Photo above: World War I. Courtesy National Archives. Right: United States troops entering Veracruz, Mexico on April 21, 1914, remaining in occupation until November. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.
U.S. Timeline - The 1910s
World War I
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1917 - Detail
February 3, 1917 - The United States government cuts diplomatic ties with Germany. The Zimmermann Telegram is given to the United States by Britain on February 24, showing the offer by Germany to give Mexico back the southwest United States if they would declare war on the United States.
What was the Zimmermann Telegram?
It was a coded telegram sent January 11, 1917 from the German Foreign office of Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, that prompted the United States action. The telegram, decoded below, would postulate that if resumption of submarine activities against the Allied Power, including original members Britain, France, and Russia prompted the United States to enter World War I, that Germany would ally with Mexico, and offer back parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to that nation, if victorious, and provide payments for services rendered. The telegram was intercepted by British intelligence and sent to the U.S. Secretary of the Embassy in Britain, Edward Bell, who initially thought it was a forgery. He would eventually accept its veracity, send it to the ambassador, who forwarded it to President Woodrow Wilson.
"We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal or alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace." Signed, ZIMMERMANN.
How Did Mexico Respond?
Relations with Mexico had been strained since April 9, 1914 when the United States attacked Veracruz and occupied it for seven months. It had been a response to the Tampico Affair where nine American sailors were arrested for crossing into off-limits areas of Veracruz. The U.S. commander demanded release, an apology, and a 21 gun salute. He got the first two, but not the third. President Woodrow Wilson prepared to occupy the port, and while awaiting Congressional approval, put a plan in motion to stop arms shipments from a German ship to the alternate side of the Mexican Revolution not supported by the United States.
Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, although initially supported in the Mexican Revolution by U.S. sources, considered the possibilities of a German-Mexico alliance under the terms of the Zimmermann telegram, assigning a military commission to determine the feasibility of taking back United States territory that had been part of Mexico prior to the Mexican-American War and War with Texas. He determined it was not possible. The United States was too strong to gain victory, Germany was an unreliable financial partner, and relations with other nations in the region would be strained.
How Would the U.S.A. Respond?
On February 3, 1917, the United States cut diplomatic ties with Germany. Later that year, they would recognize the Carranza government, insuring their neutrality. Diplomatic relations were reestablished on March 3, 1917. Neutrality was as much as the U.S.A. could hope for after the attack on Veracruz in 1914, and although German companies could still operate in Mexico, the imperfect situation was accepted. On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on Germany and joined the Allies in World War I.
Official Declaration of War
Joint Resolution Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government of the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.
Whereas the Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against hte Gonverment and the people of the United States of America; Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, an dhe is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all of the resources of the country are herby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Thom. R. Marshall. Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate
Approved, April 6, 1917, Woodrow Wilson
Photo above: Arthur Zimmermann, State Secretary for German Foreign Affairs, circa 1915-1920 and copy of the Zimmermann Telegram. Courtesy Library of Congress/NARA. Photo below: United States troops entering Veracruz, Mexico on April 21, 1914, remaining in occupation until November. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: Department of State, U.S. Government, Wikipedia Commons, Worldwarone.com, Source Records of the Great War, Volume V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923.
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