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Why did Germany officially acknowledge the contents of the Zimmerman telegram?

Why did Germany officially acknowledge the contents of the Zimmerman telegram?


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The Zimmerman telegram was a diplomatic message from officials in Germany to the Mexican president, sent in 1917. After being intercepted and decoded by Britain's intelligence community, its contents were found to be an offer of monetary compensation, retaking of previously-held lands, and a strategic alliance between Germany and Mexico, in exchange for Mexico's military aid in the First World War should American involvement become inevitable.

After the contents of the letter became public and sparked outrage, German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmerman publicly confirmed the authenticity of the message, further sparking controversy, and ultimately cementing America's already fairly definitive alignment against Germany for the duration of the war.

Why would Germany publicly acknowledge the contents of the letter, though? Denial of the letter's contents or authenticity (possibly mixed with an accusation that the UK had forged it, in its own interests) may have created hesitation and confusion among America's military brass, which could've given Germany an advantage during the rest of the war.


Arthur Zimmerman appears to have been trying to avoid being blamed by the German press and politicians for bringing the USA into the war. Placing your personal interests ahead of those of your country when you're a government minister is rarely a good idea.

He said:

… despite the submarine offensive, he had hoped that the USA would remain neutral. His instructions (to the Mexican government) were only to be carried out after the US declared war, and he believed his instructions to be "absolutely loyal as regards the US". In fact, he blamed President Wilson for breaking off relations with Germany "with extraordinary roughness" after the telegram was received, and that therefore the German ambassador "no longer had the opportunity to explain the German attitude, and that the US government had declined to negotiate".

So he was claiming that his instructions to the German embassy in Mexico had been a contingency plan for use in case the US declared war, and was blaming President Wilson for a hasty and ill-considered breaking off of relations. I don't know if this had his desired effect within Germany, but it certainly increased the chances that the USA would go to war. That was disastrous for Germany; other not-so-great decisions by Zimmerman included helping to trigger the October Revolution in Russia.


President Wilson revealed the existence of the telegram to the press on 28 February 1917. The press published the story the next day 1 March 1917 (and remember that Berlin is 6 hours ahead of Washington time). The German embassy in Washington would have had to send a telegram to Germany to inform them that the contents of what we now call "The Zimmermann Telegram" had been made public.

At that point, Germany had little choice but to respond, and to respond quickly.

Denial was never an option, since the cipher-text was still held in the telegraph company files in the United States and could be checked. The United States ambassador, Walter Hines Page, had these details (presumably from the head of Room 40, William Reginald Hall) and had included them with his report to President Wilson.

By claiming that his instructions (to the Mexican government)

… were only to be carried out after the US declared war…

(quoted by @John Dallman in his answer above)

the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, presumably hoped to minimise the damage that had already been done.


Zimmerman's actions reflected the style of his boss, Kaiser Wilhelm II. This was a blunt, heavy-handed "take no prisoners, make no apologies approach" that the Kaiser displayed in crisis after crisis; the Kruger Telegram congratulating the Boers on their suppression of the "Jameson Raid" that led to the Boer War; the "Hun statement" urging German soldiers to be merciless as Huns against Chinese "Boxers;" the Moroccan Crisis, that saw Germany trying to deprive France of Morocco; and the Daily Telegram affair that had Wilhelm listing France, Russia and Japan as his antagonists, (but excluding Britain).

You can characterize Zimmerman's actions as unwise, but no one can claim that he didn't speak for his government.


Why did Germany officially acknowledge the contents of the Zimmerman telegram?

The United States could already verify independently that the British provided message was genuine even without Zimmerman's admission. Germany and the U.S. both understood that.

