In “George W. Bush: Wilsonian Liberal” (Views, October 2002), Mark Royden Winchell writes: “As despicable as the attack [on the Lusitania] may have been, [she] was carrying British munitions.”

Robert Ballard, the undersea explorer who explored the Titanic and the Bismark, also extensively explored the Lusitania in August 1993 and wrote of his findings in his book, Exploring the Lusitania.  Ballard says that, if any contraband had been stowed onboard, it did not explode.  And if contraband had been onboard but didn’t explode, he would surely have found some trace of it—and he does not mention finding any.

        —Harvey Miller
Springlake, TX

Dr. Winchell Replies:

I was not aware of Ballard’s discoveries, and neither were my sources, which were published before Ballard’s explorations.  Perhaps more to the point, however, is that the polemicists who waved the bloody shirt after the sinking of the Lusitania were unaware that the ship had no munitions aboard.  The British liner made itself a provocative target in time of war and sought to use civilians as a shield from German attack.  In my mind, there is no question that the sinking of the Lusitania was a despicable overreaction on the part of a trigger-happy submarine commander.  My larger point, however, remains intact: The saber-rattlers in America got far more mileage out of this deplorable situation than the facts would warrant.