasper's book focuses on the cultural history of the sinking of the Lusitania

DW: How did the Germans react when the Titanic sank in 1912 as opposed to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915?

Willi Jasper: Germans were deeply moved when the Titanic sank, they were even mourning. Articles demonstrating this were published in the newspapers at the time. The Titanic was a symbol of technological progress and it happened in a time of peace, so the Germans were saddened by the story of this ship defeated by the forces of nature.

With the Lusitania, which sank during the second year of war, they cheered. All of a sudden the German Navy demonstrated it could outdo the British navy by sinking a large luxury ship - this was seen as a success. The press coverage was bloodcurdling. And actually this attitude wasn't just in the press. The cultural elite joined in too - only a few exceptions held a different discourse, such as Erich Mühsam and Kurt Tucholsky. Thomas Mann, who would later win a Nobel Prize, was notably among the major writers praising the attack.

How did the sinking of the Lusitania change the course of World War I? How did it matter symbolically?

By torpedoing this huge civil ship, Germany demonstrated that it no longer made a distinction between soldiers and civilians. Many prominent personalities as well as women and children were among the casualties. It therefore shocked the Allied countries' population even more than the massive executions of civilians in France and Belgium for example. A storm of indignation was unleashed by this attack involving so many defenseless people. It escalated violence and blew up this conflict between German culture and Western civilization.

How did Germany's image change in the eyes of England, France and the United States after it attacked the Lusitania?

Propaganda poster showing Germany as cultural brute

Germany's image was already darkened after its invasion of Belgium, a neutral country, where it had openly committed many atrocities among the civilian population. The mood was already charged, so when Germany attacked the Lusitania, strong comparisons were drawn. For the Americans and the English, the term "Kultur" no longer belonged to European civilization. There were posters and cartoons which portrayed the German Kaiser as a bloodhound for example. The assumption was that Germans had chosen a special path which didn't fit in with Western civilization.

How did German artists and intellectuals react to these accusations?

They tried to defend their culture. They wished to demonstrate that German culture had a special status. This reaction was reflected in the propaganda war of the time. Their position was quite weak, they could not really defend it, but they nevertheless believed in their country's exceptional cultural mission and held on to it. This escalated until World War II, where everything reached dramatic proportions.

Could you explain how the conflict between the brothers Thomas und Heinrich Mann offers a good representation of the clash between German culture and Western civilization?

This conflict between Thomas and Heinrich Mann was not just a family story. Thomas Mann represented the view of Germany's exceptionalism through German culture, whereas Heinrich Mann rather stood for the Western Enlightenment perspective. Heinrich Mann could be positioned in the French camp, so his brother tried to discredit him as a "civilization literary figure." The point of view adopted by Thomas Mann, as well as Gerhart Hauptmann and Ernst Troeltsch, can be summarized as "the West can only be saved by German culture." You can read this in Thomas Mann's long essay "Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen" (Reflections of a Non-Political Man), or earlier with "Gedanken im Kriege" (Thoughts on Wartime), in which he had already formulated those ideas before the sinking of the Lusitania. He further developed these thoughts in his long essay, where he tried to justify the attack. It was a treatise against the peace movement.

You often mention this clash between "German culture" and "Western civilization." What defined these two perspectives?

"German culture" was a construct that assumed that the Germans, because of their philosophers, had an exceptional status in Europe and that the Western countries did not have any cultural depth. There was a pamphlet by Werner Sombart called "Helden und Händler" (Heroes and Dealers) which tried to demonstrate this difference. The "heroes" were the great thinkers of German culture and the "dealers" were the profit-driven Anglo-Saxons, which were quickly seen as connected to the Jews. This attack against Western civilization was already intertwined with anti-Semitism.

Do you believe this former understanding of "German culture" is still observable in some form today or has it completely changed?

