What Caused the 2nd Explosion?


Dec 2, 2000
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>>But it's no secret that Germany had, nearing the end of the war, investigated such things and altered records to make things look better for them in anticipation of war crimes trials.<<

Perhaps, but sinking the Lusitania wasn't regarded as a war crime at the time. In fact, the Germans were crowing about it to the world and even minting medals to commemorate the event, and accusing the British of shipping contraband aboard the liner. There's also the matter of the crew to take into account on the U20, some of whom survived the war. Had the boat fired more then one torpedo, they would have known, and they scarcely would have had any reason to keep quiet about it.

While there might have been an incentive later on to obfuscate things, this wouldn't have applied to the Lusitania. This event was known. The act itself would have been the matter at issue as a crime. How many weapons used would have been a moot point.

Not to be overly critical of what of seen here so far...certainly there are a lot of questions regarding the Lusitania the deserve and demand answers...but the logical fallacy of Arguement From Increduality is at work here.

Yes, it seems scarecly beleivable that a single torpedo could bring down so large a vessel, but that doesn't mean it isn't the way it happened. Far from it, the best evidence (The log of the U-20 for example) actually available indicates that this was exactly what happened.

Not, however, in isolation. The torpedo blew a mighty big hole in the side of the ship, and this set in motion a chain of events which led to the secondary explosion and from there, an 18 minute trip to the bottom of the sea. The question is what? Any number of aggravating factors could have been at work. An overstressed boiler rupturing, ammunition going off, watertight doors being improperly set...the list is endless. As a sailor trained in shipboard damage control, I know all too well how small details can send even the largest ship plunging down to Davy Jones Locker. I would submit that instead of speculating on what the evidence doesn't support, we need to take a look at what it does.

Any takers???
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Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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I take your points well, Mr Standart, and I have no problem with the idea of so large a ship going down with but one torped - after all HMS Audacious sank several months earlier after hitting but one mine, and she was a new battleship. There are many other examples of warships and civilian vessels sinking from similar woundings. For myself, I simply had a nagging at the back of my mind as to Schweiger's retention of the single torpedo for the journey home, given the scale of target he was attacking - he had no idea if one torpedo would suffice at the time.

Neverthless, the weight of logic and history is with you, and you have my gratitude.

Merry Christmas when it comes

dave
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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>>Had the boat fired more then one torpedo, they would have known, and they scarcely would have had any reason to keep quiet about it.<<
Would the Germans said they fired only ONE torpedo (but actually fired two) because they wanted to show the Allies how powerful their torpedoes were?
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Brian R Peterson

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Dave,

Keeping a torpedo for the trip home was a necessity as I stated in my earlier post, without the sub is literally a sitting duck if discovered or attacked, its only form of defense comes from the deck gun but on the surface the sub is more vulnerable to enemy fire and one well placed shot can disable the deck gun - so remaining submerged as much as possible with at least one torpedo in the bay for defense was the best course of action

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Aug 23, 2003
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Of course they were wondering if some of their unrestricted U-boat practices would bring about war crimes charges, they were looking hard into things like that; investigating in preparation to defend themselves.

All the other theories have much evidence to the contrary, as well.

But no, I don't doubt that a single torpedo could have sank the Lusitania--even then.
 
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Brian R Peterson

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I don’t see the sinking of the Lusitania so much as a war crime, the German Embassy printed a warning in all papers that ironically appeared next to the Cunard sailing schedule, so they put out fair warning that any ship that crossed into the "war zone" would be sunk, and when Schweiger came across the Lusitania it was fair game.

Had Capt. Turner executed better evasive maneuvers and sailed closer to the shore, I believe the Lusitania would have survived the encounter.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I suspect that if Captain Turner had been closer to shore, there wouldn't have been an encounter in the first place. Submarines were slow vessels...little more then torpedo boats which could submerge for brief periods of time, and then had to get themselves into a good position where they could calculate a workable firing solution befor they could even fire a shot.

My understanding of contemporary battle practice was to sprint on the surface to get in position (All the while praying you're not caught on the surface by prowling warships.) then submerge...hopefully without being seen...then essentially lie in wait for the target to come towards your position.

This is not the easiest thing to do, even today with nuclear powered subs which can make the approach completely submerged and at high speed. Try and guess what it would be like in an old diesel boat which would exhaust it's battaries in an hour or so at full speed once running underwater.

All the Lusitania would have to do would be to change course away from the U-20 and the encounter would never have happened. The U-20 would never have been able to keep up even running on the surface.

>>Of course they were wondering if some of their unrestricted U-boat practices would bring about war crimes charges,<<

Were they?-
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I think it was more the "Court of World Opinion" that was at work here, and ex post facto at that. Were there any prosecutions for war crimes then? There might have been, but I'm not aware of any. The concept of War Crimes seems to be a fairly recent one, circa World War Two. Why would they worry about an eventuality that they had no reason to believe would happen?
 
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Brian R Peterson

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War Crimes Trials seem to be a fairly recent concept, with Grand Admirals Raedar and Dönitz being the first naval commanders to fall prey.

Raeder was given life in prison and Dönitz was given ten years for Unrestricted Submarine Warfare.

