Lecture Description

This lecture will recount U.S. entry into World War I through the story of one lifeboat adrift in the Atlantic Ocean through a cold February night in 1917. Three Americans, who had sailed on the British liner Laconia when it was torpedoed, were onboard the same lifeboat. The fates of these Americans and their country were bound together on that perilous night. Their story, based in part on first-person accounts by survivors, illuminates more than the horror of civilians caught in a warzone. It shows the way American casualties were at the center of U.S. war politics in the ultimate shift in favor of joining World War I. The lifeboat, and the tales told about it, were at the center of an explosive political moment as the country and the president shifted toward declaring war. Ultimately this episode shows the way American deaths in the Atlantic Ocean were an indispensable element in mobilizing the country for war.


Military World War I

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