The way the Germans conveyed diplomatic messages to Mexico back in 1917 was encoding them and then giving them to the United States Embassy in Germany for retransmission. From the US Embassy they would go through a series of neutral countries before ending up in London to be transmitted across the ocean. British had cut Germany's transatlantic cables at the onset of the war and permitted the United States servicing Germany's diplomatic correspondence as part of President Wilson's peace initiative. Probable also because it allowed the British to intercept and read everything Germany was saying to it's embassies. From London the messages would go to the United States across a translation cable operated by the United States and Sweeden who were both neutrals, before being wired from the US to Mexico. So the United States already had the encrypted message directly from Germany. The United States could track it's origins all the way back to Berlin were it was hand delivered to the US Embassy. The British gave the US the translation along with the encrypted text, so it was already known that the message was unimpeachable. The United States had the encrypted text directly from Germany they just couldn't read it until the British did so for them.

Zimmerman Intercept (British Interception)
The message was delivered to the United States Embassy in Berlin and then transmitted by diplomatic cable first to Copenhagen and then to London for onward transmission over transatlantic cable to Washington.

Direct telegraph transmission of the telegram was not possible because the British had cut the German international cables at the outbreak of war.

In the United States the Zimmerman Letter was represented as Germany inciting Mexico to attack in exchange for money, arms, and territory. But that's a misrepresentation.

The Zimmerman letter was not sent to the Mexican Government (President Carranza) but to the German ambassador to Mexico. It was instruction to the German ambassador only to be pursued if the United States first declared war on Germany. As such Arthur Zimmerman's entire correspondence was being mischaracterized by the United States from his perspective. Zimmerman was astonished that the United States and President Wilson broke off diplomatic ties and ongoing negotiations with Germany after they received the Letter from Britain's foreign secretary Arthur Belfour.

These were the thoughts which Arthur Zimmerman presented in his March 29th, 1917 speech. That his letter was not a plot against the United States, but a contingency plan between two government functionaries sent by secure channels which was never to have seen the light of day if the unthinkable did not occur. The United States entering WWI. As it turns out it was used as the perfect excuse for the Wilson Administration to pursue a course of action which they were already strongly considering.

Prior to The United States being made aware of the Zimmerman Letter by the British. February 20, 1917 the United States was already well down the path of going to war with Germany.

  • May 7, 1915, German submarine torpedoed the Lusitania, off the coast of Ireland. Killing 1,200 men, women, and children, including 128 Americans, lost their lives.
  • July 21, 1915, President Wilson issues an ultimatum, to the effect that the US would regard any subsequent sinkings as "deliberately unfriendly".
  • August 19, 1915 The White Star liner SS Arabic, outward bound for America, 50 mi (80 km) south of Kinsale. The loss of 44 passengers and crew, 3 of whom were American.
  • Aug 28, 1915, German Chancellor issued new orders to submarine commanders and relayed them to Washington, stating that until further notice, all passenger ships could only be sunk after warning and the saving of passengers and crews.
  • Jan 31, 1917 - Germany announces they are resuming unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic.
  • Feb. 3, 1917 - United States breaks off diplomatic ties to Germany.
  • February 20, 1917 - The United States ambassador to Britain is presented with the Zimmerman Letter: see Use by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Belfour.
  • Feb 22, 1917 - Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill intended to make the United States ready for war.
  • February 28, 1917 - President Woodrow Wilson releases the Zimmerman Letter: see Use to the Press.
  • March, 1917 - Germany sink four U.S. merchant ships
  • March 29th, 1917 - Arthur Zimmerman gives a speech acknowledging his telegram to the German ambassador of Mexico.
  • April 2, 1917 - President Wilson asks congress to declare war on Germany.

If they'd denied it the US wouldn't have believed them anyway.

It would also have made them look weak. Who would go into a similar alliance with somebody who's prepared to rat on you like that?


The German ambassador was acting prudently and addressing contingencies. Zimmerman was doing what ambassadors are supposed to do and what, no doubt, the British, Russian and French ambassadors were doing. The Zimmerman telegram merely proposed an alliance between Mexico and Germany IF the latter found itself in a war with the USA. Why shouldn't Germany have taken such possible precautions given the sham neutrality America practiced during 1914-17. When he admitted the telegram was his it was, no doubt, because how could it seem objectionable to seek alliances if the US declared war? It seems closer to the truth that Wilson was itching for war, and that the speed with which the Americans transformed the telegram into a pretext for it came as a surprise to the Germans.


