Chapter

The Voyage of the <i>Vigilancia</i>

Rodney Carlisle

in Sovereignty at Sea

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037622
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041612 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813037622.003.0002
The Voyage of the Vigilancia

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The merchant ship Vigilancia was sunk without warning on March 16, 1917, while bound for Britain with a cargo containing contraband of war. Most of the seamen escaped with their lives, but fifteen drowned, including six American citizens. Although this was not the first ship sunk under the German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, it was the first which clearly violated the American view of international law, and the first under that policy in which American citizens had been killed. Although the loss of life was light, the cumulative effect of three ship losses on the same weekend convinced Wilson's cabinet to recommend war. The failure of historians to focus on these precipitating events was partly due to Wilson's own decision to choose more idealistic grounds when asking Congress to declare war.

Keywords: Vigilancia; cabinet; contraband; declaration of war

Chapter.  2421 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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