I further believe the sole reason for Dönitz being imprisoned at all was because he took over the Reich for two weeks after Hitler's death and not his role as Commander and Chief of the U-Boat Fleet.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Aug 23, 2003
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Well, it's not like I fabricated that whole thing. It's well known that toward the end of war (both wars, actually) Germany thought they had to get their act together; investigating and getting their stories straight about the things they'd done and the manner they'd conducted themselves and all that. Their U-boat campaign was undoubtedly part of this. There were issues at the negotiating tables and so on, their unrestricted U-boat practices were among those issues and Germany did get much of that dismissed because they produced examples of similar practices on Britain's part in other aspects of the conflict. They had been doing much "homework".
 
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Brian R Peterson

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Anthony,

I don't believe anybody has accused you of fabricating anything, both Michael and I just pointed out that war crimes trials didn't generally appear until 1946.

Now investigations into the wartime practices and tactics of Germany and Britain did happen, it was basically an "I didn't do it" "Yes you did" sort of affair and both sides were equally guilty of the same examples they were accusing the other side of, in this case unrestricted submarine warfare.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Aug 23, 2003
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I get what you're saying. I do hope I'm not coming across as militant here, because I always mean respect. Though I'm not prepared to dismiss the two torpedo idea entirely, I readily concede it probably is not what took place.

Basically, I know that I just don't know...
 
May 3, 2002
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Good arguement Anthony,ref your 3:24am post 17 Dec. Diana Preston explores this from the perspective of the U-20's War diaries/logs being altered to mitigate any war crimes impact.

The germans had a good case against the British of the HMS BARALONG shooting U boat survivors on August 19 1915.

War crimes were not the sole property of the germans in either war. I would not have liked to have been on the recieving end of Dresden or Hiroshima as an innocent civilian. This should in no way be viewed as support for the actions of Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany.

peace and justice for all

Happy xmas

Martin
 
Aug 23, 2003
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You're right, the Germans weren't the only ones committing, say, "questionable acts", I don't deny that all. My focus was just that which deals directly with Lusitania. I haven't read Preston's book in its entirety yet, I bought a copy soon after it came out, but I only skimmed through a few parts here and there. I've been meaning to check it out more closely...
 
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Brian R Peterson

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While I do not condone the sinking of the Lusitania, I do feel Schweiger was somewhat justified for sinking her as she was carrying illegal contraband, and with the rumors of her being armed with deck guns circulating, for all he knew she was being used as an auxiliary cruiser, the fact that she was not flying any identification flags that day could have persuaded him further on this concept.

I believe this is why the sinking was not regarded as a war crime so to speak, as the ship was in the German war zone at the time and the British were ferrying illegal supplies on their passenger liners and the Germans knew this was happening, so it was more of a "black eye" for Britain so to speak.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Just a few points I would like to make regarding several issues raised in this thread:

1. Regarding the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, and its legitimacy, it all depends on your perspective. If you are the hunter, it can be justified, If you are the victim, it is unjustified. It should be noted that a few hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, Washington instructed naval commanders in the Pacific: "Execute Unrestricted Air and Submarine Warfare Against Japan." This included hunting down valuable merchant traffic, tankers and supply ships, and ships that can be used to carry troops. The United States justified its use of unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific on the ground that “the conditions under which Japan employed her merchant shipping were such that it would be impossible to distinguish between ‘merchant ships’ and Japanese Army and Navy Auxiliaries.”￾ The Lusitania and Mauretania were both were listed in Brassey's naval annual as Armed Merchant Cruisers. There was never a question as to the legitimacy of the Lucitania as a target by the hunter.

2. The second explosion apparently occurred within moments after the torpedo hit. The U-20 had a maximum capacity for holding 6 torpedoes, and had 2 tubes forward and 2 tubes aft to fire from. Every shot had to count. If it did fire 2 shots in a typical spread, there would have been two wakes visible by the lookouts with torpedoes spaced from 7 to 10 seconds apart. This was not reported. What was reported was a second explosion just "moments" after the torpedo hit. At a range of 700 meters at a 90-deg angle, it was a no miss opportunity. The Luci was estimated at 22 knots and the G7 torpedo ran at 37 knots. Simple shoot when at a 31-deg lead angle, and you just about can't miss. No need to waste a second torpedo, which could be used on a another target of opportunity, especially if the first one did all you needed.

3. Holding back torpedoes for defensive reasons in 1915 was not necessary. There was no real defense against a submarine at that time except for ramming. The depth charge was still being invented, as was the use of passive sonar. These came later in the war. Holding back for another target of opportunity, however, made sense. These WW-I subs carried too few torpedoes to begin with, and did not want to waste any if they were not needed.
 
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Brian R Peterson

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Hi Samuel,

Those are some excellent points, It supports the one torpedo theory and provides little margin for the possibility or need for a second. I was surprised to learn, however that depth charges were still being developed in 1915, I thought they had been around and in use for some time before then.

Best Regards,

Brian
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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>>There was no real defense against a submarine at that time except for ramming<<

Couldn't a submarine be shot at by guns mounted on decks when it resurfaces?
 
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Brian R Peterson

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Yes it could, however most, and I stress most because the Lusitania and Mauretania were built so they could have deck guns could be mounted if need be, passenger liners and cargo ships lacked them, save for the Q-Ships.

Best Regards,

Brian
 

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