The United States in the World War

By John Bach McMaster | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
SUBMARINE FRIGHTFULNESS

FEBRUARY 18, 1915, the German war zone proclamation went into effect and the campaign of frightfulness on the sea opened at once. The Secretary of State, in his note, had declared that the United States would "hold the Imperial German Government to strict accountability" if American ships were sunk without warning, and would take steps "to safeguard American lives and property and to secure American citizens the full enjoyment of their rights on the high seas." But Germany cared nothing whatever for the warning and on the twentieth of the month the Evelyn was sunk off the Borkum Islands, and three days later the Carib went down off the coast of Germany. Both were American vessels laden with cotton for Bremen and each was destroyed by a German mine. The first case of deliberate sinking of an American vessel became known on March 10, when the German auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich, to the astonishment of the whole country, entered Newport News and her commander reported that he had sunk the American vessel William P. Frye.

The Prinz Eitel Friedrich sailed from Tsing Tau and while cruising in the south Atlantic fell in with the Frye on January 27, put an armed force aboard and took possession.

Wheat was not contraband, but the commander of the cruiser decided it was and ordered the cargo thrown into the sea. On February 28, finding this proceeding too slow, he ordered the crew aboard his ship and sank the Frye with gun fire.

March 28, when south of St. George's Channel, the British ship Falaba, out of Liverpool, bound for the west coast of Africa, was attacked by a German submarine and five minutes allowed the passengers and crew, some 250 in number, to take to the lifeboats. But before even that short time elapsed a torpedo struck near the engine room, exploded, killed many,

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