Liable to Destruction by Steve Payne
says: what if Woodrow Wilson's pro-British sympathies caused the US to
become unnecessarily involved in the Great War? Please note that the
opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the
In 1915, February 4th:
with Great Britain characteristically violating recognised treaty agreements
upon the high seas and generally acting with impunity in direct
contravention of international law, the Kaiser's Government retaliated by
declaring the English Channel to be a war zone.
Because First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill (pictured) had issued
instructions to the Royal Navy to mine the North Sea and also impose a
"right of search" upon merchant ships carrying cargo to German Ports. Not
only was Churchill seeking to starve the Central Powers into submission, he
was also intent upon embroiling the United States in a war with Germany.
"This might have had interesting results. The thought
of WJ Bryan as SecNav gives me the cold shudders, though" ~ readers comment.
Recognising this danger, his counterpart the US Secretary of the Navy
William Jennings Bryan issued an alert that British vessels were "liable to
destruction", cautioning American civilians sailing into the war zone that
they were travelling "on ships of Great Britain and her allies do so at
their own risk". The warning was prescient because less than six weeks
later, German submarine captain Georg-GŁnther Freiherr von Forstner of the
Kaiserliche Marine fired a torpedo from the SM-U28 which sunk a West African
steamship, the RMS Falaba.
Intense media scrutiny and public pressure mounted, demanding an American
response after the sinking of the Falaba, which was widely and inaccurately
reported as nothing short of a massacre of innocent civilians without
warning. In fact, one hundred and four people were killed, including one
American passenger - Leon Chester Thrasher, a 31-year-old mining engineer
Despite the cynical British attempts to maximise the impact of their
propoganda, an investigation by the US Government soon determined that the
German captain had given the Falaba three warnings, and only opened fire
when a British warship appeared on the horizon. The Chief Magistrate John
Bassett Moore would later note in his diary that "what most decisively
risked the involvement of the United States in the recent war would have
been the assertion of a right to protect belligerent ships on which
Americans saw fit to travel and the treatment of armed belligerent
merchantmen as peaceful vessels. Both assumptions were contrary to reason,
and no other neutral advanced them".
says original content has been repurposed to celebrate the author's
genius © The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas E.
John Bassett Moore was a distinguished professor of
international law at Columbia University who later served on the
International Court of Justice. He and other legal scholars argued that
President Woodrow Wilson persistently refused to see the relation between
the British irregularities and the German submarine warfare as the crux of
American involvement. In this post we again imagine a reduced role for the
Head of State, a quasi-legal interpreter of the US Constitution.
To view guest historian's comments on this post please
Today in Alternate History web site.
Steve Payne, Editor of Today in
Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History
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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit
differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items
explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist
superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy
Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting