The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W. TuchmanThere is something very strange about the First World War. I mean, surely there must be something I previously knew about it that must be true.
The $64,000 question is: what event brought the United States into the First World War…..
Before reading this book I would have said that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the war – but in fact, that happened two years prior to the US entry. Woodrow Wilson, following this sinking, said he was too proud to fight over something like that.
I had absolutely no idea that the thing that finally tipped the scales and got the US into the war was a intercepted telegram that the British were able to decode and that had been sent by the Germans using US telegram lines with US approval – although, obviously not for the purpose the Germans were putting them to.
And that purpose reads like the sort of story you would only read today in one of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspapers. This is the sort of conspiracy that really had to be true, as it was just too stupid for anyone to have made up with any expectation that anyone else would believe.
Germany needs to stop the US from supplying weapons and food to Britain so as to effectively take her out of the war. To do this Germany has decided to torpedo US ships and put a blockade on Britain that will bring her to her knees within a matter of months (you might remember from The Guns of August that Germany always seems to have expected every aspect of the war to last a matter of months). Because the US would have to take some time to get an army ready to cross the Atlantic and come to Britain’s military aid and because Britain wouldn’t be able to hold out for that long – Germany would inevitably win the war. But just to make absolutely sure – Germany also proposed getting Mexico and Japan to invade the US thereby giving the US government something to think about closer to home. Mexico was promised all of her previous territories that the US had taken from her (including Texas and New Mexico) and although the Germans didn’t really expect these countries to beat the US in a war, that wasn’t really the point or intention. The intention was to keep the US out of the real war for long enough for Germany to win and so make the rest a bit of a foregone conclusion.
So, Britain has the German message in her sweaty hands and has translated it using German codes which they have broken years before and that the Germans haven’t changed since the start of the war because the Germans are far too clever for the Allies and the Allies would never be smart enough to crack that...
But having a message and being able to use it are quite different things. What if exposing the message simultaneously gives away the fact that you know the German codes? What is worth more to you? Getting the US into the war (and given the contents of the message that seems likely in any case) or having to fight the remainder of the war without being able to listen into enemy messages?
Like I said, this is the sort of book that reads like it is all made up - sort of a cross between a history book and The 39 Steps. The fact that this telegram was actually the thing that got the US into the war and not some ship being sunk is only one of the surprises in store in this book. Thanks again Richard.
Ive just realised that Ive read one of her books before - The March of Folly From Troy to Vietnam - which I also really enjoyed very much.
World War I: Zimmerman Telegram
Most historians agree that American involvement in World War I was inevitable by early , but the march to war was no doubt accelerated by a notorious letter penned by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann. On January 16, , British code breakers intercepted an encrypted message from Zimmermann intended for Heinrich von Eckardt, the German ambassador to Mexico. By March 1, its scandalous contents were splashed on the front pages of newspapers nationwide. Diplomatic relations between Germany and the United States had already been severed in early February, when Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare and began preying on U. Coupled with the submarine attacks, it finally turned the U. On April 2, , President Wilson abandoned his policy of neutrality and asked Congress to declare war against Germany and the Central Powers. The United States would cast its lot with the Allies four days later.
This message helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history. Between and the spring of , the European nations engaged in a conflict that became known as World War I. While armies moved across the face of Europe, the United States remained neutral. In Woodrow Wilson was reelected President for a second term, largely because of the slogan "He kept us out of war. Events in early would change that hope. In frustration over the effective British naval blockade, Germany broke its pledge to limit submarine warfare on February 1,
The Secret History of the Zimmermann Telegram
The Zimmermann telegram was intercepted by the British and passed along to the Americans., The telegram was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence. Revelation of the contents enraged Americans, especially after German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann publicly admitted on March 3 that the telegram was genuine, helping to generate support for the United States declaration of war on Germany in April.
This announcement helped precipitate American entry into the conflict. Germany hoped to win the war within five months, and they were willing to risk antagonizing Wilson on the assumption that even if the United States declared war, it could not mobilize quickly enough to change the course of the conflict. Then a fresh insult led Wilson to demand a declaration of war. The telegram said that if Germany went to war with the United States, Germany promised to help Mexico recover the territory it had lost during the s, including Texas, New Mexico, California, and Arizona. The Zimmerman Note and German attacks on three U. Wilson decided to enter the war so that he could help design the peace settlement.
The Zimmermann Telegram was a diplomatic note sent by the German Foreign Office to Mexico in January which proposed a military alliance between the two nations should the United States enter World War I on the side of the Allies. In return for the alliance, Mexico would receive financial assistance from Germany as well as could reclaim territory lost during the Mexican-American War The Zimmermann Telegram was intercepted and decoded by the British who in turn shared it with the United States. The release of the telegram in March further inflamed the American public and contributed to the American declaration of war the following month. Unable to break the British blockade of the North Sea with its surface fleet, the German leadership elected to return to a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. This approach, whereby German U-boats would attack merchant shipping without warning, had been briefly used in but was abandoned after strong protests by the United States. Believing that Britain could be quickly crippled if its supply lines to North America were severed, Germany prepared to re-implement this approach effective February 1,