In a new book on the 1915 sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania, historian Diana Preston presents fresh findings about the atrocity and draws on recently discovered interviews with survivors to bring the terrible human drama to life

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Of 1,257 registered passengers, 785, including 128 Americans, died, as did 413 members of the 702-strong crew and three stowaways. Of 129 children on board, 94 lost their lives, including 35 of 39 infants.


Over the next few days a howl of outrage arose from the American and British press. “German Pirates Sink the Lusitania” proclaimed the Daily Sketch. “What Women and Children Endured When Murderers Sent the Lusitania to her Doom” was the headline in the Daily Mirror. The New York Nation called the sinking “A Deed for Which a Hun Would Blush, a Turk Be Ashamed, and a Barbary Pirate Apologize.”


Within a day of the sinking the local Irish coroner opened an inquest. Within two days the coroner and his jury reached their verdict. It was “wilful and wholesale murder” by the submarine officer sand “the Emperor and Government of Germany under whose orders they acted.”


Anti-German rioting broke out in British cities. Businesses with Germansounding names were looted. In Liverpool, mobs of 2,000 to 3,000 roamed the streets. On May 13, Prime Minister Asquith announced the internment of all military-aged enemy aliens.


The French joined the British in declaring the sinking an act of barbarity. One paper proclaimed that the atrocity “arouses the whole world to a feeling of horror.” The Dutch Telegraaf declared “Criminal is too mild a word to be applied to this outrage; it is devilish.”

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