Sinking of the Lusitania
The 7th of May 1915 AD
RMS Lusitania was off the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, making for Liverpool having left New York two weeks previously. A German submarine which had sunk two ships in the preceding days was heading home, with only one torpedo left, when it spotted her and fired its remaining weapon. The blast when the torpedo struck gives some credence to the suggestion that the liner was carrying high explosive, though both the neutral American authorities and the British denied this – she was, however, carrying small arms ammunition. Less than 20 minutes after being hit the ship sank, her heavy list making launching of lifeboats difficult. Many passengers spilled into the unforgiving ocean in the chaos.
The sinking of the Cunard Liner RMS Lusitania was a pivotal moment of WWI . Though the rights and wrongs of the situation were argued between Germany, America and Britain, the deaths of nearly 1200 civilians, among them 128 American citizens, provoked outrage in America, eventually weighing in favour of American entry into the conflict. The Germans had issued a warning in the New York press that she could be targeted, and called the sinking legitimate, claiming there was contraband material on board. But the nature of the attack and the huge death toll made such reasoning noxious.
Strangely the Germans failed to learn their lesson. On September 3 1939 , the very day Britain declared war against the Third Reich, a U-Boat of the new generation sank the Athenia in the North Atlantic, her dead including 28 American civilians.
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