The U-Boat Attack that Ignited the Battle of the Atlantic
Just hours after World War II was declared, Germany struck its first blow, firing without warning on the passenger liner Athenia. The British ship was loaded with Americans, Canadians, and Europeans attempting to cross the Atlantic before the outbreak of war. As the ship sank, 1,306 were rescued but 112 people were lost, including thirty Americans. This account of the disaster, based on new research, tells a dramatic story of tragedy and triumph, as historian Francis Carroll chronicles the survivors’ experiences and explains how the incident shaped policy in the U.S., UK, and Canada. For Britain, it was seen as a violation of international law and convoys were sent to protect shipping. In Canada, Athenia’s sinking rallied support to go to war. In the United States, it exposed Germany as a serious threat and changed public opinion enough to allow the country to sell munitions and supplies to Britain and France.