...the British passenger liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a U-boat off the southwest coast of Ireland. The Lusitania, registered as an armed merchant ship, was secretly carrying a manifest of volatile war matériel in her holds. Twelve hundred men, women, and children, many of whom were American, lost their lives, among them, Father, who was going to London with the first shipments for the War Office and the Admiralty of the grenades, depth charges, and puttied nitro that undoubtedly contributed to the monstrous detonations in the ship that preceded its abrupt sinking.
The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner that was at one point the world's largest passenger ship. Before she left New York on May 1, 1915, the German embassy placed an advertisement in a United States newspaper warning passengers of the dangers of sailing on the Lusitania due to intensifying submarine warfare in the Atlantic between Germany and Britain. A German U-boat torpedoed the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing nearly 2,000 of the passengers and crew. After the explosion from the torpedo, another larger explosion from the hundreds of tons of secretly carried war munitions sank the ship in 18 minutes.
Because the Lusitania was a non-military passenger and cargo ship, Germany was accused of breaching the international Cruiser Rules. Germany argued that the secret cargo made the Lusitania a legitimate military target.
Of the 1,198 deaths, 126 were American, causing an outbreak of protest in the United States and shifting public opinion against Germany. This was a factor in the United States declaring war on Germany two years later. Even after World War I, successive British governments claimed that there were no munitions aboard the Lusitania, and Germans were not justified in treating the passenger ship as a naval vessel and military target. In 1982, however, the head of the British Foreign Office's North America department consented that there is a significant amount of ammunition in the wreck that might be dangerous to salvage teams.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
© Eliza Pillsbury, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eliza Pillsbury with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.