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The average person thinks that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the United States into World War I. Not so! In this slim volume that reads like a whodunnit, Barbara Tuchman reveals the little known secret of The Zimmerman Telegram. Basically, Germany wanted to keep the U.S. and its industrial might out of the European conflict by convincing Mexico and Japan The average person thinks that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the United States into World War I. Not so! In this slim volume that reads like a whodunnit, Barbara Tuchman reveals the little known secret of The Zimmerman Telegram. Basically, Germany wanted to keep the U.S. and its industrial might out of the European conflict by convincing Mexico and Japan to attack the U.S. Germany even promised Mexico it would get back Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona! What the Germans didn't know is that as soon as war was declared, the first thing the British did was cut Germany's transatlantic cable. All telegrams or telephone calls to North America had to travel over Britain's cable. And the British intercepted every telegram out of Germany. Even though the Zimmerman telegram was sent in code, it was broken. But the shrewd British held onto it, not revealing its contents until it was absolutely necessary, and in such a way that they didn't have to reveal that they were intercepting German messages! Brilliant! When the New York Times published the telegram in 1917, it was but a short time until pacifist Woodrow Wilson got a declaration of war from Congress, and the U.S. began sending troops "over there." A great read!


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The average person thinks that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the United States into World War I. Not so! In this slim volume that reads like a whodunnit, Barbara Tuchman reveals the little known secret of The Zimmerman Telegram. Basically, Germany wanted to keep the U.S. and its industrial might out of the European conflict by convincing Mexico and Japan The average person thinks that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the United States into World War I. Not so! In this slim volume that reads like a whodunnit, Barbara Tuchman reveals the little known secret of The Zimmerman Telegram. Basically, Germany wanted to keep the U.S. and its industrial might out of the European conflict by convincing Mexico and Japan to attack the U.S. Germany even promised Mexico it would get back Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona! What the Germans didn't know is that as soon as war was declared, the first thing the British did was cut Germany's transatlantic cable. All telegrams or telephone calls to North America had to travel over Britain's cable. And the British intercepted every telegram out of Germany. Even though the Zimmerman telegram was sent in code, it was broken. But the shrewd British held onto it, not revealing its contents until it was absolutely necessary, and in such a way that they didn't have to reveal that they were intercepting German messages! Brilliant! When the New York Times published the telegram in 1917, it was but a short time until pacifist Woodrow Wilson got a declaration of war from Congress, and the U.S. began sending troops "over there." A great read!

30 review for The Zimmerman Telegram

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    There is something very strange about the First World War. I mean, surely there must be something I previously knew about it that must be true. The $64,000 question is: what event brought the United States into the First World War….. Before reading this book I would have said that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the war – but in fact, that happened two years prior to the US entry. Woodrow Wilson, following this sinking, said he was too proud to fight over something lik There is something very strange about the First World War. I mean, surely there must be something I previously knew about it that must be true. The $64,000 question is: what event brought the United States into the First World War….. Before reading this book I would have said that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the war – but in fact, that happened two years prior to the US entry. Woodrow Wilson, following this sinking, said he was too proud to fight over something like that. I had absolutely no idea that the thing that finally tipped the scales and got the US into the war was a intercepted telegram that the British were able to decode and that had been sent by the Germans using US telegram lines with US approval – although, obviously not for the purpose the Germans were putting them to. And that purpose reads like the sort of story you would only read today in one of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspapers. This is the sort of conspiracy that really had to be true, as it was just too stupid for anyone to have made up with any expectation that anyone else would believe. The Plot: Germany needs to stop the US from supplying weapons and food to Britain so as to effectively take her out of the war. To do this Germany has decided to torpedo US ships and put a blockade on Britain that will bring her to her knees within a matter of months (you might remember from The Guns of August that Germany always seems to have expected every aspect of the war to last a matter of months). Because the US would have to take some time to get an army ready to cross the Atlantic and come to Britain’s military aid and because Britain wouldn’t be able to hold out for that long – Germany would inevitably win the war. But just to make absolutely sure – Germany also proposed getting Mexico and Japan to invade the US thereby giving the US government something to think about closer to home. Mexico was promised all of her previous territories that the US had taken from her (including Texas and New Mexico) and although the Germans didn’t really expect these countries to beat the US in a war, that wasn’t really the point or intention. The intention was to keep the US out of the real war for long enough for Germany to win and so make the rest a bit of a foregone conclusion. Audacious, no? So, Britain has the German message in her sweaty hands and has translated it using German codes which they have broken years before and that the Germans haven’t changed since the start of the war because the Germans are far too clever for the Allies and the Allies would never be smart enough to crack that... But having a message and being able to use it are quite different things. What if exposing the message simultaneously gives away the fact that you know the German codes? What is worth more to you? Getting the US into the war (and given the contents of the message that seems likely in any case) or having to fight the remainder of the war without being able to listen into enemy messages? Like I said, this is the sort of book that reads like it is all made up - sort of a cross between a history book and The 39 Steps. The fact that this telegram was actually the thing that got the US into the war and not some ship being sunk is only one of the surprises in store in this book. Thanks again Richard. I've just realised that I've read one of her books before - The March of Folly From Troy to Vietnam - which I also really enjoyed very much.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian DiMattia

