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Courtesy of Joseph A. Steinmetz, Phila.
THE "LUSITANIA” AND HER Pygmy DESTROYER This sectional view shows where the great ocean liner was struck by the deadly missile which sent her to the bottom with many of
her crew and non-combatant passengers.
Courtesy of Joseph A. Steinmetz, Phila.
DAMAGE CAUSED BY A TORPEDO This photograph shows the bow of a steamer in drydock after being struck by a torpedo on the port side. The explosion blew numerous fragments of wreckage through the plates on the starboard side.
issued medals commemorative of the event, on which was a grim representation of the slaughter of women and children.
Our government patiently contented itself with a diplomatic note, declaring it to be “wise and desirable” that the American and German governments should “come to a clear understanding as to the grave situation.” There followed much diplomatic controversy. Germany at first insisted that the Lusitania was armed, and not merely for defense but for attack, so that she was in fact a ship of war. An agent of the German Government was produced, who swore that he had seen cannon placed aboard the ship. This was utterly false, and it was afterward admitted that the German agent had deliberately and purposely committed perjury. There were intimations that the German Government might be willing to pay an indemnity of so much a head for the Americans who had been murdered, but it would not disavow the crime; and in the end the controversy lapsed without result, and crime remained unatoned.
OTHER VESSELS DESTROYED The Falaba, a British vessel, was destroyed by a German submarine on March 28, 1915, and one American life was lost. The Cushing, an American vessel, was on the same day attacked by a German aeroplane. The Gulflight, an American vessel, was destroyed on May 1st, with the loss of one American life. These all preceded the Lusitania. The attacks on the Cushing and Gulflight were explained by Germany as “mistakes,” and an offer was made of such reparation as the facts in the case might warrant. Similar disposition was made of the case of the American steamer Nebraskan, which was attacked by a submarine on May 25th; of the Leelanaw, an American ship, which was destroyed on, July 27th; and of the English steamer Orduna, on July 9th. The British steamer Arabic, with a number of Americans aboard, was sunk by a submarine on August 19th, and an attempt was made to excuse the act on the lying pretense that the Arabic had attacked the submarine. But on October 5th Germany disavowed the act, offered to pay indemnities for the American lives lost, and stated that strict orders had been given which would prevent any more such occurrences. This was received by our government with expressions of gratification.
In January, 1916, the United States proposed to the allied belligerents a set of rules for the regulation of naval warfare, providing that no merchant vessel should be armed; that no vessel should be attacked without warning or without being ordered to stop and be searched; and that all should thus submit to search. The powers declined, however, to accept these rules on the mere strength of a non-guaranteed German promise that if they complied with them the German atrocities would cease.
THE CASE OF THE SUSSEX The British passenger steamer Sussex was sunk by a submarine in the English Channel on March 24, 1916, with several Americans among its company. The German Government at first tried to pretend that the Sussex was mistaken for a mine-layer, and then that she had been sunk by a British mine. Our government promptly proved, however, that she was an unarmed passenger vessel; that she had been sunk without warning, by a German torpedo; and that eighty of her passengers, non-combatants, including many women and children, and including several American citizens, had perished. In its note to Germany on the case the American Government said:
"It has become painfully evident that the use of submarines for the destruction of an enemy's commerce is of necessity because of the very character of the vessels employed and the very methods of attack which their employment of course involves, utterly incompatible with the principles of humanity, the long-established and incontrovertible rights of neutrals, and the sacred immunities of non-combatants. . .," and threatened to sever diplomatic relations.
In response the German Government declared that it could not dispense with the use of submarines, but that it would make certain concessions to the rights of neutrals and modifications of the under-sea warfare which it believed would be satisfactory to the United States. This assurance was accepted by the United States and the matter was considered settled.
THE BREACH OF RELATIONS There followed some futile correspondence between this country and the powers on both sides concerning peace, and then, at the end of January, 1917, came the beginning of the end. On January 31st the German Ambassador at Washington handed to the American Secretary of State a note withdrawing the pledges which had been made in settlement of the Sussex case, to the effect that merchant ships should be warned before being sunk and that neutral lives and property should be protected. It was official notice that the war zone around the British Isles was to be still further extended and that a most ruthless campaign of destruction was to be waged against all vessels entering it. It was condescendingly stated that one American ship a week would be permitted to visit a certain English port, provided that it would comply with various fantastic German requirements.