During the first decade of the twentieth century, luxury ocean liners captured the imagination of people around the world as symbols of decadence and modernity, as seen by the dramatic depiction of the RMS Lusitania by John Sloan. Not only was the RMS Lusitania the largest ship at the time of its maiden voyage in 1907, measuring 787 feet and 31,550 tons, but it was also the fastest, clocking in an average 24 knots (27.6 mph) during its transatlantic voyages. Travel between Europe and the Americas became increasingly dangerous by February 1915, as World War I intensified and Germany announced unrestricted submarine warfare against any ships sailing in war zones. The U-boat attack on the Lusitania on May 7, 1915 killed 1,198 of the 1,959 passengers and crewmembers that day, including 128 Americans. To justify the attack, Germany claimed that British passenger ships secretly carried war munitions. In this case, it was later confirmed that 173 tons of ammunitions were, in fact, onboard the Lusitania, which helped contribute to the ship’s rapid descent after the first torpedo strike.
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