    I recently criticized a book on this site for trying to tell a history by jumping around, and said that it takes a very good writer to make that work. Barbara Tuchman has that skill. She tells a very complicated story with a very diverse cast, and keeps everything straight and lucid. Now, that might be enough for four stars, but Tuchman does all this by making the whole thing sensible as well. You understand why people took the actions they did. You understand why people make the assumptions they I recently criticized a book on this site for trying to tell a history by jumping around, and said that it takes a very good writer to make that work. Barbara Tuchman has that skill. She tells a very complicated story with a very diverse cast, and keeps everything straight and lucid. Now, that might be enough for four stars, but Tuchman does all this by making the whole thing sensible as well. You understand why people took the actions they did. You understand why people make the assumptions they made. And best/worst of all, you understand why the world made the huge mistake that was World War I. Tuchman isn't just an efficient writer, she's deeply entertaining. She has an unusual writing style: old fashioned, aristocratic, but never stilted or inaccessible. It's like listening to an opinionated Aunt tell you about the family. And I do mean opinionated. Tuchman isn't an unbiased reporter, she instead seems to embrace the concept of "history will judge them" and goes right ahead and judges the men that she's writing about. You can practically "hear" her shaking her head over Woodrow Wilson and his unending attempts to bring a peace to the world that no one but him wanted. I've been meaning to read Tuchman's "The Guns Of August" ever since it was discussed in one of my favorite historical films: "Thirteen Days." I started with this book instead and it has revolutionized my understanding of World War I. I used to be sufficiently mis-informed to believe that conflict to be mostly "European" in nature, and to be little more than a precursor to World War II. This one thin book has absolutely changed my view of history, and I'm thrilled to know I still have another, longer, pulitzer prize winning book to go!

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    I listened to this book because I have kind of an interest in cryptography and its historical impact. The Zimmerman Telegram is ostensibly about the famous telegram that was the final straw that brought America into the first World War, and how the British decoded it and then made use of it. But that turns out to be only a relatively minor part of the story. Really, most of the book is about the geopolitics of the early 20th century and the personalities of leading American, British, and German I listened to this book because I have kind of an interest in cryptography and its historical impact. The Zimmerman Telegram is ostensibly about the famous telegram that was the final straw that brought America into the first World War, and how the British decoded it and then made use of it. But that turns out to be only a relatively minor part of the story. Really, most of the book is about the geopolitics of the early 20th century and the personalities of leading American, British, and German officials, diplomats, and military leaders, and how these shaped history as we know it. The "plot" in a nutshell (and Barbara Tuchman does make this book interesting enough that it reads more like a novel plot moving from one twist to another, rather than the inevitable course of history): in 1917, Britain and the other Allied powers are getting the stuffing beaten out of them by Germany. The European front is hemorrhaging lives. What Britain wants and needs, and what Germany fears, is America entering the war. The only thing keeping Britain alive is her navy, and the German navy thinks they can starve Britain and the rest of the Allies if they commence "unrestricted" submarine warfare: meaning, even neutral ships are fair targets in the war zone. Since this largely means American ships bringing supplies to Britain, letting the U-boats loose means very likely provoking America into declaring war. Then falls into the hands of British codebreakers, who unbeknownst to the Germans have broken their diplomatic code, a telegram from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the German ambassador in Mexico. Zimmerman tells the ambassador to offer an alliance between Germany and Mexico should the U.S. enter the war (which they expect will happen since the decision has already been made to begin unrestricted submarine warfare). As part of the deal, Germany offers Mexico a great big slice of the American Southwest (basically everything the U.S. had taken from Mexico in various wars and then some), and also urges them to make an alliance with Japan to get Japan to attack the U.S. West Coast. This is obviously political dynamite, and the British figure it's just what they need to push the U.S. into declaring war on Germany. The only problems are (1) how to reveal this in a way that will simultaneously not be dismissed by the Americans as a hoax while not revealing to the Germans that their code has been broken; (2) U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who has been stubbornly persisting in trying to broker peace and keep the U.S. neutral, even as it becomes increasingly obvious that neither will be possible. As I mentioned, the codebreaking stuff turns out to be a very small piece of the story. I found the characterization of President Wilson much more interesting: at times he seems naive, foolish, stubborn, and understandably his opponents even labeled him cowardly. He was adamantly opposed to entering the war, and was pushing his "peace without victory" plan even after the Germans had all but spit on it. But Tuchman's portrayal does suggest a man who was far from cowardly, and not a fool either. He genuinely wanted peace, and genuinely grieved when his orders resulted in the deaths of American servicemembers. (One might wish some of our more recent Presidents had such a personal investment in the consequences of their orders...) But he was also stubborn and prone to not listening to news and opinions he didn't like. The other interesting part of the story is just how differently the U.S. was situated then as opposed to now. We Americans tend to think that the U.S. has been a "world power" pretty much since its founding, but really, in 1917, the U.S. was big and had a lot of industrial capacity and manpower, but had yet to really be tested on the world stage. Today we laugh at the idea that Mexico might seriously think they could invade the U.S. and carve off Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, but it was no joke then, especially if Japan, a growing empire itself, landed troops on the West Coast, which was also a real possibility, or at least the U.S. believed it was. World War I was when America had to actually prove itself and get bloodied. The other powers wanted America's strength on their side and feared America's strength turned against them, but probably no one had any idea of the global superpower the U.S. would become. An interesting history full of diplomatic maneuverings and historical context that reminds us that everything leading up to World War I, like most wars, was built on things that had been happening for decades before it. A hundred years later, we mostly only remember the outcome.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    As it was sent from Washington to Mexico Complete decryption and translation 4* A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century 3* The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890-1914 CR The Zimmermann Telegram As it was sent from Washington to Mexico Complete decryption and translation 4* A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century 3* The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890-1914 CR The Zimmermann Telegram

