The Sinking of Lusitania

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The sinking of the Lusitania was an important event in World War I. The death of so many innocent civilians at the hands of the Germans galvanized American support for entering the war, which eventually turned the tide in favor of the Allies. The Lusitania was a British luxury cruise ship. At one point in 1907, it held the title as the largest ship in the world. It mostly traveled across the Atlantic Ocean between Britain and the United States carrying passengers and cargo. The ship was 787 feet long and could carry 3,048 passengers and crew. On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, she was launched by the Cunard Line in 1907, at a time of fierce competition for the North Atlantic trade. In 1915 she was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat, causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew.
The Germans claimed that the Lusitania was carrying munitions for the British war effort, in which case it was a legitimate military target under rules of war in practice at the time. This has since proven to be true, as an expedition to survey the sunken ship DID find munitions. Interestingly enough, the German government took out several full page ads in the New York Times warning passengers not to board this ship, as the Germans were planning to sink it. The formally accepted Germany’s apology for the American loss of life aboard ship, but relationships between the two countries was damaged. The US declared war less than two years later.

It was more than just the sinking of the Lusitania. Wilson ran on a platform of maintaining peace and keeping the US neutral. Many Americans pushed for us to go to war after the Lusitania, but it was Germany’s attempt to make Mexico an ally with the zimmermann telegram that was the final straw in declaring war.

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/lusitania