Nowadays the situation is obviously very different than it used to be during the First and Second World Wars. In Europe, enemies are now friends. Yet, we still need to deal with uncovered aspects of this part of history. We can only hope that the idea of a German exceptionalism, and not just a military one, never gets another opportunity to try to take over. It is currently essential for Germany to avoid the path of exceptionalism, where it would try to force a German perspective on Europe it should rather prioritize the Europeanization of Germany. This process is not completed yet. In this case, I believe that the German cultural elite, who took such an inappropriate stand in the past, now has the chance to demonstrate a wiser political continuity.

World War I - The Sinking of the Lusitania

In February 1915, the Germans announced they would wage unrestricted submarine warfare on the waters around Great Britain. That meant the German navy intended to attack both military and non-military vessels, like freighters and tankers. In April 1915, they issued notices of their intention in newspapers in Britain and across Europe and in the United States.

Fifty (50) notices were placed in American newspapers on April 22, 2015, warning Americans of possible danger should they sail on British ships or any of her allies ships. The notice read like this:

Imperial German Embassy
Washington, D. C. 22 April 1915

On May 7, 2015, the British luxury passenger liner, the Lusitania, was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a submerged German U-Boat (submarine). The Lusitania sunk in 18 minutes. Of the 48 lifeboats on board, only six were successfully launched. Over 1,000 people died. The death toll included over 100 Americans who were passengers on the Lusitania.

The outcry was heard around the world. To attack an unarmed passenger ship was against international law. But Woodrow Wilson refused to declare war on Germany in 1915 over the sinking of the Lusitania. He believed it was not a strong enough reason to risk many thousands of American lives should the United States enter the war effort against Germany. However, combined with other actions over the next two years, the sinking of the Lusitania did help to tip the US into joining the war effort in 1917.

Great Britain used the sinking of the Lusitania as propaganda, presenting the German people as monsters. This propaganda was designed to encourage support of the war effort. The British even circulated a rumor that German school kids received the day off to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania. Posters appeared all over Britain - Remember the Lusitania. These posters did not use pictures. They used text and color to present as fact that the Germans had been tried and found to be evil murderers. It was very effective. Many men enlisted. The cry "Remember the Lusitania" was heard all over Britain.

How the Sinking of Lusitania Changed World War I - HISTORY

THE Lusitania was, in the eyes of the German Admiralty, the symbol of Great Britain’s supremacy on the seas. The big, graceful vessel, unsurpassed in speed, had defied the German raiders that lurked in the Atlantic hoping to capture her and had eluded the submarines that tried to find her course. Time and time again, the Germans had planned and plotted to “ get “ the Lusitania, and every time the ocean greyhound had slipped away from them – every time save when the plot was developed on American territory. To sink the Lusitania, the German Admiralty had argued, was to lower England’s prestige and to hoist the black eagle of the Hohenzollerns above the Union Jack.

Her destruction, they fondly hoped, would strike terror to the hearts of the British, for it would prove the inability of the English navy to protect her merchantmen. It would prove to the world that von Tirpitz was ’ on a fair way of carrying out his threat to isolate the British Isles and starve the British people into submission to Germany. It would be a last warning to neutrals to keep off the Allies’ merchantmen and would help stop the shipment of arms and ammunition to the Allies from America. It would – as a certain royal personage boasted – shake the world’s foundations.

Gloating over their project and forgetting the rights of neutrals, the mad war lords did not think of the innocent persons on board, the men, the women and babies. The lives of these neutrals were as nothing compared with the shouts of triumph that would resound through Germany at the announcement of the torpedoing of the big British ship, symbol of sea power. The attitude was truly expressed by Captain von Papen, who on receiving news of the sinking of the Lusitania remarked: “ Well, your General Sherman said it: ’ War is Hell.’ “

So the war lords schemed and the plots which resulted in the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, bringing death to 113 American citizens, were developed and executed in America, through orders from Berlin. The agents in America put their heads together in a room in the German Club, New York, or in a high-powered limousine tearing through the dark. These men, who had worked out the plot, on the night of the successful execution had assembled in a club and in high glee touched their glasses and shouted their devotion to the Kaiser. One boasted afterwards that he received an Iron Cross for his share in the work.

On the night of the tragedy, one of the conspirators remarked to a family where he was dining – a family whose son was on the Lusitania – when word came of the many deaths on the ship : “I did not think she would sink so quickly. I had two good men on board.”

