The Sinking of the British Cunard liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, has traditionally been viewed as the event that set the United States on the road to war against Germany.  This act of hostility forced Washington to put Germany on a probation in which Berlin had to work to keep the United States out of World War I.  The Germans no longer saw any hope for getting Washington to sympathize with their cause.  It was a perfect opportunity for the Allied powers to cultivate friendships with the United States through trade and diplomatic correspondence.
    The Lusitania was not the first time the Germans had taken the lives of American citizens through attacks on unresisting merchant ships.  The following study compares the diplomatic cable correspondence following the earlier German attacks on the William P. Frye, the Falaba, and the Gulflight to the British capture of the Wilhelmina and subsequent peaceful settlement.  It also looks to the memoirs of the participants, among other sources, to aid in understanding the American response.  These earlier incidents were far less severe than the Lusitania, but they did anger many officials in Washington.  Had Berlin heeded the American warnings following these incidents, especially after the Falaba sinking, it might have prevented the Lusitania incident from ever happening.  In that case the Germans might have at least kept the United States out of the war long enough to force a victory on the Western Front.

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