There are many reasons the United States plunged into World War I, but one of the main reasons we did was the sinking of the ship “The Lusitania”. This ship was shot by the Germans with a torpedo and took the lives of over 100 American lives. The now enraged and already anti-German citizens, were only fuelled and cried out for war. The event happened like this. The Lusitania, famous for its luxurious accommodations and speed capability, was mainly used to transport people and goods across the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Great Britain.
On May 1, 1915, the Lusitania departed New York and was bound for Liverpool. Almost all her hidden cargo consisted of amunitions and weaponry destined for the British war effort. This was probably unknown to her passengers, but was most likely well know by the Germans at this time. The total accumulation of passengers was 1,924 and the amount of Americans number over 100. From the start of World War I, it was difficult to take part in inter oceanic travel.
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Both sides of countries in the war were attempting to blockade one another to prevent war supplies from being transported in, which was the start of unrestricted submarine warfare. German U-boats (submarines) were continually lurking in British waters to sink any ships that came near. AS the ship neared its destination and was off the coast of Ireland a torpedo coming from the Submarine U-20 struck into the side of the ship. As the torpedo crashed into the boat’s side a mysterious second explosion occurred.
Experts believe that the second explosion was from the cargo that was being transported inside the ship. The Germans deny ever launching a second torpedo. Any ships going on trips in the war zones were warned to be on the look out for subs, to travel full speed at all times and were advised to travel in zigzagged formations to make it harder for them to be fired at. A notice had even been sent to Washington that read… 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 ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk. IMPERIAL GERMAN EMBASSY WASHINGTON, D. C. , APRIL 22, 1915.
The passengers however decided that the notice was only a idle threat not to be taken seriously. The captain of the Lusitania, Turner, decided to travel in that way was a waste of time and fuel. Turner also made the bad decision as to slow down from 25 knots to 15 knots, due to weather issues. This mistake may have caused the loss of the ship and its passengers. Once shot the Lusitania sunk within 18 minutes. Though there had been enough lifeboats for all passengers, the ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water, causing them not to be launched properly.
Of the 1,924 people on board, 1,198 died. The toll of civilians killed in this disaster shocked the world. Americans were outraged to learn 128 U. S. United States citizens had lost their lives in a war they were not even a part of. The sinking of the Lusitania heightened tensions between the U. S. and Germany and helped sway American opinion in favor of joining the war. The political fallout was immediate. President Wilson tried to negotiate with the Germans and protested their actions, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, resigned.
In September, the Germans announced to the world that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warnings and appropriate safeguards for the passengers. However, our anger towards the Germans did not change. Within two years America declared war. In conclusion the sinking of the Lusitania was a major event in American History. There is still a major controversy over the second explosion that took place on board the ship. Was it a German torpedo or the ammunition onboard? This brought war upon our nation. If it were not for this history changing event, and a few other minor ones we would not have entered into the first World war.