In their secret conferences the conspirators worked their way round obstacles and set their scheme in operation. Hired spies had made numerous trips on the Lusitania, and had carefully studied her course to and from England, and her convoy through the dangerous zone where submarines might be lurking. These spies had observed the precautions taken against a submarine attack. They knew the fearful speed by which the big ship had eluded pursuers in February. They also had considered the feasibility of sending a wireless message to a friend in England – a message apparently of greeting that might be picked up by the wireless on a German submarine and give its commander a hint as to the ship’s course. In fact, they did attempt this plan. Spies were on board early in the year when the Lusitania ran dangerously near a submarine, dodged a torpedo and then quickly eclipsed her German pursuer.

Spies also had brought reports concerning persons connected with the Lusitania, and had given suggestions as to how to place men on board in spite of the scrutiny of British agents. All these reports were considered carefully and the conclusion was that no submarine was fast enough to chase and get the Lusitania that it was practically impossible to have the U-boats stationed along every half mile of the British coast, but that the simplest problem was to send the Lusitania on a course where the U-boats would be in waiting and could torpedo her. The scheme was, in substance, as follows:

“Captain Turner, approaching the English coast, sends a wireless to the British Admiralty asking for instructions as to his course and convoy. He gets a reply in code telling him in what direction to steer and where his convoy will meet him. First, we must get a copy of the Admiralty Code and we must prepare a message in cipher, giving directions as to his course. This message will go to him by wireless as though from the Admiralty. We must make arrangements to see that the genuine message from the British Admiralty never reaches Captain Turner.”

That was the plan which the conspirators, aided and directed by Berlin, chose. Upon it the shrewdest minds in the German secret service were set to work. As for the British Admiralty Code, the Germans had that at the outbreak of the war and were using it at advantageous moments. How they got it has not been made known but they got it and they used it, just as the Germans have obtained copies of the codes used by the American State Department and have had copies of the codes used in our Army and Navy. While the codes used by the British officials change almost daily, such is not the case with merchant vessels on long voyages.

The next step of the conspirators was to arrange for the substitution of the fake message for the genuine one. Germany’s spy machine has a wonderful faculty for seeking out the weak characters holding responsible positions among the enemy or for sending agents to get and hold positions among their foes. It is now believed that a man on the Lusitania was deceived or duped. Whether he was a German sympathizer sent out by the Fatherland to get the position and be ready for the task, or whether he was induced for pay to play the part he did – has not been told. Neither is his fate known.

Communication between New York and the German capital, ingenious, intricate and superbly arranged, was almost as easy as telephoning from the Battery to Harlem. Berlin was kept informed of every move in New York and, in fact, selected the ill-fated course for the Lusitania’s last voyage in English waters. Berlin picked out the place where the Lusitania was to sink. Berlin chose the deep-sea graves for more than one hundred Americans. Berlin assigned two submarines to a point ten miles south by west off Old Head of Kinsale, near the entrance of St. George’s Channel. Berlin chose the commander of the U-boats for the most damnable sea-crime in history.

Just here there is a rumour among U-boat men in Europe that the man for the crime was sent from Kiel with sealed instructions not to be opened till at the spot chosen. With him went “ a shadow “ armed with a death warrant if the U-boat commander “ baulked “ at the last moment.

The German officials in Berlin looking ahead, sought to prearrange a palliative for their crime. Their plan, which in itself shows clearly how carefully the Germans plotted the destruction of the Lusitania, was to warn Americans not to sail on the vessel. While the German Embassy in Washington was kept clear of the plot and Ambassador von Bernstorff had argued and fought with all his strength against the designs of the Berlin authorities, he, nevertheless, received orders to publish an advertisement warning neutrals not to sail on the Allies’ merchantmen. Acting under instructions, this advertisement was inserted in newspapers in a column adjoining the Cunard’s advertisement of the sailing of the Lusitania. Germans in New York, who had knowledge that German submarines were lying in wait off the Irish coast to “get” the Lusitania, sent intimations to friends before the sailing of the ship.

