Lusitania: World War I and New York Essay

Submitted By throwwawayyy
Words: 2362
Pages: 10

"What were the repercussions of the sinking of the Lusitania on the United States?”

At the time, the Lusitania was the largest and arguably most advanced ship ever constructed, at almost eight hundred feet in length, while setting speed records and having vastly more passenger space than her closest rival. Designed for trans-Atlantic voyages and adorned with lavish interiors, the Lusitania was an ocean liner of the highest degree, attracting some of the most prominent Americans as passengers. On May 1st, 1915, the Lusitania set out for a voyage to Liverpool from New York, a fairly routine trip after over two hundred such voyages across the Atlantic. However, almost a week later, in an attack that has gone down in history, a German U-Boat torpedoed and sunk the Lusitania in a matter of minutes, killing over one thousand civilians, including 128 American passengers. However, the effects of the Lusitania’s sinking broaden far beyond that fateful afternoon on May 7th, 1915. The United States, already a hotbed of anti-German sentiment, may very well have been tipped over the edge into the Great War by this German attack, for in its aftermath the nation was swept up in a flurry of calls for war and vengeance that ultimately led to the U.S.’s entry into the Great War. In 1915, the Great War was well under way in Europe. Casualties were rapidly mounting for the belligerent nations, and more and more countries were being drawn into the conflict due to complex alliances and straining conditions. Non-European countries were beginning to feel the heat of the conflict as well, with the Allies launching their assault on Gallipoli, and Germany declaring that “any ship approaching England is considered a legitimate target.” In the face of this, the United States and its president, Woodrow Wilson, struggled to keep the U.S. “neutral in thought and deed.” In fact, he not only tried to keep the United States out of the conflict, but attempted “to bring an end to the war through his personal mediation,” making himself a symbol of anti-war efforts. This rigid policy of neutrality was difficult to maintain. The United States had heavy ties with the European Triple Entente, chiefly France and Britain, and consequently had great interests in preserving international trade. Thus, when “Germany announced increases in the kinds of neutral ships that would be subject to submarine attack” in 1914 and 1915, the naval freedoms of non-combatants were being compromised, and the U.S. government began to feel the pressures of the conflict. These reductions of the U.S.’s naval freedoms were becoming the strongest force pulling the U.S. into the Great War. When Walter Schweiger, the captain of the German U-boat that sunk the Lusitania, decided to launch his torpedo at this passenger ship, he exacerbated the U.S.’s concerns over Germany’s naval policies. Tensions were already great, as there had been numerous strikes on ships by Germans resulting in American fatalities: the Falaba, hit by a German torpedo, where an American man died; the Cushing was attacked by German aeroplanes; and the American vessel Gulflight was torpedoed by a German U-boat, again killing Americans. In the midst of these events, but still prior to the Lusitania, there were cries from certain parts of the government for entry into the war. Still, these events kept the war at a distance from the American public. The sinking of the Lusitania served to bring public awareness of the war onto an entirely new level. This ship in many ways was an American icon; a huge and luxurious ship providing, theoretically, safe passage to American citizens. The fact that the Germans elected to attack this vessel full of non-combatants hit too close to home for Americans, causing many to feel that their rights as citizens were being compromised. The attack “aroused a wave of indignation in the United States,” with it being “fully expected that a declaration of war would follow.” A storm of