  5. 4 out of 5

    Grumpus

    I thought that lots of information--stuff I didn't know, would translate into an interesting read. While I learned a lot, the flow was never compelling to me like other good books that "bring you there". I was never engaged. Typically, a narrator can bring the story to life, but this reader did not do that for me. I think both the author and the narrator failed me on this one. Interesting topic but this version was just OK for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    I am fascinated by the fact that "history" often happens because of seemingly small, uneventful, accidental or coincidental events. Tuchman, one of my favorite historian/authors, tells the story of the happenstance that got the United States into World War I--despite President Wilson's firm stance of neutrality. The British, having cracked the German code, had intercepted a telegram filled with the promise of an alliance between Mexico and Japan against America. How could the Brits let the Ameri I am fascinated by the fact that "history" often happens because of seemingly small, uneventful, accidental or coincidental events. Tuchman, one of my favorite historian/authors, tells the story of the happenstance that got the United States into World War I--despite President Wilson's firm stance of neutrality. The British, having cracked the German code, had intercepted a telegram filled with the promise of an alliance between Mexico and Japan against America. How could the Brits let the Americans know of the plans without letting on that they had the German code? Wikileaks would have had a field day with all this intrigue! It reads like a historical thriller. Two favorite lines: Neither knew they were about to midwife a historic event. (3) Villa, spoiling for a fight, with Germany whispering encouragement in his ear, danced up and down the border like an enraged rooster trying to provoke the rush of a large dog. (93) Tuchman's conclusions: This is not to say that Wilson wanted neutrality the day before the telegram, and belligerency the day after...It awoke that part of the country that had been undecided or indifferent before. It transformed...the apathy of the Western states into "intense hostility to Germany" and "in one day accomplished a change in sentiment and public opinion that otherwise would have required months to accomplish." It was not a theory or an issue but an unmistakable gesture that anyone could understand. It was the German boot planted upon our border. To the mass of Americans, who cared little and thought less about Europe, it meant that if they fought they would be fighting to defend America, not merely to extract Europe from its self-made quarrels...Would they have been ready without the telegram? Probably not. Had the telegram never been intercepted or never been published, inevitably the Germans would have done something else that would have brought us in eventually. But the time was already late and, had we delayed much longer, the Allies might have been forced to negotiate. To that extent the Zimmermann telegram altered the course of history. But then, as Sir Winston Churchill has remarked, the course of history is always being altered by something or other--if not by a horseshoe nail, then by an intercepted telegram. In itself the Zimmermann telegram was only a pebble on the long road of history. But a pebble can kill a Goliath, and this one killed the American illusion that we could go about our business happily separate from other nations. In world affairs it was a German Minister's minor plot. In the lives of the American people it was the end of innocence. (199-200)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    This book shocked me, for a few different reasons: 1. I had NO idea that a decoded telegram was the thing that finally drove the U.S. to join the allies in WWI. 2. I had no idea that Germany had proposed to ally with Mexico and Japan in order to return Mexico's lost territories (ie, California, Texas — little places like those). 3. The sinking of the Lusitania happened two years prior to all of this! Wilson didn't love it, but it didn't come close to driving him to war. 4. With his irrationality, di This book shocked me, for a few different reasons: 1. I had NO idea that a decoded telegram was the thing that finally drove the U.S. to join the allies in WWI. 2. I had no idea that Germany had proposed to ally with Mexico and Japan in order to return Mexico's lost territories (ie, California, Texas — little places like those). 3. The sinking of the Lusitania happened two years prior to all of this! Wilson didn't love it, but it didn't come close to driving him to war. 4. With his irrationality, disregard of basic facts, constant pandering to the Russian leader, and preponderance of hurt feelings, Kaiser Wilhelm was the proto Donald Trump. Truly, the similarities are astounding. As always, Tuchman's breezy, rigorous, snarky tone is such a delight.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    ”In itself, the Zimmerman telegram was only a pebble on the long road of history. But a pebble can kill a Goliath, and this one killed the American illusion that we could go about our business happily separate from other nations. In world affairs, it was a German minister’s minor plot. In the lives of the American people, it was the end of innocence.” - Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmerman Telegram This short book describes an incredible scheme that I knew nothing about. In 1917, after two and half yea ”In itself, the Zimmerman telegram was only a pebble on the long road of history. But a pebble can kill a Goliath, and this one killed the American illusion that we could go about our business happily separate from other nations. In world affairs, it was a German minister’s minor plot. In the lives of the American people, it was the end of innocence.” - Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmerman Telegram This short book describes an incredible scheme that I knew nothing about. In 1917, after two and half years of brutal war, Germany looked to have the upper hand in Europe. But to finally crush Britain and win the war, the Germans needed to cut off England’s supply lines. This meant attacking the American ships supplying the British with much-needed weapons and supplies, which probably meant roping the U.S. into the war on the Allied side. Anticipating U.S. involvement, the Germans concocted a wild scheme where they would bring Mexico into the war as an ally, encourage Mexico (possibly with the help of the Japanese) to invade Texas, Arizona and California, and thereby keep the U.S. too busy to meddle with their war in Europe. Unfortunately for the Germans, a telegram by Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman detailing this nefarious plot was intercepted by the British, turned over to the Americans, and ultimately proved to be the final straw that pushed the U.S. into the war on the Allied side. Whoops. Wilson & Pacifism Along with the details of the Germans’ bizarre plan, this book spends a lot of time discussing American reluctance to get involved in what was perceived to be a European conflict. There were a lot of reasons for this: the presence of Czarist Russia on the Allied side muddied what could otherwise be seen as a battle between democracy and militaristic monarchies, pro-German sentiments among American citizens of German descent (particularly in the Midwest), and a general lack of interest in the war outside of the Atlantic seaboard, even when U.S. ships were being preyed upon by German U-boats. This isolationist attitude was personified by the U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson, who had campaigned on a pacifist platform and fought tooth and claw to keep the United States out of the war until events, specifically the Zimmerman Telegram, made military intervention unavoidable. Wilson quite presciently believed that the only lasting peace would be a negotiated peace; if a peace treaty was dictated by the victors at gunpoint, it would go too far and breed resentment that would only lead to future conflict. Subsequent history would prove him all-too correct on this point. But Wilson’s insistence on keeping the U.S. out of the war to act as a neutral arbiter grated on contemporaries like Theodore Roosevelt, who saw the war as a clash between democracy and military totalitarianism that the U.S. could ill-afford to sit out. Also, Wilson’s determination to take the high road quite understandably infuriated parties on both sides, who viewed his attitude as incredibly patronizing and had no interest in being scolded like naughty schoolboys by the professorial Wilson. But despite the Allies’ desperation in 1917, Wilson and the majority of American citizens were not willing to get directly involved in a war that did not directly affect the United States. Zimmerman and the Mexican Plot In that sense, the Zimmerman Telegram was exactly what the Germans did not need. The threat of a Mexican invasion, however remote, energized the population and made it clear to the American People that the Germans were their enemy whether they liked it or not. Mexico in 1917 had even more problems than Mexico today; Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries were running around stirring up trouble, and it was not crystal clear who was in real control of the country. The Germans had no illusions of Mexico actually defeating the United States, but in 1917 the Mexican-American war was not that far distant, and they thought that Mexico would jump at the chance to recover their old territory. Because the Japanese were “of the same race” (i.e., not white), they thought they had a chance of roping them in too, with some nebulous promises of a Japanese colony in California. I had never heard of this fantastic scheme, which sounds incredible, but the plucky Germans sent coded messages to the Mexican government using the official U.S. cable in Washington in an attempt to drum up an alliance and ensure that the U.S. could not intervene in Europe. The story of how British intelligence managed to crack the German code, intercept the telegram, and deliver it to Wilson was fascinating and made this book a lot of fun to read. Conclusion Once the public got wind of the plot, many simply could not believe it and thought it had to be a hoax. But when it became clear that it was all too real (thanks in large part to an inexplicable admission of guilt by Zimmerman himself), peace was no longer an option. Tuchman argues that U.S. intervention on the Allied side was pretty much an inevitability by 1917, especially once the Germans amped up their U-boat operations and started targeting more and more U.S. vessels. But without the Zimmerman Telegram, it could easily have been another six months (or more) before the stubborn Wilson finally hitched the U.S. wagon to the Allied cause. Could Britain have held out for another six months without U.S. support? It’s hard to say, but it is very possible that without the second wind the U.S. gave the Allies in early 1917, the Allies would have been forced to negotiate a peace that would have changed the face of Europe (and the history of the 20th century). For that reason, the Zimmerman Telegram was a significant historical event, and Barbara Tuchman tells its story with typical skill. 4 stars, recommended!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This is the history of the political and diplomatic events that caused the United States to enter World War I. Most of us have a vague recollection from our school text books that the sinking of the Lusitania had something to do with the war. But the Lusitania was torpedoed on May 7, 1915 two years prior to America entering the war in 1917. Furthermore, the Lusitania was a British ship, not American. "Remember the Lusitania" came into existence as a rallying cry after the USA had declared war. Th This is the history of the political and diplomatic events that caused the United States to enter World War I. Most of us have a vague recollection from our school text books that the sinking of the Lusitania had something to do with the war. But the Lusitania was torpedoed on May 7, 1915 two years prior to America entering the war in 1917. Furthermore, the Lusitania was a British ship, not American. "Remember the Lusitania" came into existence as a rallying cry after the USA had declared war. The direction of history is always more unpredictable at the time of the events than they are for the reader of history who has knowledge of subsequent events. All readers of history today know how the story ends so it's easy to presume that there was strong support for entry into the war. Therefore it is difficult to comprehend the strength of the antiwar sentiments within the United States prior to 1917. It is true that there were a number of east coast politicians who favored entering the war. But President Wilson had won reelection in 1916 under the motto "He Kept Us Out Of War!" He won largely because of strong antiwar feelings in the midwestern and western states. As a matter of fact, my grandparents voted for the first time in their lives that year because they felt so strongly that the country should stay out of war. Suddenly in 1917 the New York Times published the Zimmermann telegram and the mood of the country shifted. Many of the newspapers that had been staunchly antiwar up to that point then changed their positions. This book makes the case that the closest thing to a "Pearl Harbor Event" for WWI was a deciphered secret message 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. This was a sensitive issue at the time because Mexican-American relations were quite strained. Until January 1917 the United States had nearly 5,000 troops inside Mexico and 110,000 National Guard mobilized for border service because of border violence. The Germans knew this and figured that a war with Mexico would keep the United States out of the European war. This book tells the story of how the German communication codes were deciphered and how news about the Zimmermann telegram was released in such a way that the Germans wouldn't know that their codes had been broken. Barbara Tuchman suggests that the Germans were so sure of their intellectual superiority that they never seriously considered the possibility that their codes had been broken by others. They instead concluded that a copy of the message had been stolen after it was decoded by German embassy personnel. Tuchman also suggests that if the Germans had simply denied that they had sent the message (i.e. claim that it was a British fake) it is possible that the message wouldn't have been taken seriously. But Arthur Zimmermann decided to acknowledged that he had sent the message. (Speculation as to why he did this could make this review even longer.) Barbara Tuchman maintains that the telegram by itself was not the cause of America entering the war, but rather it was the straw that broke the camel's back. It's true that the unrestricted submarine warfare may have eventually caused the American entry. Which raises the question, how would history have been different if the Zimmermann telegram had never existed? Tuchmann argues that without the telegram the American entry into the war would almost certainly have been delayed, and such a delay may have changed the war situation on the ground in Europe.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Mccullough

