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The Lusitania

Excerpts taken from Chapter 12 of “The Creature from Jekyll Island” appear below. (This is a highly abbreviated version of the full chapter which is titled “Sink the Lusitania.” The Creature from Jekyll Island is an excellent book…highly recommended.) I typed the excerpts below to provide some additional information for this story:Secret of the Lusitania



--The Morgan group had floated one-and-a-half billion dollars in loans to Britain and France. With the fortunes of war turning against them, investors were facing the threat of a total loss. As Ferdinand Lundberg observed: “The declaration of war by the United States, in addition to extricating the wealthiest American families from a dangerous situation, also opened new vistas of profits.” 


One of the most influential men behind the scenes at this time was Colonel Edward Mandell House, personal adviser to Woodrow Wilson and, later, to F.D.R. House had close contacts with both J.P. Morgan and the old banking families in Europe. –It is widely acknowledged that Colonel House was the man who selected Wilson as a presidential candidate and who secured his nomination. (Reference Columbia Encyclopedia, Third Edition, 1962, p. 2334) (House) became Wilson’s constant companion, and the President admitted publicly that he depended on him greatly for instruction and guidance. …”Mr. House is my second personality. He is my independent self. His thoughts and mine are one.” 


--As the presidential election neared for Wilson’s second term, Colonel House entered into a series of confidential talks with Sir William Wiseman, who was attached to the British embassy in Washington and who acted as a secret intermediary between House and the British Foreign Office. –What was the purpose of those dealings? It was nothing less than to work out the means whereby the United States could be brought into the war. Viereck explains: 



    “Ten months before the election which returned Wilson to the White House in 1916 because he “kept us out of war,” Colonel House negotiated a secret agreement with England and France on behalf of Wilson which pledged the United States to intervene on behalf of the Allies.” 



--From England’s point of view, the handwriting on the wall was clear. Unless the United States could be brought into the war as her ally, she soon would have to sue for peace. The challenge was how to push the (American Public) off their position of stubborn neutrality. How that was accomplished is one of the more controversial aspects of the war. It is inconceivable to many that English leaders might have deliberately plotted the destruction of one of their own vessels with American citizens aboard as a means of drawing the United States into the war as an ally. –Let’s take a closer look at this conspiracy theory. Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty at that time, said:



    “There are many kinds of maneuvers in war…maneuvers in time, in diplomacy, in mechanics, in psychology; all of which are removed from the battlefield, but react often decisively upon it…The maneuver which brings an ally into the field is as serviceable as that which wins a great battle.” 



--The maneuver chosen by Churchill was particularly ruthless. 


--After many years of investigation, it is now possible to identify the cargo that was loaded aboard the Lusitania on her last voyage. It included 600 tons of pyroxyline (commonly called gun cotton,) six-million rounds of ammunition, 1,248 cases of shrapnel shells (which may not have included explosive charges), plus an unknown quantity of munitions that completely filled the holds on the lowest deck and the trunkways and passageways of F deck. 


--The German embassy in Washington was well aware of the nature of the cargo being loaded aboard the Lusitania and filed a formal complaint to the United States government, because almost all of it was in direct violation of international neutrality treaties. The response was a flat denial of any knowledge of such cargo. Seeing that the Wilson Administration was tacitly approving the shipment, the German embassy made one final effort to avert disaster. It placed an ad in fifty East Coast newspapers, including those in New York City, warning Americans not to take passage on the Lusitania. The ad was prepaid and requested to be placed on the paper’s travel page a full week before the sailing date. –Of the fifty newspapers, only the Des Moines Register carried the ad on the requested date.

--When the Lusitania left New York Harbor on May 1, her orders were to rendezvous with a British destroyer, theJuno, just off the coast of Ireland so she would have naval protection as she entered hostile waters. When the Lusitania reached the rendezvous point, however, she was alone, and the captain assumed they had missed each other in the fog. In truth, the Juno had been called out of the area at the last minute and ordered to return to Queenstown. And this was done with the full knowledge that the Lusitania was on a direct course into an area where a German submarine was known to be operating. To make matters worse, the Lusitania had been ordered to cut back on the use of coal, not because of shortages, but because it would be less expensive. Slow targets, of course, are much easier to hit. …she was required to shut down one of her four boilers and, consequently, was now entering submarine-infested waters at only 75% of her potential speed. 


--In the map room of the British Admiralty, Churchill watched the play unfold and coldly called the shots. Small disks marked the places where two ships had been torpedoed the day before. A circle indicated the area within which the U-boat must still be operating. A larger disk represented the Lusitania traveling at nineteen knots directly into the circle. 


--One of the officers present in the high-command map room on that fateful day was Commander Joseph Kenworthy, who previously had been called upon by Churchill to submit a paper on what would be the political results of an ocean liner being sunk with American passengers aboard. He left the room in disgust at the cynicism of his superiors. In 1927, in his book, The Freedom of the Seas, he wrote without further comment: “The Lusitania was sent at considerably reduced speed into an area where a U-boat was known to be waiting and with her escorts withdrawn.” 


(The man charged with writing an “acceptable” report about the incident, Lord Mersey) --wrote to Prime Minister Asquith and turned down his fee for services. He added: “I must request that henceforth I be excused from administering His Majesty’s Justice.” In later years, his only comment on the event was: “The Lusitania case was a damn dirty business.”

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