Let Us Save The Kiddies
At 12:20 noon, on Saturday, May 1, 1915, there steamed out of New York
harbor one of the largest and fastest passenger ships in the world. It
was the Lusitania, flying the British flag, and bound for Europe, via
Liverpool. On board were nearly two thousand men, women, and children.
They were not overcrowded, however, for the Lusitania was the finest,
the most comfortable of ocean boats. It was more than an eighth of a
ile in length, 88 feet in width, and 60 feet in depth, and had a speed
of nearly 30 miles an hour.
Her passengers, once out from shore, settled down to seven days of life
in this immense, floating hotel. Tiny babies toddled across the smooth,
shining floors of the new home, or watched with gurgles of delight the
older children rollicking and romping over the decks. The women chatted
and sang, and played all sorts of games. The men, too, engaged in many
contests, athletic stunts, and games. At night, when the little ones
were quietly sleeping in their bunks, their elders gathered in the
grand saloon and there listened to some fine singer, a famous
violinist, or a great lecturer.
Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N.Y.]
So the days passed, the people living as one great family. New
friendships grew, and many delightful acquaintances were formed. The
complete harmony and restfulness of such a life, the clear skies and
sunshine, and the vast expanse of blue-green ocean, all made them
forget that they were riding into a region of horror and war.
For nearly ten months Belgium, England, France, and Russia had been
waging war against Germany. Around England's coasts lurked the horrors
of the German submarine. The travelers on the morning of sailing had
read the warning against crossing. It has since been called the "Death
Notice." It read:
Travelers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are
reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her
allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war
includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that in
accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German
Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain or any of
her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters; and that
travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or
her allies do so at their own risk.
IMPERIAL GERMAN EMBASSY.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 1915.
It had been printed in the newspapers beside the advertisement of the
sailing of the Lusitania, and was posted that very morning by order
of Count von Bernstorff, German ambassador to the United States. But
most of the travelers paid no attention to the notice after reading it,
for they were sure that no implement of war would be turned against a
passenger ship. With stout hearts, many of the travelers said, "We are
Americans. No country will refuse respect and protection for an
American citizen in any part of the world." Or they said, "We are
British citizens,--not soldiers. We are on a merchant vessel--not a
battleship. Surely our rights will be respected. We cross under
So they dared to exercise their freedom and their rights when they
boarded the steamer for this return trip.
After sailing for five days in safety, they came at last within sight
of land. Early on Friday morning a heavy fog had lowered, but the ship
continued to plow steadily through the tranquil waters. Toward noon the
fog lifted and the sunshine and blue sky came to view, contributing to
the full enjoyment of the travelers.
They had just finished luncheon. Some were quietly writing
letters--others playing games. Many had strolled to the upper decks.
They greeted their new acquaintances, regretting that they were so soon
to part, for they were now but ten or fifteen miles out from shore off
"Old Head of Kinsale," and within a few hours all would land, going on
their separate ways for the rest of the journey. Though they were
nearing a world at war, all seemed peaceful.
The ship's clock pointed at two, when a few men standing on deck saw
what looked like a whale rising from the water about three quarters of
a mile away. They saw it speeding toward them, and suddenly they knew
what it was; but no one named it, until with a train of bubbles it
disappeared under the ship, and they cried, "It's a torpedo!"
With a fearful explosion, the center of the ship was blown up through
the decks, making a great heap of wreckage. The passengers fled from
the lower to the upper decks, many of them not stopping for life
preservers. Some of those who did strap on the life preservers did not
put them on correctly. Many leaped into the water, trusting to be
picked up by a passing boat. Although every one was terribly
frightened, yet there seemed to be no panic. The men lowered the
lifeboats, which were crowded to the full. As many as seventy or eighty
people, it is said, were packed into one small boat.
Leslie N. Morton, a mere lad, has been officially named as bravest of
the crew. He was stationed on the starboard side, keeping look-out,
when the torpedo struck. He, with the assistance of his mate, rowed a
lifeboat for some miles, put the people on a fishing smack, and
returned again for other survivors, rescuing in all nearly a hundred.
There were many acts of heroism among the passengers, but in all of the
distress one young man stood out among the hundreds upon the ship.
Alfred G. Vanderbilt, a young American millionaire, quickly realizing
that the steamer was sinking, turned to his valet and cried, "Let us
save the kiddies!" The two sprang to the rescue of the babies and small
children, carrying two of the little ones in their arms at a time and
placing them carefully in the lifeboats with their mothers. Mr.