    Barbara Tuchmann’s histories are wonderful reading for the educated and curious public. In “The Zimmermann Telegram” she combines the qualities of the unlikely pair of Rachel Maddow and Paul Harvey to give a great and important if forgotten story, and a great background to that important story, including “The Rest of the Story.” This “story” is how the US was dragged, step by step, kicking and screaming, into The Great War, World War One. By the middle of 1916 the war was at a stalemate. Both sid Barbara Tuchmann’s histories are wonderful reading for the educated and curious public. In “The Zimmermann Telegram” she combines the qualities of the unlikely pair of Rachel Maddow and Paul Harvey to give a great and important if forgotten story, and a great background to that important story, including “The Rest of the Story.” This “story” is how the US was dragged, step by step, kicking and screaming, into The Great War, World War One. By the middle of 1916 the war was at a stalemate. Both sides were buried in trenches and dying but the cartful. England was working to get the US into the war and Germany working to keep the US neutral and well out. Tuchmann’s book describes the efforts on both sides to maneuver the US but the knot was broken by the German chancellor, Arthur Zimmermann, who hatched a plan to distract the US from entering the war, probably on the side of Britain and her allies, by fomenting a Mexican war to recapture the US Southwest and annex it to Mexico, and to encourage the Japanese who had a hatred undisclosed by Tuchmann of the US, to establish a naval base in Baja California. It was presumed by Zimmermann that would keep the US busy and out of Europe’s troubles. The telegram is intercepted by British intelligence which had copies of the German code books and with some ingenuity eeked out a translation from the codes. The last problem for Britain was how to break the telegram to the American public – and get the Yanks into the war – without disclosing the secret that Britain had the code books. Tuchmann’s story is a study in diplomacy, secret intelligence and the people that manipulated the words and people to achieve their aims, or fail. It reads like a mystery or a John le Carré book, writ on a national level with international intrigues. This Tuchmann volume is apparently dismissed as minor, perhaps because it is brief, certainly not because of importance of events. Need something to give the perspective of years? Try “The Zimmermann Telegram.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Murtha

