President Wilson learns of Zimmermann Telegram

President Wilson learns of Zimmermann Telegram


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In a crucial step toward U.S. entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson learns of the so-called Zimmermann Telegram, a message from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico proposing a Mexican-German alliance in the event of a war between the U.S. and Germany.

On February 24, 1917, British authorities gave Walter Hines Page, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram, a coded message from Zimmermann to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it agreed to enter the conflict as a German ally. Germany also promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The State Department promptly sent a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram to President Wilson, who was shocked by the note’s content and the next day proposed to Congress that the U.S. should start arming its ships against possible German attacks. Wilson also authorized the State Department to publish the telegram; it appeared on the front pages of American newspapers on March 1. Many Americans were horrified and declared the note a forgery; two days later, however, Zimmermann himself announced that it was genuine.

The Zimmermann Telegram helped turn the U.S. public, already angered by repeated German attacks on U.S. ships, firmly against Germany. On April 2, President Wilson, who had initially sought a peaceful resolution to World War I, urged immediate U.S. entrance into the war. Four days later, Congress formally declared war against Germany.

READ MORE: History Faceoff: Should the U.S. Have Entered World War I?


February 24, 1917: British Release Decode of Zimmerman Telegram

In January of 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause. To protect their intelligence from detection and to capitalize on growing anti-German sentiment in the United States, the British waited to present the telegram to President Wilson. Meanwhile, frustration over the effective British naval blockade caused Germany to break its pledge to limit submarine warfare. In response, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Germany in February.

On February 24 Britain released the Zimmerman telegram to Wilson, and news of the telegram was published widely in the American press on March 1. The telegram had such an impact on American opinion that, according to David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers, “No other single cryptanalysis has had such enormous consequences.” It is his opinion that “never before or since has so much turned upon the solution of a secret message.” On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies. The Zimmerman telegram clearly had helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history.

Photostat of Zimmermann Telegram, as received by the German Ambassador to Mexico, January 19, 1917 The idea that Germany was proposing to give away a chunk of the United States to Mexico was so outlandish, many people doubted the telegram’s authenticity. This copy, obtained by the State Department from Western Union, and the decode of the message, served to authenticate the Zimmermann Telegram. Image and Caption: National Archives.

Page 1, Telegram from U.S. Ambassador Walter Page to President Woodrow Wilson conveying a translation of the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram from Germany to Mexico, in which Germany proposed an alliance and disclosed its plans to begin unrestricted submarine warfare, February 24, 1917. Image and caption: National Archives.

Page 2, Telegram from U.S. Ambassador Walter Page to President Woodrow Wilson conveying a translation of the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram from Germany to Mexico, in which Germany proposed an alliance and disclosed its plans to begin unrestricted submarine warfare, February 24, 1917. Image and caption: National Archives.

Page 3, Telegram from U.S. Ambassador Walter Page to President Woodrow Wilson conveying a translation of the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram from Germany to Mexico, in which Germany proposed an alliance and disclosed its plans to begin unrestricted submarine warfare, February 24, 1917. Image and caption: National Archives.

Page 4, Telegram from U.S. Ambassador Walter Page to President Woodrow Wilson conveying a translation of the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram from Germany to Mexico, in which Germany proposed an alliance and disclosed its plans to begin unrestricted submarine warfare, February 24, 1917. Image and caption: National Archives.

Telegram from Acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk to the American Embassy in Mexico City, February 26, 1917, page 1. This message summarized the Zimmermann Telegram and predicted the sensation it would cause when released to the American public. Image and Caption: National Archives.

Telegram from Acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk to the American Embassy in Mexico City, February 26, 1917, page 2. This message summarized the Zimmermann Telegram and predicted the sensation it would cause when released to the American public. Image and Caption: National Archives.

Partial decode of the Zimmermann Telegram made by Edward Bell of the American Embassy in London, sent to the State Department, March 2, 1917. Image and caption: National Archives.

Partial decode of the Zimmermann Telegram made by Edward Bell of the American Embassy in London, sent to the State Department, March 2, 1917. Image and caption: National Archives.

CALLIE OETTINGER was Command Posts’ first managing editor. Her interest in military history, policy and fiction took root when she was a kid, traveling and living the life of an Army Brat, and continues today.


45a. Farewell to Isolation


The "Lusitania" preparing to dock in New York.

