THE LUSITANIA DISASTER: An Episode in Modern Warfare and Diplomacy by Thomas A. & Paul B. Ryan Bailey

THE LUSITANIA DISASTER: An Episode in Modern Warfare and Diplomacy

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Who killed the Lusitania? Was it that hero-villain Walther Schwieger, commander of the German torpedo boat, U-207 Was it that bumbling, inflexible old salt, Captain William T. Turner? Was it perhaps the First Lord of the British Admiralty, Sir Winston S. Churchill? Could it have been (astonishing) our own Thomas Woodrow Wilson?. On May 7, 1915 the British passenger-liner Lusitania was sunk twelve miles off the Irish coast, sending 1,198 people and a disputed cargo to the ocean's bottom. Though the Lusitania was done for, dozens of questions, myths, and polemics surfaced in the wake of her inglorious demise. Thomas A. Bailey, a historian, and Paul B. Ryan, a retired U.S. naval officer, have written this account of the Lusitania disaster, as a reply to Colin Simpson's 1973 book on the same subject. Calling Simpson's The Lusitania ""non-historical fiction,"" Bailey and Ryan meticulously compare Simpson's conclusions with documentary evidence, showing up a number of misinterpretations, strained conclusions, and red herrings. They discuss all the well-worn debates: the mounted-gun dispute, the exploding-munitions controversy, the multiple-torpedo thesis, the ambush theory, and the Churchill-Wilson complicity issue. On the whole, they dismiss the conspiracy theories and prefer the interpretation that the Lusitania was the right ship with the wrong captain, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The awful disaster was no high-level plot calculated to embroil the neutral United States in World War I; rather, ""the calamity was clearly the result of an incredible combination of bad luck and bad judgment."" Perhaps the Lusitania will now be laid to rest?

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan