The ZIMMERMANN TELEGRAM (or ZIMMERMANN NOTE or Zimmerman Cable) was a
secret diplomatic communication issued from the German Foreign Office
in January 1917 that proposed a military alliance between Germany and
* 1 Content * 2 Mexican response
* 3 British interception
* 3.1 Use
* 4 Effect in the United States * 5 Previous German efforts to promote war * 6 See also
* 7 References
* 7.1 Notes * 7.2 Bibliography
* 8 Further reading * 9 External links
The message came in the form of a coded telegram dispatched by Arthur
Zimmermann , a Staatssekretär (i.e. a top level civil servant ) in
the Foreign Office of the
The decoded telegram is as follows:
We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine
warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States
of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make
Mexican President Venustiano Carranza assigned a military commission to assess the feasibility of the Mexican takeover of their former territories contemplated by Germany. The generals concluded that it would be neither possible nor even desirable to attempt such an enterprise for the following reasons:
* The United States was far stronger militarily than
The Carranza government was recognized de jure by the United States
on 31 August 1917 as a direct consequence of the Zimmermann telegram,
since recognition was necessary to ensure Mexican neutrality in World
War I . After the military invasion of Veracruz in 1914, Mexico
would not participate in any military excursions with the United
States in World War I, thus ensuring Mexican neutrality was the best
outcome that the United States could hope for, even if Mexican
neutrality would allow German companies to keep their operations in
A portion of the Telegram as decrypted by British Naval Intelligence codebreakers. The word Arizona was not in the German codebook and thus had to be split into phonetic syllables.
The telegram was sent to the German embassy in the United States for re-transmission to Eckardt in Mexico. It has traditionally been claimed that the telegram was sent over three routes: transmitted by radio and also sent over two trans-Atlantic telegraph cables operated by neutral governments (the United States and Sweden) for the use of their diplomatic services. But it has been established that only one method was used. The message was delivered to the United States Embassy in Berlin and then transmitted by diplomatic cable first to Copenhagen and then to London for onward transmission over transatlantic cable to Washington. The misinformation about the "three routes" was spread by William Reginald Hall , then the head of Room 40 , to try to conceal from the United States the fact that Room 40 was intercepting its cable traffic.
Direct telegraph transmission of the telegram was not possible because the British had cut the German international cables at the outbreak of war. However, the United States allowed limited use of its diplomatic cables for Germany to communicate with its ambassador in Washington. The facility was supposed to be used for cables connected with President Woodrow Wilson's peace proposals.
The Swedish cable ran from Sweden, and the United States cable from
the United States embassy in
Obviously, Zimmermann's note could not be given to the United States in clear. The Germans therefore persuaded Ambassador James W. Gerard to accept it in coded form, and it was transmitted on 16 January 1917.
In Room 40,
Nigel de Grey had partially deciphered the telegram by
the next day.
Room 40 had previously obtained German cipher
documents, including the diplomatic cipher 13040 (captured in the
Disclosure of the Telegram would obviously sway public opinion in the United States against Germany, provided the Americans could be convinced it was genuine. But Room 40 chief William Reginald Hall was reluctant to let it out, because the disclosure would expose the German codes broken in Room 40 and British eavesdropping on the United States cable. Hall waited three weeks. During this period, Grey and cryptographer William Montgomery completed the decryption. On 1 February Germany announced resumption of "unrestricted" submarine warfare, an act which led the United States to break off diplomatic relations with Germany on 3 February. The Telegram, completely decrypted and translated
Hall passed the telegram to the Foreign Office on 5 February, but still warned against releasing it. Meanwhile, the British discussed possible cover stories: to explain to the Americans how they got the ciphertext of the telegram without admitting to their ability to intercept American diplomatic communications (which they would continue to do for another 25 years); and to explain how they got the cleartext of the telegram without letting the Germans know their codes were broken. Furthermore, the British needed to find a way to convince the Americans the message was not a forgery.
For the first story, the British obtained the ciphertext of the telegram from the Mexican commercial telegraph office. The British knew that the German Embassy in Washington would relay the message by commercial telegraph, so the Mexican telegraph office would have the ciphertext. "Mr. H", a British agent in Mexico, bribed an employee of the commercial telegraph company for a copy of the message. (Sir Thomas Hohler , then British ambassador in Mexico, claimed to have been "Mr. H", or at least involved with the interception, in his autobiography.) This ciphertext could be shown to the Americans without embarrassment. Moreover, the retransmission was enciphered using the older cipher 13040, so by mid-February the British had not only the complete text, but also the ability to release the telegram without revealing the extent to which the latest German codes had been broken—at worst, the Germans might have realized that the 13040 code had been compromised, but weighed against the possibility of United States entry into the war, that was a risk worth taking. Finally, since copies of the 13040 ciphertext would also have been deposited in the records of the American commercial telegraph, the British had the ability to prove the authenticity of the message to the United States government.
As a cover story, the British could publicly claim that their agents had stolen the telegram's deciphered text in Mexico. Privately, the British needed to give the Americans the 13040 cipher so that the United States government could verify the authenticity of the message independently with their own commercial telegraphic records; however the Americans agreed to back the official cover story. The German Foreign Office refused to consider a possible code break, and instead sent Ambassador Eckardt on a witch-hunt for a traitor in the embassy in Mexico. (Eckardt indignantly rejected these accusations, and the Foreign Office eventually declared the embassy exonerated.)
