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tv   Erik Larson on Dead Wake  CSPAN  May 3, 2015 5:02pm-6:23pm EDT

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our daughter in any way at all? >> that a really get question. i was inclined in this direction anyway but i think i have been led even more to downplay sort of her intellectual growth in favor of her social and emotional growth because i think that -- many thing is learned and this might be helpful to any of you who have kids who are educated people, as you appear to be. if you and your partner -- and you have partner and beth within to college -- the chances your kit doesn't graduate from knowledge college are school. private school done make a difference when you factor out family income, there's almost no difference in private school. a very large book was written about the public school advantage which argued based on math public schools do better because the teachers are better trained. what can negatively affect your child is anxiety around the
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process of schooling and achievement and the fact that in our 21-inch century world the achievement ladder gets narrower and narrower at the top. there's so much inequality so much space between the one percent and the 001 percent it freaks parents out into acting ill logically and in terrible competitive ways. that what i strived to washing on as a parent to say where am i not making space for my kid to develop socially and emotionally and make her happy and the calmest she can be so her home is a refuge, and loving books and loving ideas and indulging her natural curiosity is part of it and so is opting out of the madness attached to what looks like a really greet goal, getting the best possible education for your kids. but we'll see. she's only throw. -- she's only three.
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>> one more question. thanks. >> every weekend booktv offers programming focused on nonfiction authors and books. keep watching for more here on c-span2 and watch any of our past programs online a >> eric larson is next. he talks be in sinking of the lusitania, british oceanliner by a german u-boat in 1915 and the influence of the vent on to america's entry into world war i. [applause] >> you can't believe how excited people are so see you. i'm not kidding.
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they came for you. no other author could have done this. >> tell that to my daughters. >> they're not impressed with you? i want to talk about a little bit about this idea of why we are so intrigued by the idea of the doomed ship, and here's my theory and you tell me whether this fits what you're thinking. is it something about the adventure and the optimism of the voyage, colliding with this tragedy that the passengers don't know that they're sailing into? its like the collision of those ideas? >> no. >> come on. >> no. i actually often wonder about that myself. the thing that drew me to the lusitania was the fact i have this maritime thing. i think we all doom the titanic and when i was a kid the flying dutchman occupied much of my imagination.
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but i think it's something -- i think what happens is there's this -- something about the idea of being way out in the middle of the ocean and have something bad happen to you with no help available. that what taps into my my brain. >> isolation of it? >> the isolation and also the romance. the glamor of a crossing and then suddenly interrupted by some catastrophe. partly also because of my scan scan navan roots. my roots extend to minnesota and south dakota. >> you have won them over. you had them at scandinavian. >> there are probably 300erik larsons. i don't know how my forebears wound it land locked but we're a seafaring people, before coming
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to sioux falls we were pillage from the sea. >> you were that guy. >> that guy. >> okay. i'm sure you know something about the wreck of the edmund fitzgerald. i think this kind of defies your theory because there was nothing that all that glam morous. a ship on it's something we observe and talk about every year. >> don't find that particularly romantic. >> you don't. >> no. i find that sinking really an amazing event. >> why? >> on the great lakes and from what i understand, meteorologically the great lakes are a terrible place to be in a win storm because the waves are something you only experience on the ocean. that's the fascinating part of the edmund fitzgerald. my dark fantasies tend toward
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the deep sea. >> speaking of the deep sea i'm sure that when you were researching this you were studying the underwater photos and video of the lusitania wreck. >> not really. >> why? >> i'm sorry. i don't mean to be difficult. >> thank you eric, that's how it's going to go tonight. >> really, let me elaborate on that. i did rather late in the process take look at undersea photography that robert ballard had done. here's the thing. didn't want that to color my impression during the course of my research of what this voyage was like. i didn't want it to be this rusting hulk on the floor of the ocean, which is what it is now. i wanted in my mind this great glamorous ship with all these great glamorous spaces and the people walking aboard and so
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forth. so that's why i feel that way. >> that makes sense. it's lying in more than 300 feet of water. right? on its starboard side. >> on the side, yep. >> and i don't want to jump too far ahead here but it sanks very very quickly. do you know why it's lying in the position that it is? >> well, i actually don't. i can't tell you for sure whether it's on the starboard or port side, and i'm not sure in the end that had much to do with exactly how it sank. when it sank. what i do know is when it sank, for much of that time -- it was only 18 minutes -- >> incredible. >> for much of that time it was at a 25-degree list. so it may be their oregon the starboard side but just before it went under it sort of uprighted itself and plunged
