The Sinking of Lusitania
In the fifteenth century, the Age of Exploration had begun in the European countries. Many voyagers sailed ships to different parts of the World and North America was discovered.
From then on, naval military had become the major goal to develop for imperialism countries because they wanted to seek control over marine transportation. Far before the World War 1 started, the British and our government, the German Empire, started the race in building naval weapons. During the war, our powerful navy used U-boats and successfully blocked their daily supplies by sinking British merchant ships.
My name is Heinrich, I was in the U-boats team and carried out the unrestricted submarine warfare. The goal of this kind of war is to attack any Allied Power ships without any notice. We cut off Britain’s food supplies, and our greatest enemy once had only six weeks of food left for the whole country. In May 7th, 1915, I spotted the British liner Lusitania, and I fired one torpedo. The ship sank within 18 minutes, and I thought this was another ordinary operation. But, the sinking of Lusitania is the fuse for the defeat of our great empire in the sea because it created the controversies in unrestricted submarine warfare, brought the United States into war, and populated the uses of convoy system.
Questions and concerns on the unrestricted submarine warfare created controversies. For instance, the German government was criticized as immoral and ruthless. The British claimed that there were no ammunitions or weapons on the Lusitania but passengers, so the British and American were incensed and they described our operations cruel.(1) Also, there were German generals questioning the government whether we were making enemies. The island of Britain is an isolated land far lacking supplies, so the British need to buy things from many neutral countries. For example, Britain had to buy sugar from Northeastern Africa, which was partially colonized by Italy, and when we attack their cargo ships, we were risking Italy entering the war against Germany. In 1915, Italy signed the Treaty of London, and they joined the Triple Entente. By attacking foreign merchant ships, we were insulting other countries indirectly, and we also flared up another powerful and neutral nation by sinking the Lusitania. (2)
Our German U-boats angered the Americans by attacking the Lusitania. From the beginning of the First World War, the United States remained neutral because the government felt that there is no need to join a war in Europe. There were around 1900 deaths caused and there were around 200 United States citizens. The Americans were outraged. Although they didn’t declare war right after, this was the starting point of the conflict between the Americans and us.
In 1917, the United States officially declared war. At first, our generals believed that the United States would have no effect, but the reality showed that he was wrong. The United States brought two things to the Allies, men and arms. During 1916 to 1918, the United States poured in 4 million soldiers into the war. (3) Although the troops are mainly ground-force, Sinking of Lusitania brought them into war. Since our German soldiers were exhausted after five years of war, and were not able to fight the vigor American troops, we were defeated in both land and sea.
The Americans also had powerful marine weapons. They had large amounts of battleships, submarines and cruisers while most of our arms were damaged due to previous battles. The advantages on both arms and men are the main reasons of our defeat in the sea.
The Americans also populated the use of convoy system. The convoy system did two things that successfully limited our achievements. First of all, merchant ships travel in groups of 15 with a few destroyers. There were no more individual voyages, and instead, we had to fight with convoys of cargo ships and battleships. As a result, the ton of cargo we sink decreased.
The system also increased the number of U-boats sunk. Before the convoy system was populated, our U-boats were hard to target because we had ocean as coverage. When our targets travelled in groups and had weapons along, we had to fight with those battleships while firing our torpedoes. This raised our chances of being exposed and attacked. In fact, the losses of U-boats had increased significantly.
Overall, the convoy system is a dreadful predator to the unrestricted submarine warfare we operated, and the prey were attacked and sunk into the blue, peaceful ocean.
After we lost the war, our government was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles. There were many articles in the treaty that treated our Germans like second-class citizens, as if the Allied countries wanted to blame their losses on German civilians. Although I lead the German U-boats, I have to say that some of Germany’s policies and strategies were ruthless and cruel, including the using of gases, killing foreign civilians, and of course, unrestricted submarine warfare. There were tons and tons of instances like the Lusitania, and there were numerous citizens, soldiers, supplies, ammunitions, and weapons being sunk. From 1915 to 1918, a total of 8 million cargos were sunk. (4) Although these facts and numbers look tremendous and glorious, Germany lost the war at sea in the end. In conclusion, the sinking of Lusitania brought controversies, the American troops, and the devastating convoy system that lead to our failure in the ocean.
1. Abbatiello, John. Submarine Warfare in World War 1. Taylor & Francis, 2005. Print.
2. Preston, Diana. Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the Lusitania. London: Doubleday, 2002. Print.
3.Trueman, Chris. "America and World War One." America and World War One. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/america_and_world_war_one.htm>.
4. "Germany Resumes Unrestricted Submarine Warfare." History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germany-resumes-unrestricted-submarine-warfare>.