June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austria-Hungary’s throne, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Within days, other countries got into the fray, including, Germany, Russia, France and United Kingdom; US President Woodrow Wilson announced the US would remain neutral. After attempts to broker peace, then sinking of the American cargo ship Housatonic, Wilson broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. With German submarine warfare continuing unabated, the final straw came on April 1, 1917, when the armed merchant ship Aztec was sunk off the northwest coast of France.
The attack on the Aztec led to America’s intervention into World War I. “There are five Hawaiian boys thought to have been killed along with 16 Americans when the American steamer the Aztec was sunk.” “An incident of unusual interest took place just prior to the reception. Colonel ʻIaukea had told Lili‘uokalani of the sinking of the Aztec, resulting in the death of five Hawaiian sailors, and asked her if on that account she would like to raise the American flag over her home. … She replied, most emphatically: ‘Yes.’”