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underneath. but it is on its side. >> how does that 18-minute sinking compare? how unusual is that? >> well, i mean, it's incredibly unusual. the thing about the titanic it was a rather leisurely sinking but -- >> on odd way to -- >> i am not making light of the sinking of the titanic. i alaska saying that it was relatively speaking a leisurely rate of sinking. as you know the big issue with the titanic was that there were not enough life boats. now the issue with the lusitania was that there were more than muff life boats. there will 20 -- not to bother you but there were 22 class-a life boats think boats you think of when you think of life boats. then they had a lot of collapsable boats stored
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underneath and that's how they made up the difference. the problem with the lusitania was the net result was almost the same because have to the boats were unusable because the list. the boats or o'port side swung into the super struck tier. those on the starboard side were suddenly out eight feet from the hull. so if you can imagine getting into a boat, you're already 60 feet above the sea and now you got to cross this eight-foot span and we're using deck chairs as lad efforts. one of my favorite vignettes is a little boy takes a running leap and jumps into the life boat. but anyway, that was the problem with the lusitania. and then just the fact it sank so fast because out how it was struck. >> since you mentioned the tie tap nick, -- titanic to note
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there's a connection between the captain of the lose tejano and the titanic die. remember that right? no. wasn't he being called to court to -- >> the connection is -- yeah. i thought you were speaking to him being a captain. there is a very interesting connect with the titanic. on the day before -- literally the day before departure may 1 1915 captain turner was called to give testimony in a big titanic legal proceeding, limitation of liability proceeding in new york, white star line was trying to limit its exposure to the various lawsuits after the sinking and turner was called as an expert witness to testify as to the behavior of the titanic and the
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titanic's captain and why he was going so fast through ice and turner did not approve. captain turner knew that there were risks to this crossing, that he was about to undertake and a lot of the passengers knew that too. >> well, captain turner -- i don't -- i'm not quite sure i agree with that. >> surprise! >> first, let's see what the passengers -- what we're talking about here is that on may 1 a very interesting thing happened in new york. in the new york newspapers that morning in the shipping news pages which were widely read, the german embassy placed an advertisement or actually a notice let's say warning anybody who was traveling on a passenger liner or on any kind of merchant ship, that when they
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entered the waters around the unite kingdom the so-called war zone that germany declared in february, this notice was essentially reiterating this war zone existed if you sailed on a ship into this waters you sailed at your own risk. this ad did not name the lusitania. but it was widely interpreted to be aimed at the lusitania in part because like in the new york world one of these notices appear right next to the ad for kunnards lose -- lusitania. so there was that warning in the paper. and men people read it, some actually did not and only found out about the warning after the ship was a few hours out which is a wonderful time to find out that -- but captain turner -- we know he knew about the warning.
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but i don't think captain turner was at all saved by it. i don't think -- cavity turner was a sailor of the old school, came up through the great sailing ships a staunch guy the kind of guy -- when you get on ann airliner -- maybe -- i hate to fly i'm a panicky flier so i look for cues as to what is going to happen elm listen to the pilot's voice. anybody else do that? i listen for the very cool and calm blah, blah, blah. if i heard woody allen come over -- >> what would you do about. >> be off that plane in heartbeat. but turner was the kind of guy if you can picture him he was the kind of guy if you ran into him on the deck, you'd say this the kind of guy i'd want. he was not fazed by to the potential of submarine attack. i think he firmly believed his
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ship was faster and bigger than anything that any german submarine could tackle. >> that's something that is interesting too here you. describe how few people really understood how dangerous the german submarine was. >> right. >> i have a note here, but you note the author or sherlock holmes actually got it. >> right. one of the fascinating elements. the thing -- i agreed with you see? [laughter] >> it's going to be good from here on in. >> so, the thing is, whenever you write -- when i write history, the way i like to write it one their important thing is to try to put yourself in the point of view of the era. and one thing that was very important to grasp for me was how new the submarine was in that time. we are all very familiar with it run silent run deep, ping, ping ping. there was no sonar in world
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war i and no depth charges until well after the lusitania. but the submarine was actually brand new and was not understood by anybody as to whether it would ever be a viable weapon and a couple of guys, though, got it. one was sir arthur conan doyle who before the war wrote a prescient short story about a imaginary country that had handful of sub marines and nonetheless managed to bring the british emfire its knees. and that was his story which ran some -- he wrote it long before the war but was published the mock -- the month before the war. the other guy was jackie fisher. the admiralty hierarchy in
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britain there was the first lord of thed admiralty winston churchill, and then the number two the chief operating officer over the admiralty jackie fisher the first sea lord. and he got it, too. he understood, too. he understood that there were certain characteristics of the design of a submarine that virtually required that it be used a certain way. and churchill completely dismissed that. he didn't accept the idea that a submarine would ever be used against civilian shipping. just too outrageous to contemplate. >> one thing you note is the autonomy that the submarines had once they were at sea and you say once a see a u-boat captain was free to conduct his patrol in char manner suited him without supervision from above. what did that really translate to? what did that mean?
