Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Lusitania: 96 Years Later

It was 96 years ago today that the Cunarder Lusitania was torpedoed by Imperial Germany's U-20. World War I raged in Europe, but America remained blissfully neutral. The grand ship set sail from New York for the last time on May 1, 1915. Travelers were warned by the Imperial German Embassy, who reminded them that a state of war existed between Germany and Britain. Many passengers paid this no mind.

One torpedo was fired as the ship made her way along the Irish coast, which struck just behind the wheelhouse on the starboard side. A second explosion rocked the Lusitania just seconds later, which many experts now believe was triggered by the ignition of coal dust in the near-empty bunkers.

The Lusitania - one of the Cunard's proudest and safest ships - went down in just 18 minutes. Her passengers and crew struggled for survival in that short period, but only 761 of the nearly 2,000 people aboard lived.

The reason for the attack has always been an issue. Germany maintained that the Lusitania was carrying arms and munitions (which indeed she was) and was therefore a legitimate target of war.

Just 305 feet below the waves rests the wreck of a once-noble liner. The sea has terribly ravaged her remains, yet it is unmistakably the Lusitania. Her bow looks as it did when she sailed from New York for the last time, and her name is still visible.

But may she act as a reminder for the cruel indifference that war brings. Many of those lost on May 7, 1915 were innocent and had little - if anything - to do with the Allied war effort. So may they and this grand ship rest forever in peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment