It was by complete chance that the first book I read this year was The Zimmerman Telegram by Pulitzer Prize winning author Barbara Tuchman. My son had bought me a copy and although I had read it about forty years ago I thought it was appropriate to re-read it again.
Today is the hundredth anniversary of the day the coded telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the Imperial Ambassador to the USA Count von Bernstoff arrived at Room 40 in Whitehall.
This superb non fiction book reads like a modern spy novel, and many of the themes seem curiously similar to modern developing situations. An American President struggling to deal with Mexico, the British Secret Service sending documents to the Americans some of whom believed them to be forged, “fake news”.
In this case actually Zimmerman acknowledged the telegram was genuine and the words: we make Mexico a proposal of an alliance on the following basis: make war together; make peace together, generous financial support, and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to conquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona……
This telegram was instrumental along with the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare in bringing the USA into the Great War on the side of the Allies. As with a good novel this book has a cast of fascinating characters, among whom were, Woodrow Wilson, a President determined to confer democracy on Mexicans ready or not; von Bernstoff the Ambassador who struggled to keep the Americans out of the war, a man who had the good sense to leave Germany the moment Hitler came to power, the shrewd Franz von Papen, who served the monarchy, the Weimar Republic and the Nazis and managed to survive into old age; Mexicans President Carranza and his opponents Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa, as well as the charismatic Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall, the Director of British Naval Intelligence, and many more.
Two hundred pages full of history, intrigue and perhaps some lessons for our current leaders, a highly recommended book.