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>> well, frankly was extremely high risk for germany that a mistake would be made and the elephant in the room, america would climb into the war with guns blazing. it went that when you were the captain of a submarine typically you were young men late 20s early 30s a crew of about 36, once you got out of range of german transmitters you were literally on your own. you could make any decisions you wanted. if you saw a worthy target you didn't have to call back to headquarters. you just went for it. and so the autonomy was both thrilling for these guys and also a huge, huge responsibility. >> and i wonder how important it is to understand how captain zweiger -- how it is to understand how he interpret that autonomy. >> zweiger took it and ran with
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it. one of the big submarine aces in the war. he was a very talented hunter of ships using his submarine. he was however -- i went into this thinking knew there would be this collision course thing between the submarine and the lusitania, because the captain of the ship -- the captain of the submarine as did all submarine captains, kept a meticulous war log detailing everything that happened from moment he left germany to the time he return. so i knew all of that. and it made enough -- an obvious narrative thing to have the lusitania and submarine converging. in the course of researching this came across all this interesting information about zweiger elm wanted him to be this classic villain. i wanted him -- i would love a
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mon -- mon monacle and a scar. i got this nice guy. handsome, beloved by the crew, well-liked in the service and one of his friend, fellow submarine commander said he couldn't hurt a flow. this is after the war. so just -- >> i've opened the book to this room 40 cadence and this is -- is this the positioning -- the report on the positioning. >> one of the remarkable things about the story as i started getting into reading -- i got to say i came to the lusitania reluctantly. i had nothing else on my plate. but i had this maritime tick, and i was just interested in the lusitania, and i don't know. i started reading about and it
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started getting more -- and then did my first exploratory archival trip and that cemented it. but one of the things that surprised me was the role of this super secret operation within thed a admiralty called room 40. it was established early in the war to take advantage of the nearly miraculous events that occurred, which was on three different occasions -- again very early in the war -- the british came into's of germany's -- into possession of germany's three main code bucs, governing most all of their wire transmissions, naval and diplomatic so churchill and handful of others got together and formed room 40, which was to take advantage of these captured code books and use them to read wireless messages intercepted from the german navy, and they became very, very adept that
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this and one of the mysteries -- not mystery -- one of the most interesting things about the saga is ewe-20, the submarine, sent wireless messages and received wireless messages. so from the very beginning room 40 knew exactly what the submarine's orders were, knew exactly where it was supposed to end up on patrol, and during its first 24 hours at sea the wireless operator sent 14 position reports which the british in room 40 duly intercepted and decoded. they'll knew exactly where the submarine was for the first 24 hours. that's the chapter you're looking at. >> in the book it's at 2:00 a.m., the exact location. 4:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m. 8:00 a.m., and then you say the reports cease. where was all this information for you to fine it? >> all in the intercept -- in
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the archives -- national archive owes the unite kingdom, vast caches of information. all the decoded intercepts. all there in their files. just really tremendous stuff. and the thing about about german submarine commanders, they were said to be quote unquo girlous they liked using their wireless. they liked chatting over -- they liked chat over the wireless. i have to think that part of it might be because they knew that ultimately they were going to be dealing with this amazing loneliness and it was comforting to be able to -- but they had no clue that somebody was listening. they had no idea. not only they had no idea then, they had no idea through most of the war. the german navy was so arrogant so believe their codes would never be broken. >> how hard was the code to break? what kind of information did you -- >> well, once you have the code book -- >> yes.
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>> but there are two elements to this. there's a code book, which is key, and that consisted of three letter groups, including a three-letter group for nantucket. which sort of suggested certain aspirations on the part of the german navy. but the -- when the germans puts their messages in coercion they used the code book primarily at the first step and then would further scramble it using a cipher. so there was a lot of code-breaking that would that to go -- not codebreaking but deciphering. there's a difference in crypto graphic circles. but it was relatively easy to break that cipher because of how regimented the german navy was in communications with its ships. i don't want to bore anybody with the details of this, but essentially if you signal the
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same light ship every night at 6:00 p.m., you're going to everbally catch on this is the light ship and it's 6:00 p.m. and this message and you know what it's saying. so through the process they could become very adept not only at deciphering but using the code book to break the code. >> i had someone in the audience earlier before we started ask me about how you discovered the level of detail, even about what the passengers of the lusitania were wearing the flower that somebody wore in their pocket or something like that. where is all that information to be found? >> i hate to say it but all that detail is in the very detailed cataloguing of personal effects found on the dead afterwards. >> and who did all that cataloguing? >> mostly the british navy, people in queenstown, ireland some kunnard.
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kunnard put out a confidential book after the sinking which contained just every name every body every list of personal effects, they reason they did this because they hoped that from all these unidentified bodies something might trigger somebody's recollection and say maybe that aunt maude that kind of thing. that's where all those things came from. >> you're listening to author erik larson at the fitzgerald theater. his new book i called "dead wake: the last crossing of the lusitania" it's a thread event and you can follow the thread at the thread npr on twitter. so let's place these two adversaries, the lusitania and the u-boat on the collision course. the lusitania has been at sea for circumstance days?