Document Deep Dive: What Did the Zimmermann Telegram Say?

On January 17, 1917, British code breakers in Room 40, the cryptoanalysis office of Great Britain’s Naval Intelligence, intercepted a telegram from Germany. At first, they suspected the coded message was a routine communication. But, soon enough, the cryptologists found that what they held in their hands was a top-secret missive that would shift the tides of World War I.

From This Story

Video: Decoding the National Cryptologic Museum

Related Content

Chances are that you have studied the Zimmermann Telegram in a history class, but have you ever actually seen the coded message? German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent the diplomatic message to Heinrich von Eckardt, the German ambassador in Mexico City, instructing him to speak to the president of Mexico. He proposed that the two nations strike an alliance if Mexico waged war against the United States, thereby distracting Americans from the conflict in Europe, Germany would lend support and help Mexico reclaim Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Leaked to the public by President Woodrow Wilson, the inflammatory contents of the message pushed the United States into the war. “No other single cryptoanalysis has had such enormous consequences,” says David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers, a seminal work on cryptology.

In its collection, the National Archives holds the coded Zimmermann Telegram, as received by von Eckardt, as well as the English translation of the telegram. Click on the yellow tabs on the documents, below, to follow the story of how the message was deciphered.

The notes are based on a conversation with Kahn and information conveyed in Barbara W. Tuchman’s book The Zimmermann Telegram and at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland.


Why was the Zimmermann Telegram so important?

Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of a remarkable success for British intelligence: but one that involved spying on the United States and then conspiring with its senior officials to manipulate public opinion in America.

On the morning of 17 January 1917, Nigel de Grey walked into his boss's office in Room 40 of the Admiralty, home of British code-breakers.

It was obvious to Reginald "Blinker" Hall that his subordinate was excited.

"Do you want to bring America into the war?" de Grey asked.

The answer was obvious. Everyone knew that America entering World War One to fight the Germans would help break the stalemate.

"Yes, my boy. Why?" Hall answered.

"I've got something here which - well, it's a rather astonishing message which might do the trick if we could use it," de Grey said.

The previous day, the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann, had sent a message to the German ambassador to Washington.

The message used a code that had been largely cracked by British code-breakers, the forerunners of those who would later work at Bletchley Park.

Zimmermann had sent instructions to approach the Mexican government with what seems an extraordinary deal: if it was to join any war against America, it would be rewarded with the territories of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

"This may be a very big thing, possibly the biggest thing in the war. For the present, not a soul outside this room is to be told anything at all," Hall said after reading it.

Part of the problem was how the message had been obtained.

German telegraph cables passing through the English Channel had been cut at the start of the War by a British ship.

So Germany often sent its messages in code via neutral countries.

Germany had convinced President Wilson in the US that keeping channels of communication open would help end the War, and so the US agreed to pass on German diplomatic messages from Berlin to its embassy in Washington.

The message - which would become known as the Zimmermann Telegram - had been handed, in code, to the American Embassy in Berlin at 15:00 on Tuesday 16 January.

The American ambassador had queried the content of such a long message and been reassured it related to peace proposals.

By that evening, it was passing through another European country and then London before being relayed to the State Department in Washington.

From there, it would eventually arrive at the German embassy on 19 January to be decoded and then recoded and sent on via a commercial Western Union telegraphic office to Mexico, arriving the same day.

Thanks to their interception capability process, Britain's code-breakers were reading the message two days before the intended recipients (although they initially could not read all of it).

A coded message about attacking the US was actually passed along US diplomatic channels.

And Britain was spying on the US and its diplomatic traffic (something it would continue to do for another quarter of a century).

The cable was intelligence gold-dust and could be used to persuade America to join the War.

