World History

Sinking of the Lusitania in World War I

In World War I, the sinking of the Lusitania was a significant development. As a result of the Germans murdering so many innocent civilians, American support for the Allies’ involvement in the war increased dramatically.

What was the Lusitania?

The Lusitania was a lavish cruise ship built in Britain. It once held the record for being the biggest ship in the world in 1907. It largely carried passengers and cargo between Britain and the United States across the Atlantic Ocean. 3,048 passengers and crew could board the 787-foot-long ship.

Leading up to the Attack

In 1914, World War I had started. The British and the French were engaged in combat with the Germans on the western front. Shipping channels around Britain were used to bring fresh supplies for the war effort. The British were able to restrain the German navy as it initially attempted to take control of the commerce channels.

As the Germans started attacking ships with submarines, the situation in the waterways surrounding Britain changed. Their submarines were referred to as “undersea boats” or “Unterseeboots”. U-boats was the abbreviation for this term. The Germans proclaimed the waters surrounding Britain a war zone on February 4, 1915, and threatened to strike any Allied ships that entered the area.

The Lusitania sails away

The Lusitania left New York on May 1, 1915, bound for Liverpool, England, despite the German caution. Even more, the German Embassy published an advertising in numerous US newspapers alerting readers to the possibility of an assault should the ship approach British waters. The fact that 1,959 individuals boarded the ship, including 159 Americans, suggests that many people did not genuinely believe that the Germans would attack an opulent cruise ship.

Germans Launch Attack

The Lusitania approached the Irish shore on May 7, 1915. Though the journey was almost complete, it had come to its most hazardous part. Soon after, the German u-boat U-20 discovered it. The u-boat approached and launched a torpedo. The Lusitania’s lookout saw the torpedo’s trail, but it was too late. A massive explosion was heard throughout the entire ship when the torpedo struck a direct impact on the side.

Lusitania goes down

The Lusitania started to sink right away. It was useless for the Lusitania’s captain, Captain William Turner, to direct the ship to make for the Irish coast. The skipper gave the order to leave ship within a short period of time. Due to the ship’s extreme side tilt and rapid sinking, several passengers had trouble exiting it. The Lusitania sank twenty minutes after being hit. Only 761 of the 1,959 passengers on board survived, and 1,198 perished.


Outrage was felt around the world as a result of the German u-boat’s massacre of so many innocent people. The United States later joined the Allies in the war against Germany as support for the Allies against Germany increased in many other nations as well.

Interesting Details About the Lusitania’s Sinking

In order to reduce expenditures, the Lusitania’s skipper turned off one of the ship’s boilers. The ship’s speed was slowed down as a result, which could have increased its vulnerability to torpedo attack.

As a rallying cry for the Allies, the words “Remember the Lusitania” were used on recruitment posters and by soldiers themselves.

The Lusitania’s cargo included ammunition and shell casings that could be used in battle, according to the Germans, who justified its sinking in a combat zone.

Only 31 of the 159 Americans aboard the ship made it out alive. Additionally, a number of the passengers on board perished.