THE LUSITANIA by Colin Simpson


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The standard facts according to our version of history -- you might not remember them all this instant but they are accessible at any corner library -- no longer seem as starkly horrific in this post-Auschwitz/Hiroshima/Vietnam period as they did in the year of our Lord 1915 when a skulking German U-boat torpedoed the Cunard passenger liner Lusitania, causing a great many innocent deaths, including over 100 Americans killed. The country naturally clamored for Hun blood and the Lusitania incident -- called by the Allies ""the foulest act of wilful murder ever committed on the high seas"" -- is credited with pushing a reluctant U.S. government into the War to Save Democracy. Today such grand sentiments and dastardly occurrences are part of a dim history, lost in the chaos of the post-World War II years. But there are some -- historians, journalists, and treasure divers mainly -- who have remained intrigued by the Lusitania story (for instance, Simpson, a London Sunday Times correspondent, got interested in the case through an article in Sports Illustrated). What was the ship carrying besides passengers? (We have known for a long time, as Simpson demonstrates again here, that the cargo included munitions.) More interestingly, the Germans couldn't have been so incredibly stupid to provoke the United States in such a manner? And most fascinating of all, was the Lusitania disaster deliberately set up or at least hoped for by the British, with tacit American approval, in order to fabricate a popular rationale for U.S. entry into the war? Simpson, who has combed the documentary evidence (including some hitherto unavailable to researchers), answers yes to all of these questions, implicating Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, in the effort to manufacture an international tragedy. These findings, presented without embellishment, not only clear up an ancient naval mystery (the prime objective) but should help remind us as citizens that attacks by the enemy are not always what they seem, as we also found out in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1973
Publisher: Little, Brown