RMS Lusitania Invokes US Neutrality
Since the beginning of the century, German shipping lines have been aggressively competing for the transatlantic passenger business with England. It was to this end that the White Star Line launched the ill-fated RMS Titanic. The Cunard line has responded to this challenge by trying to outdo them in speed, capacity, and luxury. Two new ships, RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania are fitted with revolutionary new turbine engines, able to maintain a service speed of 25 knots. Equipped with lifts, wireless telegraph and electric light, they provided 50% more passenger space than any other ship, and the first class decks were noted for their sumptuous furnishings.
The Declaration of Paris codified the rules for naval engagements involving civilian vessels. The so-called Cruiser Rules required that the crew and passengers of civilian ships be safeguarded in the event that the ship is to be confiscated or sunk. These rules also placed some onus on the ship itself, in that the merchant ship had to be flying its own flag, and not pretending to be of a different nationality
On January 16, 1915 RMS Lusitania left Liverpool and when she was travelling through rough seas on the way to Queenstown, fearing the possibility of a torpedo attack, the Captain hoisted the “stars and stripes”. With America still neutral, Germany was reluctant to do anything that might bring her into the war on the side of the Allies, so it is hoped that flying an American flag will guarantee a safe passage. The Germans, who are tracking all shipping in the North Atlantic, will most likely take exception to this deception of nationality.