On 7 May 1915 the Cunard passenger liner was sunk in the Atlantic without warning by a German submarine; close to two thousand civilians and crew perished, including 128 Americans. The following are excerpts from a New York Times editorial that appeared on 9 May.
"The rule of maritime warfare which imposes upon the commander of a ship of war the duty of providing for the safety of the passengers and crew of any vessel he may elect to destroy is plain, unmistakable in its application to every case, and…everywhere and by all civilized nations accepted as a binding obligation….
"The man in the street may have some possible excuse for ignorance of this humane usage of war, but it is…surprising to hear from the lips of Senator William J. Stone of Missouri, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,…insinuated excuses or palliations of the dastardly crime committed by Germany….
"Now that we are warned that Germany has resolved to make war in disregard of the laws of God and man, like a Malay running amuck, we know what to do. The time for protests has passed. It becomes now our duty as a nation to demand that Germany shall find means to carry on her war without putting our citizens to death.
If the dispatch without warning of torpedoes against the great Lusitania with 2,000 human beings on board is to be accepted as a true manifestation of the German spirit,…if she has deliberately determined that all the world shall know that this is the way in which she proposes to make war, that this is her attitude toward law,…then all neutral nations are on notice that the complete defeat of Germany and eradication of the military spirit of Germany are essential to their peace and safety.