On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. On board the ship were 1,924 passengers, of that total only 726 survived. The sinking of the British ocean liner sparked outrage from the western world. The United States claimed Germany violated the Hague Conventions of 1907, which specifically outlined the laws of modern warfare. Included in the agreement was a provision that stated all non-military ships were required sufficient time to evacuate passengers before being sunk. Germany was quick to defend the sinking, claiming there was war contraband on board, thus nullifying the agreement. The sinking of the Lusitania was enough to sway public opinion toward the war, and the United States would declare war on Germany in 1917.
This life jacket was used by Lansing native Scott Turner to escape the Lusitania. Mr. Turner brought the life jacket back to Lansing, and in 1956 donated it to the MSU Museum.
–-Compiled by Jon Backus, curatorial assistant
Believe it or not, but in 2008, divers explored the wreck of the Lusitania, situated eight miles off the coast of Ireland. On board, the divers found approximately four million U.S.-made Remington .303 bullets. The discovery supports the German’s long-held belief that the Lusitania was being used to transport war materials. The find also supports the theory that it was the explosion of munitions on board that caused the second explosion on the Lusitania.