The New York Sun was told of the plot and warned Captain Turner by wireless after the ship sailed. The German secret service in New York also sent warnings to Americans booked on the Lusitania. One of the persons to receive such a message signed “morte” was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. Many other passengers got the same warning that the ship was to be torpedoed but they all laughed at it. They knew she had outrun submarines on a previous voyage and tricked them on another voyage. Besides, before the horrors of this war, optimistic Americans firmly believed the world was a civilized place. It was only after the destruction of the Lusitania that many neutral Americans could credit the atrocity stories of Belgium. (End)

Did the Lusitania propel America into World War I?

The RMS Lusitania was the world’s largest and faster ocean liner in 1915. It plied a route between New York City and Liverpool. Thursday, May 7, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this ship in the Irish Sea. Struck by a torpedo from a German submarine, the passenger liner sank in 18 minutes, causing 1,200 civilian casualties. The world rightly condemned this heartless attack on civilians. Americans too were shocked, but they badly wanted to stay out of Europe’s war and elected Woodrow Wilson in 1916 because “he has kept us out of war.”

Nonetheless, reversing earlier reluctance, the United States entered the war against Germany in April 1917. By all historical accounts, Americans’ shock and anger over the sinking of the Lusitania initiated the process that finally propelled the United States into the First World War in which 135,000 Americans died. These accounts are partially correct, but they are also partially incorrect, and the incorrect side is what needs airing as we mark the centennial.

The British claimed that two German torpedoes had struck the Lusitania, and President Wilson agreed with them. The Germans claimed that only one torpedo had struck the ship, and that the second explosion was internal to the ship. The Germans claimed that the Lusitania was secretly and illegally carrying war materiel, then using the civilian passengers as human shields to deter attack by submarines. By the German view, the submarine’s torpedo ignited the secret cargo of explosives on board the ship, causing the ship to sink so rapidly with such great loss of life. The Titanic took two hours and a half to sink, but the Lusitania, a ship of the same size, sank in 18 minutes.

A century later, we know now that only one torpedo was fired. We also know that the British knew it as well at the time and lied. Their second torpedo claim was a bald-faced lie. Something on board the Lusitania exploded in the aftermath of the German torpedo, and that second explosion sank the ship. The British wanted to suppress that truth, so they lied. It’s quite likely, although not definitively proven, that secret munitions aboard the Lusitania did explode just as the Germans claimed. It’s certain that the Lusitania was carrying secret military explosives in defiance of American law.

Knowing all this today, we can confirm that the Lusitania was a war crime, all right, but it was a British/German co-crime, not just a German crime. The second-torpedo propaganda concealed that fact from Americans in 1915. That mattered because if Americans had regarded the Lusitania as a joint British/German war crime, they would have been more reluctant to enter the war in Europe. As a joint British/German war crime, the Lusitania’s terrible fate implied the wisdom of remaining neutral in Europe’s Great War. So it was not the Lusitania that propelled the United States into the Great War. It was lies about the Lusitania that did so. Of course, the same could be said of Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin attack in 1965 and Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” in 2003. They all point to the same sad conclusion: “Truth is the first casualty of war.” Those who will not learn this lesson from history are doomed to repeat it.

A professor of sociology at UCLA, Ivan Light lives in Claremont and is the author of �ly Secret of the Lusitania.”

How did Britain react to the sinking of the Lusitania?

The sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania by an Imperial submarine was the tinder that ignited months of German ill-feeling in Britain during World War I - with consequences for all foreign nationals and even the Royal Family

This competition is now closed

As the battles of World War I raged on mainland Europe, a conflict of a different sorts was brewing back in Britain.

Anti-German sentiment, steadily on the rise since the British declaration of war in August 1914, bloomed into open violence in May 1915. Riots rippled across Liverpool and Manchester before spreading to London. German-owned shops and businesses were attacked, and mobs terrorised German families, chasing them into the streets and in some instances even ripping the clothes off their backs.

The flashpoint for this unruly xenophobia was one of the most infamous off-battlefield episodes of the war, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in May 1915. On 7 May, the unarmed British passenger liner was sailing from Liverpool to New York when it was torpedoed off the Irish coast by a German submarine.