But how could Britain use it - when to do so would reveal both that they were breaking German codes and that they had obtained the message by spying on the very country it was hoping to become its ally?

Hall had all the copies locked in his desk while he decided what to do and asked for the rest to be decoded.

London was betting that Germany's use of unrestricted submarine warfare - attacking merchant shipping - would be enough to draw America into the War.

When the signs were that an extra push might be needed, it was decided to deploy the Zimmermann Telegram.

Room 40 asked one of its contacts to get hold of a copy of anything sent to the German embassy in Mexico from the US. This provided another copy of the telegram.

Britain could then plausibly claim this was how it had got hold of the message and get round the problem of admitting it was spying on its friends.

Britain also had to convince the Americans that the message had not been concocted as part of a ruse to get them into the War.

Eventually, the US obtained its own copy from the Western Union telegraphic company, and De Grey then decoded it himself in front of a representative at the US embassy in London.

This meant technically all parties could claim that it had been decoded on US territory.

"Good Lord," President Wilson said when he was told of the details.

The telegram was then leaked to the American press and published to general amazement on 1 March 1917 (with credit attached to the American Secret Service rather than the British to avoid awkward questions of British manipulation).

Whatever scepticism was left was dispelled when Zimmermann himself took the odd move of confirming he had sent it. A month later, America was in the War.

It would be too much to claim the Zimmermann Telegram single-handedly brought America into the War.

Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare can take more credit for that.

But the telegram was useful for convincing the American public that it should be sending its men over to Europe to fight.

The telegram had proved the perfect justification for a change of policy and to convince some of the sceptics.

It was, many believed, the single greatest intelligence triumph for Britain in World War One.

It was also an early sign of the potential impact of intercepting communications, a lesson which the few British and American officials in on the real story were determined to learn from as they set about building their capability.

Early in World War Two, before America had formally entered the War, it would send a team of its best code-breakers on a clandestine mission to Britain to establish a relationship with their counterparts.

The Road to Bletchley Park exhibition at the former wartime site features a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram and details of its role.

Today, the two allies have GCHQ and the NSA - two vast intelligence agencies involved in interception and code-breaking.

They also have a pact which means that - on the whole - they are not supposed to spy on each other.


Primary Documents - Japan's Reaction to the Zimmermann Telegram, March 1917

Reproduced below is the reaction of the Japanese government - given by Prime Minister Terauchi - to suggestions of Japanese complicity in the Zimmermann Telegram affair (click here to read background information and the text of the telegram).

In his statement Count Terauchi refuted any suggestion that Japan was in any way sympathetic to German efforts to bring about antipathy between Japan and the U.S. He further stated that no discussions had taken place, either formally or informally, to those ends between the German and Japanese governments.

Click here to read the speech given by the German Foreign Minister Dr Arthur Zimmermann in which he confirmed the authenticity of the telegram. Click here to read a 1921 commentary upon the consequences of the Zimmermann Telegram.

Japanese Prime Minister Count Terauchi on the Zimmermann Telegram

The revelation of Germany's latest plot, looking to a combination between Japan and Mexico against the United States, is interesting in many ways.

We are surprised not so much by the persistent efforts of the Germans to cause an estrangement between Japan and the United States as by their complete failure of appreciating the aims and ideals of other nations.

Nothing is more repugnant to our sense of honour and to the lasting welfare of this country than to betray our allies and friends in time of trial and to become a party to a combination directed against the United States, to whom we are bound not only by the sentiments of true friendship, but also by the material interests of vast and far-reaching importance.

The proposal which is now reported to have been planned by the German Foreign Office has not been communicated to the Japanese Government up to this moment, either directly or indirectly, officially or unofficially, but should it ever cone to hand I can conceive no other form of reply than that of indignant and categorical refusal.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

A Runner was a soldier who carried messages by hand.

- Did you know?


