The Lusitania at end of the first leg of her maiden voyage,
New York City, September 1907 (photo taken with a panoramic lens).
May 7, 1915, a quiet day that became one of the most important for the US in World War I. The Lusitania, a passenger ship carrying nearly 1,200 people, 128 of whom were American citizens, was sailing along the coast of Ireland, when a German torpedo struck in the side.
A second explosion from somewhere within the ship’s bowels rocked the giant ocean liner as passengers scrambled into lifeboats. In less then 20 minutes she had gone under, and with her, 1,119 of the people who had occupied her decks.
It was the provocation that was needed for the US to join the British in their battle against Germany. The ferocity of what was perceived to be a senseless act propelled the nation into World War I.
Recently, however, a group of amateur divers may have clarified a bit of the story. According to the group who have been diving the wreck site, the Germans may have been right to assume the Lusitania was holding more then just people. Nearly half of the cargo on board is said to have been of secret munitions that were being transported to the UK, in an attempt to aid the British in their war effort.
So far, four million rounds of .303 rifle ammunition has been found on board. Gregg Bemis, the American businessman who owns the rights to the remains and is holding the excavation, thinks it’s unlikely that that will be all that’s found.
Artist’s rendering of the sinking of the Lusitania.
Gregg Bemis in a submarine preparing to dive to the Lusitania.