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The First Lusitania Note to Germany 13 May, 1915 - History

The First Lusitania Note to Germany 13 May, 1915 - History

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Sent by the President of the United States, Mr. Woodrow Wilson.
United States, Foreign Relations of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1915
The Cunard liner, Lusitania, was sunk by a German submarine on May 7,1915, with a loss of more
than 1,100 passengers and crew, including 124 Americans.
The following note was sent by President Wilson under the signature of Secretary of State William
Jennings Bryan.

Department of State,
Washington, May 13, 1915

To Ambassador Gerard:

Please call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and after reading to him this communication leave
with him a copy.

In view of recent acts of the German authorities in violation of American rights on the high seas
which culminated in the torpedoing and sinking of the British steamship Lusitania on May 7, 1915,
by which over 100 American citizens lost their lives, it is clearly wise and desirable that the
Government of the United States and the Imperial German Government should come to a clear and
full understanding as to the grave situation which has resulted.

The sinking of the British passenger steamer Falaba by a German submarine on March 28, through
which Leon C. Thrasher, an American citizen, was drowned; the attack on April 28 on the
American vessel Cushing by a German aeroplane; the torpedoing on May 1 of the American vessel
Gulflight by a German submarine, as a result of which two or more American citizens met their
death and, finally, the torpedoing and sinking of the steamship Lusitania, constitute a series of
events which the Government of the United States has observed with growing concern, distress,
and amazement.

Recalling the humane and enlightened attitude hitherto assumed by the Imperial German
Government in matters of international right, and particularly with regard to the freedom of the seas;
having learned to recognize the German views and the German influence in the field of international
obligation as always engaged upon the side of justice and humanity; and having understood the
instructions of the Imperial German Government to its naval commanders to be upon the same plane
of human action prescribed by the naval codes of other nations, the Government of the United
States was loath to believe -- it cannot now bring itself to believe -- that these acts, so absolutely
contrary to the rules, the practices, and the spirit of modern warfare, could have the countenance or
sanction of that great Government. It feels it to be its duty, therefore, to address the Imperial
German Government concerning them with the utmost frankness and in the earnest hope that it is
not mistaken in expecting action on the part of the Imperial German Government which will correct
the unfortunate impressions which have been created and vindicate once more the position of that
Government with regard to the sacred freedom of the seas.

The Government of the United States has been apprised that the Imperial German Government
considered themselves to be obliged by the extraordinary circumstances of the present war and the
measures adopted by their adversaries in seeking to cut Germany off from all commerce, to adopt
methods of retaliation which go much beyond the ordinary methods of warfare at sea, in the
proclamation of a war zone from which they have warned neutral ships to keep away. This
Government has already taken occasion to inform the Imperial German Government that it cannot
admit the adoption of such measures or such a warning of danger to operate as in any degree an
abbreviation of the rights of American shipmasters or of American citizens bound on lawful errands
as passengers on merchant ships of belligerent nationality; and that it must hold the Imperial
German Government to a strict accountability for any infringement of those rights, intentional or

The Government of the United States, therefore, desires to call the attention of the Imperial German
Government with the utmost earnestness to the fact that the objection to their present method of
attack against the trade of their enemies lies in the practical impossibility of employing submarines
in the destruction of commerce without disregarding those rules of fairness, reason, justice, and
humanity, which all modern opinion regards as imperative.... The Government and the people of
the United States look to the Imperial German Government for just, prompt, and enlightened action
in this vital matter with the greater confidence because the United States and Germany are bound
together not only for special ties of friendship but also by the explicit stipulations of the treaty of
1828 between the United States and the Kingdom of Prussia.

Expressions of regret and offers of reparation in case of the destruction of neutral ships sunk by
mistake, while they may satisfy international obligations, if no loss of life results, cannot justify or
excuse a practice, the natural and necessary effect of which is to subject neutral nations and neutral
persons to new and immeasurable risks.

The Imperial German Government will not expect the Government of the United States to omit any
word or any act necessary to the performance of its sacred duty of maintaining the rights of the
United States and its citizens and of safeguarding their free exercise and enjoyment.

Just three years following the sinking of the Titanic, there was another tragedy in the Atlantic: the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

Of the 1,960 known passengers, 1,196 of them died after the British liner was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the midst of World War I.

The British ship had nearly the exact opposite route as its sunken predecessor and departed New York on May 1, 1915, to make the long journey to Liverpool — the Titanic left Southampton and was headed for New York. Besides civilians, the ship held a crew of over 500 — and some four million rounds of small-arms ammunition.

While the Titanic is largely believed to have been the result of human hubris and a lack of foresight, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania may have been the result of a political conspiracy. It even catalyzed — in part — America’s future involvement in the so-called Great War.

Wikimedia Commons The Lusitania at the end of her first leg the maiden voyage. New York City. September 1907.

Though it took nearly two years following her destruction, the United States did formally enter World War I, and it is often thought that the Lusitania incident, in conjunction with other factors, influenced this decision.

The Lusitania

The Lusitania sailed on May 1st 1915 from New York bound for Liverpool. The sinking of the Lusitania was thought to have made a major impact on America and World War One, but America did not join the war for another two years.

As the Lusitania had sailed from New York, she had on board American civilians and in 1915 America was neutral in World War One. As she left New York, the dock was crowded with news reporters as New York newspapers had carried an advert in them paid for by the German Embassy that any ship that sailed into the “European War Zone” was a potential target for German submarines. Some newspapers printed the warning directly next to Cunard’s list of departure dates.

Regardless of this, the Cunard liner was packed with passengers. Many had received an anonymous telegram advising them not to travel but the ship was billed by Cunard as the “fastest and largest steamer now in the Atlantic service” and it was generally believed that the Lusitania had the power to outpace any ship above or below the water. Many of the passengers came to the simple conclusion that a luxury liner simply was not a legitimate target of the Germans as it had no military value. Any passenger who had doubts was given further confidence when many famous and rich people boarded. It was assumed that the likes of multi-millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt and wine merchant George “Champagne King” Kessler and the like would have had access to information from the highest of sources to warn them if danger really did exist.

As the 32,000 ton luxury liner left New York, the passengers turned their attention to what the liner had to offer them as fee paying customers. One female passenger said:

I don’t think we thought of war. It was too beautiful a passage to think of anything like war.”

The Lusitania crossed the half-way point of her journey at night on May 4th. Around this time, the U-boat U20 appeared off the Irish coast off the Old Head of Kinsdale. U20 was captained by Kapitän-leutnant Schwieger. In all, there were about 15 German U boats in the “European War Zone” – the zone that the Lusitania was about to move into. U20 had left its base at Emden on April 31st 1915. In its journey to the Atlantic it had attacked a Danish merchant ship but let it go once its Danish flag had been spotted. An old three-masted schooner was also attacked by U20 its crew was allowed to escape in their life rafts and then the schooner was sunk. But Schwieger did not consider this ‘action’ as he and his crew would have appreciated.

May 6th brought better targets for U20. Medium-sized liners called the ‘Candidate’ and the ‘Centurion’ were both attacked and sunk. Neither sinking led to any casualties – though Schwieger had not given a warning to either ship. At 19.50 on May 6th, the Lusitania received the first of a number of warnings from the Admiralty about U-boat activity off the south coast of Ireland. The crew went through a number of safety drills and some watertight bulkheads were closed. But the night passed without further incident.

The next day, May 7th, the Lusitania came into sight of the Irish coast. The ship’s captain, Captain Turner, became concerned as he could see no other ship ahead of him – more especially, he was concerned that he could see no protective naval ships. It was as if all other ships had cleared the waters as a result of the Admiralty’s warning.

At 13.40 on May 7th, Turner could see the Old Head of Kinsdale – a well known sighting for any experienced sailor in the region. At around the same time, the Lusitania was spotted by U20. The first torpedo was fired at 14.09. At 14.10, Schwieger noted in his log:

“great confusion on board… they must have lost their heads.”

The Lusitania took just eighteen minutes to sink. The speed and the angle of sinking made it extremely difficult to launch the life boats and the first one that did get into the water spilled its occupants into the sea.

1,153 passengers and crew drowned. 128 of them were Americans. There was understandable anger throughout America and Great Britain. But some questions remained unanswered by those who condemned the attack:

why did the liner only take 18 minutes to sink? The log of U20 stated clearly that the submarine had only fired one torpedo and Schwieger stated that this was the case. His log also noted that the torpedo caused an unusually large explosion.

why was a second explosion seen if no second torpedo was fired? This second explosion presumably speeded up the whole process of the Lusitania sinking.

with such a high profile ship crossing the Atlantic and after warnings from the Germans and the Admiralty, why were there no British naval boats in the vicinity to protect the Lusitania?

It is thought that a second explosion occurred because the Lusitania was carrying something more than a liner should have been carrying. In the hold of the Lusitania were 4,200 cases of small arms ammunition – an insignificant quantity when compared to the millions of bullets being used in each battle on the Western Front. However, by carrying ammunition, the Lusitania was carrying war contraband and she was therefore a legitimate target for the German U boat fleet in the Atlantic. The British propaganda machine went into overdrive condemning the sinking as an act of piracy. The “Times” referred to the sinking by condemning those who doubted German brutality:

“the hideous policy of indiscriminate brutality which has placed the German race outside of the pale. The only way to restore peace in the world, and to shatter the brutal menace, is to carry the war throughout the length and breadth of Germany. Unless Berlin is entered, all the blood which has been shed will have flowed in vain”

To placate the Americans, the Germans gave an informal assurance to President Wilson of America, that there would be no repeat of the Lusitania and the ‘sink on sight’ policy was called off on September 18th 1915 – though it was re-introduced on February 1st 1917.

Lusitania 8: The Anglo-American Collusion

18 Monday May 2015

Predatory beasts that choose to hunt together often use a very successful tactic. While one catches the attention and focus of the prey, the other strikes the mortal blow and both share the carcass. Such was the modus operandi of the Anglo-American Establishment, the expanding Secret Elite so effectively identified by Professor Carrol Quigley. [1] They placed power and influence into hands chosen by friendship and association rather than merit, and have controlled politics, banking, the press and much else in Britain and the United States for the past century. Sometimes referred to obliquely as ‘the money-power, ‘the hidden power’ or ‘the men behind the curtain’, these men amassed vast profits for their companies, banks and industries through the war against Germany. We refer to them as the Secret Elite, [2] and our book, Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War reveals exactly how they came to control politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Their complicity in the sinking of the Lusitania and its immediate cover-up, demonstrates just how far their influence extended inside both Downing Street and the White House.

The influential diplomat and historian, Lewis Einstein captured the Secret Elite’s sense of inter-dependence and mutually assured future perfectly in an article published in 1913 in the London edition of the National Review. [3] He argued cogently that the United State’s share in the world power system meant that America would have to ensure that Britain was not defeated in a war with Germany, and would have to intervene in any future major European war if that was threatened. [4]

These views were shared by the anglophile American historian and correspondent for the Secret Elite’s Round Table Journal, George Louis Beer, [5] Ambassador Walter Hines Page, President Wilson’s personal mentor, Edward Mandell House, the US Ambassador at Berlin, James Gerard, and most importantly in terms of the American involvement with the Lusitania, the up-and-coming presidential advisor, Robert Lansing. [6] Woodrow Wilson was a political puppet of the Secret Elite, and the men surrounding and representing him were entrenched anglophiles who staunchly believed in the ultimate victory of the English-speaking race. The ordinary American may have thought his President and his country neutral, but in the corridors of real power, neutrality was a sham.

The most prominent American politician who attempted to enforce neutrality was Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. In August 1914, he advised President Wilson not to allow the Rothschild-backed bankers, J P Morgan and Co to raise loans and credits for the allies [7] but the bankers soon retaliated through their favoured trade advisor to the President, Robert Lansing. Despite Secretary Bryan’s repeated objections, Lansing and the State Department sided with the bankers and munitions manufacturers to alter the rules on credit and trade. They insisted that an embargo on arms sales by private companies was unconstitutional and enabled the US to become the Entente’s supply base despite the appearance of so-called neutrality. [8]

The Germans knew from their own spy network that the ‘secret’ British purchases of munitions and materiel of war was constant and extensive. J P Morgan Jnr was intimately linked to the Secret Elite, and his banking empire, J P Morgan and Co. was at the core of the conspiracy to arm the Allies. In January 1915, he signed a contract appointing him sole purchasing agent as well as the Treasury’s primary financial agent. [9] Morgan’s associate, E C Grenfell, a director of the Bank of England, personally acted as a go-between with Washington and London. Britain’s munitions procurer, George Macauley Booth, ( of the Shipping co. Alfred Booth, ) readily gave his support to Morgan. In addition to his pre-eminence in US banking, Morgan controlled a vast tonnage of shipping through his International Mercantile Marine Co. George Booth was well aware that an alliance with Morgan meant that both his ships and Cunard’s would benefit greatly from the huge upsurge in Atlantic trade. [10] Vast profits were made. From the start of the war until they entered in April 1917, quite apart from weapons, the United States sent the Allies more than a million tons of cordite, gun-cotton, nitrocellulose, fulminate of mercury and other explosive substances. British servicemen in civilian clothes were employed in the scheme and customs at both ends turned a blind eye to the illicit trade underwritten by the merchants of death. Unfortunate passengers on the liners which carried the munitions knew nothing of the dangers that lurked in their hold.

On the dock-side in New York, cargoes were inspected by the Admiralty forwarding agent, and the more urgently needed were allocated to faster ships. Cargo manifests were a charade of false names and supposed destinations. Security was tight, but munitions are difficult to disguise, even if the cargo list claimed that raw or gun cotton was ‘furs’, or weapons of war appeared as ‘sewing machines’. It was standard British practice to sail on the basis of a false manifest with the tacit blessing of the Collector of Customs, Dudley Field Malone, another of the President’s place-men. [11]

A friend and protégé of President Woodrow Wilson, Malone had known and supported him since the beginning of his political career. In November 1913, after a brief period at the State Department, Malone was appointed to the post of Collector of the Port of New York. This was a political sinecure, paying $12,000 a year for supervising the collection of import duties. [12] It was mere child’s play to have the manifest stamped with the approval of Messrs Wood, Niebuhr and Co., Customs Brokers of Whitehall Street, New York. [13] The Admiralty in London was advised in advance which ships carried what cargo, and of their destination and estimated date of arrival. Such was the understanding between governments that British Consul-General Sir Courtney Bennet, who directed the British counter-intelligence operation in New York, had his own desk in the Cunard general manager’s office. [14] Exports of munitions from America to Britain was so blatant that it should embarrass every historian who denies the practice or claims that the Lusitania was simply a passenger liner.

