First Three Pages

First Three Pages As he stumbled toward the exit gate, Joe Albi tripped over a coiled rope, dropped a crate, and fell to one knee. It hurt and he swore. Hearing the thud, crash, and oath, the night watchman left his shack, directed searchlights at the noise, and leveled his shotgun. Two furious Dobermans lunged against their chain. “Hold it! Where the hell do you think you’re taking that stuff?” the watchman shouted. “The stuff ” was the forty-pound crates Frankie Buono and Joe Albi carried under each brawny arm. Frankie recognized the watchman’s voice, and decided a prompt change of mood was in order. “Don’t shoot, Mike. We’re taking our underwear home to wash,” Frankie sang out. “Then you’ll be the only Eye-talians in Manhattan with clean back- sides,” Michael retorted with good humor, then lowered his shotgun and silenced the Dobermans. The gun still cradled in his right elbow, with his left hand he beckoned the stevedores to enter the illuminated zone in front of the exit. “Oh, dearie me, I thought somebody was robbing the Lucy,” joked Michael. He meant the RMS Lusitania, the biggest and fastest ocean liner afloat, now loading at this pier and scheduled to depart for Liverpool on May 1, just three days away. The searchlights, barbed wire, watchman, and guard dogs controlled egress from the dockside staging area that serviced the four-smokestack steamship that loomed out of the night fog, occasional lights aboard twinkling on and off. In the moonless night, the ship’s massive outline was silhouetted against the illuminated New Jersey shore on the other side of the Hudson River. Stepping under the tungsten lights, Joe and Frank let the watchman take a good look at them. Certain now that the watchman was Michael O’Connell, Joe Albi put down his crates
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Categories: Excerpts.

Lusitania Chased by U-Boat in April, 1915

“100 years ago: Evasive action!“ New York — The liner Lusitania, which arrived here [New York] with 346 passengers, had a narrow escape from a submarine when one day out from Liverpool, according to the stewards of the ship. The officers of the liner refused to confirm or deny the statement. According to the stewards, the submarine was sighted 1,500 yards away, and the ship put on full speed and traveled at 22 knots an hour for five hours, finally distancing the underwater craft.”  Peter Brekus, The Lehigh Valley Express Times (Pennsylvania) April 21, 2015.
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Categories: Historical Context and Relevant Resources.

Did the Lusitania Propel America into World War 1?

Did the Lusitania Propel America into World War 1?   The RMS Lusitania was the world’s largest and faster ocean liner in 1915. It plied a route between New York City and Liverpool. May 7, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this ship in the Irish Sea. Struck by a torpedo from a German submarine, the passenger liner sank in 18 minutes, causing 1200 civilian casualties.  The world rightly condemned this heartless attack on civilians. Americans too were shocked, but they badly wanted to stay out of Europe’s war and elected Woodrow Wilson in 1916 because “he has kept us out of war.” Nonetheless, reversing earlier reluctance, the United States entered the war against Germany in April, 1917. By all historical accounts, Americans’ shock and anger over the sinking of the Lusitania initiated the process that finally propelled the United States into the First World War in which 135,000 Americans died.  These accounts are sort-of correct, but they are also sort-of incorrect, and the incorrect side is what needs airing as we mark the centennial. The British claimed that two German torpedoes had struck the Lusitania, and President Wilson agreed with them. The Germans claimed that only one torpedo had struck the ship, and the second explosion was internal to the ship. The Germans claimed that the Lusitania was secretly and illegally carrying war materiel, then using the civilian passengers as human shields to deter attack by submarines. On the German view, the submarine’s torpedo ignited the secret cargo of explosives on board the ship, causing the ship to sink so rapidly with such great loss of life.  The Titanic took two hours and a half to sink but the Lusitania, a ship of the same size, sank in 18 minutes. A century later, we know now
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Categories: Author Commentary and Historical Context.

The German Minister for Foreign Affairs to the American Ambassador at Berlin, May 28, 1915

  “The German Government believes that it acts in just self-defense when it seeks to protect the lives of its soldiers by destroying ammunition destined for the enemy with the means of war at its command. The English steamship company must have been aware of the dangers to which passengers on board the Lusitania were exposed under the circumstances. In taking them on board in spite of this the company quite deliberately tried to use the lives of American citizens as protection for the ammunition carried, and violated the clear provisions of American laws which expressly prohibit, and provide punishment for, the carrying of passengers on ships which have explosives on board. The company thereby wantonly caused the death of so many passengers. According to the express report of the submarine commander concerned . . . the rapid sinking of the Lusitania was primarily due to the explosion of the cargo of ammunition caused by the torpedo. Otherwise, in all human probability, the passengers of the Lusitania would have been saved.”
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Categories: Historical Context and Relevant Resources.