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The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W.…

The Zimmermann Telegram (1958)

by Barbara W. Tuchman

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The Queen of World War I does it again (or did it before-this was written before "Guns of August" and "Proud Tower"). A fascinating story of how the infamous Zimmermann telegram made its way to President Wilson via Britain's secret service and Room 40. Because the British didn't want to make public that they had the German code, they had to do some fancy dancing to make it look like the decoded version came from somewhere else, while convincing Wilson that it was authentic. Tuchman's books are never dry, even when you think "a whole book about a telegram?" I was lucky enough to get this book at a book fair where the cover made it look like a thriller novel, and that's where it was. If it had been in history, someone would have gotten it way before me! ( )
  tloeffler | Apr 24, 2015 |
Interesting explanation on how the US actually decided to go to war and join the fray in WWI. It wasn't the sinking of the Lusitania as many people think. That actually happened two years before the US entered the war. We entered becuase of a telegram the Germans sent to Mexico that the British decoded and passed on to us. This is the story of the telegraph, what it said, and why it mattered enough for us to declare war. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Similar to The Guns of August, the author has successfully tied the documentary evidence into a suspenseful narrative, which makes putting the book down difficult! She has become my favourite author of history. ( )
  hellbent | Apr 28, 2014 |
World War I began in 1914, but the United States didn't enter the war until 1917. What prompted the U.S. to enter the war so late? President Woodrow Wilson was determined to maintain U.S. neutrality and to negotiate a “peace without victory” between Great Britain and Germany. (He ignored the fact that neither Great Britain nor Germany wanted his help.) The discovery and publication of the Zimmermann telegram was influential in moving the U.S. from a neutral party to an ally of Great Britain and France.

After three years of war, neither side had gained the upper hand. However, Great Britain and France were on the brink of bankruptcy. Many of the German leaders believed that an all-out U-boat campaign could turn the war in Germany's direction, if only the U.S. could be kept from joining the Allies. German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann believed that the U.S. could be kept out of Europe by a threat to their own borders through an alliance between Mexico and Japan. He and others promised German support for Mexican efforts to retake Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Mexico-Japan alliance never materialized, and instead of keeping the U.S. out of Europe, the publication of the contents of Zimmermann's telegram precipitated U.S. involvement in the war.

Amazingly, the U.S. had been allowing German representatives in North America to use its telegraph lines to transmit coded messages back to Germany. In order to authenticate the Zimmermann telegram, a U.S. official was met with resistance when he tried to get a copy of the message from Western Union. Western Union was unwilling to violate a federal law that protected the contents of telegrams. (Western Union eventually caved, so maybe they're not so different from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint after all.)

While the bibliography and end notes are evidence of Tuchman's thorough research, the writing leans more toward journalism than scholarly writing. Tuchman's observations and interpretations of individual and national characteristics and motivations make this a more entertaining read than most academic works. ( )
  cbl_tn | Aug 18, 2013 |
I ( )
  dgmillo | Jun 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara W. Tuchmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wahlén, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The first message of the morning watch plopped out of the pneumatic tube into the wire basket with no more premonitory rattle than usual.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the dark winter of 1917, as World War I was deadlocked, Britain knew that Europe could be saved only if the United States joined the war. But President Wilson remained unshakable in his neutrality. Then, with a single stroke, the tool to propel America into the war came into a quiet British office. One of countless messages intercepted by the crack team of British decoders, the Zimmermann telegram was a top-secret message from Berlin inviting Mexico to join Japan in an invasion of the United States. Mexico would recover her lost American territories while keeping the U.S. occupied on her side of the Atlantic. How Britain managed to inform America of Germany's plan without revealing that the German codes had been broken makes for an incredible, true story of espionage, intrigue, and international politics as only Barbara W. Tuchman could tell it.… (more)

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