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On January 9th, 1917 a message was sent from Germany to the German minister in Mexico. This message, later to be known as the Zimmermann Telegram was the final piece to a German plot to embroil the United States into a war with Mexico, Japan or both in order to cripple Allied supply lines fueling Allied operations in Europe. The actual telegram was translated to as follows: "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 secretily 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 follows the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace" Considering this telegram was sent to Mexico, it shows Mexican importance in this war. Mexico had two thousand miles of undefended coastline on the Pacific . Her northern boarder with the United States stretched for twelve hundred miles from Texas to California, touching all along all along its length against territory that had once been her own. Mexicans remembered the Alamo too. Mexico was, in short, the soft underbelly of the United States.
Mexico also had a system of railways which connected to the United States at key points which made invading the Mississippi valley, to in essence cut the nation in two plausible with a Mexican ally. Mexico also faced the nationalistic advantage and the Yankee hatred which fueled much of the war talk of murdering the gringos. The Mexicans had justified reasons to hate the gringos. During the latter stages of their civil war the US bombarded the city of Veracruz in order to destroy munitions supplying Huerta's forces. The US also launched an invasion involving twenty thousand men or two thirds of the regular forces to invade Mexico and capture Mexican generalismo Poncho Villa. These forces were led by Gen. Pershing and were ultimately unsuccessful on their 3 month trek in the deserts of Mexico.
This sense of nationalism would be essential if Mexico were to launch an offensive campaign against the US, but without strong leadership they would fail miserabliy. Mexico lacked a strong central figure for over twenty years. Mexico had been going on an on going struggle with a three prong civil war between Huerta, Villa and Caranza. Forces from former governments were still lingering about and occasionally one leader would seize power for a short time just to be ousted. Because of Mexico's geographical advantages it would be perfect for fighting a war with the US but because of what it lacked in stability it could never fight any war. The situation is best described in some information I recieved from the Mexican Embassy: Destruction was everywhere; agriculture, the mines, factories and commerce had all been seriously damaged. The same was true of the roads railroads and bridges. A large number of civilians had died in the battles, or had been killed by bandits who took advantage of the disorder; others fell prey to hunger and the epidemics caused by the struggle .
Many men and women left the country for the United States, where they looked for work as they tried to escape from their political enemies. Others went to live in cities, especially Mexico city, where conditions were not so dangerous. In 1910, Mexico had over 15 million inhabitants; by 1921, the population had fallen to under 14 million. Because of these conditions Mexico was not able to enter World War 1 or consider any foreign alliance. Mainly because of the problems faced in their revolution is the reason Japan comes in to play. In essence the war would be United States vs.
Japan battling in Mexico. Prior to World War 1, Japan began rapid expansion through the Pacific and anemic Chinese Empire. It was believed that this expansion along with the United States' imperial interests in the Pacific would eventually lead to war between the two nations, especially with the completion of the Panama canal. Japan had considered an invasion in 1907, and even had 10,000 troops stationed in Mexico to invade the canal, but the operation never went forth. Germany faced one problem with Japan, it declared war on Germany shortly after the war began and took Germany's possessions in the South Pacific. This didn't stop Germany from trying to gain a Japanese alliance.
Japan was worth more to the Central powers than to the Allies. It was believed if Japan entered on the side of Germany, it would force Russia out of the war mainly because of their defeat by the hands of Japan in the Ruso-Japanese war. This would allow Germany for a hopeful victory over both Britain and France. Japan was constantly considering an alliance with Mexico because of it's growing interests in the nation. Like Mexico Japan also had quarrels with the United States mainly over anti-immigration laws which targeted Japanese immigrants to California. It is not known if the Mexican government ever received the telegram. What is known is the telegram was intercepted by the British and once decoded it fueled the fire of Anti-German feelings which ultimately caused the United States to join the Allies.
At first the telegram was thought to be British propaganda, but on March 2, 1917 Arthur Zimmermann, the writer of the telegram, publically admitted to it. To this day it is not known why he admitted guilt. Today the telegram is all but forgotten and thought to be nothing more than a slap in the face to the US by Germany. Had the plot behind the telegram gone the way proposed, Germany quite possibly could have either defeated the Allies or got them to the bargaining table and the world would be much different than as we know it today. Bibliography: Bibliography 1. Tuchman, Barbara W., The Zimmermann Telegram, Viking Press, New York, 1958 2.
Kahn, David, The Code-Breakers, Macmillan Co, New York, 1967 3. Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August, Macmillan Co, New York, 1962 4. Also would like to thank the Mexican Embassy for providing me with a lot of information on this topic..
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