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29+ quotes from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Quotes from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Erik Larson ·  430 pages

Rating: (80.7K votes)


“The track lingered on the surface like a long pale scar. In maritime vernacular, this trail of fading disturbance, whether from ship or torpedo, was called a “dead wake.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“the most likely explanation is that there was indeed a plot, however imperfect, to endanger the Lusitania in order to involve the United States in the war.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Why in the midst of great events there always seems to be a family so misnamed is one of the imponderables of history.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Passengers were crushed by descending boats. Swimmers were struck by chairs, boxes, potted plants, and other debris falling from the decks high above. And then there were those most ill-starred of passengers, who had put on their life preservers incorrectly and found themselves floating with their heads submerged, legs up, as in some devil’s comedy.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“If you had to jump six or seven feet or certainly drown, it's surprising how far even older people will jump.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“I think my thought and imagination contain the picture and perceive its significance from every point of view. I have to force myself not to dwell upon it to avoid the sort of numbness that comes from deep apprehension and dwelling upon elements too vast to be yet comprehended or in any way controlled by counsel.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Belief in such things was widespread in America and Britain at the start of the twentieth century, when an Ouija board was a regular fixture in drawing rooms, to be brought out after dinner for impromptu séances.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“As it happened, their father had not had to spend very much time worrying. He had received telegrams from both sons, telling him each was looking for the other. The telegrams, Leslie later learned, had arrived five minutes apart, “so that father knew at home that we were both safe before we did.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“As Wilson mourned his wife, German forces in Belgium entered quiet towns and villages, took civilian hostages, and executed them to discourage resistances. In the town of Dinant, German soldiers shot 612 men, women, and children. The American press called such atrocities acts of "frightfulness," the word then used to describe what later generations would call terrorism. On August 25, German forces bean an assault on the Belgian city of Louvain, the "Oxford of Belgium," a university town that was home to an important library. Three days of shelling and murder left 209 civilians dead, 1,100 buildings incinerated, and the library destroyed, along with its 230,000 books, priceless manuscripts, and artifacts. The assault was deemed an affront to just to Belgium but to the world. Wilson, a past president of Princeton University, "felt deeply the destruction of Louvain," according to his friend, Colonel House; the president feared "the war would throw the world back three or four centuries.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“through the hull—the rush of water past a prow, the thrum of propellers.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“On deck, he encountered another young man, Thomas Sumner, of Atherton, England, who also had a camera. (Sumner bore no relation to Cunard’s New York manager, Charles Sumner.) Both hoped to take photographs of the harbor. The day was cool and gray—“rather dull,” as Sumner put it—and this caused the two to wonder what exposures to use. They fell to talking about photography.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Families learned of the deaths of kin mostly by telegram, but some knew or sensed their loss even when no telegram brought the news. Husbands and wives had promised to write letters or send cables to announce their safe arrival, but these were never sent. Passengers who had arranged to stay with friends in England and Ireland never showed up. The worst were those situations where a passenger was expected to be on a different ship but for one reason or another had ended up on the Lusitania”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“We were still looking upon war in the light of Victorian and previous wars,” Morton wrote later, adding that he and his brother had failed to appreciate that the “nature and method of war had changed for all time in August 1914 and that no war in the future would exclude anybody, civilians, men, women or children.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“She asked, what would he do if a lady happened to insist? Turner replied, “Madam, do you think that would be a lady?”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“They found a city steaming with heat—91 degrees on Tuesday, April 27, with four days yet to go until “Straw Hat Day,” Saturday, May 1, when a man could at last break out his summer hats. Men followed this rule. A Times reporter did an impromptu visual survey of Broadway and spotted only two straw hats. “Thousands of sweltering, uncomfortable men plodded along with their winter headgear at all angles on their uncomfortable heads or carried in their hot, moist hands.