Heck no…They All Have Guns! The Zimmerman Telegram

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”.

Remember The Alamo! Remember The Maine! Remember Pearl Harbor! REMEMBER SANTA BARBARA!!

Today in History, February 23, 1942:

A little over two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial Navy submarine I-17 surfaces 1500 yards off the California coast, near Santa Barbara. Five crewmen scrambled out onto the deck and manned the boat’s deck gun.

Workers and residents on shore were confused and surprised when they figured out the booms and explosions they were hearing at an oil field in Ellwood were tied to the flashes they were seeing out at sea.

After 20 minutes the Captain ordered a hault to the assault, having missed the oil tanks and damaged a catwalk.

The relatively minor attack was the first time the Continental US had been bombarded since the War of 1812.

It dis have an effect on a populace already on edge. On the 25th, “enemy aircraft” would be sighted near LA, resulting in lengthy anti-aircraft fire which would be dubbed the “Battle of Los Angeles”.

It would also help speed the incarceration of Japanese-Americans, since many believed the assault had been assisted from shore by Japanese operatives.

It also would not be the last time the mainland was bombarded by the Japanese..more submarine attacks, an aircraft launched from a submarine and “balloon bombs” would be in the offing…all relatively unsuccessful.

Submarine on Submarine…The USS Batfish

Today in History, February 12, 1945:

The USS Batfish, an American Balao class fleet submarine, sinks it’s second Japanese submarine within three days. She would sink three Japanese submarines during her WWII career.

Sinking another submarine is quite an accomplishment, accounting for range, depth and speed with the technology of the time.

The Batfish had an active Naval career. If you’d like to see her, she lives on as a war memorial in Muskogee, Oklahoma. We’re pretty proud of her.


USS Nautilus Launched

Today in History, January 21: 1954 – The USS Nautilus (not the first), in this incarnation the first nuclear powered submarine, SSN 571, is launched at Groton, Connecticut, christened by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.

She would also be the first submarine to sail beneath the Arctic. Her WWII ancestor had a storied career also, conducting numerous war patrols in the Pacific. Jules Verne had used the name for his stories; but the results of Admiral Hyman Rickover’s hard work made the name.

The CSS Hunley Sinks – For the Second Time

Today in History, October 15: 1863 – 

The first successful (after a fashion) submarine, the CSS Hunley, sinks in Charleston Harbor. It was the second time the sub had sunk. Earlier it had gone down in Mobile Bay, killing two of it’s crew. 

 It was salvaged and transported to Charleston by train, to be used in an attempt to break the Union blockade of that port. The sub’s creator, Horace Hunley, took her out for a test run with a new crew. In front of onlookers, the sub slipped beneath the waves, and never surfaced. Hunley and 7 crewmembers died. 

Nonetheless, the sub was once again salvaged and yet another crew took her out in February of 1864. They placed a torpedo (mine) against the USS Housatonic and backed away; the explosive sank the Union ship. But the Hunley never made it back to port, sinking for the final time, taking another crew with her. She was raised in 2000.