    A masterpiece, one of the most entertaining, unbelievable, and beautifully written historic narratives I have ever read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    The decoding of the Zimmerman Telegram is one of the final straws to break Woodrow Wilson's policy of pacifism and isolationism. This book explores the United States position in relation to European events in WWI and the German efforts to prevent the US from joining the Allies. To this end Germany engaged in sabotage and notable attempts in funding Mexico and / or the Revolutionaries to hairy the United States border. A busy America at home can only be good for Germany as she is stuck in a quagm The decoding of the Zimmerman Telegram is one of the final straws to break Woodrow Wilson's policy of pacifism and isolationism. This book explores the United States position in relation to European events in WWI and the German efforts to prevent the US from joining the Allies. To this end Germany engaged in sabotage and notable attempts in funding Mexico and / or the Revolutionaries to hairy the United States border. A busy America at home can only be good for Germany as she is stuck in a quagmire of stalemate. Should Germany prevail in Europe The Kaiser promises to help Mexico regain its lost territories in southwestern U.S., by helping Mexico launch a military campaign. Germany was paying Pancho Villa. Germany is on the verge of loosing The Wolf Pack on Atlantic international shipping, no holds barred. The trick was how to not spill the beans about England having broken the German code early in the war. Wilson had been betraying international neutrality by being friendly to Germany and letting her use our telegraph cable to send messages to their ambassador and onto further destinations ie Mexico. Britain provided us an original document of the Zimmerman message as sent to the German ambassador in the US. We in turn, located the ambassador's reworded message as forwarded on to Mexico. This was the one presented to the world. Wilson was pissed to say the least and was "Obliged to believe it". In this treatise Japan looms large as an additional force in Mexico vying for a navel port on the Pacific coastline. These Yellow Horde fears fuel Japanese interment 35 yrs later. This was never presented in high school history class. Juicy stuff.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott Danielson

    Listened to this history book on audio while I was wiring a couple of network cabinets. Here is the Wikipedia entry about the Zimmermann Telegram, which was a diplomatic message from Germany to Germany's Ambassador in Mexico during World War I (January, 1917): "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 Listened to this history book on audio while I was wiring a couple of network cabinets. Here is the Wikipedia entry about the Zimmermann Telegram, which was a diplomatic message from Germany to Germany's Ambassador in Mexico during World War I (January, 1917): "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 result of the interception and decoding of that telegram was the entry of the United States into World War I. A compelling short book!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Helen Foster

    Tuchman tells the riveting tale of a 1917 German telegram which may have forced Wilson's reluctant decision to take America into World War I. She begins, "The first message of the morning watch plopped out of the pneumatic tube into the wire basket with no more premonitory rattle than usual." Immediately we are drawn into British efforts to decipher a telegram sent in early 1917by the German foreign minister to the president of Mexico, proposing that the two countries "make war together on the u Tuchman tells the riveting tale of a 1917 German telegram which may have forced Wilson's reluctant decision to take America into World War I. She begins, "The first message of the morning watch plopped out of the pneumatic tube into the wire basket with no more premonitory rattle than usual." Immediately we are drawn into British efforts to decipher a telegram sent in early 1917by the German foreign minister to the president of Mexico, proposing that the two countries "make war together on the understanding "that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona." The British had to convince Americans that the telegram was genuine. By April 1917 American newspapers feverishly recognized cited this as a threat of hostile action. Five stars: not only for making codebreaking fascinating, but for the vivid picture of deadlock in the trenches, the desperate hopes of the British that the Americans would join them, and the flood of outrage in America over the telegram.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wej