With American trade becoming more and more lopsided toward the Allied cause, many feared that it was only a matter of time before the United States would be at war. The issue that propelled most American fencesitters to side with the British was German submarine warfare.

The British, with the world's largest navy, had effectively shut down German maritime trade. Because there was no hope of catching the British in numbers of ships, the Germans felt that the submarine was their only key to survival. One " U-boat " could surreptitiously sink many battleships, only to slip away unseen. This practice would stop only if the British would lift their blockade.

Sinking the Lusitania .

The isolationist American public had little concern if the British and Germans tangled on the high seas. The incident that changed everything was the sinking of the Lusitania . The Germans felt they had done their part to warn Americans about the danger of overseas travel.

The German government purchased advertisement space in American newspapers warning that Americans who traveled on ships carrying war contraband risked submarine attack. When the Lusitania departed New York, the Germans believed the massive passenger ship was loaded with munitions in its cargo hold. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship without warning, sending 1,198 passengers, including 128 Americans, to an icy grave. The Lusitania , as it turned out, was carrying over 4 million rounds of ammunition.

President Wilson was enraged. The British were breaking the rules, but the Germans were causing deaths.

Wilson's Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, recommended a ban on American travel on any ships of nations at war. Wilson preferred a tougher line against the German Kaiser. He demanded an immediate end to submarine warfare, prompting Bryan to resign in protest. The Germans began a 2-year practice of pledging to cease submarine attacks, reneging on that pledge, and issuing it again under U.S. protest.

Wilson had other reasons for leaning toward the Allied side. He greatly admired the British government, and democracy in any form was preferable to German authoritarianism. The historical ties with Britain seemed to draw the United States closer to that side.

Many Americans felt a debt to France for their help in the American Revolution. Several hundred volunteers, appropriately named the Lafayette Escadrilles , already volunteered to fight with the French in 1916. In November of that year, Wilson campaigned for re-election with a peace platform. "He kept us out of war," read his campaign signs, and Americans narrowly returned him to the White House. But peace was not to be.

The Zimmermann Telegram

In February 1917, citing the unbalanced U.S. trade with the Allies, Germany announced a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. All vessels spotted in the war zone would be sunk immediately and without warning. Wilson responded by severing diplomatic relations with the German government.

Later that month, British intelligence intercepted the notorious Zimmermann telegram . The German foreign minister sent a message courting support from Mexico in the event the United States should enter the war. Zimmermann promised Mexico a return of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona &mdash territories it had lost in 1848.

Relations between the U.S. and Mexico were already strained. The U.S. had sent troops across the border in search of Pancho Villa , who had conducted several cross-border raids of American towns. Failing to find Villa, the troops had been withdrawn only in January 1917. Despite the recent souring between Mexico and its Northern neighbor, the United States, the Mexican government declined the offer. In a calculated move, Wilson released the captured telegram to the American press.

War Declared on Germany

A tempest of outrage followed. More and more Americans began to label Germany as the true villain in the war. When German subs sank several American commercial ships in March, Wilson had an even stronger hand to play. On April 2, 1917, he addressed the Congress, citing a long list of grievances against Germany. Four days later, by a wide margin in each house, Congress declared war on Germany, and the U.S. was plunged into the bloodiest battle in history.

Still, the debate lived on. Two Senators and fifty Representatives voted against the war resolution, including the first female ever to sit in Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana. Although a clear majority of Americans now supported the war effort, there were large segments of the populace who still needed convincing.


Why was the Zimmerman note important?

View more on it here. In this way, why was the Zimmerman telegram so important?

Zimmermann Telegram published in United States. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in January 1917, Zimmermann instructed the ambassador, Count Johann von Bernstorff, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it agreed to enter any future U.S-German conflict as a German ally.

what was the impact of the Zimmerman note? The note revealed a plan to renew unrestricted submarine warfare and to form an alliance with Mexico and Japan if the United States declared war on Germany. The message was intercepted by the British and passed on to the United States its publication caused outrage and contributed to the U.S. entry into World War I.

Similarly one may ask, why was the US upset about the Zimmerman note?

In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it agreed to enter the conflict as a German ally.

What was the legacy of the Zimmerman telegram to whose advantage Did it work best and why?

Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare can take more credit for that. But the telegram was useful for convincing the American public that it should be sending its men over to Europe to fight. The telegram had proved the perfect justification for a change of policy and to convince some of the sceptics.


