January 19 1917 Zimmermann Telegram Intercepted by Britain Summary and Analysis - WWI history, facts and information
The Zimmermann Telegram was a telegram sent by the Germans during World War I to their embassy in the US. The information in the telegram was meant to be forwarded to the Mexico government. In January 1917, the US was neutral in the war. The Germans wanted the US to stay out of the war in Europe. A summary of the contents of the telegram is the Germans asked the Mexican government to start a war with the US. In exchange for an alliance with Mexico, the Germans offered Mexico US territory Mexico had lost during the Mexican War. This amounted to the entire US Southwest. The reasons the Germans wanted Mexico to start a war was to keep the US occupied defending its border and less likely to send troops to Europe to fight the Germans. The Germans had their hands full fighting Britain, France and Russia.
The telegram was sent via 3 routes due to the Germans telegraph cables being cut in the Atlantic Ocean. It passed through relay stations. The telegram was intercepted by Britain. Britain choose to hold off on alerting the US because they did not want Germany to know they were able to intercept and decode German messages.
"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 Mexican ambassador at that time was Von Eckardt. The Mexican government rejected and ignored the proposal because the US was too strong to take on. Germany also wanted to invite Japan to join the war too.
US President Woodrow Wilson was enraged by the telegram and had it published in the newspaper. It too incited the public into supporting a war with Germany which previously most US citizens were opposed.
Although, the US was neutral, they were supplying arms and supplies to France and Great Britain. The Germans had engaged in unrestricted summarine warfare until the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which resulted in the deaths of 1198 civilians. Unknown to the British public, the Lusitania was carrying munitions headed to Britain for use in the war. As a result, the Germans postponed its U boat war and forbade action against ships flying neutral flags temporarily. The Zimmermann telegram announced the intent to begin unrestricted submarine warfare again.