    This brief book describes the events that led the US to join the WWI. The Zimmermann Telegram, sent by the German Foreign Secretary, was the last drop that led Wilson to declare war on Germany. Tuchman vividly painted the picture of court intrigues in the build-up to the declaration of war. The plot is focused on the Wilson, initially reluctant to join the war, along with German and American ambassadors and high-ranking officials. Zimmermann sent a telegram to German ambassador in Mexico, hoping This brief book describes the events that led the US to join the WWI. The Zimmermann Telegram, sent by the German Foreign Secretary, was the last drop that led Wilson to declare war on Germany. Tuchman vividly painted the picture of court intrigues in the build-up to the declaration of war. The plot is focused on the Wilson, initially reluctant to join the war, along with German and American ambassadors and high-ranking officials. Zimmermann sent a telegram to German ambassador in Mexico, hoping to drag Mexico into the war with the US. The plot suggested involving Japan as well, which would keep the US busy and unable to contribute to the European front. Once the telegram was intercepted by the British Navy, it was passed on to the US in a way that did not blow the cover on their intercepting facilities.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nat Cabrera

    This was a really good book, it is not the kind of literature I’m used to read, so obviously it was pretty hard for me to be hooked. It has a lot of information, and that made reading it slightly tedious. In overall, the book was honestly tiresome, but the information it gives is actually incredibly interesting. I loved how something that might seem small like the Zimmermann Telegram has SO many things behind. I also enjoyed knowing what was happening during the war outside the trenches. It’s am This was a really good book, it is not the kind of literature I’m used to read, so obviously it was pretty hard for me to be hooked. It has a lot of information, and that made reading it slightly tedious. In overall, the book was honestly tiresome, but the information it gives is actually incredibly interesting. I loved how something that might seem small like the Zimmermann Telegram has SO many things behind. I also enjoyed knowing what was happening during the war outside the trenches. It’s amazing how such big things could have happened while thousands of soldiers were killing themselves in the West Front. I liked that the book is not only centered on what was happening in America but also in Mexico, England and Germany, it widens even more the information. I also enjoyed recognizing names of important historic characters because it is like transporting myself to that time, it is not an invented novel based on the telegram, it is a book that describes all the things that actually happened. So if you're fond of history or simply want to know deeply what happened around the Zimmermann Telegram, this book is highly recommended! The ending tho... the last paragraph suddenly took out from me all the desperation I felt for finishing the book. Those sentences are worth writing in here: “As Sir Winston Churchill has remarked, the course of history is always being altered by something or other –if not by a horseshoe nail, then by an intercepted telegram. In itself the Zimmermann telegram was only a pebble on the long road of history. But a pebble can kill a Goliath, and this one killed the American illusion that we could go about our business happily separate from other nations. In word affairs it was a German Minister’s minor plot. In the lives of the American people it was the end of innocence.” (Tuchman, Barbara W. 1958).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    British ciphering skills, German craziness, the idea of Mexico invading the US to keep the Americans from entering WWI----truth really is stranger than fiction---what's not to like. Tuchman is such a great writer! More once I've finished it. Finished the book, appropriately enough on Memorial Day. This is a short book, only 200 pages, but is packed with research and the writer paints an amazing picture of Woodrow Wilson, whose pacifism bordered on the insane (to me anyway). There is beautiful iro British ciphering skills, German craziness, the idea of Mexico invading the US to keep the Americans from entering WWI----truth really is stranger than fiction---what's not to like. Tuchman is such a great writer! More once I've finished it. Finished the book, appropriately enough on Memorial Day. This is a short book, only 200 pages, but is packed with research and the writer paints an amazing picture of Woodrow Wilson, whose pacifism bordered on the insane (to me anyway). There is beautiful irony in the Brits' accurate reading of the Germans' arrogance: they could not conceive that their ciphers could ever be taken apart by a non-German so they stuck to them after they were "outed"--with their mindset, they could only assume that either treachery or sloppy spycraft led to the discovery of the title telegram. I had never heard of this successful effort by the Germans to make complete tools of the Mexican government--the idea being that if the US was busy fighting off the Mexicans, they wouldn't be able to enter WWI. There is a parallel to the codebreaking efforts to the Enigma program of the Brtis during WWII--e.g., the danger of revealing that a code has been broken will lead to its being changed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    In January 1917, British intelligence intercepted a top-secret telegram from Germany to Mexico that the British felt would jar the United States from its neutrality and bring it into World War I on the side of the Allies. The communication was a proposal made by Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann that Germany and Mexico should sign a military alliance. Germany was concerned that the U.S. would be drawn into the war because Germany was getting ready to launch unrestricted submarine warfare on Fe In January 1917, British intelligence intercepted a top-secret telegram from Germany to Mexico that the British felt would jar the United States from its neutrality and bring it into World War I on the side of the Allies. The communication was a proposal made by Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann that Germany and Mexico should sign a military alliance. Germany was concerned that the U.S. would be drawn into the war because Germany was getting ready to launch unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1, 1917. If that happened, Germany wanted Mexico to attack the United States as a result of its treaty commitment and tie up significant numbers of U.S. troops. At the conclusion of the war--in favor of the Central Powers--Germany promised that Mexico would receive its "lost territories"--Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Tuchman explores the background of the telegram, the concerns of the British government that it needed to give the Americans the telegram while not revealing that they had broken the German diplomatic and military codes, and the political fall-out from the telegram's release. A fascinating study of a pivotal moment in the history of World War I.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    It's a while since I read this but I will read it again some day. The story is, I believe, little known and almost incredible. During the First World War, Germany tried to persuade Mexico to invade the USA, in order to distract the Americans and prevent them sending troops to Europe. The telegram of the title was one of many intercepted by Naval Intelligence in London and passed to Washington - the Americans were also intercepting messages I think. Either way it signaled close ties between the in It's a while since I read this but I will read it again some day. The story is, I believe, little known and almost incredible. During the First World War, Germany tried to persuade Mexico to invade the USA, in order to distract the Americans and prevent them sending troops to Europe. The telegram of the title was one of many intercepted by Naval Intelligence in London and passed to Washington - the Americans were also intercepting messages I think. Either way it signaled close ties between the intelligence agencies of Britain and the USA and the development of those capabilities. Anyway, the story unfolds into this amazing but clever concept - except that Mexico was sensible enough to decide against the plan, despite their desire to hit back at the USA after losing Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to the USA in the mid 19th century (visit the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, for more details!) This book lays out the history of this event in exciting and fascinating detail. It is very readable and an amazing insight into the early years of Anglo-American intelligence sharing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook). Concise, fact-filled, and incredibly informative, this is one of the better Tuchman works I have read. This won't surpass her magnum opus, The Guns of August, but this is a very good work in its own right. She not only discusses the actual telegram itself, but brings in the context of the telegram, the key individuals involved and the various dealings (overt and covert) during this critical, if less-publicized part, of World War I. I certainly learned a great deal about the interpla (Audiobook). Concise, fact-filled, and incredibly informative, this is one of the better Tuchman works I have read. This won't surpass her magnum opus, The Guns of August, but this is a very good work in its own right. She not only discusses the actual telegram itself, but brings in the context of the telegram, the key individuals involved and the various dealings (overt and covert) during this critical, if less-publicized part, of World War I. I certainly learned a great deal about the interplay between Germany, Mexico, Japan and the United States during the 1914-1917 timeframe. It is possible that the US may yet have gone to war without the telegram, but it is also possible that Germany, for all of its dealings, allowed itself to make a huge blunder by allowing the transmission of this correspondence. It is a fascinating story, one that Tuchman brings to life. Perhaps some parts of this work are dated, but the facts still tend to hold up over time. For a scholar of World War I, especially an American, this is worth the time to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ann Mcelligott

    Recently PBS has been showing many World War I dramas, not the least being Downton Abbey. Being aware of how little I knew about the War, I sought a copy of Tuchman's Guns of August. A friend offered me The Zimmermann Telegram. I could not put it down. It tells the story of a telegram intercepted by the British in 1917 containing explosive information that, when communicated to President Wilson, finally drew the reluctant American forces into war. The telegram is introduced in the first chapter, Recently PBS has been showing many World War I dramas, not the least being Downton Abbey. Being aware of how little I knew about the War, I sought a copy of Tuchman's Guns of August. A friend offered me The Zimmermann Telegram. I could not put it down. It tells the story of a telegram intercepted by the British in 1917 containing explosive information that, when communicated to President Wilson, finally drew the reluctant American forces into war. The telegram is introduced in the first chapter, and the rest of the book sets up the background that creates the tremendous impact it had in the US as well as for the Allied forces being worn down by the terrible stalemate in the trenches throughout western Europe. Tuchman is a wonderful writer, a great historian, and a good storyteller. I now have a copy of The Guns of August and look forward to reading it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I continue to love Barbara Tuchman, and this was entralling. A very large percentage of the information in this book was previously unknown to me, which is exactly what I want out of my history. Unfortunately, Tuchman left me wanting me. The Germans had made their decision for unrestricted U-boat warfare thinking that the Americans may declare war, but that they'd not be able to mobilize before the British succumbed to the embargo. So...I know that didn't happen. Why not? How quickly did we get b I continue to love Barbara Tuchman, and this was entralling. A very large percentage of the information in this book was previously unknown to me, which is exactly what I want out of my history. Unfortunately, Tuchman left me wanting me. The Germans had made their decision for unrestricted U-boat warfare thinking that the Americans may declare war, but that they'd not be able to mobilize before the British succumbed to the embargo. So...I know that didn't happen. Why not? How quickly did we get boots on the ground? What'd the Mexicans do? What about the Japanese? She dangled a dozen lose ends, then neglected to tie them. This isn't her fault; she refers to information that any knowledgeable person in the 50s probably knew. But not I. I wish she spent another chapter or two tying the story up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I enjoyed this story very much. It tells the story of German attempts to keep the US out of WWI by trying to goad Mexico and Japan into keeping the US too busy to make them enter the war against Germany. Wilson, President at that time, wanted to get the warring factions to sit down and discuss peace. The British discovered the German activities and plans by breaking down the telegrams sent from Berlin to Washington. The book deals with British plans to break the news of the German plots against I enjoyed this story very much. It tells the story of German attempts to keep the US out of WWI by trying to goad Mexico and Japan into keeping the US too busy to make them enter the war against Germany. Wilson, President at that time, wanted to get the warring factions to sit down and discuss peace. The British discovered the German activities and plans by breaking down the telegrams sent from Berlin to Washington. The book deals with British plans to break the news of the German plots against Washington and how to do so without alerting the Germans to their code-breaking activities. A very worthwhile read, maybe not with quite the breadth of Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, but still an excellent piece of historical research that has been presented in a very interesting fashion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    Detailed account of the deciphering of the stupid secret telegram by which Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico (and Japan) against the United States, whose disclosure helped tip the scales in favor of American entry into WWI. In my view, that entry was the single most disastrous decision in our history. Wilson was an "infeliz," an unfortunate figure and our worst President. His worst trait was a detached-from-reality idealism that led him to take disastrous decisions out of noble motives. T Detailed account of the deciphering of the stupid secret telegram by which Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico (and Japan) against the United States, whose disclosure helped tip the scales in favor of American entry into WWI. In my view, that entry was the single most disastrous decision in our history. Wilson was an "infeliz," an unfortunate figure and our worst President. His worst trait was a detached-from-reality idealism that led him to take disastrous decisions out of noble motives. The book itself is quite detailed, but lively for a book of its type. As we slip again into a stupid war, this episode offers a depressing precedent of politicians' folly.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Obrigewitsch

