| America First|
|by Lawton B. Evans|
|Collection of one hundred action-packed stories, covering the range of American history, from the first visit of Leif the Lucky to the exploits of Sergeant York in World War I. In relating the long, thrilling story of the trials and triumphs of the pioneers and patriots, the author aims to gratify the love of children for the dramatic and picturesque, to satisfy them with stories that are true, and to make them familiar with the great characters in the history of their own country. Ages 8-12 |
THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA
 DURING the World War, it was the declared policy of Germany to torpedo any vessel flying an enemy flag in the waters
adjacent to the British Isles, regardless of its character, or who was on board.
One bright morning, the first day of May, 1915, the huge British liner, Lusitania, lay at her dock
ready to sail from New York to Liverpool. Her decks were crowded with passengers. They had read, in the
morning papers that "vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her Allies, are liable to
destruction—and that travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her Allies, do so at
their own risk."
In spite of this warning, the ship was crowded with a large and happy throng, who were not deterred by any
threat of destruction. She steamed down the harbor amid the waving of hands from the shore, and the sound of
music on her deck. There were many confident souls on board, but along with them were many who were wondering
if destruction really lay in wait for the great vessel.
The voyage was full of pleasure. The decks were crowded with promenaders, and the
smoking-  room and cabins were centers of amusement and conversation. There was little thought of danger, and but few
discussed the possibility of the ship being torpedoed. It was an event that no one wished to consider for a
The morning of May 7 came with a heavy fog over the sea. The blowing of the siren awakened the passengers, and
some of them commented on the fact, saying it might attract the submarines. Later on the fog lifted, leaving
the sky without a cloud and the sea as smooth as glass. The shores of Ireland were in sight. Everybody was
glad that the voyage was nearly over, and that, in a few hours, the ship and its passengers would be safe.
The morning passed, and the ship steamed steadily on. Luncheon hour came, and the passengers thronged below
for their midday meal. Nearer and nearer came the friendly shores, and less and less grew the danger that
threatened the vessel. The British flag was flying, as if in defiance to the threat of Germany.
Having finished luncheon, some of the passengers came on deck, some went to their rooms to rest, while others
turned to the smoking rooms. The ship settled down to the usual afternoon routine.
At a few minutes after two o'clock, some of
 the passengers saw what looked like a whale or porpoise, rising about three-quarters of a mile to starboard.
They knew that it was a submarine, but no one dared name it. All eyes now fastened in silence and dread on the
menace that lay so quietly and sullenly in the distance.
Then a long white line, making a train of bubbles across the water, started from the black object. It came
straight for the ship. No one spoke until it was about sixty yards away. Then some one cried out, "It is a
There was no chance for the great ship to get out of the way. Its movement was too ponderous for the swiftly
coming torpedo. It was plain that it could not miss its mark. It was aimed ahead of the vessel, and timed to
strike under the bridge. As the missile of death came nearer, it dived, and the passengers held their breath.
Would it hit or would it miss?
Suddenly, there was a terrific explosion, and the fore part of the ship was torn into great holes. Pieces of
the wreckage came through the upper deck, and fell among the frightened passengers. Germany had carried out
her threat, and had dealt death to the great trans-Atlantic liner!
There was no second torpedo; there was no need of one. The boiler exploded immediately,
 and the ship listed heavily to starboard. The passengers rushed to the high side of the deck—the port
side. There was such a list to starboard that the life-boats on the port side swung so far in that they could
not be launched.
The vessel began to settle, and the life-boats on the starboard side were launched. The first boat dropped
clear of the ship, and floated away with no one in it. One man jumped from the deck, swam toward the boat, and
got in alone.
Everyone was frightened, but there was no panic. The cry was raised, "Women and children first!" These were
placed in the life-boats that were launched. The ship settled down on the starboard side, and also by the
head. Those who could not get into the life-boats trusted to the life-preservers, and made ready for the
plunge into the cold water. The officers of the ship acted with bravery and coolness, trying to launch the
life-boats and get the women and children into safety. The wireless telegraph apparatus was put out of
commission shortly after the explosion, but not before a distress message, calling for help, was sent out and
So quickly did the ship sink that it was impossible to get life-preservers from the lower deck cabins. Many
had to leap into the sea without
 them. The shock of the cold water was so benumbing that those who jumped in were not able to swim, and many of
them soon sank out of sight.
With one great plunge, the stricken vessel, that so often had crossed the Atlantic, and that, only an hour
before, was so full of life and power, sank head foremost into the sea. A great wave, rushing over her decks,
cast the remaining passengers into the water.
Then followed a scene of indescribable tragedy. Two boats, full of people, were overturned. Another was
swamped as the vessel went down, and still another was dragged down by catching in the davits. The sea was
piled with wreckage to which people were clinging. Some were struggling to swim, others were depending on
life-preservers, all were battling with the waves in mad endeavor to save their lives.
Women were holding on to their husbands, while both went down. Children were floating helpless, trying to
catch any object and crying piteously for their parents, before their little mouths were closed forever.
One by one they went down beneath the cruel waves. Thus, eleven hundred and fifty-two were drowned. Of these,
one hundred and fourteen were known to be American citizens. Of the two
 thousand and more passengers, nine hundred and fifty-two were saved in the life-boats and on the rafts picked
up by friendly vessels that hastened to the scene of disaster.
Thus did the German submarine carry out the threat of the German Government, and sink a noble ship with its
precious freight of human lives.
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