The Zimmermann Telegram is a document that was captured by British intelligence and deciphered by cryptographers in January 1917. It played a key role in the United States' decision to join the war, and thus changed the course of history.

Between 1914 and 1917, Europe was divided by what would become known as World War I. Under President Wilson, the United States initially remained neutral. Germany was cautious to have the U.S. involved, and pledged that they would limit submarine warfare. However, Germany was frustrated over an effective British naval blockade, causing enormous food shortages. It was believed that massive submarine attacks would deprive the British from sufficient food supplies to maintain a war. The Germans knew that unrestricted submarine warfare would bring the U.S. into the war, but this risk was considered worth taking, since the U.S. military was not prepared, and the war would be over before they could build up significant forces.

In January 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining German sides. In order to protect their intelligence from detection, and to capitalize on growing anti-German feelings in the U.S., the British waited until 24 February 1917 to present the telegram to President Wilson. The telegram was published in American newspapers on March 1, and on April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and its allies.

Attached are the decoded and coded telegrams. The coded telegram is signed Bernstorff because it was transmitted through the United States and Bernstorff was the German ambassador in Washington.


           TELEGRAM RECEIVED

                      From 2nd from London # 5747.

     "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 succeed-
ing, we make Mexico a proposal or alliance on the 
following basis: make war together, make peace 
together, generous financial support and an under-
standing 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.

German Legation                       via Galveston
   MEXICO CITY

130  13042  13401  8501  115  3528  416  17214  6491  11310
18147  18222  21560  10247  11518  23677  13605  3494  14936
98092  5905  11311  10392  10371  0302  21290  5161  39695
23571  17504  11269  18276  18101  0317  0228  17694  4473
23284  22200  19452  21589  67893  5569  13918  8958  12137
1333  4725  4458  5905  17166  13851  4458  17149  14471  6705
13850  12224  6929  14991  7382  15857  67893  14218  36477
5870  17553  67893  5870  5454  16102  15217  22801  17138
21001  17388  7446  23638  18222  6719  14331  15021  23845
3156  23552  22096  21604  4797  9497  22464  20855  4377
23610  18140  22260  5905  13347  20420  39689  13732  20667
6929  5275  18507  52262  1340  22049  13339  11265  22295
10439  14814  4178  6992  8784  7632  7357  6926  52262  11267
21100  21272  9346  9559  22464  15874  18502  18500  15857
2188  5376  7381  98092  16127  13486  9350  9220  76036  14219
5144  2831  17920  11347  17142  11264  7667  7762  15099  9110
10482  97556  3569  3670

                        BERNSTORFF

Charge German Embassy.

Coded telegram: Decimal File 862.20212/82A (1910-1929), Decoded telegram: Decimal File 862.20212/69 (1910-1929), General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.

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