Will What Pulled the U.S. to War in Europe Twice Happen Again?

Written by Adam English
Posted March 17, 2022

Two ships sunk over 25 years apart. What binds them together? Two things.

First, the sinking of the ships changed the trajectory of the U.S. towards joining the World Wars.

A very similar thing could very well pull the U.S. past the point of no return soon, into another major war in Europe.

The second similarity is what they were doing. One was carrying munitions, the other escorting them.

Here are their stories, and why they matter to us today.

The Lusitania sank on May 7, 1915 off the coast of Ireland, the victim of a single German torpedo to the starboard bow, killing 1,198 passengers and crew including 128 Americans.

The outcry was immediate and did much to silence anti-war sentiment in the U.S.

However, the Germans were not entirely without reason. In the Lusitania's hold were 750 tons of rifle and machine gun ammunition, along with 1,250 artillery shells. It may have secretly been carrying shipments of aluminum powder, used in the manufacture of explosives, and gun cotton as well.

Plus it was listed as an auxiliary war ship and was flying neutral colors.

It was this role as a wartime ship carrying munitions that doomed it.

It would be another two years before the U.S. would enter the war. A major cause? The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare targeting U.S. ships engaged in shipping goods to Europe.

Skip forward to Halloween 1941.

The USS Reuben James, a destroyer, was on convoy escort duty near Iceland. American ships at the time would escort convoys destined for Britain as far as Iceland, where British ships would take over.

It was dropping depth charges in pursuit of one U-boat and positioned between known U-boat positions and a cargo ship laden with ammunition when it took a torpedo meant for the merchant ship.

A massive explosion ripped the bow clean off and the entire ship sank in just five minutes. Of the 144 sailors aboard, 100 died.

Once again, the U.S.'s role in arming its allies in Europe doomed Americans and pulled the U.S. ever closer to war.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor five weeks away, the increasing calls to step in against the Nazis were preempted.

The Japanese Empire saw war with the U.S. as inevitable. Oil and steel embargoes, along with other economic sanctions, had only strengthened resolve and saber-rattling. The idea that a crippling blow to the U.S. Navy in the Pacific was the only way to gain an advantage and allow the Japanese to continue sourcing materials for its own munition manufacturing took root.

Here we are today. Once again, the U.S. professes it does not want to enter what is becoming a major European war.

Yet again, brutal sanctions are in place. Yet again, the flow of munitions and materials are flowing to allies, which then are being deployed to devastating effect.

The parallels are ominously obvious.

The U.S. didn't want to get directly involved in either of the World Wars. Once again, intervention is pushing us closer and closer to another repeat.

And surely Russia is thinking about stemming the tide of arms from western Europe into Ukraine. As its botched attempt at a rapid takeover fades, a grueling war of attrition has begun.

How long until it strikes at the supply lines that are keeping Ukraine's military forces in fighting shape?

The U.S. is already ramping up arms support. Allies are as well. Arms manufacturers will be replacing the shocking amount of munitions that will be used.

The Pentagon's budget is going up yet again and approaching all-time highs after a brief dip in the mid 2010s. The business of war is gearing up for something much larger in the near future.

Tomorrow you'll hear from my friend and colleague, Jason Simpkins, more about this, I'm sure. He's an expert on defense issues, especially the business of it. Plus he has a major new project in the works.

Stay tuned.

Take care,

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Adam English
Editor, Outsider Club

follow basic @AdamEnglishOC on Twitter

Adam's editorial talents and analysis drew the attention of senior editors at Outsider Club, which he joined in mid-2012. While he has acquired years of hands-on experience in the editorial room by working side by side with ex-brokers, options floor traders, and financial advisors, he is acutely aware of the challenges faced by retail investors after starting at the ground floor in the financial publishing field. For more on Adam, check out his editor's page

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