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>> lusitania set sail -- set out on may 1 and the torpedoing occurred on may 7. the submarine set out on april 30. >> what happened on the voyage of the lusitania leading up to that? >> flirting. a lot of shuffleboard. they actually did play shuffleboard. the voyage, until this, may 6th was really pretty much uneventful and actually was probably getting fairly tedious. i don't know how many people have been on transatlantic voyages, actually for the vive my wife and i did. >> you did. >> we did a voyage on then queen mary ii, an amazing ship, and we set out in november after thanksgiving fairly -- mid-way through the research, did the
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crossing. no sooner did we leave new york harbor than we're in a force 10 gale but that spoke to me and my scandinavian heart. and in enact queen mary ii is a very stable ship, even in incredibly foul weather. one thing that really came home to me on this voyage is that after you leave the harbor, it gets boring really fast. ...
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this was not a cruise, this was a voyage. >> what's the difference? >> he's very proud of the fact that the queen mary mary two is a point-to-point vessel. it does not stop in the caribbean place to place but it's a really it's really this amazing ship. it was built to deal with everything the atlantic has two offer but the thing is when you're out in the middle of the ocean there really is that feeling even today. you were way out there and give a cat every day you can plot and see where you are on the course something catastrophic were to happen something catastrophic could happen. you could strike another ship or who knows what but you are out
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there alone and nobody can get to you. not for hours and hours you know and that's really sobering. the most sobering thing is that now and this was not unfortunately the case with the lusitania but today when you you're on a ship like that before the ship even leaves the wharf you are required to put on your lifejacket, strap it on and then you take it off. i'm here to tell you that it gets your attention. when you put a lifejacket on you realize wow this is real. unfortunately that was not the case with the lusitania they did not make you try it on. >> you have the presence of mind to know what to do if you know something happened to the ship. >> yeah, what would i do and of
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course in the context of research done on the lusitania would i jump in? no. what i try to get into a lifeboat? yes. so i really thought about it and also you've sort of find, i found myself periodically leaving the gale and walking along the deck and looking at and trying to imagine a pio coming right toward the ship. what would that have been like? because it comes the torpedo i don't know it was 35 or 40 miles an hour which is not super fast. >> i think you said 42. >> two, something like that. [laughter] thank you. >> any time. here it is right here. [laughter] >> my point being that when you are standing there you can see
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this thing coming because of the air exhaust and it forms a very clear track on the surfaces of the sea and you would see this thing coming toward you. it's really revelatory to me. you are helpless in no. >> there is nothing you can do. >> is like a steve martin routine where he is marketing the product is like an airline collision detector that gives you a 22nd morning. [laughter] >> yeah so you know 20 seconds before everybody else, so what right? the lusitania has been lost at sea for six days. what's happening underwater on the u-boat as it's getting ever closer? >> first of all one very important point to make the captain was not stocking the
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list of tenure. he was not hunting for the lusitania. his orders were -- were to look for large troop transport leaving from an initial part of written from one side of the channel crossing to the other pet german intelligence had picked up word that these troop transports are leaving from unaccustomed ports on the western coast of britain and england and ireland and they would be doing that because the german intelligence had come to believe that britain might be planning an amphibious invasion of germany from the north sea coast. so his orders were to look for these large troop transports. his patrol was just a misery of foul weather, of zero targets of one stretch being hunted by a patrol line of three destroyers that very nearly what it had
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very serious consequences if the destroyers had kept up their pursuit just a little bit longer. and he was having a horrible, horrible time. i have actually heard readers say they were rooting for the captain. >> plus the conditions. >> 36 men in a metal tube and one lavatory and you know the smell of day old onion food and everything else. 36 guys who wore wore their ladders e-cigs day in and day out because what's the point of changing you know? at one point he carried aboard his submarine six dachshunds. >> that really humanized him for me. the dogs did it. [laughter] >> so it's a former dog owner how do you deal with it?
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but when you are living with 36 guys in leather it's probably not relevant. [laughter] but what came about with the dachshunds is izzy had one docs and aboard and then the crews spotted this other dachshund in a box and they rescued the docs and. the docs and was named maria because the ship had maria in the name. a little hanky-panky and suddenly 74 puppies. [laughter] at one point he had six dachshunds aboard the ship. >> we have to talk about the cargo though. i wanted to make sure i asked you about this. you say the lusitania is problematic but entirely legal under u.s. neutrality laws. the lusitania was carrying
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50 barrels, 94 cases of aluminum powder six cases of bronze powder. what for? >> who knows what that was for. those don't really qualify as munitions. they qualify as ingredients potentially but it could be for many other things. >> and then the artillery. >> these did not and it sounds scary but they did not pose much danger of explosion. >> and the cartridges. >> and then they carried tons and tons of small-arms ammunition which is also not any sort of threat to the ship. small-arms ammunition was not known to explode en masse. nonetheless these things, this is one -- there was no mystery.
