In August 1915, the British passenger liner Arabic was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Approximately 40 passengers and crew were lost, including two Americans.
This event followed hard on the heels of the sinking of the Lusitania (May 7) and reignited public rage at Germany. President Wilson protested this violation of the United States' neutral rights and threatened to break diplomatic relations.
German ambassador Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff responded with what has been termed the "Arabic Pledge," in which his government promised to:
- Halt the practice of attacking unarmed passenger ships without warning
- Provide for the safety of crew and passengers of any passenger vessels under attack
This German concession was prompted less by humanitarian concerns than by the realities of war. In the summer of 1915, Germany still lacked sufficient U-boats to conduct all-out warfare on the seas. Until the submarine fleet had been brought to full strength, the Germans did not wish to provoke the United States into entering the war.
A period of relative calm on the high seas followed, but was interrupted by the sinking of the Sussex in March 1916.
See discussion of U.S. policy and German submarine warfare.
See World War I Time Table.
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