The sinking of the Lusitania posed a serious problem for President Wilson’s administration. On 9 May 1915, an official statement from the German government stated that the Lusitania was ‘naturally armed with guns…and she had a large cargo of war material’. [15] Alarmed by possible ramifications, President Wilson telephoned Robert Lansing demanding to know precisely what the Lusitania had been carrying. Lansing had a detailed report from Malone on his desk by noon. It stated that ‘practically all of her cargo was contraband of some kind’ with lists denoting great quantities of munitions. This was political dynamite of the most damning kind. Lansing and Wilson realised that if the public learned that over a hundred Americans had lost their lives because of their abuse of neutrality, they would not survive the inevitable backlash. [16] Consequently, the official statement from the Collector of the Port of New York stated ‘that Report is not correct. The Lusitania was inspected before sailing as customary. No guns were found.’ [17] The denial was given full coverage by the international press and became the mantra of court historians from that time onward. The real manifest was consigned to obscurity and may never have seen the light of day had not Franklin Delaney Roosevelt, at that time Assistant Secretary at the Navy, not saved it for posterity, [18] and Mitch Peeke and his team not traced it to the FDR Presidential Archives. [19]

The text and terms of the American Note of protest to Germany of 11 May 1915 was a historic and deliberately abrasive document. Omitting the customary diplomatic civilities, Wilson protested that American citizens had the right to sail the seas in any ship they wished even if it was a belligerent and armed merchantman. His words were ‘unanimously approved and commended by the financial community’ where a group of leading bankers and financiers vowed to help finance the Allies in memory of the drowned capitalist, Cornelius Vanderbilt. [20] The official German reply from their Foreign Office regretted that ‘ Americans felt more inclined to trust English promises rather than pay attention to the warnings from the German side.’ [21] Germany deeply regretted the loss of American lives and offered compensation, but British merchant vessels had been instructed by Winston Churchill to ram and destroy German submarines where possible. They refused to concede that the sinking of the Lusitania was an illegal act, and repeated, correctly, that she was a vessel in the British Navy’s merchant fleet auxiliary service and had been carrying munitions and contraband of war.

The final, undeniable proof that the Lusitania had been used contrary to international law came with the resignation of President Wilson’s Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan on 8 June 1915. His resignation statement was clear and unambiguous, though he posed his distaste as a rhetorical question. ‘Why should American citizens travel on belligerent ships with cargoes of ammunition?’ He believed that it was the government’s duty to go as far as it could to stop Americans travelling on such ships and thus putting themselves, and by default, the American nation, at risk. His parting shot clarified what had happened on the Lusitania. ‘I think too that American passenger ships should be prevented from carrying ammunition. The lives of passengers should not be endangered by cargoes of ammunition whether that danger comes from possible explosions within or from possible explosions without. Passengers and ammunition should not travel together.’ [22] He might just as well have said, ‘it matters not whether the Lusitania was sunk by a torpedo or an internal explosion from munitions onboard. The truth is she was carrying munitions.’ Lives had been lost the truth had to be suppressed by the the American government too. Immediately. To his eternal credit, Bryan would have nothing more to do with the Wilson Administration. He was replaced by the Wall Street champion, Robert Lansing, whose connivance in favour of both the money-power and the Allies in Europe had established his credentials.

Suppression of evidence continued unabated. Wesley Frost, the American Consul in Queenstown obtained affidavits from every American survivor and these were forwarded by him to the State Department in Washington and the Board of Trade in London. Not one of the thirty five affidavits was ever used in British or American inquiries. Nor is there any trace of the copies sent to London save the acknowledgement of their safe receipt. [23] Why? We can only speculate that they would not have corroborated the story about a single torpedo. Charles Lauriat, Jr., for instance, a Boston bookseller, survived the ordeal, and on his safe return to London, met Ambassador Page. Surely his independent testimony would have been very valuable, given an experience which he shared with the Ambassador, but he was convinced that here had been a single torpedo. Lauriat was also angry about the manner in which survivors were threatened by the British authorities at Queenstown. [24] He was not called.

And what of that powerfully influential coterie of American anglophiles who gathered at Ambassador Walter Page’s residence on the evening of 7 May? What did they really know? Just five days before the sinking, Page had written a letter to his son Arthur forecasting ‘the blowing up of a liner with American passengers’. On the same day he wrote ‘ if a British liner full of American passengers be blown up, what will Uncle Sam do?’ Note that the question concerned a ship being blown up, not sunk. Then he added ‘That’s what’s is going to happen.’ [25] What too of Mandell House’s discussions on 7 May both with Sir Edward Grey and King George V? They questioned him directly about the impact on America of a passenger liner being torpedoed, [26] yet House seemed to find nothing suspicious in their foreknowledge. They knew that a disaster was about to happen, because they had been complicit in its organisation and preparation. On both sides of the Atlantic evil men pursued greater profit from human loss.

The official American reaction to the sinking of the Lusitania contained so many lies and went to such a depth to cover government complicity that there can be no doubt whatsoever that they shared in the blame for the dreadful incident. American authorities, bankers, financiers and politicians close to the Secret Elite were obliged to hide the truth that they were supplying Britain and France with much needed munitions in contravention of international law. In addition, they allowed American citizens to act as human shields and defied public opinion in so doing. Yes, Captain Schweiger of U-20 fired the fateful torpedo but the great liner had deliberately been set up as an easy target or, as the cold, scheming Churchill called it, ’livebait.’ [27]

Newspaper outrage denounced the sinking as the mass murder of innocent American citizens. The New York Times likened the Germans to ‘savages drunk with blood’ [28] and the Nation declaimed that ‘the torpedo that sank the Lusitania also sank Germany in the opinion of mankind’. [29] Stirred though they were, the American people were reluctant to embrace all out war. In a somewhat crude analysis the East coast had been galvanised by the powerful Anglo-American interests whose profits were already mounting in millions by the day. But the further news travelled from New York, through the Mid-West to the Pacific coast, the sinking of the Cunarder excited less and less attention. The British Ambassador regretfully informed the Foreign Office that the United States was a long way from war with anybody. The British Ambassador at Paris described Americans as ‘a rotten lot of of psalm-singing, profit mongering humbugs’. [30] Changing opinion requires patience and the constant reiteration of propaganda.

