The Lusitania: Tragedy or War Crime?
A reassessment of one of the pivotal WWI incidents, based on new and controversial evidence
Launched in 1907, the Lusitania was briefly the world’s largest liner, symbol of the fierce rivalry between transatlantic shipping agents in Europe and a forerunner of the Titanic—proving to be a similarly ill-starred vessel as it became a target for German U-boats early in World War I. The Lusitania sinking in 1915 was as shocking as any WW1 incident: the massive loss of life confirmed all the pre-conceived ideas of German brutality, but what have not been revealed till now are the far-reaching international political and social repercussions of this act of aggression. In Britain, anti-German propaganda reached fever pitch and forced PM Asquith into a massive Alien Internment program after riots in Liverpool and the East End; America, which had been resolutely isolationist, experienced a huge swell of support of intervention on the side of the Triple Entente, while in Germany the U-boat captain was initially hailed a hero before being court-martialled after the international outcry. And there are still question marks nearly 100 years later: why was the ship’s captain unfairly scapegoated after not being told of U-boats in the area; was the ship actually armed as the Germans have often claimed, and how much about all of this and much more did the First Lord of the Admiralty, one Winston S. Churchill, know? Jennifer Kewley Draskau’s new book on one of the great enigmas of the Great War brings together new research and evidence to reveal the true story of a great sea tragedy.