Vanderbilt and his valet continued their efforts to the very last. When
they could find no more children, they turned to the assistance of the
women that were left. When last seen, Mr. Vanderbilt was smilingly,
almost happily, lending his aid to the passengers who still remained on
The whole civilized world honors the memory of this brave youth, who
gave his life in serving helpless women and children. Gratifying indeed
it is to know that the little ones were cared for, though sad to learn
that even then only twenty-five of the hundred and twenty-nine babies
on board were saved. About one hundred children were innocent victims
of that dastardly deed which the Germans, through savage desire to
terrorize, became brutes enough to do.
Elbert Hubbard, a noted American writer, and his wife went down with
the ship. Charles Frohman, a leading producer of plays, was another
prominent American lost. He has been cited as the finest example of
faith and calm strength, for, realizing that there was little hope for
him, he smilingly remarked, "Why fear death? It is the most beautiful
adventure that life gives us."
In less than twenty minutes after the torpedo struck, nothing except
floating pieces of wreckage strewn on the disturbed surface of the
water marked the place of the great calamity.
The wireless operator had sent the S.O.S. signal of distress several
times, and also had time to send the message, "Come at once, big list,
10 miles south of 'Old Head of Kinsale.'" He had received answers
before his apparatus was put out of use, and soon trawlers and pilot
boats came to the rescue and brought to shore those who had survived.
The cold ocean water, however, had made many so numb that they were
unable to help themselves enough to be lifted into the lifeboats, even
when the life preservers had kept them afloat. Of the 159 Americans on
board, 124 perished. In all, only 761 people were saved; 1198 perished.
That day the terrible news came over the cable to America,--the great
passenger steamer Lusitania had been torpedoed by a German submarine;
probably a thousand lives had been lost, among them many Americans!
At the White House, the President realized the awful import of such a
In a day or so, nearly two thousand telegrams poured in from all parts
of the country; and it is said that the President read them all, for he
wanted to know how the individual American felt.
The Germans offered all sorts of excuses for their cruel deed. A German
paper printed the following:
Must we not, we who may be defeated by starvation and by lack of
war materials, must we not defend ourselves from this great
danger (with which the enemy's blockade threatens us), with all
our might and with all the means that the German spirit can
invent, and which the honor of the German people recognizes as
lawful weapons? Have those, who now raise such outcries, any
right to accuse us, those who allowed their friends and
relatives to trust themselves on a ship whose destruction was
announced with perfect clearness in advance? When our enemy's
blockade method forces us to measures in self-defense, the
death of non-combatants is a matter of no consequence.
A blockade of an enemy's ports is, and always has been, a perfectly
fair kind of warfare. In our Civil War, the southern ports were, from
the beginning, blockaded by the northern warships. Germany was in no
danger of starving, as the events since have proved. Her excuses were,
as they have been in every case where she has played the part of the
brute, worse than no excuses and always based on falsehoods.
"The steamer carried ammunition for England," they said. But it was
bought and carried in accordance with international law. Germany had
the same right to buy and carry from a neutral country. "It was a
British ship," they said. But it was a passenger ship and carried
nearly two thousand people, many of them Americans, who, according to
all international agreements, were guaranteed safe passage even in time
All nations recognize the obligation of an enemy to visit and search
the vessel they think should be sunk, to make sure it carries
contraband of war, and if so, to give the people an opportunity to get
safely into the lifeboats. Not only did the Germans not do this, but
they did not even signal the ship that it was about to be sunk. The
newspaper warning put out by Bernstorff was no excuse for committing an
unlawful, inhuman act.
From all points of view, the Germans, in sinking the Lusitania,
committed a horrible crime, not only against international law, but
against humanity and civilization. In all war, armed forces meet armed
forces; never do armed forces strangle and butcher the innocent and
unprotected. There is such a thing as legitimate warfare, except
Here again was shown the German attitude in the "scrap of paper."
Evidently trusting to the great distance of the United States and her
well-known unpreparedness, Germany thought that a friendly relation
with this country was a matter of entire indifference to her; or, if
she hoped to draw America into the war, she little dreamed to what end
those hopes would come!
Around the world one verdict was pronounced against Germany. This
verdict was well worded in a Russian paper, the Courier:
The right to punish these criminals who violate the laws of
humanity belongs first and foremost to the great American
Republic. America knows well how to use this right. The sympathy
of the civilized world is guaranteed her beforehand. The world
is being suffocated by poisonous gases of inhuman cruelty spread
abroad by Germany, who, in the madness of her rage, is
committing needless, purposeless, and senseless murder, solely
from lust of blood and horrors!
The American government, upon the occurrence of the calamity, showed
great forbearance, believing that "a man of proved temper and tried
courage is not always bound to return a madman's blow." A strong
protest was sent to the Imperial German Government, which caused
Germany to abandon for a time her submarine attacks upon neutral
vessels. It was the renewal of these attacks that finally led to the
declaration of war by the United States of America upon Germany and her
allies, and it was the Lusitania outrage more than any other one
event that roused the fighting spirit of America.