Germany, Britain, and the USA contributed significantly to the amplification of World War I. The conflict was sparked by disagreements between the countries, with the USA supporting Britain, Italy, and Japan against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey on one hand. When the war broke out first in 1915, the USA was not allied to any side of the warring factions. The 1917 tragedy which resulted in the loss of many lives angered the US that had regarded Britain as its trading partner. Although the Americans were justified in their decision to join World War I, the sinking of Lusitania by a German submarine was subject to British negligence and total pride.
Unjustified Lusitania’s Sinking by Captain Schwieger
From an analysis of various sources of evidence, the action of attacking a civilian ship by Germany’s captain Schwieger was not justified. Firstly, Lusitania was a passenger vessel and therefore it had limited chances of attacking another craft. Secondly, the steamer was flying no flag and showed no mark of registry (Larson, 2015). Therefore, the ship could not be identified as either an enemy’s or friend’s vessel. Far ahead of Lusitania, captain Schwieger ordered for the attack of the craft (Larson, 2015). Furthermore, the shooting of an unconfirmed vessel was a total contravention of naval warfare guidelines. This argument is propagated by Churchill (as cited in Larson, 2015) who recorded that the use of submarines to strike unarmed merchant crafts would be “abhorrent to the immemorial law and practice of the sea” (p.19). Indeed, the attack on Lusitania was a retrogressive act against humanity and it cannot be justified by Germany.
Why the British Military Failed To Share Information on Submarines with Turner
Despite being one of the developed countries with the well-equipped military in the world, Britain military failed to share specific information with Turner as the ship approached Ireland. Among many reasons, the British military was employing the tactic of withholding important information which would otherwise jeopardize their war efforts by alerting the Germans of their possible move. Admiral Winston Churchill and Jacky Fisher had resolved to keep their naval operations as secret as possible and few Admiralty officials knew of communication interceptions of German U-boats (Larson, 2015). In fact, withholding such information made the ship liable to the German attack, which revealed the general location of the German U-20 boats which were nearby.
Why the Lusitania Was Not Accorded Military Escort
Besides withholding crucial information on the war through Room 40, Britain failed to provide a military escort to Lusitania, too. However, this was a logical strategy because Germany had earlier warned of its attack against Britain. To provide naval escort to the ship could have given the Germans a hint that their coded information which was received at Britain’s Room 40 was being intercepted. Furthermore, Lusitania was seen as invulnerable and its attack was viewed as impossible. Admiral General Churchill refuted claims of any possible submarine attack on a passenger sea-liner such as the steamer (Larson, 2015). According to Churchill, it was unthinkable for such attacks to occur because they violated the existent naval warfare rules (Larson, 2015). Again, Lusitania was made amid hubris and anxiety in Britain and the Admiralty depended on the high speed of the ship which was 26 knots at the time of its construction (Larson, 2015). As evident, the failure of the British to provide the ship with a military escort was less tactful and more of sheer negligence and pomposity.
Why the British Authorities Attempted To Blame Captain Turner
The British authorities blamed Captain William Turner for the torpedoing of Lusitania. The reason for finding Turner culpable for the incident was based on the arguments that Turner may have ignored the authorities’ instructions. On 8th May 1915, Richard Webb, the director of the Admiralty Trade department, circulated a two-page memorandum, charging Captain William Turner of ignoring Admiralties’ instructions of zigzagging and giving wide anchorage to the prominent capes (Larson, 2015). According to Webb, Turner was in total disregard for the directions that were given concerning the voyage and pursued what suited him. Webb noted that Turner had followed the regular trade route at a speed of about three-quarters of the Lusitania’s total speed and therefore the captain made the ship liable to attack (Larson, 2015). As a matter of fact, the allegations put Turner at the center of the investigation of the steamer’s wreck.
Notable Individuals Who On boarded The Lusitania
In a similar way to any voyage, the journey which led to the sinking of Lusitania brought some famous passengers on board. Among the prominent people were Charles Frohman, a coliseum showman, and his friend, an actor, Marguerite Jolivet (Larson, 2015). Jolivet was going to England, to perform in various Italian movies (Larson, 2015). Another noteworthy traveller who on boarded the ship was George Kessler who was known for his wine shipping business (Larson, 2015). He was intentionally traveling to take his wines to England. Additionally, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest people of the USA was travelling to England (Larson, 2015). Being that Vanderbilt had paid for two tickets, he was on an adventure to London. Notably, many of the travellers were excited and they did not fear the German attack. For instance, Vanderbilt says that he does not believe in talks of submarines and sudden death (Larson, 2015). Nonetheless, when the ship was sunk, only Jolivet and Kessler survived among the famous quartet that has been mentioned (Larson, 2015). The tragedy claimed many lives and it shaped the world’s opinion about Germany.
Dead Wake, Larson’s Compelling Book
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is a compelling story that exhibits the great expertise of its author, Erik Larson. The historical details in the book are captivating because the story itself is based on true happenings in world history. Moreover, the literary work captures multiple layers and characterizes common people who on boarded Lusitania to the US president, Woodrow Wilson. Interestingly, the author performs a skillful job in balancing the outlooks of the tragic incident. For instance, at an individual level, the lives and personalities of the ship’s passengers are viewed to shape a personal narrative of the whole story. From an international perspective, the characters that led to the sinking of Lusitania by a German submarine are also identified. The bifocal standpoint which Larson gives the incident forms one of his central themes in the book. Lastly, the author describes the dangers that are associated with conceitedness. Lusitania’s operators were haughty to believe that the German naval patrol would not turn to attack any civilian craft that sailed over the German war zoned areas. Truly, the book was a great manifestation of intellectual dispensation.
In summary, the USA’s decision to enter World War I was validated by the Lusitania tragedy. However much Germany was aggrieved against Britain, the action of torpedoing Lusitania was barbaric and disregard of naval warfare policies. In retrospect, Britain had all the military resources including information at their disposal which would have helped against the German’s attack, but they chose to blame the competent captain, William Turner. The worst mistake of the British military was that of failing to provide elaborate information regarding the German submarines to Turner who at that particular moment was entrusted with the lives of more than 1900 civilians. Negligence and conceitedness played a major role in Lusitania’s sinking.
Larson, E. (2015). Dead wake: The last crossing of the Lusitania (1st ed.). Crown Publishers.