The sinking of the Lusitania, and the successful cover-up by two complicit governments, played an important role in bringing about an eventual sea-change in opinion across America. They were also complicit in the murder of 1,201 men, women and children.

Assigning Fault ↑

Following the tragedy, the British, American, and German governments sought to place blame for the sinking. Cunard Line first came under attack because the company had promised that the ship would be protected by British destroyers during its crossing however, no such protection was given. The British government stated that it had not given the Lusitania an escort because the government believed that the ship’s speed did not warrant the extra protection. The British Admiralty also employed various schemes to shift blame away from the British government. It used Captain Turner as a scapegoat, saying that he ignored orders to carry out zigzagging measures to outmaneuver submarines, that he chose not to take a mid-channel course across the Atlantic, and that he reduced speed in the war zone.

Germany remained steadfast in asserting that the sinking of the British luxury liner was justified. They argued that the ship was classified as an armed merchant cruiser, had run under neutral colors, had been ordered by the British government to ram enemy submarines, and was carrying allied ammunitions and possibly Canadian troops. Germany accused Britain of using civilians as a shield in wartime.

In 1918, with the United States now at war against Germany, American survivors and families of the victims submitted civil lawsuits against Cunard Lines and Captain Turner. The American judge, Julius M. Mayer (1865-1925), absolved both Cunard and Captain Turner of all blame, stating that the blame lay firmly with the German government. The victims were told to petition the German government for monetary damages, which Germany paid by 1925.

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Event of Interest

May 17 Last liberal British government of H. H. Asquith falls

    National Baptist Convention chartered Bataafsche Petroleum Me begins oil extraction of Maracaibo Local train collides with troop train killing 226 in Gretna, Scotland Lassen Peak erupts with a powerful force, only mountain other than Mount St. Helens, to erupt in the continental US during the 20th century Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary during WW I

Historic Invention

May 24 Thomas Edison invents telescribe to record telephone conversations

    Second Battle of Ypres ends with 105,000 casualties Chicago Whales' Claude Hendrix no-hits Pittsburgh Rebels (Federal League), 10-0 H. H. Asquith forms a coalition government in the United Kingdom An LZ-38 Zeppelin makes an air raid on London Indianapolis 500: Italian-born American driver Ralph DePalma accompanied by riding mechanic Louis Fontaine wins from Englishman Dario Resta Austro-German forces recapture Przemysl, a crucial city in southeastern Poland, and the entire Russian front begins to collapse 47th Belmont: George Byrne aboard The Finn wins in 2:18.6 Denmark amends its constitution to allow women's suffrage 92°F (33.3°C) in De Bilt, Netherlands

Event of Interest

Jun 9 William Jennings Bryan quits as US Secretary of State

    US President Woodrow Wilson sends 2nd Lusitania note to Germany protesting sinking of the Lusitania and refuting German claim British blockade illegal British/French troops conquer German colony of Cameroon US National Championship Women's Tennis, Forest Hills, NY: American based Norwegian Molla Bjurstedt beats Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 for her first of 4 straight US singes titles

Event of Interest

Jun 17 The League to Enforce Peace is organised at Independence Hall in Philadelphia with William Howard Taft as president its program anticipates the League of Nations

    US Open Men's Golf, Baltusrol GC: 4-time US Amateur champion Jerome Travers captures his only Open title, 1 stroke ahead of runner-up Tom McNamara German offensive in Argonne Anti-British revolt in South Africa ends with arrest of General De Law The U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision in Guinn v. United States 238 US 347 1915, striking down an Oklahoma law denying the right to vote to some citizens BMT, then Brooklyn Rapid Transit, begins subway service Yanks get record 16 walks & 3 wild pitches beat A's Bruno Hass, 15-0 Italians launch the first of what will become 11 battles to dislodge the Austrians from the Isonzo River, which keeps the Italians from Trieste Germany suppresses "Vorwarts" newspaper after it called for peace 100°F (38°C), Fort Yukon, Alaska (state record) Dutch SDAP demonstrates against conscription Australia begins Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Australian Survey Corps becomes part of Military Forces Erich Muenter, an instructor in German at Cornell University, explodes a bomb in the US Senate reception room After exploding a bomb in US Senate reception room previous day, Erich Muenter, a German instructor at Cornell University, shoots JP Morgan for representing the British government in war contract negotiations A Great Gorge and International Railway trolley with an extreme overload of 157 passengers crashes near Queenston, Ontario, killing 15 The Germans reply to US President Woodrow Wilson's second Lusitania note by saying that Americans may sail on clearly marked neutral ships, but Germany does not deal with Wilson's other demands Germany surrenders South West Africa to Union of South Africa