On 19 February, Hall showed the Telegram to Edward Bell, secretary of
the United States Embassy in Britain. Bell was at first incredulous
and thought it to be a forgery. Once Bell was convinced the message
was genuine, he became enraged. On 20 February, Hall informally sent a
copy to United States Ambassador
Walter Hines Page . On 23 February,
Page met with British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour and was given
the ciphertext, the message in German, and the English translation.
Page then reported the story to President
EFFECT IN THE UNITED STATES
Popular sentiment in the United States at that time was anti-Mexican
as well as anti-German, while in
On the other hand, there was also a notable anti-British sentiment in the United States, particularly among German- and Irish-Americans . Many Americans wished to avoid the conflict in Europe. Since the public had been told (untruthfully) that the telegram had been stolen in a deciphered form in Mexico, the message was widely believed at first to be an elaborate forgery perpetrated by British intelligence. This belief, which was not restricted to pacifist and pro-German lobbies, was promoted by German and Mexican diplomats and by some American newspapers, especially the Hearst press empire . This presented the Wilson administration with a dilemma. With the evidence the United States had been provided confidentially by the British, Wilson realized the message was genuine—but he could not make the evidence public without compromising the British codebreaking operation.
Any doubts as to the authenticity of the telegram were removed, however, by Arthur Zimmermann himself. First at a press conference on 3 March 1917, he told an American journalist, "I cannot deny it. It is true." Then, on 29 March 1917, Zimmermann gave a speech in the Reichstag in which he admitted the telegram was genuine. Zimmermann hoped Americans would understand the idea was that Germany would only fund Mexico's war with the United States in the prior event of American entry into World War I.
On 1 February 1917, Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare
against all ships in the Atlantic bearing the American flag, both
passenger and merchant ships. Two ships were sunk in February, and
most American shipping companies held their ships in port. Besides the
highly provocative war proposal to Mexico, the telegram also mentioned
"ruthless employment of our submarines." Public opinion demanded
action. Wilson had previously refused to assign US Navy crews and guns
to the merchant ships. However, once the Zimmermann note was public,
Wilson called for arming the merchant ships, but anti-war elements in
United States Senate
PREVIOUS GERMAN EFFORTS TO PROMOTE WAR
Germany had long sought to incite a war between
The German provocations were partially successful. Woodrow Wilson
ordered the military invasion of Veracruz in 1914 in the context of
Ypiranga Incident and against the advice of the British
government. War was prevented thanks to the Niagara Falls peace
conference organized by the ABC nations, but the occupation was a
decisive factor in Mexican neutrality in
World War I
In October 2005, it was reported that an original typescript of the
* American entry into
World War I
* ^ Andrew , p. 42.
* ^ A B "Why was the Zimmerman Telegram so important?". BBC. 17
January 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
* ^ A B "The telegram that brought America into the First World
War". BBC History Magazine. 17 January 2017. Retrieved 17 January
* ^ Tuchman , pp. 63, 73–4
* ^ Katz , pp. 328–29.
* ^ Katz , p. 364
* ^ William Beezley, Michael Meyer (2010) The Oxford History of
Mexico, p. 476, Oxford University Press, UK.
* ^ Thomas Paterson, J. Garry Clifford, Robert Brigham, Michael
Donoghue, Kenneth Hagan (2010) American Foreign Relations, Volume 1:
To 1920, p. 265, Cengage Learning, USA.
* ^ Thomas Paterson, John Garry Clifford, Kenneth J. Hagan (1999)
American Foreign Relations: A History since 1895, p. 51, Houghton
Mifflin College Division, USA.
* ^ A B Lee Stacy (2002)
* Andrew, Christopher (1996). For The President's Eyes Only. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-638071-9 . * Beesly, Patrick (1982). Room 40: British Naval Intelligence, 1914–1918. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-178634-8 .
* Boghardt, Thomas. The Zimmermann Telegram: Intelligence, Diplomacy,
and America's Entry into
World War I
* Boghardt, Thomas (November 2003). The Zimmermann Telegram:
Diplomacy, Intelligence and The American Entry into
World War I
* Capozzola, Christopher (2008). Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I
and the Making of the Modern American Citizen. Oxford: Oxford
Scholarship Online. ISBN 9780195335491 .
* Fenton, Ben (17 October 2005). "Telegram that brought US into
Great War is Found Found". The Telegraph. London.
* Gannon, Paul (2011). Inside Room 40: The Codebreakers of World War
I. London: Ian Allen Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7110-3408-2 .
* Hopkirk, Peter (1994). On Secret Service East of Constantinople.
Oxford University Press
* Bernstorff, Count Johann Heinrich (1920). My Three Years in America. New York: Scribner. pp. 310–11. * Bridges, Lamar W. "Zimmermann telegram: reaction of Southern, Southwestern newspapers." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly (1969) 46#1: 81–86. * Dugdale, Blanche (1937). Arthur James Balfour. New York: Putnam. Vol. II, pp. 127–129. * Hendrick, Burton J. (2003) . The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page. Kessinger Publishing . ISBN 0-7661-7106-X . * Kahn, David (1996) . The Codebreakers. New York: Macmillan. * Winkler, Jonathan Reed (2008). Nexus: Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press . ISBN 978-0-674-02839-5 .