The Reactions of Mexico and Japan

While the United States appropriately responded with outrage to the Zimmermann Telegram, what were the reactions of the other countries involved?

At the time of World War I, Mexico was engulfed in its own civil war. In a multilayered conflict, various forces vied for control of Mexico and the country suffered through years of conflict.

By October 1915 the US officially recognized the legitimacy of the Carranza presidency and the two governments worked together to extinguish the threat of other revolutionaries such as Pancho Villa.

Thus, at the time of the Zimmermann Telegram, Mexico was in little position to declare war upon the United States.

Nevertheless, when the message reached Carranza, he put together a military commission to assess the viability of the proposal. The results of the commission suggested that war with the US would be futile.

The Mexican army was deemed to be no match for the US military. Carranza also had a very delicate grip on power. A declaration of war against the United States could dissolve that hold and prop up his opponents.

In addition, Mexico severely doubted that Germany could follow up on its offer to finance the war.

Mexico was the direct correspondent and target of Germany’s interests, however, Japan was explicitly mentioned in the telegram as well.

At the beginning of the war Japan allied with Britain and France against Germany. Though they played a small role in the war, Germany thought Mexico could potentially align with Japan to attack the US west coast.

The Zimmerman Telegram explicitly left out California for the Mexicans as it was thought the acquisition of California could be enticing for Japan.

Japan denied that they were contacted regarding an alliance against the United States. They also stated that had they been contacted, Japan would have responded with a “categorical refusal.”


Decoding the Zimmermann Telegram, 100 Years Later

One hundred years ago, on Feb. 26, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson learned about the telegram that would pull the U.S. into World War I. The Zimmermann Telegram—a secret offer by Germany to help Mexico reconquer the American Southwest—not only compelled Washington to end a tradition of neutrality, but transformed the balance of world power for the next century. It’s a historical episode with important lessons as President Trump contemplates how to conduct international politics in the 21st century.

In 1914 Germany had launched its U-boat campaign, using submarines to sink ships without warning, including those from neutral nations. In May 1915 a German sub torpedoed a British civilian liner, the Lusitania, killing 128 Americans. Wilson threatened military action if it happened again, which forced Germany to impose restrictions on its U-boats.

As the war ground on, however, Germany began to view submarine warfare as its route to victory. By 1917 the German high command believed it could bring Britain and France to their knees in six months by sinking neutral ships and depriving the Allies of food and supplies. Yet the Germans knew this would arouse the ire of Wilson, who had won re-election only months earlier, running on the slogan “he kept us out of war.”

How to counter America’s potential response? On Jan. 19, 1917, Germany’s foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann, sent a coded telegram to his ambassador in Mexico. The ambassador was instructed to offer the Mexican president, Venustiano Carranza, an alliance: If America entered the war, Germany proposed that Mexico open a second front against the U.S. The Germans would then help “regain by conquest her lost territory in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.”

In some ways, it was a clever move. Carranza was still smarting from President Wilson’s decision three years earlier to send an American force to occupy Veracruz, as well as Gen. John J. Pershing’s 1916 expedition against the bandit Pancho Villa. If there was a country in the Western Hemisphere ready to ally with Germany against the U.S., it was Mexico.

But if anything was set to turn American public opinion against neutrality, it was a secret plan to invade the U.S. The British, who had intercepted the diplomatic cable, knew this. So once they had fully decoded the Zimmermann Telegram, they made sure it landed on Wilson’s desk. They gave it to the U.S. ambassador in London on Feb. 24.

When Wilson released it to the public, the telegram rallied patriotic sentiment like nothing since the burning of the White House during the War of 1812. Yet the president remained hesitant. He still believed American neutrality was the best way to promote peace. Even after Zimmermann confirmed the authenticity of the message on March 3, Wilson waited nearly a month before asking for a declaration of war.

“It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war,” Wilson said in his historic speech to Congress on April 2, but “America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace she has treasured.”

He also insisted on the purity of America’s motivation: “We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion.” But to champion right against might, “we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything we are and everything we have.”

And so they did. In 1918 more than 4.5 million Americans donned uniforms and turned the tide in Europe. By war’s end the U.S. had built a formidable Navy, second only to Britain’s. America emerged from World War I as a global hegemon, the center of a world economic and strategic order that World War II would only confirm.