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“America, secure in its fortress of neutrality, watched the war at a remove and found it all unfathomable. Undersecretary of State Robert Lansing, number two man in the State Department, tried to put this phenomenon into words in a private memorandum. “It is difficult, if not impossible, for us here in the United States to appreciate in all its fullness the great European War,” he wrote. “We have come to read almost with indifference of vast military operations, of battle lines extending for hundreds of miles, of the thousands of dying men, of the millions suffering all manner of privation, of the wide-spread waste and destruction.” The nation had become inured to it all, he wrote. “The slaughter of a thousand men between the trenches in northern France or of another thousand on a foundering cruiser has become commonplace. We read the headlines in the newspapers and let it go at that. The details have lost their interest.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“There were always those passengers who came aboard bearing grudges against the modern age.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“NOW FIVE DAYS into its voyage, the Lusitania made its way toward Britain alone, with no escort offered or planned, and no instruction to take the newly opened and safer North Channel route—this despite the fact that the ship carried a valuable cache of rifle cartridges and desperately needed shrapnel shells.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Wilson was outraged but chose not to see the declaration itself as sufficient justification for war. What he did not yet know was that there was a second, very secret message appended to the telegram Bernstorff had received and that both telegrams had been intercepted and relayed to Blinker Hall’s intelligence division in the Old Admiralty Building in London, which by now oversaw a second, and singularly sensitive, component of Room 40’s operations—the interception of diplomatic communications, both German and, incidentally, American.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“He knew not only WHAT to wear, but HOW to wear it.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“One soldier in the Ypres Salient, at Messines, Belgium, wrote of the frustration of the trench stalemate. “We are still in our old positions, and keep annoying the English and French. The weather is miserable and we often spend days on end knee-deep in water and, what is more, under heavy fire. We are greatly looking forward to a brief respite. Let’s hope that soon afterwards the whole front will start moving forward. Things can’t go on like this for ever.” The author was a German infantryman of Austrian descent named Adolf Hitler.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Koerver reports another example of delusional thinking within the German navy. Adm. Edouard von Capelle said, on Feb. 1, 1917, “From a military point of view I rate the effect of America coming on the side of our enemies as nil.” Tuchman, Zimmermann Telegram, 139; Koerver, German Submarine Warfare, xxxiii.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“THE ADMIRALTY’S focus was elsewhere, on a different ship that it deemed far more valuable.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“What Edith did not yet appreciate was that Wilson was now a man in love, and as White House usher Ike Hoover observed, Wilson was “no mean man in love-making when once the germ has found its resting place.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“A Bridgeport, Connecticut, man presented his girlfriend with an engagement ring and handed her one end of a ribbon; the other end disappeared into his pocket. “A surprise,” he said, and urged her to pull it. She obliged. The ribbon was attached to the trigger of a revolver. The man died instantly. And”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“My travels took me as far north as Thorsminde, Denmark (in February no less); as far south as Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia; as far west as the Hoover Library at Stanford University; and to various points east, including the always amazing Library of Congress and the U.S. National Archives, and equally enticing archives in London, Liverpool, and Cambridge.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Lauriat made his first trip in 1873 on one of Cunard’s earliest steamers, the Atlas. His purchases routinely made news. One acquisition, of a Bible dating to 1599, a Geneva, or “Breeches,” Bible—so named because it used the word breeches to describe what Adam and Eve wore—drew nearly a full column in the New York Times.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“Nor did the inquiry ever delve into why the Lusitania wasn’t diverted to the safer North Channel route, and why no naval escort was provided. Indeed, these are the great lingering questions of the Lusitania affair: Why, given all the information possessed by the Admiralty about U-20; given the Admiralty’s past willingness to provide escorts to inbound ships or divert them away from trouble; given that the ship carried a vital cargo of rifle ammunition and artillery shells; given that Room 40’s intelligence prompted the obsessive tracking and protection of HMS Orion; given that U-20 had sunk three vessels in the Lusitania’s path; given Cunard chairman Booth’s panicked Friday morning visit to the navy’s Queenstown office; given that the new and safer North Channel route was available; and given that passengers and crew alike had expected to be convoyed to Liverpool by the Royal Navy—the question remains, why was the ship left on its own, with a proven killer of men and ships dead ahead in its path?”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


“On Monday, May 10, the coroner’s jury issued its finding: that the submarine’s officers and crew and the emperor of Germany had committed “willful and wholesale murder.” Half an hour later a message arrived from the Admiralty, ordering Horgan to block Turner from testifying. Horgan wrote, “That august body were however as belated on this occasion as they had been in protecting the Lusitania against attack.”
― Erik Larson, quote from Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


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About the author

Erik Larson
Born place: in Brooklyn, New York, The United States
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