Why was the Lusitania sunk?

It sank within 20 minutes 1,198 people onboard were killed. The German submarine commander justified the attack because the Lusitania was carrying a cargo of war munitions, and because Germany had declared the waters around the British Isles a war zone earlier that year.

Germans were one of the largest minority communities in London and many had well-established businesses, but even before the sinking they were being made into pariahs.

People who had lived in Britain for decades suddenly found themselves shunned by neighbours and prevented from buying goods in markets they had visited for years. German businesses were boycotted, national newspapers ran campaigns that led to the dismissal of German staff in restaurants and hotels, and rumours had begun to spread that all Germans living in Britain must be spies.

When the fate of the Lusitania made headline news, the fires of ill feeling were stoked anew. People were shocked at the unprovoked attack, and the German community bore the brunt of their anger. In just 24 hours, the London riots caused more damage than had been inflicted over the course of several days elsewhere in the country. In fact, almost all police districts in London reported violence and disorder in the days following the sinking.

More was to come. On 31 May 1915, Germany carried out its first Zeppelin raid on London, killing seven people and encouraging yet more violence against businesses and families with Germanic-sounding names.

By November 1915, more than 30,000 foreign nationals, Germans among them, had been interned in camps, the result of laws passed in 1914 giving the government the power to intern or deport adult male foreign nationals. The laws also required all foreign citizens living in Britain to register with the police and restricted to where they could live.

So strong was the hatred towards Germany that it even affected the British Royal family, who were of German ancestry. On 17 July 1917, George V was persuaded to appease the public and change the royal family’s house name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor and relinquish their German titles.

The encounter of ship and submarine is like the Titanic and the iceberg: the fatal conjunction of improbable events.

It is incorrect to say that Schwieger was stalking the Lusitania. That’s not what happened at all. It is this confluence of chance forces that converged in the Irish Sea. The ship departed two hours late because it had to take on passengers from a ship that had been commandeered by the British Admiralty. Those two hours put the ship right on the path of contact with the submarine.

Schwieger had actually decided to go home and end his patrol because of fog and bad weather. But he came up for a look and found that the weather had suddenly cleared. In the distance, he saw this large collection of masts and antennae. At first he thought it might be a number of ships. But as he watched, he saw that it was just one ship. It was too far away to catch. But he decided to follow and see what would happen.

And sure enough, the Lusitania made a starboard turn that put it directly in the path of the U-20, and Schwieger was able to set up his shot and attack.

Remember the Lusitania: 3 pieces of World War I propaganda

One hundred years ago on May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 1,195 of the men, women, and children on board. Of those killed, 123 were Americans. While Europe was already embroiled in World War I, America was still a neutral country and hadn't yet officially entered the war, although a number of American men and women had joined the war effort through volunteer organizations or by enlisting in the Allied armed forces. The American public and Congress, however, were divided as to whether or not the U.S. should officially join in the fighting. The attack on the Lusitania, a passenger ship with civilians on board, by a military submarine signaled the end of the more "civilized" warfare of the 19th century. It also proved to be a powerful propaganda tool for turning American public opinion against Germany and in support of joining the war.

The Lusitania was a British ocean liner operated by the Cunard Lines and was one of the largest and fastest passenger ships in the world, at 787 feet long with nine passenger decks and an average speed of 25 knots. Funded by the British Admiralty, she was launched in 1906 with the understanding that she could be used as an auxiliary cruiser for the Royal Navy during times of war. Thus on May 1, 1915, in the middle of World War I, she left New York and set sail across the Atlantic for Liverpool, England, carrying both passengers and war munitions for the Admiralty.

On the day of her launch, the Imperial German Embassy published a notice in American newspapers warning travelers of the grave danger of sailing on the Lusitania. Britain and Germany were at war and the Lusitania was sailing into waters that had been declared a war zone. German submarines had vowed to fire on any ship flying a British flag and had already sunk several British merchant ships. Although some of the passengers and crew were alarmed by the warning, they set sail anyway, perhaps believing that the Lusitania's speed would keep them safe.

On the afternoon of May 7, the Lusitania approached the southern coast of Ireland, without a naval escort, where German U-boats were known to be active and had recently sunk three ships. Due to fog, Captain William Turner was forced to slow the Lusitania down. Contrary to the Admiralty's instructions for avoiding U-boats, the Lusitania was sailing at less than top speed, in a straight line, and close to shore, rather than zigzagging in the open water where she could pick up speed.

When she passed in front of the German submarine U-20, the Germans fired a torpedo which hit her hull just below the waterline and caused an internal second explosion moments later. As the crew scrambled to launch the lifeboats, they were impeded by the severe tilt of the sinking ship. They managed to launch only six boats for the 1,959 people on board. Within 18 minutes, the Lusitania was sunk. Alerted to the disaster by theLusitania's distress signal, rescue ships immediately launched from Ireland to render aid. However, for many passengers help came too late, and in the end only 764 people were saved while 1,195 were drowned or died of hypothermia in the cold Atlantic water.

As news of the attack on the Lusitania spread around the world, emotions and opinions surrounding the sinking generally fluctuated depending on nationality. With England and Germany each advocating for the justness of their side, the Lusitania became a powerful propaganda tool for both sides in the build-up to America joining the war. One object in our collection that demonstrates this complex story is a replica of the medal commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania by German artist Karl Goetz.

The original medal was made by Goetz shortly after the ship sank. Angered by the Cunard Line's audacious decision to sail a passenger ship with munitions on board, Goetz channeled his feelings into an artistic satirical message and displayed it on a medal. The medal depicts the sinking Lusitania with munitions on deck under the heading "No Contraband Goods!" on one side. Germany held the position that as the Lusitania was sailing with munitions on board she was a hostile enemy ship and they were within their rights to fire on her.

On the other side of the coin, a skeleton representing death stands at a Cunard Line booth handing out tickets to a crowd. Goetz even includes a man reading a newspaper headline that translates to "U-Boat Danger," referring to the newspaper warning to passengers that had been published prior to the Lusitania sailing. The message "Business Above All" floats above the scene, a statement about Cunard Line's disregard for passenger safety in favor of making a profit. The attitude behind Goetz's medal was characteristic of many German people at this time.

As Goetz's medal circulated, the British got their hands on it and saw the opportunity for propaganda and the chance to inflame British and American anti-German sentiments. Reproductions of the medal, like the one in the museum's collection, were made in Britain and distributed along with a special box that included a document stating Britain's side of the story:

An exact replica of the medal which was designed in Germany and distributed to commemorate the sinking of the "Lusitania."

This indicates the true feeling the War Lords endeavor to stimulate, and is proof positive that such crimes are not merely regarded favourably, but are given every encouragement in the land of Kultur.

The "Lusitania" was sunk by a German submarine on May 7th, 1915. She had on board at the time 1,951 passengers and crew, of whom 1,198 perished.

Although Goetz corrected the incorrect date on newer versions of the medal, the anger had already settled into the minds of Germany's opponents. Britain took advantage of the situation to imply that Germany had planned the attack on the Lusitania. The British government went further and roundly denied the existence of contraband munitions on board the Lusitania at the time of her sinking. Although originally a German expression of wartime sentiments, Britain appropriated the object to vilify German "kultur," culture and civilization as idealized by the exponents of German imperialism.

Almost two years after the attack on the Lusitania, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany. Although many events led to the U.S. rejecting neutrality and joining World War I, the sinking of the Lusitania was a crucial moment in helping to sway the American public in support of the Allied cause.

The above video from Smithsonian Channel is also available to view on YouTube.

Patri O'Gan is a project assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History. She has also blogged about a unique letter from an enemy soldier to an American mother during World War I. Christy Wallover is a project assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History. She has also blogged about Ft. Fisher, site of a Civil War battle that was part of the Confederacy's downward spiral.

Watch the video: Lusitania: How A German U-Boat Killed 1,000 Civilians. Sinking The Lusitania Docudrama. Timeline


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