    Another great very informative Tuchman book, she turns history into an interesting story not just facts and dates, and always reveals things I never knew before, cuts through propaganda and generally leaves you feeling like a history savant.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike Carpenter

    A very interesting read on a forgotten, but very important part of U.S. and world history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Frank Theising

    It is has been said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes. Reading this book I was struck by how much these WWI-era events foreshadowed similar events in World War II: An eccentric German leader; German cryptographers supremely confident in their “unbreakable” ciphers and codes; wily British intelligence officers who not only intercepted and broke those codes, but had to strategically balance the value of using the intelligence versus the very real risk to the war effort if the It is has been said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes. Reading this book I was struck by how much these WWI-era events foreshadowed similar events in World War II: An eccentric German leader; German cryptographers supremely confident in their “unbreakable” ciphers and codes; wily British intelligence officers who not only intercepted and broke those codes, but had to strategically balance the value of using the intelligence versus the very real risk to the war effort if the Germans learned their codes were compromised; and a threat of attack on the US homeland that solidified fractured public opinion in much the same way an actual attack (Pearl Harbor) did two decades later. There were certainly a lot of differences too, but it was the similarities that really jumped out. In exploring these events, the book provides a lot more information than I anticipated. To tell the story of the Zimmerman telegram, Barbara Tuchman digs into the historical and geopolitical context in exhaustive detail. Based on that research, she provides an interesting portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm with all his eccentric opinions, beliefs, and worries (in particular an overriding fascination and xenophobia over the Asian “Yellow Peril”) as well as an exploration of German schemes to bring Mexico and Japan into WWI (that were much more involved than I ever realized). On the other side, she offers a detailed history of British codebreaking with an emphasis on “Room 40” that intercepted and decoded the Zimmerman Telegram. A hemisphere away, we get a very thorough exploration of Mexican-American relations and Mexican instability in that period (the characters, plots, and counter-plots tend to drag on a little too long….a testament to how chaotic that period of Mexican history really was). Finally, we get a detailed look into President Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy and aspirations for mediating the peace in Europe and how that influenced his decisions to avoid war in the face of unrestricted German U-boat attacks that were sinking American vessels. Her argument is that the release of the Zimmerman telegram was the pivotal event that solidified US public opinion and pushed Wilson into asking for a declaration of war (an argument that is much debated). Overall, very educational read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I am a big Barbara Tuchman fan and this book was as well written as the previous books that I have read by her. This is a short book that looks at the U.S. entry into the war with a focus on the German efforts to convince Mexico to join. I learned a great deal from this book - for example, the fact that Germany had made a concerted effort to involve Mexico and possibly Japan long before the Telegram. Also the fact that once it was made public, Zimmermann admitted to sending it and continued to t I am a big Barbara Tuchman fan and this book was as well written as the previous books that I have read by her. This is a short book that looks at the U.S. entry into the war with a focus on the German efforts to convince Mexico to join. I learned a great deal from this book - for example, the fact that Germany had made a concerted effort to involve Mexico and possibly Japan long before the Telegram. Also the fact that once it was made public, Zimmermann admitted to sending it and continued to try and convince Mexico to join against the United States. With that said, I felt that parts of the book dragged and there were too many names that came and went that made it a tougher read for me than expected.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Molly Jean

    I have wanted to read this book for many years and since I am taking a class on it in a few weeks, the time had finally come. It is an excellent book but, I must admit, not an easy read for me. I am woefully ignorant of Mexico's history and particularly Mexico's history vis à vis the US. And I thought I had a better understanding of WWI history than I really do. These personal deficiencies made the book more difficult for me but I am still very glad I read it and I learned a lot from it. This bo I have wanted to read this book for many years and since I am taking a class on it in a few weeks, the time had finally come. It is an excellent book but, I must admit, not an easy read for me. I am woefully ignorant of Mexico's history and particularly Mexico's history vis à vis the US. And I thought I had a better understanding of WWI history than I really do. These personal deficiencies made the book more difficult for me but I am still very glad I read it and I learned a lot from it. This book may even help me get away my long standing habit of reading mostly WWII history and move back in time to reading more about WWI. Highly recommended.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    While it dates from the late '50s, this work of WW I history is still a vibrant even thrilling read. Good narration from Wanda McCaddon helps, but it is really the text. You have militant, hyperlogical Germans (proto-Nazis, it feels) seeking to foment and support a revolution separating much of the United States away to independent states of people of color by spurring Mexico and Japan... Pancho Villa! Yellow Peril! Woodrow Wilson and public opinion... Pitched and heated (if small) battles - rea While it dates from the late '50s, this work of WW I history is still a vibrant even thrilling read. Good narration from Wanda McCaddon helps, but it is really the text. You have militant, hyperlogical Germans (proto-Nazis, it feels) seeking to foment and support a revolution separating much of the United States away to independent states of people of color by spurring Mexico and Japan... Pancho Villa! Yellow Peril! Woodrow Wilson and public opinion... Pitched and heated (if small) battles - really a Western Hemisphere story of America drawn into World War I by coded cables and unmaked spies with strategic British help over at the London embassy so it can all be "on American soil"

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