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Book Title: Telegram Zimmermanna|
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The author of the book: Barbara W. Tuchman
Date of issue: 1997
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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.
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.
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.
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Read information about the authorBarbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner. She became best known for The Guns of August (1962), a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.
As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.
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