• Paperback
  • ISBN 9780425189986
  • 544 Pages
  • Berkley
  • Adult


On May 7, 1915, toward the end of her 101st eastbound crossing, from New York to Liverpool, England, R.M.S. Lusitania — pride of the Cunard Line and one of the greatest ocean liners afloat — became the target of a terrifying new weapon and a casualty of a terrible new kind of war. Sunk off the southern coast of Ireland by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-20, she exploded and sank in eighteen minutes, taking with her some twelve hundred people, more than half of the passengers and crew. Cold-blooded, deliberate, and unprecedented in the annals of war, the sinking of the Lusitania shocked the world. It also jolted the United States out of its neutrality — 128 Americans were among the dead — and hastened the nation’s entry into World War I.

In her account of this enormous and controversial tragedy, Diana Preston recalls both a pivotal moment in history and a remarkable human drama. The story of the Lusitania is a window on the maritime world of the early twentieth century: the heyday of the luxury liner, the first days of the modern submarine, and the climax of the decades-long German-British rivalry for supremacy of the Atlantic. It is a criticalchapter in the progress of World War I and in the political biographies of Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, Kaiser Wilhelm II, andFirst Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Above all, it is the story of the passengers and crew on that fateful voyage — a story of terror and cowardice, of self-sacrifice and heroism, of death and miraculous survival.


ALA Notable Book – Winner


“Unforgettable…the definitive account of the Lusitania.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“As majestic as its subject…extraordinarily readable.”
Chicago Sun Times

“Broad in scope and rich in devastating detail.”
New York Magazine

“Tugs at the emotions…substantial and colorful.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Compelling and comprehensive.”
The Wall Street Journal

Table of Contents

Part One: Troubled Waters
One: A Scrap of Paper
Two: The Weapon of the Weaker Nation
Three: More Beautiful Than Solomon’s Temple
Four: Gott Strafe England!
Five: The American Armory

Part Two: Final Crossing
Six: The Warning
Seven: Leaving Harbor
Eight: The Ostrich Club
Nine: Fellow Passengers
Ten: Inside the U-20
Eleven: “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes”
Twelve: Into the War Zone
Thirteen: “Suppose They Should Sink the Lusitania?”

Part Three: An Ocean Red with Blood
Fourteen: “My God, We Are Lost”
Fifteen: “Come at Once!”
Sixteen: A Bizarre Orchestra of Death
Seventeen: Wave upon Wave
Eighteen: A Long Lingering Moan
Nineteen: Rescues and Recoveries
Twenty: The Town of the Dead
Twenty-one: A Sad and Horrible Task

Part Four: “Remember the Lusitania!”
Twenty-two: The Hun’s Most Ghastly Crime
Twenty-three: Fool or Traitor?
Twenty-four: No Longer Neutral Spectators
Twenty-five: German Agents Are Everywhere
Twenty-six: The Kaiser’s Business Only
Twenty-seven: “That Story Is Forever Disposed Of”
Twenty-eight: Diving into the Wreck

Part Five: Wilful Murder?
Twenty-nine: A Legitimate Target
Thirty: Harm’s Way
Thirty-one: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
Thirty-two: The U-Boat Diary
Thirty-three: A New Barbarism

Appendix A: The Lusitania in Facts and Figures
Appendix B: A Technical Account of the Sinking
Notes and Sources
Art Credits