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Sinking of the Lusitania Facts

Woodrow Wilson

Sinking of the Lusitania Facts: Woodrow Wilson  was the 28th American President who served in office from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. One of the important events during his presidency was the Sinking of the Lusitania during WW1.

Definition and Summary of the Sinking of the Lusitania Facts
Summary and definition:
The Sinking of the Lusitania luxury passenger liner, part of the Cunard Line, occured on the afternoon of Friday 7 May, 1915 (14:10 – 14:28pm) during WW1. The ship was torpedoed and sunk by the submerged German U-boat (submarine) SM U-20.

The sinking of the Lusitania, in which 148 American were killed, eroded American neutrality during World War 1 and drew the nation into the war on the side of the Allies.

Sinking of the Lusitania Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Lusitania passenger liner.

What happened to the Lusitania? The Lusitania passenger liner was torpedoed and sunk by the submerged German U-boat (submarine) SM U-20 during World War 1 (1914-1918).

When did the Lusitania sink? The Lusitania sank in 18 minutes on the afternoon of Friday 7 May, 1915 (14:10 – 14:28pm)

What was the result of the attack on the Lusitania? The sinking of the Lusitania eroded American neutrality in WW1 and drew the nation into the war on the side of the Allies.

Why did Germany sink the Lusitania? On 4 February 1915 Germany declared the seas around Great Britain a war zone subject to submarine warfare and that allied ships in the area would be sunk without warning. The Germans believed that the Lusitania was carrying war supplies.

Facts about Sinking of the Lusitania Facts
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Sinking of the Lusitania Facts.

The Lusitania and the Mauritania were twin sister ships commissioned by the Cunard Line to rival the Titanic and the Olympic ocean liners commissioned by the White Star Line.

The Titanic and the Lusitania met with disasters and were both sunk. The Titanic famously hit an iceberg and the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat during WW1.

On May 7, 1915 the British ocean passenger liner was sunk by a German U-Boat (submarine). A total of 1,198 people of the 1,959 on board were killed, of which 148 were Americans. There were only 761 survivors.

Who built the Lusitania ship? The famous Lusitania ship was commissioned by the Cunard Line and the builder was John Brown & Co. Ltd. of Clydebank.

On May 1, 1915, the Lusitania had left port in New York for her return trip to Liverpool in England making her 202nd trip across the Atlantic.

Who was the Captain of the Lusitania ship? The name of the Captain of the Lusitania was Captain William "Bowler Bill" Turner, the commodore of the Cunard fleet.

Who was the Captain of the German U-Boat? The name of the Captain of the German U-Boat was Captain Lieutenant Walther Schwieger was operating off the west and south coasts of Ireland.

World War 1 broke out on 28 July, 1914 between the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) and the Allies (France, Britain and Russia). America adopted a neutral stance to prevent the United States from being drawn into a foreign, European war.

The British deployed their navy to blockade Germany and keep it from obtaining supplies. Germany deployed submarines known as U-boats to strangle the merchant ships carrying food, equipment, and other supplies from the United States to Britain. Both sides wanted to starve the opposition into surrendering.

The term 'U-boat' is derived from the German word 'Unterseeboot' meaning "underwater boat" .

The Lusitania had been partially funded by a British government subsidy scheme which called for the ship to be converted for use as an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) during wartime.

Gun mounts had been added to the ship's bow during a 1913 overhaul. The gun mounts were hidden from the
passengers with coils of heavy docking lines

The British Admiralty then cancelled their decision and decided not to use the liner as an AMC as it consumed enormous quantities of coal seriously draining on the Admiralty's fuel reserves.

On 4 February, 1915 Germany declared the seas around Great Britain a war zone that would be subjected to submarine warfare and from 18 February, 1915 allied ships in the area would be sunk without warning.

The German announcement triggered indignation in the United States. Attacking civilian vessels without warning violated an international treaty that stipulated that military vessels had to reveal their intentions to merchant ships, and make provisions for the safety of the targeted ship’s crew and passengers, before sinking it.

Germany claimed that many British merchant ships were actually warships in disguise and that their U-boats would be placed at great risk if they revealed themselves before firing.

