This map depicts a Zone of Exclusion, in the waters around Ireland and the United Kingdom, which Germany declared was fair grounds for Allied ship attacks. Germany made the announcement in February of 1915. Map online, via Wikimedia Commons.
When the Lusitania sailed in the spring of 1915, Europe had been at war for more than 8 months. What was the precipitating cause of that Great War? A domino effect, set in motion on June 28, 1914 when Gavrilo Princip, a Serb, assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
Riding in his car during a state visit to Bosnia, Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were in Sarajevo to review military troops. Their shocking deaths began a chain reaction culminating in The Guns of August.
By 1918, when Princip died of tuberculosis four years into his life sentence, an entire generation of Europeans had been scarred by the war. Many of those people were dead or injured.
At the time, Dylan Thomas - a young Welsh lad who would later urge his father to "rage" against death - was just four years old. Families throughout the continent would have anticipated the poet's words as they, too, raged against what had happened to their loved ones.
The front-line trenches, towns and waterways of Europe were filled with millions of bodies. People everywhere were cut down before they had really lived.
Of those who died, 1,198 were victims of a German U-boat attack on the Lusitania. Although she was not far from the safety of an Irish harbor, the record-holding ship fell victim to a torpedo launched by SM U-20.
While the Lusitania's owner, crew and passengers apparently did not take the German threat seriously, Walther Schwieger did. It took only one well-placed G-type torpedo from his U-boat to sink one of the fastest passenger liners of her day.
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