It was in one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacific that the packet of which I was supercargo fell a victim to the German sea-raider. The great war was then at its very beginning, and the ocean forces of the Hun had not completely sunk to their later degradation; so that our vessel was made a legitimate prize, whilst we of her crew were treated with all the fairness and consideration due us as naval prisoners. So liberal, indeed, was the discipline of our captors, that five days after we were taken I managed to escape alone in a small boat with water and provisions for a good length of time.
WORLD WAR I: Lovecraft, being a devout and sincere anglophile, championed the cause of the Allies in the Great War. In both poems and essays, he calls upon the United States to renounce neutrality and assist the British Empire by declaring war on Germany and Austria. From Lovecraft’s perspective, America and England formed a single nation, divided politically but united by culture, language, and ethnicity. In “An American to Mother England,” one of Lovecraft’s many anglophilic poems, he celebrates this shared heritage, claiming that “From British bodies, minds, and souls I come, / And from them draw the vision of their home.” In his amateur paper, The Conservative, he refers to this concept as “Pan-Saxonism” and, beating loudly on the drums of war, calls for a “healthy militarism” as opposed to “dangerous and unpatriotic peace-preaching.”
SUBMARINE WARFARE: Lovecraft returned to this theme again in his short story “The Temple” (1920), his only truly nautical tale. Purporting to be the log of Karl Heinrich, Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein, Lieutenant-Commander in the Imperial German Navy, “The Temple” records the last days of U-29, a disabled submarine which has settled on the ocean floor. While the German crew mentioned in “Dagon” treats its prisoners with “all the fairness and consideration due us as naval prisoners,” Heinrich calmly murders his:
On the afternoon of June 18, as reported by wireless to the U-61, bound for Kiel, we torpedoed the British freighter Victory, New York to Liverpool, in N. Latitude 45° 16′, W. Longitude 28° 34′; permitting the crew to leave in boats in order to obtain a good cinema view for the admiralty records. The ship sank quite picturesquely, bow first, the stern rising high out of the water whilst the hull shot down perpendicularly to the bottom of the sea. Our camera missed nothing, and I regret that so fine a reel of film should never reach Berlin. After that we sank the lifeboats with our guns and submerged.
LUSITANIA: In May 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland, sinking the ocean liner and killing almost 1,200 people. The American public was outraged, none more so than Lovecraft. In his poem “The Crime of Crimes,” he lambasts the “Prussian wolf” for sinking the Lusitania and calls upon all mankind to “crush the hissing head / That all the world hath learn’d to hate and dread.”