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Transcript of The Lusitania
Cunard Company and was the
largest, fastest, and most luxurious
ship of her day. The trip on which
she sunk was her 101st round trip
from Liverpool to New York. Over
1,900 people were on board. Right next to the announcement of the
Lusitania's journey was a warning from
the Imperial German embassy about the
danger that this journey would entail. The
notice stated that the travelers went
"at their own risk" President Woodrow Wilson had previously
been hesitant to enter WWI, but used the
sinking of the Lusitania to gain support from
Congress to use decidedly more anti-German policies The Lusitania was a major event in the
mind of the American citizen. Two years
later, when the US did join the war, images
of women and children sinking were used
on recruitment posters. Often, these posters
included images of women and children
sinking, playing off of the feeling that
German's were the killers of the innocent. The Lusitania was not the only thing propelling the US into war, but it did help to change the American mindset against the Germans. Because so many of the passengers were women and children, they were seen as the killers of the innocent. The U-boats became a major point of hostility that allowed Wilson sway the people in favor of American involvement in the war. Within the last few years, suspicions that the Lusitania was carrying secret ammunition to the Allied nations, despite the United States continued declarations of neutrality, were confirmed. Tons of weaponry were found in the ship wreck. Though Germany had suspected these transactions had been occurring under the guise of passenger liners, both Churchill and Wilson denied the validity of the claims. Captain William Turner was blamed by
British officials for the sinking of the
Lusitania. Turner had slowed the ship down during the most vulnerable part of the
journey, citing heavy fog. Though the ship
was well equipped with lifeboats, many of
the crew members were unable to use them
or were trapped below-decks. However,
because the ship had jolted so severely, many
of the boats were no longer in a position to
be utilized. An easy scapegoat for the British,
he was put on trial, but cleared upon investigation. Though he had failed to
perfectly follow protocol, many extraneous
circumstances were more liable for the disaster than Captain Turner was. Winston Churchill has more
recently been suspected of foul
play within the Lusitania
mystery. In prior journeys, the
Lusitania had been accompanied
by destroyers meant to protect
the ship. For this voyage, however,
despite the prominent danger, the
destroyers were left at port and the
Lusitania was left on its own.
Churchill would clearly have
benefited from anti-German feeling
in the United States, or any change
of events that would push the US to
enter the war. His involvement
becomes even more likely when
evaluating a statement made just
three months prior to the sinking,
saying that it was “most important
to attract neutral shipping to our
shores, in the hope especially of
embroiling the USA with Germany. . . .
For our part, we want the traffic—the
more the better and if some of it gets into
trouble, better still.” Germany eventually paid $2.5 million in reparations and was told by the United States to end unrestricted warfare. Germany stopped until 1917. Soon after it returned to these practices, with the memories of the Lusitania still fresh in the American mind, the United States entered the war on the Allies' side
Caption: "There's money for your Americans. I may drown some more" The Lusitania was hit by a torpedo from a
German U-boat on May 7, 1915, off of the
coast of Ireland. Over 1,000 people, including
128 Americans, were killed. Many of these
people were women and children. There were two explosions on the Lusitania as reported by crew, passengers, and the Captain of the U-boat. The first was from the original impact. The second is up for debate. The two most notable theories are that the torpedo hit a boiler room which exploded after the initial hit, or that the American weapons stored secretly below the decks caused the second explosion. World War I broke out in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Secret friendships came out into the open, ending with a great war between the Central powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and, for a short time, Italy) in taking down the Allied Nations (Great Britain, Japan, France, Russia, Serbia, Belgium, and eventually Italy and the United States). President Wilson fought to remain unaligned, but found it very difficult with the economic ties it had with the Allied Nations, especially Great Britain. With the nation already feeling an economic recession, ties with the Allies would not only keep current trading agreements in tact, but provide a new market for the sale of war goods. German U-boats were submarines that were used heavily during World War I. Germany had been sinking merchant ships without warning or provocation previous to the Lusitania's last voyage. The Big Question:
Who's at Fault? So, who IS at fault?
EVERYONE! (sort of)
It was hardly moral for the Germans to be shooting torpedoes at passenger vessels. However, America should not have placed contraband war goods under a ship that was carrying civilians. Britain should have protected the ship better. Especially if Churchill was purposely putting the ship in danger, England shares some culpability. Captain Turner could have made slight adjustments to keep the ship from sinking so quickly, even though he may not have been able to prevent it entirely. Though Germany was initially blamed, all involved parties should be held accountable for their part in the disaster. Pointing fingers, though, will not bring back the lives of the victims of the sinking of the Lusitania.
The last American survivor of the Lusitania, Barbara Anderson, was not even 3 years old when the ship sank. She died in 2008, almost 93 years later, and said she recalled the day vividly. She was eating lunch when the torpedo hit and was saved by William Harkness, an assistant purser on the ship. He was 25. Barbara and her pregnant mother both survived, but her brother died in infancy and her mother got sick and died shortly after. In her adult life, Anderson, then McDermott, was reunited with Harkness and was able to express her gratitude.