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there were in fact munitions aboard the lusitania. they were lifted quite openly on this cargo manifests. >> has there have been controversy though about the fact that the ship was carrying what could potentially be seen as arms? >> yes and that has been one of the lingering issues about the lusitania. one typically in the context of was it the munitions that sank the lusitania and the answer to that is no, it was not. that's ready -- really pretty clear now to the seriousness of the lusitania but one lingering conspiracy theory is that there were caches maybe of explosives smuggled aboard and disguised as first or oysters or something and you know what, there may have been. there may have been. i can't say for sure that there weren't but what i can say with
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95% certainty it as it was not worth sinking the ship. >> so we have got the u-boat and they are not hunting specifically? >> not hunting. >> but the lusitania comes in eventually. how does that happen? >> is one of the many just really strange things that have to come together for this incident to happen. there were so many bizarre moments. the range of forces that all had to come together at exactly the right time that caused this thinking is remarkable, one of which is as the lusitania is in the irish sea it's completely sunk in with fog which is good for the lusitania because fog was protection against submarines. it's not a good for speaker who
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is sick to death of fog at this point. he has had fog for the entire voyage. it comes up again to the periscope and takes a look. there is nothing so he goes back down and goes back down deep because he doesn't want to get run over by a ship in what i referred to as the western approaches where the main sea routes into the irish sea toward liverpool and sarp -- and so forth trades that you have this blog. the lusitania spieger doesn't see the lusitania. he has had such a miserable voyage that he at this point has made a decision to turn around and go home. he decided to go home. he turns around and decides to go home. he goes up to check the weather. rim miraculously the fog is gone. not only is the fog gone but the
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day that was left behind is one of the most beautiful days that they could possibly remember. as the sea is like glass. it's warm and sunny. there is no wind it's one of the most gorgeous days you could possibly imagine. through his periscope pcs this forest he describes in his war log as a mass of smokestacks. he sees several ships and as he watches this ship makes a turn that immediately puts it out of his reach. he is really mad and starts cursing and tells a friend later he just unleashes a torrent of profanity but he decides he's going to follow just in case just in case. miraculously a dark marital the captain orders another turn which puts it at four.
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>> isn't the lusitania alerted that there is a submarine acted off the south coast of ireland? >> the message is, this is the point of really interesting controversy. the message that captain turner received by way of warding are very generic messages like submarines acted off the south coast of ireland. okay, that's a pretty big swath of water and also plural by the way, submarines. but in fact they were so much more information available before the warnings could then send to turner. this is a very important point because now that the weather starts getting lucky thinks the three ships in short order, turner is never told about those things.
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moreover he is also never told that the u. 20 is for certain as a patrol has been assigned to a patrol zone right off of liverpool right in the path of the vessel. >> and none of the documentation reveals why there was a specific decision or none at all? >> what there is is a really startling access of information in the archives about what specifically happened in terms of messages that should or should not have been sent to l.a. now is know is what was sent. we also know that the chairman of the morning -- the newspapers have been news of the sinking of the ships by this huge money and he was in liverpool having breakfast and reading the paper. he sees this in the paper and
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suddenly he stops eating breakfast thing gets up and goes right to the chief of naval officer in liverpool and says look we just said that direct message to turner because look at this. once again a vague message was sent to turner and so at this point for turner is hearing that there are submarines very general warnings, submarines ahead of him plural, submarines behind him plural and dislike this is a situation he was never trained for. he was never in a situation to anticipate or plan or plot a course with this kind of a circumstance. >> had a thought about what he could have done even if he had been alerted to the presence of the submarines? >> well what could have been
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frankly should have happened and again we are now talking i don't say this in the book that this should have happened but you know what could have been done is first they could then given much more specific information which might have really gotten his attention. certainly would have gotten mine and he could have been diverted into queenstown now renamed coke coke. he could have been diverted to where the lusitania in the past had stopped until they realized there were too many incidents of scraping the bottom in the channel harbor there. he could have been diverted there. there was a new and safer route but it just been opened the so-called northern route, which he could have diverted to take any could have been escorted. several were in fact available and in fact the lusitania and
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other kindred ships have been escorted in the past. so that's one of the really important questions is why was he left so a lone? >> and you have not been able to draw any specific reasons on that? >> there was no smoking memo from churchill or anybody in the admiralty putting the ships and harm's way, there's nothing like that. but there is a body of evidence that bits and pieces of things and if you look at it and you're in a court of law you try to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the admiralty wanted the lusitania in harm's way to get america into the war you couldn't prove it. at the same time if you take the same body of evidence and turn it around into what scientists refer to as the hypothesis to
