|Her destruction, they fondly hoped, would strike terror to the hearts of the British, for it would prove
the inability of the English navy to protect her merchantmen. It would prove to the world that von
Tirpitz was ' on a fair way of carrying out his threat to isolate the British Isles and starve the British
people into submission to Germany. It would be a last warning to neutrals to keep off the Allies'
merchantmen and would help stop the shipment of arms and ammunition to the Allies from America.
It would—as a certain royal personage boasted— shake the world's foundations.
Gloating over their project and forgetting the rights of neutrals, the mad war lords did not think of the
innocent persons on board, the men, the women and babies. The lives of these neutrals were as
nothing compared with the shouts of triumph that would resound through Germany at the
announcement of the torpedoing of the big British ship, symbol of sea power. The attitude was truly
expressed by Captain von Papen, who on receiving news of the sinking of the Lusitania remarked: "
Well, your General Sherman said it: ' War is Hell.' "
So the war lords schemed and the plots which resulted in the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7,
1915, bringing death to 113 American citizens, were developed and executed in America, through
orders from Berlin. The agents in America put their heads together in a room in the German Club,
New York, or in a high-powered limousine tearing through the dark. These men, who had worked
out the plot, on the night of the successful execution had assembled in a club and in high glee touched
their glasses and shouted their devotion to the Kaiser. One boasted afterwards that he received an
Iron Cross for his share in the work.
On the night of the tragedy, one of the conspirators remarked to a family where he was dining—a
family whose son was on the Lusitania —when word came of the many deaths on the ship : "I did
not think she would sink so quickly. I had two good men on board."
In their secret conferences the conspirators worked their way round obstacles and set their scheme in
operation. Hired spies had made numerous trips on the Lusitania, and had carefully studied her
course to and from England, and her convoy through the dangerous zone where submarines might be
lurking. These spies had observed the precautions taken against a submarine attack. They knew the
fearful speed by which the big ship had eluded pursuers in February. They also had considered the
feasibility of sending a wireless message to a friend in England— a message apparently of greeting
that might be picked up by the wireless on a German submarine and give its commander a hint as to
the ship's course. In fact, they did attempt this plan. Spies were on board early in the year when the
Lusitania ran dangerously near a submarine, dodged a torpedo and then quickly eclipsed her German
Spies also had brought reports concerning persons connected with the Lusitania, and had given
suggestions as to how to place men on board in spite of the scrutiny of British agents. All these
reports were considered carefully and the conclusion was that no submarine was fast enough to chase
and get the Lusitania ; that it was practically impossible to have the U-boats stationed along every
half mile of the British coast, but that the simplest problem was to send the Lusitania on a course
where the U-boats would be in waiting and could torpedo her. The scheme was, in substance, as
"Captain Turner, approaching the English coast, sends a wireless to the British Admiralty asking for
instructions as to his course and convoy. He gets a reply in code telling him in what direction to steer
and where his convoy will meet him. First, we must get a copy of the Admiralty Code and we must
prepare a message in cipher, giving directions as to his course. This message will go to him by
wireless as though from the Admiralty. We must make arrangements to see that the genuine message
from the British Admiralty never reaches Captain Turner."
That was the plan which the conspirators, aided and directed by Berlin, chose. Upon it the shrewdest
minds in the German secret service were set to work. As for the British Admiralty Code, the
Germans had that at the outbreak of the war and were using it at advantageous moments. How they
got it has not been made known; but they got it and they used it, just as the Germans have obtained
copies of the codes used by the American State Department and have had copies of the codes used
in our Army and Navy. While the codes used by the British officials change almost daily, such is not
the case with merchant vessels on long voyages.
The next step of the conspirators was to arrange for the substitution of the fake message for the
genuine one. Germany's spy machine has a wonderful faculty for seeking out the weak characters
holding responsible positions among the enemy or for sending agents to get and hold positions among
their foes. It is now believed that a man on the Lusitania was deceived or duped. Whether he was a
German sympathizer sent out by the Fatherland to get the position and be ready for the task, or
whether he was induced for pay to play the part he did—has not been told. Neither is his fate known.
Communication between New York and the German capital, ingenious, intricate and superbly
arranged, was almost as easy as telephoning from the Battery to Harlem. Berlin was kept informed of
every move in New York and, in fact, selected the ill-fated course for the Lusitania's last voyage in
English waters. Berlin picked out the place where the Lusitania was to sink. Berlin chose the deep-
sea graves for more than one hundred Americans. Berlin assigned two submarines to a point ten
miles south by west off Old Head of Kinsale, near the entrance of St. George's Channel. Berlin chose
the commander of the U-boats for the most damnable sea-crime in history.
Just here there is a rumour among U-boat men in Europe that the man for the crime was sent from
Kiel with sealed instructions not to be opened till at the spot chosen. With him went " a shadow "
armed with a death warrant if the U-boat commander " baulked " at the last moment.
The German officials in Berlin looking ahead, sought to prearrange a palliative for their crime. Their
plan, which in itself shows clearly how carefully the Germans plotted the destruction of the Lusitania,
was to warn Americans not to sail on the vessel. While the German Embassy in Washington was
kept clear of the plot and Ambassador von Bernstorff had argued and fought with all his strength
against the designs of the Berlin authorities, he, nevertheless, received orders to publish an
advertisement warning neutrals not to sail on the Allies' merchantmen. Acting under instructions, this
advertisement was inserted in newspapers in a column adjoining the Cunard's advertisement of the
sailing of the Lusitania. Germans in New York, who had knowledge that German submarines were
lying in wait off the Irish coast to "get" the Lusitania, sent intimations to friends before the sailing of
The New York Sun was told of the plot and warned Captain Turner by wireless after the ship sailed.
The German secret service in New York also sent warnings to Americans booked on the Lusitania.
One of the persons to receive such a message signed "morte" was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. Many
other passengers got the same warning that the ship was to be torpedoed; but they all laughed at it.
They knew she had outrun submarines on a previous voyage and tricked them on another voyage.
Besides, before the horrors of this war, optimistic Americans firmly believed the world was a
civilized place. It was only after the destruction of the Lusitania that many neutral Americans could
credit the atrocity stories of Belgium. (end)
|From: 'The German Spy in America' by John Price Jones;
London; Hutchinson & Company. 1917
"The Secret Plotting of German Spies in the United States
and the Inside Story of the Sinking of the Lusitania"
THE Lusitania was, in the eyes of the German Admiralty, the symbol of Great Britain's supremacy
on the seas. The big, graceful vessel, unsurpassed in speed, had defied the German raiders that
lurked in the Atlantic hoping to capture her and had eluded the submarines that tried to find her
course. Time and time again, the Germans had planned and plotted to " get " the Lusitania, and every
time the ocean greyhound had slipped away from them—every time save when the plot was
developed on American territory. To sink the Lusitania, the German Admiralty had argued, was to
lower England's prestige and to hoist the black eagle of the Hohenzollerns above the Union Jack.