Contents

The message came in the form of a coded telegram dispatched by Arthur Zimmermann, a Staatssekretär (a top-level civil servant) in the Foreign Office of the German Empire on January 17, 1917. The message was sent to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. [4] Zimmermann sent the telegram in anticipation of the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany on February 1, which the German government presumed would almost certainly lead to war with the United States. The telegram instructed Eckardt that if the United States appeared certain to enter the war, he was to approach the Mexican government with a proposal for military alliance with funding from Germany. The decoded telegram was 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 of 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

Previous German efforts to promote war Edit

Germany had long sought to incite a war between Mexico and the United States, which would have tied down American forces and slowed the export of American arms to the Allies. [5] The Germans had aided in arming Mexico, as shown by the 1914 Ypiranga Incident. [6] German Naval Intelligence officer Franz von Rintelen had attempted to incite a war between Mexico and the United States in 1915, giving Victoriano Huerta $12 million for that purpose. [7] The German saboteur Lothar Witzke, responsible for the March 1917 munitions explosion at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in the San Francisco Bay Area, [8] and possibly responsible for the July 1916 Black Tom explosion in New Jersey, was based in Mexico City. The failure of United States troops to capture Pancho Villa in 1916 and the movement of President Carranza in favor of Germany emboldened the Germans to send the Zimmermann note. [9]

The German provocations were partially successful. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the military invasion of Veracruz in 1914 in the context of the Ypiranga Incident and against the advice of the British government. [10] War was prevented thanks to the Niagara Falls peace conference organized by the ABC nations, but the occupation was a decisive factor in Mexican neutrality in World War I. [11] Mexico refused to participate in the embargo against Germany and granted full guarantees to the German companies for keeping their operations open, specifically in Mexico City. [12] These guarantees lasted for 25 years coincidentally, it was on May 22, 1942 that Mexico declared war on the Axis Powers after the loss of two Mexican-flagged tankers that month to Kriegsmarine U-boats.

German motivations Edit

The Zimmermann Telegram was part of an effort carried out by the Germans to postpone the transportation of supplies and other war materials from the United States to the Allies, which were at war against Germany. [13] The main purpose of the telegram was to make the Mexican government declare war on the United States in hopes of tying down American forces and slowing the export of American arms. [14] The German High Command believed that it could defeat the British and French on the Western Front and strangle Britain with unrestricted submarine warfare before American forces could be trained and shipped to Europe in sufficient numbers to aid the Allies. The Germans were encouraged by their successes on the Eastern Front to believe that they could divert large numbers of troops to the Western Front in support of their goals. The Mexicans were willing to consider the alliance but declined the deal after Americans had been informed of the telegram.

Mexican President Venustiano Carranza assigned a military commission to assess the feasibility of the Mexican takeover of their former territories contemplated by Germany. [15] The generals concluded that it would not be possible or even desirable to attempt such an enterprise for the following reasons:

  • Mexico was in the midst of a civil war, and Carranza's position was far from secure. A declaration of war by his regime would have provided an opportunity for the opposing factions to align with the United States and Allies in exchange for diplomatic recognition.
  • The United States was far stronger militarily than Mexico was. Even if Mexico's military forces had been completely united and loyal to a single regime, no serious scenario existed under which it could have invaded and won a war against the United States.
  • The German government's promises of "generous financial support" were very unreliable. It had already informed Carranza in June 1916 that it could not provide the necessary gold needed to stock a completely-independent Mexican national bank. [16] Even if Mexico received financial support, it would still need to purchase arms, ammunition, and other needed war supplies from the ABC nations (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile), which would strain relations with them, as explained below.
  • Even if by some chance Mexico had the military means to win a conflict against the United States and to reclaim the territories in question, it would have had severe difficulty conquering and pacifying a large English-speaking population which had long self-government and was better supplied with arms than were most other civilian populations.
  • Other foreign relations were at stake. The ABC nations had organized the Niagara Falls peace conference in 1914 to avoid a full-scale war between the United States and Mexico over the United States occupation of Veracruz. Mexico entering a war against the United States would strain relations with those nations.

