Today in History, March 1, 1917:
The Zimmermann Telegram is made public by the United States, on the authority of President Woodrow Wilson.
The German government had sent the telegram to their envoy in Mexico City in January, in anticipation of beginning unlimited submarine warfare in the North Atlantic Ocean on February 1st.
Germany wanted the United States, and her supply of men and materiel, to stay out of the war. And, should she enter the war, Germany wanted to limit her ability to assist Great Britain.
And that is what the Zimmermann Note was all about. It was an offer to the Mexican government; if Mexico would open up a “second front” for the United States by siding with Germany, the Germans would provide monetary support and promise to return Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico.
Germany hoped the second front would distract the Americans from shipping men and equipment to Britain, and that the sinking of what ships did venture forth by U-Boats would strangle the UK, forcing her to sue for peace.
The Mexican government actually established a committee to study the proposal…things had not been good between the US and Mexico, what with Gen. John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing chasing Poncho Villa around Northern Mexico in recent years.
Mexico decided against the offer…because America was too powerful, because she would anger her neighbors, and (I find this VERY important), because they considered the fact that the citizens in the suggested states WERE ALL ARMED.
British intelligence managed to obtain a copy of the telegram and give it to the Americans. Our ancestors in the beginning of the 20th century shared our isolationist views and were not excited about involvement in a European War.
The release of the Zimmermann Telegram and unrestricted submarine warfare against our shipping helped change public opinion…and we were soon headed “over there”.