The year 1916 saw the launching of Germany's ruthless submarine campaign. Early in February, 70,000 German naval reservists had been brought to Kiel and Heligoland, to man the undersea boats that were expected to deal the death blow to Britain's Navy. The German edict went into effect February 29, 1916, placing armed merchant vessels in the same category with auxiliary cruisers and giving Germany an excuse for sending defenseless vessels to the bottom without warning.
Merchant Vessels Sunk Without Warning
The first violation of Germany's pledge to America, that she would not sink without warning any unarmed merchant vessels, occurred on October 29, 1916, when the British steamship Marina, whose crew comprised several American sailors, was torpedoed without warning when off the coast of Scotland. Our government failed to call Germany to task for this outrage. Germany again showed disregard for her pledged word, and disdain for America's power, when her submarines on November 8, 1916, sank the American steamship Columbian off the coast of Spain. The crew, however, were permitted to take to boats before the ship was torpedoed. Four other unarmed merchant vessels were sunk without warning. They were the Fenay Bridge, the Englishman, and the Manchester Engineer.
Sinking of the Sussex
The lives of many Americans were imperiled when the channel steamer Sussex, plying between Folkestone and Dieppe, was hit by a torpedo on March 24, 1916, and some 50 of the 386 passengers aboard lost their lives. An explosion in the engine room followed the torpedo attack, causing panic aboard ship among the women and children. Two boats were overturned and a number of frightened women jumped into the sea. Some of the victims were killed outright by the impact of the torpedo. The vessel fortunately remained afloat and her wireless calls brought other ships to the rescue. Of the thirty Americans on board, five or six sustained painful injuries.
La Provence Sunk with 3,000 So...