Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Books find me and this gem was front and center in the nonfiction aisle at the Hudson News at Seatac airport. Erik Larson took great care in researching and communicating the story of the Lusitania’s passengers, crew and support staff, presenting the human side of the tragedy; the background of the disaster includes accounts of love, bravery and personal sacrifice. You will get to meet all the main characters and experience their journey through the Atlantic, feeling the sadness and frustration the passengers felt during the last 18 minutes of their doomed voyage.

Contrary to popular belief, the sinking of the Lusitania by U-20 was not the reason the United States of America entered the First World War but the constant disregard for innocent human lives by the German torpedoing merchant vessels was enough to push President Woodrow Wilson to declare war on the Central Axis. The Lusitania was a British vessel carrying ammunition and war supplies when it crossed paths with the u-boat’s torpedo. Whether that was the reason it sunk so quickly is still debateble but its design as a war ship (the British Admiralty asked the ship builders to make it retrofitable into a battle cruiser) definitely contributed to its ultimate demise. Only a knowledgeable passenger would have noticed the dual purpose of the majestic cruise liner.

This book will enthrall you and does an excellent job at presenting the facts and data behind the events that surrounded the anti U-boat campaign, Room 40 and the information passed on to Captain Turner at the helm of the cruise ship. If you have already seen documentaries and movies on the subject, the contents will enhance your understanding of the human element, most importantly Woodrow Wilson’s motivations for delaying any action against the Germans. For someone new to the theme, it will move you to look for more information, especially the pictures and videos that exist of the boat and its people before and after the journey.

Be warned, the author used beautiful imagery and very erudite words to describe the environment. If your vocabulary is limited, grab a dictionary to ensure you don’t get bogged down (unless you are good at figuring out the meaning of a word in context). It wasn’t verbose nor it drags along too much. Aside from explaining Captain Turner’s life and roles in full detail many timed over, the story is not repetitive and flows very well. I was impressed at how quicky I flew threw the pages. A very satisfying read. 🙂


Can you believe it has already been 100 years since we lost the Lusitania? May the 2000 souls that lived through the tragedy RIP.  We will never forget…

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