On May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat, resulting in the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew. The sinking of the Lusitania was a turning point in public opinion in the United States, as it helped propel the country into World War I.
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On May 1, 1915, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. The ship was on its way from New York to Liverpool, England, when it was attacked. Of the 2,151 people on board, 1,195 were killed, including 128 Americans. The sinking of the Lusitania outraged Americans and played a role in the United States’ entry into World War I.
The Lusitania was built in 1906 by William Pirrie, the chairman of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders in Belfast, Ireland. At the time it was built, the Lusitania was the largest ship in the world. It was also one of the fastest ships, able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in just over five days.
When World War I began in 1914, Britain declared that all ships sailing under its flag were unarmed and would not be used to transport weapons or soldiers. The Lusitania continued to make regular transatlantic crossings throughout 1914 and 1915.
In early 1915, Germany announced that it would sink all ships sailing to Britain, regardless of their flag or whether they were carrying passengers or cargo. On May 1, 1915, shortly after leaving New York City bound for Liverpool, England, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine. The ship sank in just 18 minutes. Of the 2,151 people on board, 1,195 were killed—including 128 Americans— making it one of the deadliest maritime disasters in history.
The sinking of the Lusitania outraged Americans and played a role in the United States’ entry into World War I.
The Lusitania’s Maiden Voyage
On May 1, 1915, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania set sail from New York City bound for Liverpool, England. The Lusitania was one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners of its time, and its maiden voyage was a much-anticipated event. More than 2,000 passengers and crew members were on board, including many prominent American citizens.
The Lusitania’s journey was not without incident. On May 7, as the ship neared the coast of Ireland, it was spotted by a German U-boat (submarine). The U-boat’s commander, Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger, had orders to sink any Allied ship he encountered. Despite the fact that the Lusitania was a civilian vessel carrying unarmed passengers, Schwieger decided to attack.
At 2:10 pm, he fired a single torpedo at the Lusitania. The impact caused a massive explosion that ripped through the ship’s hull. The Lusitania began to sink rapidly, and within 18 minutes it had disappeared beneath the waves. Of the nearly 2,200 people on board, only 761 survived.
The sinking of the Lusitania stirred up a considerable amount of public outrage in America and helped turn public opinion against Germany. In 1918, two years after the end of World War I (1914-1918), Schwieger’s U-boat was sunk by a British warship; Schwieger and all his crew members were killed.
The Lusitania’s Final Voyage
On May 1, 1915, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania left New York City bound for Liverpool, England. On May 7, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. The sinking of the Lusitania resulted in the death of 1,198 passengers and crew members, 128 of them American citizens.
At the time of its sinking, the Lusitania was carrying a large number of munitions and other war supplies for the British government. Due to this fact, many historians believe that the Germans were justified in attacking the ship. However, there were also a large number of civilians on board, and the attack led to an international outcry against Germany.
The United States eventually entered World War I on the side of the Allies in 1917, largely due to public opinion surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania.
The Aftermath of the Sinking
In the aftermath of the sinking, there was a public outcry in both the United States and Great Britain. The Germans claimed that the Lusitania was carrying munitions and that it was a legitimate target, but the British and Americans were outraged. Propaganda posters were produced on both sides, trying to sway public opinion. In the end, though, the sinking turned public opinion against Germany in both countries and helped propel the United States into World War I.
The sinking of the Lusitania was a turning point in World War I. Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare led to the sinking of American ships, which outraged the American public and finally led the United States to declare war on Germany. The sinking also had a significant effect on public opinion in Britain, helping to turn public opinion against Germany and leading to increased support for the war effort.