President Wilson adroitly managed to keep the American nation out of this charnel house.. Anxious to preserve the rights of American neutrality, he sternly warned Germany in February 1915, that the United States would hold it strictly accountable for the loss of American lives in the sinking of neutral or passenger ships. Just four months later, on May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the British passenger liner Lusitania, killing 1,200 people, including 128 Americans.
Many in the United States—among them Theodore Roosevelt—clamored for immediate entry into the war. Wilson demurred, but he issued a strong protest to Germany, demanding reparations and the cessation of unrestricted submarine warfare. Although Germany protested that the Lusitania carried munitions (a truth that was vigorously denied by the British), officials were anxious to avoid having to face yet another enemy. Germany ordered its U-boats to give passenger ships ample warning before firing upon them. Wilson’s firmness with Germany so deeply disturbed isolationist Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan that he resigned in protest. But popular sentiment was on the side of Wilson, who had retained American honor without shedding American blood. He ran successfully for a second term, propelled by the slogan “He kept us out of war.”