The Zimmerman Telegram

The United States was successful in staying out of World War I for three years. From 1914 to 1916, the U.S. watched and listened to the turning points of the war from afar, yet in early 1917, a major event took place which would quicken the U.S.’s path toward entering the fighting.

In January of 1917, a telegram, which is a note or message that is sent through a telegraph that must then be written down, was sent by the German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman. Zimmerman sent this telegram to the German Minister to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckhardt.

In this secret diplomatic communication, Zimmerman proposed that Germany and Mexico forge a military alliance. In his proposal, he stated that if the United States - who at the time was neutral - entered the war to fight alongside the Allies (Great Britain, France, Italy, and others), then Germany and Mexico would move forward with the plans for a secret alliance.

He also promised that if Mexico indeed helped Germany in the war effort, then Germany could guarantee U.S. lands would be returned to Mexico. These included Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, which were once the property of Mexico. Thirdly, Zimmerman promised to support a Mexican-led attack on the United States. .

The telegram was intercepted and interpreted by the British. They had to decode it, as it was sent as a series of numbers, and then it had to be translated from German to English. The British also swiftly reported their findings to the United States. As a response, President Woodrow Wilson recommended that the U.S. begin arming its ships.

The U.S. also made the secret Zimmerman telegram public on the front pages of countless different newspapers for people to read in full. The contents of the telegram outraged the American public, and calls for the United States’ entrance into the war became loud and robust. Finally, the country formally entered World War I in April of 1917.


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