The Carranza government was recognized de jure by the United States on August 31, 1917 as a direct consequence of the Zimmermann Telegram to ensure Mexican neutrality during World War I. [17] [18] After the military invasion of Veracruz in 1914, Mexico did not participate in any military excursion with the United States in World War I. [11] That ensured that Mexican neutrality was the best outcome that the United States could hope for even if it allowed German companies to keep their operations in Mexico open. [12]

Zimmermann's office sent the telegram to the German embassy in the United States for retransmission to Eckardt in Mexico. It has traditionally been claimed that the telegram was sent over three routes and was transmitted by radio and also sent over two trans-atlantic telegraph cables operated by neutral governments (the United States and Sweden) for the use of their diplomatic services. However, it has been established that two methods were used. The Germans delivered the message to the United States embassy in Berlin, and it then passed by diplomatic cable first to Copenhagen and then to London for onward transmission over transatlantic cable to Washington. [19]

Direct telegraph transmission of the telegram was impossible because the British had cut the German international cables at the outbreak of war. However, Germany could communicate wirelessly through the Telefunken plant, operating under Atlantic Communication Company in West Sayville, New York, where the telegram was relayed to the Mexican Consulate. Ironically, the station was under the control of the US Navy, which operated it for Atlantic Communication Company, the American subsidiary of the German entity.

Also, the United States allowed limited use of its diplomatic cables with Germany to communicate with its ambassador in Washington. The facility was supposed to be used for cables connected with Wilson's peace proposals. [19]

The Swedish cable ran from Sweden, and the American cable from the American embassy in Denmark. However, neither cable ran directly to the United States. Both cables passed through a relay station at Porthcurno, near Land's End, the westernmost tip of England, where the signals were boosted for the long transoceanic jump. All traffic through the Porthcurno relay was copied to British intelligence, particularly to the codebreakers and analysts in Room 40 at the Admiralty. [20]

After the Germans' telegraph cables had been cut, the German Foreign Office appealed to the United States for use of their cable for diplomatic messages. President Wilson agreed in the belief both that such co-operation would sustain continued good relations with Germany and that more efficient German-American diplomacy could assist Wilson's goal of a negotiated end to the war. The Germans handed in messages to the American embassy in Berlin, which were relayed to the embassy in Denmark and then to the United States by American telegraph operators. The United States placed conditions on German usage, most notably that all messages had to be in cleartext (uncoded). However, Wilson later reversed the order and relaxed the wireless rules to allow coded messages to be sent. [21] The Germans assumed that the cable was secure and so used it extensively. [20]

However, that put German diplomats in a precarious situation since they relied on the United States to transmit Zimmermann's note to its final destination, but the message's unencrypted contents would be deeply alarming to the Americans. The Germans persuaded US Ambassador James W. Gerard to accept it in coded form, and it was transmitted on January 16, 1917. [20]

In Room 40, Nigel de Grey had partially decoded the telegram by the next day. [19] By 1917, the diplomatic code 13040 had been in use for many years. Since there had been ample time for Room 40 to reconstruct the code cryptanalytically, it was readable to a fair degree. Room 40 had obtained German cryptographic documents, including the diplomatic code 3512 (captured during the Mesopotamian campaign), which was a later updated code that was similar to but not really related to code 13040, and naval code SKM (Signalbuch der Kaiserlichen Marine), ⁠which was useless for decoding the Zimmermann Telegram but valuable to decode naval traffic, which had been retrieved from the wrecked cruiser SMS Magdeburg by the Russians, who passed it to the British. [22]

Disclosure of the telegram would sway American public opinion against Germany if the British could convince the Americans that the text was genuine, but the Room 40 chief William Reginald Hall was reluctant to let it out because the disclosure would expose the German codes broken in Room 40 and British eavesdropping on the US cable. Hall waited three weeks during which de Grey and cryptographer William Montgomery completed the decryption. On February 1, Germany announced resumption of "unrestricted" submarine warfare, an act that led the United States to break off diplomatic relations with Germany on February 3. [20]

