Military history

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania


On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. 

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

Epigraph - A WORD FROM THE CAPTAIN

Part I: “BLOODY MONKEYS”

Lusitania: The Old Sailorman

Washington: The Lonely Place

Lusitania: Sucking Tubes and Thackeray

U-20: The Happiest U-Boat

Lusitania: Menagerie

Room 40: “The Mystery”

Lusitania: A Cavalcade of Passengers

Room 40: Blinker’s Ruse

Washington: Lost

Lusitania: Under Way

U-20: Toward Fair Isle

Lusitania: Rendezvous

Room 40: Cadence

Part II: JUMP ROPE AND CAVIAR

U-20: “The Blind Moment”

Lusitania: A Sunday at Sea

Room 40; Queenstown; London: Protecting Orion

U-20: A Perilous Line

Lusitania: Halibut

U-20: The Trouble With Torpedoes

Lusitania: Sunshine and Happiness

Room 40: The Orion Sails

U-20: Frustration

London; Berlin; Washington: Comfort Denied

Lusitania: The Manifest

U-20: At Last

Sighting

Room 40: Schwieger Revealed

Lusitania: Helpful Young Ladies

U-20: Spectacle

Lusitania: Life After Death

U-20: Change of Plan

Lusitania: Messages

London; Washington; Berlin: Tension

U-20: Fog

Part III: DEAD WAKE

The Irish Sea: Engines Above

London; Washington: The King’s Question

The Irish Sea: Funnels on The Horizon

Lusitania: Beauty

U-20: “Treff!”

Part IV: THE BLACK SOUL

Lusitania: Impact

First Word

Lusitania: Decisions

U-20: Schwieger’s View

Lusitania: The Little Army

Telegram

Lusitania: A Queen’s End

All Points: Rumor

Lusitania: Adrift

U-20: Parting Shot

Lusitania: Seagulls

Queenstown: The Lost

Part V: THE SEA OF SECRETS

London: Blame

Washington; Berlin; London: The Last Blunder

EPILOGUE

PERSONAL EFFECTS

SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY