Attack on the Sussex
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The French steamer Sussex provided ferry service on the English Channel. On a crossing to Dieppe in March 1916, the ship was mistaken for a minelayer and torpedoed by a German U-boat. The Sussex did not sink; it was towed into the French port of Boulogne. Fifty persons were killed in the incident; no Americans lost their lives, but several were injured.
President Wilson addressed the Congress in April and issued an ultimatum to the Germans: End the attack on unarmed ships or risk the severing of diplomatic relations.
Germany responded to Wilson's demands on May 4 with what is called the "Sussex Pledge." German submarine policy would henceforth be governed by promises to:
The German guarantees were generally honored until the announcement of the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917.
See discussion of U.S. policy and German submarine warfare.
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