O LUSITANIA, Empress of the Sea
Art thou dead and buried in the deep.
With all thy freight of human souls,
Victim of the Huns ’most Hellish darts.
Come nations! Rise, avenge this hideous crime.
Avenge the cries of English hope,
now lying cold and dead in ocean deep.
Come nations! Rise and crush
This hideous foe: this vampire of the world, who
is no man
but just a beast of prey respecting nothing.
Laying waste to works of centuries.
Breaking hearts and homes on every side.
Come quickly, come, o’er England’s blood
Be shed in vain, her noble sons all dead
And lying on the plains. Come, nations,
Crush this vampire into dust; come quickly, come.
O Lusitania, my tears are falling for thee
Fair village of palaces, gone for evermore
Beneath the cold blue waters.
~Mrs. Phoebe Amory, a Lusitania survivor
Per Scriptum E. Wesley - Mackinac Center Intern
Although now dimmed by the obvious disaster of the Titanic, the RMS Lusitania's end was no less tragic. In fact, the sinking of the Lusitania ought to go down in history as an unprovoked atrocity of war. Beginning in 1915, the Germans began drastically changing the behavior of the Great War by hunting down British shipping up to the hundred tons with U-boats, and putting neutral ships in immanent danger. Germany also issued a declaration in February that the entire sea around Great Britain was a war zone. Lusitania has been frequently condemned for ignoring the order the Germans sent directly to the Lusitania before its departure, but clearly the Lusitania's audacity to sail towards Britain as a passenger ship did not render Germany free to issue such a cruel declaration in the first place, or to carry out the destruction of hundreds of civilians even after proclaiming a warning.
The RMS Lusitania was a passenger ship that sailed from New York on May 1, 1915 headed for Liverpool, England. On the afternoon of May 7th, the ship was soundly struck by a German U-Boat torpedo about 20 miles off the coast of Queenstown, Ireland. Of the 2,160 aboard (952 passengers, 361 steerage, 665 crew), 1,198 lives were lost. Some knew of the German warning; others didn't. But looking at the event objectively pales in comparison to the personal loss suffered by so many people. Some accounts of the individuals who experienced the event puts the atrocity in its true light.
In an age when men gave their lives to save women and children, little six year old Helen Smith was separated from her parents when the ship was struck and heroically saved by Ernest Cowper. After Mr. Cowper placed her in a life boat, she jumped on the knee of survivor Elizabeth Hampshire, introduced herself, and bravely said, “If I can’t find my Mamma and Daddy, I’ll go with you ladies.” She safely survived the attack, and along with Mr. Cowper, became the most well know survival account. Other children were less fortunate. Joseph Frankum lost two of his children and his wife, with only his son Frances left alive. When Mr. Frankum and Frances met for the first time since the attack in the Rob Roy Hotel, Frances asked with tears in his eyes, "How did you come here Dad?" Struggling to find his voice Mr. Frankum replied, "You see Francis, I told you God would take care of you, and He has- hasn’t He?" The honest boy answered, "Yes Dad, He has." Charlotte Pye, with her infant Marjorie, found herself running to the deck just after discussing the improbability of a German attack. She wrote in a letter afterwards,
The ship had listed to starboard and the decks were slanting so much that it was almost impossible to walk on them. My head was banged several times, but I still managed to hold on to Marjorie…Gertrude Adams had a similar experience. Mrs. Adams made her way to the Promenade deck with her two year old daughter Joan where a certain Mr. Basil Wickings-Smith gave her his lifebelt. As the ship sank, both Mrs. Adams and Joan were initially pulled down by the suction, but resurfaced. She soon found a piece of wreckage to set Joan on, and later said, "But I could not help her more than hold here there." Joan began to slip away before her eyes in that cold wet emptiness. "Then, I had to watch her die. A young fellow near offered to take her while I tried to reach a tank that was floating a little way off, but my baby had passed away then and I felt I must kiss her goodbye." These accounts are just a few among many similar dreadful stories (more here).
I saw the poor women running up and down…I did not have a lifebelt, but a gentleman took off his and strapped it around myself and the baby. When my turn came to get into a boat, Marjorie was taken away and handed in first, and I followed. Barely had I got into the boat and taken the baby into my arms when I looked up and saw the big ship coming right over on us, with people jumping for their lives. Then our boat suddenly keeled over and we found ourselves in the water. Marjorie gave one piercing scream and we both went down together. The suction underneath the water dragged her out of my arms and she was gone forever. I shall never forget the agony of it: while I was under the water I felt my end had come.
The outrage was keenly felt, especially by the American public. Although not among the immediate causes for the U.S.A.'s entrance into the Great War (the Zimmerman Telegram is a more immediate cause in the respect), it did break the neutral disposition of the American public during the War. Either the above British poster, or the poem The Death of the Lusitania puts the general feeling most vigorously.
Image of Bundesarchiv DVM 10 Bild-23-61-17, Untergang der "Lusitania" from Wikipedia
Image of Take Up the Sword of Justice from Wikipedia