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disprove there was some kind of conspiracy you can't do that either. there's just too much stuff. what i do but cowardly approach, i hang it on a particular naval historian british naval historian and former intelligence guide. initially when he wrote a book before he was talking about the lusitania he said in his view it was a monumental mistake. but later in life as more evidence came before them and this is something he said in an interview that is in the files at the imperial war museum in london a great place. >> it is. >> it's really terrific reading this interview he expresses a change of heart. he says you know i am a lover of the royal navy and but they says there's so much evidence that he
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has changed his mind and has come to believe at this point that there was a plot of some kind. he doesn't know where the plot originated or what kind of detail. but he says if anybody else can explain it in a different way pleased that gordon do so. >> in the motivation of the plot if there was one would have been get the united states in. >> is clear that the motivation would it then possibly america might have entered the war than in one thing that's very clear by the ways that churchill wanted america in the war and at an earlier letter had said as much. he said he was talking to the head of the board of trade. he was talking to him in that letter and he says you know we need the traffic from america as much of it as we can and then he had this very interesting line. he said and did some of that
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gets in trouble all the better. the plot dickens, right? [laughter] >> with no real conclusion. you mentioned earlier that you stood at the rails on the deck of the qed. >> the queen mary two. >> you imagine what it might be like to see that torpedo coming toward you. that is what happened, isn't it? weren't there passengers that actually sell the torpedo approach? >> that is one of the most spectacular things and many statements by survivors by the way in terms of depositions and testimony sent personal accounts. what most clear about that particular moment we will call it this beautiful deck and everyone is thinking okay we are home safe. there are 14 hours from
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liverpool. everybody's thinking one woman expressed it where's the danger danger that we were all warned about? the first classes just finished lunch and the second second class lunches just begun. the kids are jumping rope upstairs and everyone is giving luggage up on the deck and everything is cool. people are hanging out on the rails looking over at the beautiful city. and then there's this bubble of air which is as the torpedo is leaving the submarines torpedo tube and then you see the track moving across the absolutely last cc and people standing at the rail saw this. one guy standing there in an order came up to him and he said is that a torpedo and he can answer because he is sick at heart.
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this your principle thing about people. one guy runs to the rail to watch to watch this torpedo hit further down the hall obviously and he says later in his account he said it was beautiful. the most beautiful sight this torpedo moving and he could actually see the perdido come to the service -- the surface because it was so still unclear. then of course the compressed air to track his back up here so there is like this fish searching through the sea. >> you say as the torpedo advanced the water rushing past his nose turned a small propeller which unscrewed a safety device that prevented detonation during storage. then what happens once the
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torpedo was approaching? that tornado is on my mind. >> shirt nato. [laughter] what happens then it is armed when it makes contact with the whole. it explodes the hole in the very characteristic signature by the way, et al. geiser debris with this thing exploding the hole. that was how the explosion occurred. >> i think this is what is incredible what spieger writes about the torpedo striking the whole. you want to read it? >> do you want to? >> do you want to read it?
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it's right there on the right side. >> okay so should i just read this whole thing? spieger's log entry began with the word impact. he wrote quote torpedo hits the store bird side behind the bridge -- starboard side with the strong explosive cloud reaching far beyond the forward come, put explosion of the torpedo must have been accompanied by sica won a a boiler or coal or powder. >> and that's very terse. >> very descriptive and thank god he wrote it. that is a the goal as a writer. honestly this war log is like oh my gosh i can work with this. >> tell me about opening that log and reading through and flipping through to find that
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moment. >> i had written the entire log from day one today and end it was all fascinating in some ways. in some ways the launch and the impact were almost anticlimactic. >> you get that sense. >> all these other things were happening on the way but what was so useful about that is it allowed me -- the only reason -- the whole resented this book was i saw an opportunity that had not existed for me in past books to put on my offered hitchcock had. the log was really pivotal for that, crucial for that because that is the essence of suspense knowing where this guy is exact and what is happening to him and then knowing where the lusitania is and what they are doing and what's happening with them and
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knowing as we know that they are on a convergence course out that they don't know it. it's very powerful. >> i'm surprised to hear you say that about the suspense because i thought there was a lot of suspense in the city. >> thank you. >> didn't you? >> is a different kind of suspense, different intensity of suspense. i get you, i think so. >> the s.o.s. telegram from the lusitania reads we think we are off kinsale late position 10 miles off kinsale come at once. later, please come with all haste. what are they saying? >> that's actually the list later. she has what is referred to as the advanced readers copy.