What can we learn today from the Zimmermann Telegram? First, don’t underestimate America. In 1917 the Germans mistook self-restraint for weakness, and it cost them the war. Others would make the same mistake later: Japan and Germany in World War II, the Soviet Union at the start of the Cold War, al Qaeda on the eve of 9/11. Today Russia and China bid fair to make the miscalculation once again.


Why was the Zimmerman telegram significant?

Zimmermann sent the telegram in anticipation of resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, an act the German government expected would likely lead to war with the U.S. Zimmermann hoped tensions with Mexico would slow shipments of supplies, munitions, and troops to the Allies if the U.S. was tied down on its southern

Also, why was the US upset about the Zimmerman note? In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it agreed to enter the conflict as a German ally.

Similarly, you may ask, what was the legacy of the Zimmerman telegram to whose advantage Did it work best and why?

Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare can take more credit for that. But the telegram was useful for convincing the American public that it should be sending its men over to Europe to fight. The telegram had proved the perfect justification for a change of policy and to convince some of the sceptics.

How did the British intercepted the Zimmerman telegram?

On January 16, 1917, British code breakers intercepted an encrypted message from Zimmermann intended for Heinrich von Eckardt, the German ambassador to Mexico. The British cryptographic office known as &ldquoRoom 40&rdquo decoded the Zimmermann Telegram and handed it over to the United States in late-February 1917.


How was Zimmerman telegram decoded?

In January 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause.

Also Know, why was the Zimmerman telegram significant? The Zimmermann Telegram, or Note, was significant to the history of World War I because it forced United States President Woodrow Wilson to reverse his initial position on American involvement in the European conflict and commit the United States to the war against Germany.

Consequently, how did the Zimmerman telegram affect ww1?

Zimmermann sent the telegram in anticipation of resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, an act the German government expected would likely lead to war with the U.S. Zimmermann hoped tensions with Mexico would slow shipments of supplies, munitions, and troops to the Allies if the U.S. was tied down on its southern

What does the Zimmerman note say?

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 1840s, including Texas, New Mexico, California, and Arizona.


New Teaching Activity: The Zimmermann Telegram

In a recently created learning activity on DocsTeach.org, students can analyze the Zimmermann telegram to evaluate whether, based on its information and implications, the United States should have entered World War I.

By completing the activity, they will learn that this message helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history, that: The British presented the telegram to President Woodrow Wilson, the American press published the news, and Congress declared war on Germany and its allies.

The Zimmermann Telegram activity challenges students to examine the encoded Zimmermann Telegram and the decode worksheet, looking for clues and details about the documents that may help explain their meaning. After they discuss their findings, they will read, analyze, and summarize the decoded Zimmermann telegram—identifying its author, audience, and purpose.

They will discover that in January of 1917, British codebreakers deciphered this telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause.

To conclude the activity, students will vote on whether or not the United States should have declared war on Germany based solely on the Zimmermann Telegram, explaining their pro- or anti-war rationale.


The Zimmerman Telegram

The United States has tried to stay out of most of the wars the rest of the world has become involved in, but sometimes circumstances have drawn us into wars we didn’t want to enter. World War I is a prime example of just such a situation. On February 26, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson learns of the so-called Zimmermann Telegram. The telegram was a message from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico proposing a Mexican-German alliance in the event of a war between the United States and Germany. This telegram was a crucial step toward the entry of the United States into World War I.

On February 24, 1917, British authorities gave Walter Hines Page, the United States ambassador to Britain, a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram. It was a coded message from Zimmermann to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, which was intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, that in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico, provided Mexico agreed to enter the conflict as a German ally. Germany also promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Now, when you think about it, that is some big promises for Germany to be making, but I supposed that if the event of a loss in the war, all promises were null and void.

Upon learning about the proposed agreement between Germany and Mexico, the State Department was quick to send a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram to President Wilson. The president was shocked by the note’s content and the next day proposed to Congress that the United States should start arming its ships against possible German attacks. Wilson also authorized the State Department to publish the telegram. It appeared on the front pages of American newspapers on March 1, and it left many Americans horrified. The telegram was quickly declared a forgery by the public, but two days later, Zimmermann himself announced that it was genuine.

The Zimmermann Telegram helped turn the American public, already angered by repeated German attacks on United States ships, firmly against Germany. On April 2, President Wilson, who had initially sought a peaceful resolution to World War I, urged immediate United States entrance into the war. Four days later, Congress declared war against Germany, and the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917.


Watch the video: Телеграмма Циммермана