The Sinking of the Cunard Line RMS Lusitania - 1915

The Lusitania Leaving Her Pier at New York.

The Lusitania Leaving Her Pier at New York. The Magnificent Cunard Liner Was Torpedoed by a German Submarine, Ten Miles from Kinsale Head on the Irish Coast. May 7, 1915. The Ship Sank in Eighteen Minutes. In This Terrible Wreck 1,150 People, among Whom Were 114 Americans, Lost Their Lives. The Wholesale Slaughter of Noncombatants without Warning or Opportunity for Escape, in De Hunco of International Law and the Precedents of War between Civilized Nations, Aroused the Deepest Indignation. Photograph © 1915 International News Service. Collier's Photographic History of the European War, 1916. GGA Image ID # 17ecc0c45e

STEAMING majestically over a smiling sea, with the green hills of Erin in sight over the port bow and all well aboard, the greatest, fastest, and most beautiful transatlantic liner in commission was nearing the end of her voyage from New York to Liverpool.

It was the hour after luncheon on the great ship, the hour of the siesta or the promenade, the most peaceful hour of the day. Little children by the score played merrily about the great decks; families and friends foregathered in the lounges or beside
the rail to watch the Irish coast slip by; all the internal economy of the giant ship moved smoothly, as if by clockwork.

It was more than a floating hotel, replete with comfort and luxury. It was a floating town, with a whole townful of people. Over fourteen hundred men, women, and children were on the passenger list, and six hundred men in the Cunard uniform constituted the crew.

Among the passengers were many citizens of the United States and Canada, and there was an unusually large proportion of women and children on board, the families of men who had been drawn into the maelstrom of war.

For in spite of the calm and peace prevailing on the great passenger ship, the shadow of war impended overall. The bloody struggles of the great European cataclysm were proceeding at the other end of the English Channel, and dire hints of dangers on the sea in the "war zone" had accompanied the sailing of the ship. 'But on this bright May day, as the liner approached its destination, danger seemed far distant, and few indeed among passengers or crew gave serious thought to its imminence.

All was truly well on board. The skies were clear, the sea was smooth, and though the myriad passengers realized that they had entered a danger zone of the world's greatest war, they had abounding confidence in the giant ship, in its veteran commander, and in the line to which it belonged, that had never yet lost the life of a single passenger committed to its care.

And confidently, they looked forward to a safe arrival in port the next morning, the happy ending of a wartime voyage which the children on board, and their children's children, should recall with pride for a century to come. BUT—

Right ahead in the path of the floating palace, athwart the prescribed course of the Lusitania, there lurked the deadliest slinking serpent of the seas—the tiny volcanic hull of an enemy submarine, most dangerous of war's new weapons.

Lying leisurely in wait, its body submerged just beneath the swelling undulations of a summer sea, invisible, ruthless, insatiable; only the protrusion of a foot or so of periscopic tube betokened its presence without betraying its purpose. But in that innocent-looking tube lay vast potentialities for evil—nay, devilish certainties of dealing death and destruction.

For the little steel-encased arrangement of lenses and mirrors peeping from the depths was the mechanical eye of the submarine and sufficed to betray to watchful Teutons below the approach of the great ship, treasure-laden with human freight of non-combatants and neutrals, but flying the flag of the German's foe.

For the crew of the submarine "der Tag" had come. Without a thought of the innocents and neutrals aboard; reckless alike of immediate results and ultimate consequences, animated only by the deadly designs of a war-madness and a deliberate campaign of frightfulness, the firing signal was flashed from the German commander's station and the fatal torpedo was launched against the unsuspecting and unprotected leviathan.

Traveling true to its mark, it tore its frightful way through the thin sheathing of the ship and, exploding on impact, pierced her vitals and sealed her doom.

Barely a quarter of an hour elapsed before the giant vessel disappeared from sight, plunging bow foremost to the bottom in waters scarcely more than one-third of her length in depth so that the shock of her bow striking the bottom of the sea was felt by the gallant captain on the bridge before he was torn loose from his ill-fated vessel.

And when the waters of the Atlantic closed over the hull of the Lusitania, within sight of the Irish coast on that fatal Friday, the lives of over eleven hundred non-combatant men, women, and children, including more than a hundred American neutrals, were ruthlessly sacrificed to the Teuton god of war.

Thomas Herbert Russell, A.M., LL.D., "Chapter XXIII: Sinking of the Lusitania," in The World’s Greatest War and Triumph of America's Army and Navy, Peace Treaty Edition, L. H. Walter, Publisher, 1919, pp. 380-381

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