The details were set out in a telegram sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the German Embassy in Mexico. But the message fell into the wrong hands, which significantly influenced the course of the war. What would happen if the telegram came to the address?
Germany did her best to keep the United States in neutral status, hoping that Washington would not support the Entente and would not enter the war. The task was not easy. First, many Americans left for the front as volunteers and, joining the ranks of the British army, became participants in hostilities against Germany. Secondly, in Atlantic, Germany and Great Britain waged an unrestricted submarine war, the victims of which were often citizens of the United States. Needless to say, all German officers had orders not to touch American ships cruising the ocean.
The trouble for Germany, however, was the very intensive contacts between the two English-speaking countries. And on the British ships, victims of attacks of German submarines, often turned out to be citizens of the United States. The saddest example is the sinking of "Luizitania." It was a British passenger liner, which on May 7, 1915, was attacked by a German U-20 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Walter Schwiger. One torpedo (according to Schwiger himself) sent the ship to the bottom. More than a thousand passengers died, including 120 US citizens, which, of course, caused a wave of protests and outrage from the United States. It is believed that the sinking of "Luizitania" predetermined the entry of the United States into the war. That just happened only after two years. The telegram of Zimmerman played a much more important role, finally convincing Washington of the need to support the Entente.
Let us return, however, to Zimmerman. The foreign minister of the German Empire was a staunch supporter of the idea that the US entering the war on the side of the Entente was inevitable and that, in turn, would be a disaster for Germany. The diplomat drew up a rather tricky plan to create a counterweight that would not allow the United States to send significant forces to Europe and withdraw its fleet to the Atlantic. The role of such a counterweight was to be played by Mexico, which Berlin was about to propose a secret alliance. The essence of the agreement is that if the States join the Entente, Mexico joins a quadruple alliance and attacks the northern neighbor. It was supposed to thoroughly stir up anti-American sentiment in Mexico.
Moreover, all sorts of promises were launched. In case of victory, Germany promised Mexico Mexico and Arizona, that is, those territories that previously belonged to this country, and then became part of the United States. Zimmerman expounded this entire plan in his telegram, which he sent to Heinrich Ofn Ackhard, the German ambassador to Mexico. Eckhard received a message, but only along the way it was intercepted by British intelligence and decoded in the famous Room 40 of the British Admiralty. The cryptographers unraveled the German cipher with the codes they already had. From that moment on, London had a murderous incriminating evidence against Germany and a truly terrible trump card, which was skillfully played out. The content of the telegram was transferred to the US authorities. March 1, 1917 its text was published in print. And on April 6, the Congress officially declared war on Germany.
Could it be otherwise?
That is unlikely. The fact is that when sending a telegram, Zimmerman showed a surprising naivety for a person of his position and status. The fact is that Germany did not have direct telegraphic communication with the western hemisphere. The British still in the early stages of the war cut the cables and destroyed the German stations in neutral countries. In order to transmit diplomatic messages to their ambassadors in the countries of North and South America, Germany had to use the services of neutral countries. The telegram of Zimmerman was transmitted to Mexico through two channels at once: through Sweden and the United States under the guise of a usual diplomatic message. Yes Yes. President Woodrow Wilson, who in the initial stages of the First World War was still counting on maintaining warm relations between Washington and Berlin, allowed Germany to use American channels of communication for their needs. Zimmerman apparently thought this channel was reliable enough to use it to transmit an extremely important message to Mexico.
On what basis the minister’s confidence was based on the fact that the British do not check the diplomatic mail of neutral countries is not clear, but it was precisely this confidence that was Zimmermann’s fatal mistake. The telegram was from the British almost immediately after sending. Everything else was a matter of technique. The key problem was that London had to explain to Washington exactly how this message went to the British intelligence officers. At the same time it was impossible to reveal two secrets: the first - that the UK checks the diplomatic mail of neutral countries, the second - that the British decrypted the German codes. Both of these problems have been successfully resolved. Moreover, in the process of solving the telegram was re-captured. An employee of British intelligence in Mexico (Agent X) intercepted a message on a telegraph line between Washington and Monterrey.
This text could be easily transferred to the USA without fear of heavy diplomatic consequences.
In other words, Germany itself gave the Entente a murderous trump against itself. If Zimmerman had found another way to transmit his telegram, then the United States might have remained a neutral power.
What would have changed?
If the United States had not entered the war in April 1917, after the signing of the Brest Peace, Germany would have gained a significant advantage in the conflict. The young RSFSR washed its hands, essentially capiturating to the enemy, which unleashed Berlin's hands. The German army could no longer think about the Eastern Front, where it was necessary to constantly pull out the hopeless Austria-Hungary from the swamp. All forces could be thrown to the west, where she still held, but France was already cracking at the seams. Having broken through the front and having broken the resistance of the eternal enemy, Germany would have achieved what it wanted: would have remained alone with its main enemy, Great Britain. The loss of all positions and allies on the continent would force London to seek peace. For Germany, this would mean an actual victory in the war.
However, in the spring and summer of 1917, the Entente received a very serious supply both with resources and people. It all started with subsidies. The USA has already conducted intensive trade with Great Britain, and here the States began to provide new allies with economic assistance on an unprecedented scale. And all right it would be a question only of supply. The US has also given gigantic loans to France and Britain on fairly easy terms, at once increasing the external debt of the two countries to $ 24 million.
Another aid on a million scale was military in nature. The American fleet began active operations against Germany in the Atlantic, and soon the enemy was driven out of the ocean. In addition, more than a million soldiers went to Europe. These divisions played an important role in the victory of the French troops in the famous battle of the Marne, took part in the expulsion of the Austrians from Italy, and also conducted several of their own operations. Apogee - the participation of the Americans in the One-Day Offensive, which culminated in the complete victory of the Allies and forced Germany to ask for peace. As a result, the United States became the main beneficiary of the First World War.
The country's infrastructure has hardly suffered from the bombing and other actions of the enemy. But the support provided by the Entente in time brought the United States among the winning countries. This was the first, but very important step towards future hegemony. Soon the States will open their way to the Asian and European markets, and the economy of post-war Germany will be fully pegged to the dollar.
The telegram of Zimmerman became for the USA a ticket to a brighter future. Another thing is that the States could not pull it out if the "ticket collector" had found a more reliable way to send his famous telegram.
- Zayonchkovsky A.M. "World War"
- Stacy Lee "Mexico and United States, Volume 3"
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