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by the way heavily corrected. what was your question? >> what question? >> what did they say? what do they communicate? >> what they communicate as they have been hit by the torpedo. what time do i have on that telegraph? >> i didn't notice that. >> is happening at this point the shift -- the ship has taken off this amazing list. it's clear that this time the ship is floundering and everyone is stunned that this is happening at this gigantic ship. one torpedo and it's really minutes after the impact. so that was the message this big list, send help at once. >> and then what happened as they are trying to send help? >> what happens the way the
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ship sank because they're torpedo hit just exactly the sweet spot in the whole and frankly it was not even a spot that spieger was aiming for. it was an accident. he miscalculated the lusitania's speed. where it hit happen to be the perfect spot for various reasons. one, they killed virtually have the crew because they were all getting the luggage together and there was a shift change at except a the moment the torpedo destroy that part of the ship. they also did a place where the flooding of the longitudinal coal bunkers which are now empty because the ship was done with the voyage flooded the coal buckets and a forward bunker. the water was surging into the oiler rooms. the second explosion which
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essentially knocked out the steam system lost all control of the engine so a but couldn't stop the ship. still progressing at 18 knots so not only did you have flooding that you had forced flooding with water coming in at an incredible rate. that is why the ship is listing and so here you have this situation where you know all this happens really fast. 18 minutes before the thing disappears from view. >> is a wonderful detail here. you say in this paragraph that's no 2:20 p.m., 10 minutes since the torpedo struck. you are talking about deckhands and passengers that are waiting for the ship to slow to allow the launching of the boat. >> which is a very important point. right after the torpedo at 18 knots is gradually slowing the
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reason it's important to know that the engines were no longer working is because you can't stop the ship and the ship doesn't stop you can't launch the lifeboats. it's lethal to launch the life boats. they are trained for certain launching features but at 18 knots launching the boat to suicide. sprigg when then you have a junior third officer a strange silence prevailed and small insignificant sound such as the whimper of a child, the cry of a sequel with the bang of the door assumed alarming proportions. you read his diary. >> this is a statement that the left. >> its extraordinary expressive. as recently as 2012 a british commission issued a report that the british were to blame for the fastest shinki -- fast
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sinking of the ship and the loss of life. this is really haunting. >> it's funny, i came across an interesting document that was done after revelations they were revolution -- revelations but subsequently discredited. the admiralty had done a detailed had asked for the historical section to take a detailed look at the various charges. but in the end not that it was true that in the end the guy writes in conclusion i say let bleeding dogs live. but yet it still to this day is something that is kind of funny. and really it's because people get an idea locked in their heads about conspiracy and so
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forth in the second explosion and all the stuff. really what is overlooked is in the last decade or so to really excellent forensic engineering studies were done. both came to the same conclusion independently. it was destruction of the steam distribution that was probably the main steam distribution that failed because the contact most likely was water. ..
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existed, and when i was at the university of liverpool i asked about them and they said we have been that we are not going to let you see them because we don't let anyone see them anymore, so fine. i did more work there and i asked could you ask somebody higher up to see if i could, you know? the next day i come in and they said we are going to let you look at those photographs and i
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said what caused the change of heart? the senior archivist. [laughter] [applause] so i have to say they wouldn't let me bring my digital camera. you photograph or photocopy them. sitting there looking at these photographs is actually very powerful and moving and important because it told me this is what the story is about. it's not about all that stuff for the geopolitics. the fact that this was first and foremost a human tragedy of great dimension to exactly what they were wearing at lunch that
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day and walking looking like they could walk out of the photographs. like they could walk out of these photographs and walked out onto the stage. very powerful. >> thank you for an interesting conversation. >> .-full-stop. the photographs maybe you want to speak to that again? >> they said once again i haven't accompanied a book with photographs. it's a thing with me and i will
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explain it. my feeling about when i do a book is that my goal is to create as rich a historical experience for the reader as i possibly can. i want them to sink into the past and then emerge at the end with a sense of having lived in that past time. photographs and nonfiction books i totally embrace the philosophy put forward in the book on becoming a novelist. he says his job is to create the fictional dream but it's to create the dream and anything
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that takes you away from that dream whether it is fancy language were bad punctuation, lousy grammar anything is a bad dream. [laughter] my feeling is first of all it's terrible in the trade nonfiction book and second they tend to be in the form of what is referred to as a signature and that gets stuck into the book sometimes. to go and look for photographs is great and every time you leave the story it is an opportunity for you to leave the book altogether so this time i got my way because the editor is brilliant and felt the same way.
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>> i noticed that in the book. are you drawn to the aspect or is it another part of what happened? [inaudible] >> it makes things compelling. tragedy, disaster, so forth. if i was to write about the walk on sunday morning that's lovely but it's just the way the stories are.
