On this day in 1915, the military attaché at the British embassy in Washington presented U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and Wilson's Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, with evidence suggesting the Lusitania had been purposely singled out for submarine attack by the Imperial German Navy in attempt to intimidate the United States.
Since the German government had repeatedly claimed to be unaware of the presence of American nationals on board Lusitania or on her sister ship Britannic at the time that vessel was torpedoed, the British diplomat's revelations seriously damaged U.S.-German relations and inflamed anti-German sentiments among the American public -- particularly in northern New England and in Louisiana, both of which were home to substantial numbers of people with cultural and ancestral ties to Germany's arch-nemesis France. In later years historians would cite this meeting as one of the tipping points in the chain of events that subsequently led Wilson to reverse his previous neutralist stance and declare war on Germany.A new article by Chris Oakley
Two other incidents, which happened during Wilson's 1916 re-election campaign, would further influence his decision to abandon neutrality in the First World War: the discovery of a plot by German spies to blow up a U.S. munitions factory in New Jersey and the interception of a German diplomatic telegram in which Berlin promised to help Mexico re-conquer its former Southwestern territories from the United States in return for Mexican support of Germany in its conflict with the Allied powers. The telegram in particular turned out to be the last straw for the President, who broke off diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Germany two days after it was discovered.