In 1914, the World War I started. This war was fought between two groups of European nations. On one side were the German Empire and its allies. This group was called the Central Powers.
On the other side were Britain, France, Italy and their allies. This group was called the Allied Powers. United States of America remained neutral during the first few years of the war. Although Germany attacked and sank many American ships between 1915 and 1917, USA continued to remain neutral. But when Germany tried to create an alliance with Mexico against USA, USA declared war on Germany in April, 2017.
RMS Lusitania was a British passenger ship. It was one of the largest passenger ships in use in 1915. By 1915, the World War I was raging and German forces were on the offensive. In the Atlantic Ocean as well, the German navy had started attacking naval vessels of Britain and other allied powers.
In fact, the Germans didn’t limit their attacks to the naval ships but also started targeting passenger ships, an act which was condemned by most of Europe as well as USA. In one of these attacks, RMS Lusitania was attacked and sunk by German torpedoes.
In May, 1915, the ship Lusitania left New York City. It was bound for Liverpool in Britain. Before the departure of the ship, the German embassy in Washington D.C. had issued a warning, stating that any ships flying British flags in the Atlantic waters near British Isles was liable to destruction since a state of war existed between Germany and Britain.
However, most of the people thought that this warning didn’t apply to passenger ships. As a precaution, the Lusitania was asked not to fly the British colors and to try and remain neutral in the North Atlantic waters. When the Lusitania left New York City, it had nearly 1265 passengers on board. Of these, 128 were American nationals while the rest were British and Canadian nationals.
On May 7, 1915, a German submarine sighted the Lusitania near the Irish coast. This submarine, named U-boat U-20, had been tasked to intercept any ships arriving in British waters and to attack them. So when U-20 sighted Lusitania, it headed towards the ship.
Since the submarine was underwater, the crew of the Lusitania had no idea that their ship was about to be attacked. The U-20 submarine fired two torpedoes which directly hit the ship and caused severe damage upon it. The ship sank within the next 18 minutes. Of the 1265 passengers on board, only around 761 survived while the rest were killed either in the attack or the sinking of the ship.
The sinking of RMS Lusitania provoked an outrage against the German Empire. In fact, even German allies such as Turkey and Austria-Hungary condemned the attack. Although USA had remained neutral in World War I, the incident turned the public opinion against Germany and paved the path for USA to eventually join the war against Germany.