History Happens Every Day
I’m a little late for both of these notable occurrences, but in this week in history:
7 May 1915: One torpedo from a German submarine sank the American ocean liner Lusitania. Historians say that although American reaction was originally muted, the media assisted in firing enough public enthusiasm to eventually propel the US into World War I. A belligerent’s firing on the vessel of a neutral country (at the time, America maintained neutrality, considering the World War a European skirmish) was provoking enough to outweigh President Wilson’s determination to maintain that neutrality. He ran for election in 1916 on the slogan “he kept us out of war”. Didn’t last long. America entered the war in 1917. (In spite of rhetoric to the contrary, the US did not single-handedly win World War I for the Allies.)
7 May 1945: VE-Day. Surrender of the Axis powers to the Allies. According to survivors who massed in Trafalgar Square when the victory was announced, the square was flooded with lights all night – the first time, remember, that Londoners had seen anything but blackout at night in five long years. By the way, if you’ve got a bit of time and are interested in the blackout and the London Blitz, may I recommend Connie Willis’s two-parter, Blackout and All Clear. If you don’t read them in order, you will be hopelessly lost. They are splendidly researched, historically accurate and brilliantly written. I will confess that it wasn’t til I’d read them through twice that I got all the characters straight, but it was well worth it. She’s a fabulous writer and these are two of her best ever.