Event of Interest

Jul 29 Pirate Honus Wagner at 41, hits a grand slam HR

    Warsaw, evacuated by the Russians, is occupied by Germans The Latin-American Conference Convenes in Washington, with representatives from leading South American nations joining the US to discuss conditions in Mexico The British land more troops at Suvla Bay on the northern shore of Gallipoli in an effort to break the stalemate on the peninsula during WWI WWI: Assault against Russell's Top at Gallipolis, Turkey - 232 Australians are killed Dario Resta, driving a Peugeot, wins the first Champ Car race ever to average over 100mph at a 100-mile race in Chicago average speed 101.8mph British attack at Chanak Bair at Gallipoli during WWI

Event of Interest

Aug 9 British naval officer David Beatty is confirmed in the rank of vice-admiral

    "Of Human Bondage" by William Somerset Maugham, published British transport Royal Edward sank by German U boat kills 1000 Journalist Albert Siegfried Bettelheim, convicted of murder in Georgia Kansas City Packers' Alex Main no-hits Buffalo Blues (Federal League), 5-0 German troops over run Kovno, Lithuania Hurricane strikes Galveston, Texas killing 275 Mob lynches Jewish businessman Leo Frank in Cobb County, Georgia, after death sentence for murder of 13-year-old girl commuted to life Braves Field opens in Boston to see Braves beat St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1 Rationing laws go into effect in Netherlands World War I: the Battle of Van begins British liner "SS Arabic" sunk by German submarine without warning leaving Liverpool for New York killing 44. Creates diplomatic incident Chicago White Sox obtain 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson from Cleveland for Robert Roth, Larry Chappell, Ed Klepfer & $31,500 Jackson involved in 'Black Sox Scandal' 1919 Italy declares war on Turkey in World War One Australasian Championships Men's Tennis, Brisbane: Englishman Gordon Lowe beats Horace Rice of Australia 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 Tsar Nicolaas II takes control of Russian Army Hurricane kills 275 in Galveston, Texas with $50 million damage German troops overrun Brest-Litovsk, Russia Chicago White Sox Jimmy Lavender no-hits NY Giants, 2-0 Brazil becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty. Jerome Travers establishes a US Amateur Golf Championship record by downing George Crump, 14 & 13, in a 1st-round match at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan The German ambassador to the US pledges again that German submarines will no longer sink liners without warning and providing safety of passengers and crew following the sinking of the British liner "Arabic" Anti-war conference in Zimmerwald, Switzerland

Event of Interest

Sep 5 Tsar Nicholas II, distressed by increasing Russian losses, assumes personal command of his nation's military forces clearly a symbolic act and devastating for his leadership

The ‘Lusitania’ Finding

Lord Mersey on Saturday last delivered the judgment of the court constituted by the Board of Trade to inquire into the loss of the Lusitania. Some of the salient points in the judgment were as follows:

There were no troops [on] board. There were instructions received by the master as to the navigation of the vessel, and, in answer to the question, “Did the master carry out such instructions?” the court replied in the negative in regard to some of them.

There were messages sent and received by the Lusitania with reference to enemy submarines during the voyage. The ship was attacked by a German submarine which displayed no flag. She was not armed. She was struck by two torpedoes practically simultaneously. After she was struck there were reasonable and practical measures taken on board to save life.

None of the loss of life was due to neglect by the master. The loss of the Lusitania and the loss of life was caused by the sinking of the ship by torpedoes from the submarine, and was not caused by any wrongful act or default of the master. No blame attached to the owners. All the requirements of law were fulfilled and the life-saving appliances were satisfactory.

The officers and men behaved well, and more than half the crew lost their lives. The 5000 cases of cartridges on board were stowed 50 yards from where the torpedoes struck the ship, and there was no explosion on board other than from the torpedoes.

The ship sailed with six boilers closed down, speed being reduced to 21 knots. That reduction was of no significance, and was proper. The captain took proper precautions when the danger-zone was reached, speed being reduced to 18 knots on the morning of the catastrophe to secure the ship’s arrival at Liverpool about four next morning. — Army and Navy Gazette, 7/24.

The sinking of Lusitania didn’t directly cause the United States to enter the war. It did, however, fuel virulent anti-German sentiment in Britain and the United States and hinder diplomatic relations between Germany and the United States.

The Lusitania Sinks: May 7, 1915 It was revealed that the Lusitania was carrying about 173 tons of war munitions for Britain, which the Germans cited as further justification for the attack. The United States eventually protested the action, and Germany apologized and pledged to end unrestricted submarine warfare.

12 Facts About the R.M.S. Lusitania

A newspaper once said that "there never was a more audacious experiment in marine architecture" than the R.M.S. Lusitania. But on May 7, 1915, a German torpedo sunk the massive ship, killing more than 1100 civilian passengers. The sinking was one of the events that nudged the U.S. into World War I. Read on for more facts about this legendary ocean liner.


The Liverpool-based shipping company Cunard ordered the R.M.S. Lusitania and her sister, the R.M.S. Mauretania, in 1902, and the Lusitania was built by the shipyard of John Brown & Co. in Scotland. For Cunard, the two ocean liners had a shared purpose: to restore Britain’s dominance in the transatlantic passenger travel industry by beating its German (and, to a lesser degree, American) competition. At the start of the 20th century, German ocean liners had the finest amenities and latest onboard technology, and had held the record for the fastest Atlantic crossings since 1897. Cunard bet that its two new “superliners” could reach unheard-of speeds and breathe new life into British travel.