The Lusitania had been partially funded by a British government subsidy scheme which called for the ship to be converted for use as an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) during wartime.

Gun mounts had been added to the ship's bow during a 1913 overhaul. The gun mounts were hidden from the
passengers with coils of heavy docking lines

The British Admiralty then cancelled their decision and decided not to use the liner as an AMC as it consumed enormous quantities of coal seriously draining on the Admiralty's fuel reserves. The Cunard Line was permitted to retain the Lusitania in commercial service. Its sister ship the Mauritania and another member of the Cunard fleet, the Aquitania, were drafted into military service.

The Cunard Line had placed an advertisement for the luxury voyage, "the fastest and largest steamer now in Atlantic Service" that was to set sail on Saturday, May 1, 1915 at 10.00am.

Immediately beneath the advert the German Embassy in Washington issued the following warning:

Notice!

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.

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

Fifty of the warning adverts were placed American newspapers on 22 April, 1915

The Lusitania departed from Pier 54 in New York on 1 May 1915 on her return trip to Liverpool.

Several radio messages were received from the British Admiralty about German submarine activity in the war zone - see below for details.

Whilst the Lusitania ocean liner was crossing the Atlantic, the U-20, commanded by Captain Lieutenant
Walther Schwieger, was operating off the west and south coasts of Ireland. Between May 5 and May 6, 1915 Captain Lieutenant Schwieger sank three merchant vessels.

At 1:40pm on Friday 7 May, 1915 the Lusitania reached the Old Head of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. Captain Turner had believed that, like previous wartime voyages, an escort ship would greet the ship at this point and safely guide her to port. However, not a single escort or auxiliary was in sight.

As the ship set course for  Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland a message was relayed from the crow’s nest to the Captain by Second Officer Hefford saying "There is a torpedo coming, sir!". The captain immediately sent out an SOS.

The Lusitania was sunk by the German U-Boat (submarine). A torpedo hit the ocean liner below the bridge on the
starboard side.

At 2:28pm, just 18 minutes after the torpedo hit, the Lusitania slipped beneath the waves approximately 8
miles off the Old Head of Kinsale.

A total of 1158 people of the 1900 on board were killed of which 148 were Americans. There were 761 survivors.

Turner stayed at his post throughout the sinking and stayed with the ship until she sank from under him. Captain Turner incorrectly believed he was the last to disembark from the ship. He was rescued from the water by the small steamer, the Bluebell.

Outraged at the death of American citizens, the sinking of the Lusitania turned public opinion against Germany and
its allies. President Woodrow Wilson refused to declare war on Germany and instead issued three diplomatic notes in May, June, and July affirming the rights of US citizens to travel safely at sea and warned that future sinkings would be viewed as "deliberately unfriendly."

On March 24th 1916 a German submarine in the English Channel attacked what it thought was a mine-laying military ship. It was actually a passenger steamer called 'The Sussex' and, although it didn't sink fifty people were killed and several Americans were injured.

American pressure led the Germans to offer an indemnity to the US and issued orders prohibiting their commanders from surprise attacks on merchant vessels and halted their campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare.

The Sussex Pledge was a promise given by the German Government to the United States of America on May 4th 1916 not to sink anymore merchant ships without warning. The Sussex Pledge was made in response to US demands to alter their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare and stop the indiscriminate sinking of non-military ships.

On February 1, 1917 Germany went back on its assurances of the Sussex Pledge and resumed unrestricted submarine warfare and German U-Boats began to attack American ships in the North Atlantic.

Breaking the Sussex Pledge led to the sinking of six American merchant ships (including the Housatonic)  by German U-boats.

The United States entered into WW1 on April 6, 1917 due to the provocative acts surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania and breaking the Sussex Pledge together with events such as the Zimmermann Telegram, which led America to break off diplomatic relations with Germany.

In 2008, divers explored the wreck of the Lusitania and found munitions on board consisting of 4 million U.S. Remington .303 bullets. The discovery supported the belief that the Lusitania was being used to transport war materials.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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