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Senate Committee Investigates Titanic Disaster

Photo of William Alden Smith

When the luxury liner Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, with more than 1,500 lives lost, the world was stunned! How could such a disaster happen in the modern era of "unsinkable" ships? To answer that perplexing question, Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan (pictured) chaired Senate hearings held within days of the disaster. Senators and spectators heard dramatic testimony from the surviving passengers and crew. Smith's subcommittee issued a report on May 28th that led to significant reforms in international maritime safety. The Titanic inquiry was just one of many important Senate investigations of the 20th century. Others included the investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal; the Truman Committee investigation of wartime defense contracts; the Kefauver inquiry into organized crime; the McCarthy hearings regarding subversion in government; and the Watergate investigations, chaired by Sam Ervin and Howard Baker, that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.