To build the Lusitania and Mauretania, Cunard secured a £2.6 million, low-interest subsidy from the British government (in today’s currency, that’s almost £268 million). Cunard also received an annual operating subsidy of £75,000, or about £7.7 million today, for each ship, and a contract worth £68,000 each, or £7 million today, to transport mail. (The “R.M.S.” in their names stands for “royal mail ship.”)

What would the British government get out of the deal, besides national pride and a very low return on investment? The Admiralty required that both ships would be built to naval specifications so they could be requisitioned for use in war. While the Lusitania never ferried troops, the Mauretania was put into service as a hospital ship and as a troopship, and even got a coat of dazzle paint to camouflage it at sea.


As another part of the loan deal, Cunard guaranteed that both ships would be able to cruise at a speed of at least 24.5 knots (about 28 mph): That would make the Lusitania and Mauretania faster than the speediest German liners, which could run just over 23 knots.

To meet the challenge, Cunard installed four steam turbine engines, each with its own screw propeller, a first for ocean liners. The new technology in the Lusitania required “68 additional furnaces, six more boilers, 52,000 square feet of heating surface, and an increase of 30,000 horsepower,” The New York Times reported. Without the turbines, the ship would have needed at least three 20,000-horsepower standard engines to reach 25 knots.

The Lusitania needed all of the power it could get, because it was massive: 787 feet long, with a gross tonnage of around 32,000 tons, four funnels to match the Germans’ look (previous British liners had three), and seven passenger decks [PDF]. The ship was designed to accommodate 552 first-class, 460 second-class, and 1186 third-class passengers, plus 827 crew.


On September 7, 1907, the Lusitania departed Liverpool on her maiden voyage en route to New York with a stop in Queenstown, Ireland. “She presented an impressive picture as she left with her mighty funnels and brilliant illuminations,” the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser reported. “Throughout the day there was a continuous stream of sightseers on board, and the departure was witnessed by about 200,000 people.”

When the ship reached Queenstown, the paper continued, “768 bags of mail were put on board the Lusitania, which, amid enthusiastic cheers from the crowds of spectators attracted from all parts of the Emerald Isle, set off her great trial of speed across the broad Atlantic.”


Each class of passenger accommodation featured dining rooms, smoking rooms, ladies’ lounges, nurseries, and other public spaces. They ranged in opulence from plush Georgian and Queen Anne styles in the first-class compartments to plain but comfortable in third class. The Lusitania was also the first ocean liner to have elevators, as well as a wireless telegraph, telephones, and electric lights.

Onboard dining included dozens of dishes at each seating for the most discerning Edwardian gastronomes. A luncheon menu from January 1908 suggested appetizers like potted shrimps, omelette aux tomates, lamb pot pie, and grilled sirloin steak or mutton chops. A variety of cold meats—Cumberland ham, roast beef, boiled ox tongue, boar’s head, and more—was served next. For dessert, guests could nibble on fancy pastry, compote of prunes and rice, cheeses, fruits, and nuts.


Germany’s dominance in transatlantic service pained Britain, the country that basically invented the race for ever-faster crossings. Cunard desperately wanted to win back the Blue Riband, an unofficial title for the fastest average time on a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, from the German superliners. Bad weather prevented the Lusitania from reaching its top speed on the first try. But on the voyage from October 6-10, 1907, the ship reached an average speed of 23.99 knots, smashing the German’s record.

The Lusitania broke its own record, but lost it to the Mauretania in 1909, which held on to the Blue Riband for the next 20 years.


The First World War broke out in Europe in July 1914. On May 1, 1915—the day of the Lusitania’s fateful departure—the German embassy in Washington, D.C. published a note in New York’s morning newspapers reminding passengers of the danger of transatlantic travel during the war. In some newspapers, the announcement appeared directly under an advertisement for Cunard’s future sailings, including the Lusitania’s scheduled trip on May 29, 1915. “Notice! Travellers 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,” it shouted. “Vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in [British] waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.”

Few believed the Lusitania was in danger, because it had sailed without incident since the beginning of the war. And, as a passenger ship carrying civilians, it was not thought to be a legitimate military target.


The first six days of the crossing were typically uneventful. In the early afternoon of May 7, able seaman Leslie Morton began his scheduled watch at 2 p.m. He told the BBC:

“It was a beautiful day the sea was like glass. And as we were going to be in Liverpool the next day, everybody felt very happy. We hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to the threats to sink her because we didn’t think it was possible … Ten past two, I saw a disturbance in the water, obviously the air coming up from a torpedo tube. And I saw two torpedoes running toward the ship, fired diagonally across the course. The 'Lucy' was making about 16 knots at the time. I reported them to the bridge with a megaphone, we had torpedoes coming on the starboard side. And by the time I had time to turn round and have another look, they hit her amidships between No. 2 and 3 funnels.”

In first class, the suffragette and businesswoman Margaret Haig Thomas (later Second Viscountess Rhondda) felt the impact. “There was a dull thud, not very loud, but unmistakably an explosion,” she told the BBC. “I didn’t wait as I ran up the stairs the boat was already heeling over.”


