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Remembering the Lusitania

On May 7, 1915, the Cunard Liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of County Cork, Ireland. ⁠She sank within 20 minutes.⁠

Of the 1,959 passengers and crew on board, 1,198 were killed, including 128 Americans. Somber statistics, indeed. ⁠

Many of the victims were brought to Cobh (which, ironically enough, was also the Titanic’s last stop 3 years earlier) and interred in the Old Church Graveyard. ⁠

My husband and I had the chance to tour the Cobh Heritage Centre in 2009. The museum offers exhibits on Irish emigration, coffin & convict ships, as well as Titanic and Lusitania.

A stunning monument by Jerome O'Connor memorializes those lost in the attack. Situated in Casement Square, it features two fisherman who went to the rescue of the ill-fated liner while the Angel of Peace watches over them.

Though the bombing strained relations between Germany and the United States, President Woodrow Wilson strove to maintain American neutrality for almost another two years. However, a series of incidents forced him to reconsider. These include (but are not limited to):

  • January 19, 1917: The Zimmermann Telegram, a coded communication from the German Foreign Office, is intercepted by British intelligence. The document suggests a military alliance between Germany and Mexico if the U.S. entered the conflict in Europe.

  • February 1, 1917: Germany begins a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare.

  • March 29, 1917: Arthur Zimmermann admits that the telegram was true in a speech.

Consequently, on April, 2, 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war, warning that “the world must be made safe for democracy.”

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