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January 11, 1917: Zimmermann Telegram Sent

 

I assume that there must be a greater example of diplomatic folly than the Zimmermann Telegram, but I cannot think of it at the moment.  Believing that the entry of the US into the Great War was inevitable with the planned resumption by Germany of unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping, the German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann on January 11, 1917 sent the following telegram in code to the German ambassador to Mexico Heinrich von Eckardt:

“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 Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.” Signed, ZIMMERMANN

The sheer madness of this cannot be overstated.  Mexico was still in the throes of the Mexican Revolution and posed no threat to the US.  The US had recently demonstrated that it could dispatch military forces into Mexico with impunity.  Threatening the physical integrity of the US converted a far off European conflict into a direct threat against the US.  If the US did intervene in the Great War, an additional conflict with Mexico would barely resister in regard to the immense military mobilization that the US would undergo.

Mexican President Venustiano Carranza appointed a military commission to study the proposal and they quickly reported that Mexico stood no chance in a war with the US.  The British intercepted the telegram as it was sent through British territory on its way to Mexico via the German embassy in the US.  After the British translated it, they retained it to release it to their American “cousins” at an opportune time.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

14 Comments

  1. Lots and lots of ink and cyberspace has been spent on WWI. Wilson is one of the most despised presidents in many circles and WWI plays no small part in it. I am being redundant, but I am grateful that Germany lost that war. Germany took Alsace Lorraine from France and partitioned Poland a century before that. The German government propped up Lenin as well.
    The evil ideology of National Socialism need not have been
    embraced by the German people.
    Just my two cents.

  2. Germany took Alsace Lorraine from France and partitioned Poland a century before that.

    No, Prussia, Russia (and, in two out of three sessions) the Hapsburgs partitioned Poland. “Germany” was a geographical expression at the time (and the Polish state notional). Alsace-Lorraine was a germanophone territory, so of interest to Germany. It was loyal to France, so imprudent to annex. The forced transfer and the cack-handed way the local population was dealt with engendered revanchism.

  3. Art, Prussians, Germans, half a dozen of one, six of another. Poland threw GERMANS out of Greater Poland after WWI.
    Catherine the not so great was an ethnic German. The Hapsburgs spoke German.
    Notional Polish state? Go to Warsaw November of 2018 and say that.

  4. Poland threw GERMANS out of Greater Poland after WWI.

    The ethnic German proportion in the former West Prussia and Posen did decline fairly rapidly during the interwar period, but I don’t think there was much in the way of forced expulsion. The raw number declined by about 30,000 between 1921 and 1931 and fell from 3% to 2.3% of the national population.

  5. “Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona” — Oops. He forgot Mexifornia. Or maybe the rest of us were just more expendable. If Mexifornia does secede, I will call it Wallifornia, since the southern border wall will need to be extended around its perimeter.

  6. I was stationed in West Germany for three years during the Cold War, with the US.Air Force. I came away with the sure knowledge, that if Hitler was to rise from the dead, they would blindly follow him again !
    Timothy R.

  7. I came away with the sure knowledge, that if Hitler was to rise from the dead, they would blindly follow him again

    The Nazi vote and that of quasi-Nazi parties has since 1949 been just about nil. Prior to 1930, they scored about 3% of the ballots.

  8. Art Deco, have you ever spoken with the German people on the streets, or in a Gasthaus, or on a bus ? A German civilian, who worked with us in our K9 Section, and who had been a German soldier during WW11, actually told me, after 5 or 6 biers, that very thing.
    Timothy R.

  9. The first thing they warned us about, when we arrived in Germany was : It is a 5000 Mark fine for ANYONE that gives the Nazi salute, utters Sieg Hiel, or utters the name of Hitler, or anything else that reminds anyone of the Nazi days. That was about $1500 Dollars at that time !
    Timothy R.

  10. Art Deco, have you ever spoken with the German people on the streets, or in a Gasthaus, or on a bus ? A German civilian, who worked with us in our K9 Section, and who had been a German soldier during WW11, actually told me, after 5 or 6 biers, that very thing.
    Timothy R.

    So what? I can introduce you to family members who think Donald Trump has it in for their children. Lot’s of people subscribe to kooky notions. There just isn’t much fascistoid sentiment in Germany and Austria so the media have to invent it by pretending Barbara Rosenkranz and Norbert Hofer are neo-Nazis.

  11. George, the ex-Nazi soldier who worked with us in our K9 Section, was but one incident. And I am giving eyewitness testimony of a time period in the late sixties. That is one point. The other point is that you are like the guy who eyeballs some pictures of the inside of a volcano; and then, argues with the guy who took those pictures !
    Timothy R.

  12. It was a tumultuous time, in Europe, during the late sixties, early seventies. The Cold War was as hot as hell ! The Red Army, which included the East German Forces, were constantly holding War Games. And though we had signed a Status of Forces agreement with the West Germans, making us Allies, there was still resentment, on the side of the Germans, for having lost The War. Old wounds do not close quickly. So, even though we were now Allies, instead of Occupiers, sometimes we were not treated in a friendly manner. Arduous, and sometimes dangerous duties, often caused each of us to question our mission. And whenever a so called Allie told me, “WE wish you Ami’s would just go home”, I would agree with them. Timothy R.

  13. The other point is that you are like the guy who eyeballs some pictures of the inside of a volcano; and then, argues with the guy who took those pictures !

    You said you met one guy who’s a Nazi. There were 85 million people living in Germany and Austria in 1968. For some reason, you got it into your head the country was demographically dominated by crypto-Nazis. This wasn’t derived from how they were actually behaving.

  14. You are right. That was then, this is now. What I said was that “I came away from there”. For, when I had arrived, I was eighteen years old, fresh out of High School, and away from Home for the first time in my life. Uncle Sam saw fit to send me thousands of miles and an ocean away from Home for three years !
    I would say that the greatest percentage of the German populace was just like us, working, raising kids, and trying to make a living. But our Barracks was isolated deep in the German countryside. And we had a large number of German civillians, many of whom did serve in the German military during WW11. By the “they” I meant the few that we did come to know as Nazi sympathizers. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
    Timothy R.

Comments are closed.