Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
(Crown Publishers, 2015, 430 pages)
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson is a well-researched account of the final voyage and sinking of the passenger liner, the Lusitania. The Lusitania set out on the New York to Liverpool voyage on May 1, 1915. World War I was underway, but the United States was not yet at war. Although the ship counted Americans among its almost 2,000 passengers, the Germans issued a warning that the waters around Britain were a war zone and ships would be targeted. As the Lusitania was approaching its final destination on May 7, 1915, it was torpedoed by a submarine and sank in about 20 minutes.
Larson did a masterful job of intertwining the various parties involved in the voyage of the Lusitania. He introduces us to the Captain of the Lusitania, William Thomas Turner, along with several passengers and crew members. Larson also highlights Walther Schweiger, the commander of U-20 which was the submarine that sank the Lusitania. President Woodrow Wilson’s life and thoughts on the war are highlighted along with a behind-the-scenes look at what was going on in the British Admiralty’s Room 40.
Dead Wake was written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. While the deaths of over 1,000 people is sad, the story is interesting. If there had been a little more fog or the Lusitania’s sailing had not been delayed by a couple hours, the story of the Lusitania could have been much different.