The torpedo hit just behind the bridge (near the bow of the ship) and a huge cloud of smoke rose. Immediately, the ship began listing to the starboard side and the bow began to sink. Chaos ensued on the seven passenger decks. Morton told the BBC that all of the port-side lifeboats were now unable to be lowered to the water, while the starboard-side boats were filled with panicked passengers and let go haphazardly some even capsized or fell on top of other boats already in the sea. Watching from his periscope, the U-boat’s captain Walther Schwieger wrote in his war diary, “Many people must have lost their heads several boats loaded with people rushed downward, struck the water bow or stern first and filled at once.”

Moments after the torpedo hit, another blast exploded from inside the ship. At that point, the sea filled with people, lifeboats, splintered pieces of the ship, luggage, deck chairs, and other debris, all at risk of being sucked into the wake of the rapidly sinking ocean liner. “The whole thing was over in 15 minutes. It takes longer to tell,” recalled Morton, who had managed to find a collapsible boat and save dozens of other passengers. An hour later, he said, “the ship was already down at the bottom.”

Survivors and dead bodies were plucked from the water by fishermen in small boats, then taken to Queenstown. Of the 1960 verified people on board the Lusitania, 1193 were killed, and just 767 survived. Four of those survivors would soon die from trauma.


Almost all of the American passengers—more than 120 of 159 on board—did not survive the sinking. The U.S., a neutral country, immediately criticized the attack on civilians, and public opinion turned against Germany and its actions. While Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan argued that Germany and Britain (which enforced a blockade of food shipments to Germany) were both worthy of blame in the disaster, the American people were choosing a side. The U.S. did not enter World War I, however, until April 1917.


Morton survived the disaster and, in his testimony for the official investigation into the attack, insisted that he witnessed two torpedoes launched at the Lusitania. Schwieger’s log and the U-boat crew’s accounts indicate the submarine fired only one.

The cause of the second explosion, 15 seconds after the first strike, is still unknown—but numerous theories abound. One suggests that undeclared explosives meant for the British military, stored in the ship’s magazine, detonated from the torpedo’s impact. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, suggested in his book Lost Liners that the torpedo breached the ship’s coal bunkers and kicked up enough coal dust to trigger the blast. There is also a possibility that another, unidentified submarine fired a second torpedo, but no other sub ever took credit for the fatal blow, perhaps due to the global backlash against Schwieger’s action.

Maritime archaeologists may never know the truth. Three hundred feet down on the seafloor, the Lusitania wreck lies on the side that the torpedo breached, and many of the decks have collapsed onto the seabed, obscuring further clues.


Audrey Warren Pearl was only 3 months old when she sailed on the Lusitania with her parents, three older siblings, and two nannies in first class. After the explosions and while attempting to board lifeboats, Audrey, her 5-year-old brother Stuart, and her nanny Alice Lines were separated from her sisters Amy and Susan, their nanny Greta Lorenson, and her parents, Warren and Amy Pearl. Alice and the two children were able to safely board Lifeboat 13, while Audrey’s parents were picked up from the sea and survived. Greta and the other two children were never found.

Audrey went on to be active in Britain’s war effort in the 1940s and in numerous charities. She and Alice Lines remained friends until Alice’s death in 1997 at the age of 100. Audrey, the last survivor of the 1915 disaster, lived to the age of 95 and died January 11, 2011.

On May 7, 1915, the British passenger ship Lusitania, sailing from New York to Liverpool, was torpedoed by a German U-boat. The Lusitania sank, killing 1,195 people on board, including 123 Americans. The incident created sharp reactions among Americans, many of whom believed that the United States should inflict an immediate reprisal upon Germany. President Woodrow Wilson, however, took a cautious approach to responding to the attack, demanding from Germany an apology, compensation for American victims, and a pledge to discontinue unannounced submarine warfare.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt disagreed with Wilson’s diplomatic response to the sinking of the Lusitania. Roosevelt believed that the attack warranted a military reprisal and that the United States had little choice but to enter the war. In June 1915, Roosevelt wrote to an aquaintance criticizing Wilson’s handling of the incident, writing, "If Lincoln had acted after the firing of Sumter in the way that Wilson did about the sinking of the Lusitania, in one month the North would have been saying they were so glad he kept them out of the war." Criticizing both the government’s response and the American peoples’ apathy over the attack, Roosevelt wrote that he was "pretty well disgusted with our government and with the way our people acquiesce in and support it."

A full transcript is available.


Wilson and Bryan have quarreled over what seems to me an entirely insignificant point, that is, as to the percentage of water they shall put into a policy of mere milk and water. Both of them are agreed that this is what the policy shall consist of. I am pretty well disgusted with our government and with the way our people acquiesce in and support it. I suppose, however, in a democracy like ours the people will always do well or ill largely in proportion to their leadership. If Lincoln had acted after the firing of Sumter in the way that Wilson did about the sinking of the Lusitania, in one month the North would have been saying they were so glad he kept them out of the war and that they were too proud to fight and that at all hazards fratricidal war must be averted.

Watch the video: Lusitania Cartoon - The Sinking Of The Lusitania 1915-1918 (July 2022).


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