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just what happens. besides, the world's fair was and that dark. [laughter] >> question over here. i know you talked about this because you didn't have anything else to do but do you have a particular affinity to the late 18 hundreds, 19 hundreds that kind of troubles you? >> that is for sure. i love the period from 1890. i think it was a little bit outside that but i loved it for other reasons. i love the period because there was something and i tend to write about this because i feel my audience is american and an
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account tim period is when america was a different place with this hubris and optimism and overconfidence coming and then you've got a great stories and dark stories as well so i love the period. another story and this isn't a small thing. it's actually very important is that it was also the heyday of the typewriter. very important because you can go nuts reading correspondence. when it's all in the typewriter is it's like having my favorite character was almost dead but the man had other small handwriting and one day i was in my office full time and my full-time and my wife came into my office and i had my head down
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on my desk and my magnifying glass and she said what's wrong and i said homestead. [laughter] >> i'm just wondering if you can talk about the details you included with president wilson and why you decided to include a dimension. >> president wilson, i came to have an appreciation in this book because i considered him kind of a pregnant proper before i had some interest in him. but for the period behind the lithuania i came across the love letters to his girlfriend. wilson in august lost his wife of many years and he was crushed
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and then in 1915 he meets and falls head over heels in love with this woman a 40 something woman in washington d.c. in her electric car and so he falls in love and she's holding back a little bit and he's writing this which i came across in the library and i'm reading these things come of dozens of the most passionate outpourings and i wanted to light a cigarette. [laughter] so i said i don't care these are going in. [laughter] this is going to be part of the story. the context is crucial. so trying to get into where he was in his mind during the period when it was making the
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crossing and the last crossing, and coincidentally a lot of these important letters were written during that week so that's perfect in terms of the chronological collegian and i love that stuff. >> question right over here. >> early on you spoke to the public about there could be an issue with the u-boat how many many were there happening dalia and weekly you have to put yourself back at the point of view and look at the whole thing
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through the eyes of those that are going to get on the ship that day i don't know how many people saw him. i think quite a few did. so that was a great ship that was known to be so fast, faster than any submarine and in fact if it were to do with this topic and would be faster than any especially any that was submerged. so, there was that this belief that it was too fast, too big to get caught and in fact they said as much much in the judicial announcement of the departure announcing the newest. it was also the case that from the labels able to tell me believed and the passengers believed that the royal navy
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would be looking out for them once they got to the irish sea. so there was that there was another component to the welfare of the roles of the naval warfare for the prior century essentially had forbidden attacks against the passengers had had forbidden belligerent chips from seeking merchants without warning. and if they did see the ship they had to make sure the crew was safe and bring them aboard or even bring them into the port and then release all the crew and so forth and the price to court what prized court would determine the ship. it was warfare against civilian vessels. things were changing and nobody realized quite how much.
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the lithuania proved that beyond a doubt. >> a couple more questions. then you have to have a torpedo out with me in the lobby. that might be why i kept saying tornado but that is another story. appearance had many questions ahead of the show >> you bring the path to light. today it seems like we just missed the past and you bring history alive. you make it alive for all of us and i know that about you but the question that i have is how you choose your topics and so you seem to be on this thread right now and seem to converge these topics and the murder in
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london or the devil in the white city so i'm just interested in the process that you go through and pinpoint the topic to review and then how you begin to bring that into the narrative. it's been despite anybody that works the thread into the way to go. [laughter] >> so essentially how do you come up with these ideas the whole narrative people have sort of interpreted by work and suggested i've got this thing about making sure i have the narrative and it's not been the intention of mind to do so although it may seem that way. the whole thing was very organic
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but the idea for me is a horrible phase. it's very difficult to do. it's too late to the kind history that i like to write which people have labeled nonfiction and that is as good a label as anything. it has to have a very rich archival base. i can find the bits and pieces that would like the imagination.
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it has to have a built in the organic engine that is to say something that inherently colors along because it begins under threat and then the climax is the seventh and that is the natural so then you can retold the story as a nonfiction work about to let at the beginning but i look for the barriers to entry that comes from the dual narrative. i don't look for the dual narratives but i like it because i find something like this story because i'm pretty confident nobody else is going to do that. i look for competition. and it was the same way. that's came up with an organic process. so to me it is very much like looking for a spouse.
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[laughter] you know this better than men you have to kiss a lot of frogs before one kisses back. [laughter] you know what i mean. [laughter] so that's the extent of the process. >> are you in the dark country of no ideas? [laughter] >> how is that working for you? >> last one here. >> this last week the german leading flight that went down, very similar situation. how better to learn if just from
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your perspective how did this impact the way this happened in the newspaper this week >> and has shaped how i came to that whole story but it would be hard to quantify although i could tell you i am a deeply paranoid flyer and i especially hate to fly on the regional jets and the fact story haunted me this week and having to fly from place to place this whole week
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is such a horrible story and it's got worse today. they had to send him a letter that he was unfit to work. >> do you think that your paranoia about flooding is your control? [laughter] >> what do you think it is? >> is this a shrink session plaques [laughter] >> it is. [laughter]
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i can't end a paragraph because of the foreshadowing. so kind of pulling on the thread of how -- [inaudible] [laughter] [applause] >> can you comment where did you get this style from? [laughter] >> i don't know. that is the same thing i worked hard at structuring. i spent a lot of time trying to make sure


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