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Nothing Less Than WarA New History of Americas Entry into World War I$
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Justus D. Doenecke

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813130026

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813130026.001.0001

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In Peril on the Sea

In Peril on the Sea

February—August 1915

(p.58) 3 In Peril on the Sea
Nothing Less Than War

Justus D. Doenecke

University Press of Kentucky

When Germany declared a submarine blockade of the British Isles in February 1915 in retaliation to the naval blockade earlier established by the British, the US responded by sending a note to Berlin saying it would hold Germany accountable for the destruction of any American vessel or the lives of its citizens on the high seas and would take all the necessary steps to safeguard their lives, property, and rights on the oceans. To project an image of impartiality, the US also sent a note to Britain and France criticizing their decision to impose a food blockade on Germany, although no reprisals were threatened. Despite the warnings, Germany attacked several civilian vessels, including a small British cargo ship and two American oil tankers, within a span of a few weeks. However, it wasn't until the Germans torpedoed the Lusitania, a magnificent floating hotel that had women and children on board, that many Americans lost whatever sympathy they had for Germany. Wilson sent three notes to Germany concerning the incident but several more U-boat attacks happened even as the US waited for a satisfactory response from the Germans. Adding to Wilson's concerns were such matters as continued German agitation for an arms embargo, Congressional calls for a retaliatory arms embargo, and the possibilities of mediation.

Keywords:   Woodrow Wilson, submarine blockade, German U-boats, submarine warfare, accountability, embargo

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