Hall passed the telegram to the British Foreign Office on February 5 but still warned against releasing it. Meanwhile, the British discussed possible cover stories to explain to the Americans how they obtained the coded text of the telegram without admitting to their ability to intercept American diplomatic communications, which they would continue to do for another 25 years, and to explain how they obtained the cleartext of the telegram without letting the Germans know that the codes had been broken. Furthermore, the British needed to find a way to convince the Americans the message was not a forgery. [2]

For the first story, the British obtained the coded text of the telegram from the Mexican commercial telegraph office. The British knew that since the German embassy in Washington would relay the message by commercial telegraph, the Mexican telegraph office would have the coded text. "Mr. H", a British agent in Mexico, bribed an employee of the commercial telegraph company for a copy of the message. Sir Thomas Hohler, the British ambassador in Mexico, later claimed to have been "Mr. H" or at least to have been involved with the interception in his autobiography. [23] [ citation needed ] The coded text could then be shown to the Americans without embarrassment.

Moreover, the retransmission was encoded with the older code 13040 and so by mid-February, the British had the complete text and the ability to release the telegram without revealing the extent to which the latest German codes had been broken. (At worst, the Germans might have realized that the 13040 code had been compromised, but that was a risk worth taking against the possibility of United States entry into the war.) Finally, since copies of the 13040 codetext would also have been deposited in the records of the American commercial telegraph company, the British had the ability to prove the authenticity of the message to the American government. [3]

As a cover story, the British could publicly claim that their agents had stolen the telegram's decoded text in Mexico. Privately, the British needed to give the Americans the 13040 code so that the American government could verify the authenticity of the message independently with their own commercial telegraphic records, but the Americans agreed to back the official cover story. The German Foreign Office refused to consider that their codes could have been broken but sent Eckardt on a witch hunt for a traitor in the embassy in Mexico. Eckardt indignantly rejected those accusations, and the Foreign Office eventually declared the embassy exonerated. [20]

Use Edit

On February 19, Hall showed the telegram to Edward Bell, the secretary of the American Embassy in Britain. Bell was at first incredulous and thought that it was a forgery. Once Bell was convinced the message was genuine, he became enraged. On February 20, Hall informally sent a copy to US Ambassador Walter Hines Page. On February 23, Page met with British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour and was given the codetext, the message in German, and the English translation. The British had obtained a further copy in Mexico City, and Balfour could obscure the real source with the half-truth that it had been "bought in Mexico". [24] Page then reported the story to Wilson on February 24, 1917, including details to be verified from telegraph-company files in the United States. Wilson felt "much indignation" toward the Germans and wanted to publish the Zimmermann Telegraph immediately after he had received it from the British, but he delayed until March 1, 1917. [25]

Many Americans then held anti-Mexican as well as anti-German views, Mexicans had a considerable amount of anti-American sentiment in return, some of which was caused by the American occupation of Veracruz. [26] General John J. Pershing had long been chasing the revolutionary Pancho Villa for raiding into American territory and carried out several cross-border expeditions. News of the telegram further inflamed tensions between the United States and Mexico.

However, many Americans, particularly those with German or Irish ancestry, wished to avoid the conflict in Europe. Since the public had been told falsely that the telegram had been stolen in a decoded form in Mexico, the message was at first widely believed to be an elaborate forgery created by British intelligence. That belief, which was not restricted to pacifist and pro-German lobbies, was promoted by German and Mexican diplomats alongside some antiwar American newspapers, especially those by the Hearst press empire.

The Wilson administration was thus presented with a dilemma. With the evidence the United States had been provided confidentially by the British, Wilson realized the message was genuine, but he could not make the evidence public without compromising the British codebreaking operation.

Any doubts as to the authenticity of the telegram were removed by Zimmermann himself. At a press conference on March 3, 1917, he told an American journalist, "I cannot deny it. It is true." Then, on March 29, 1917, Zimmermann gave a speech in the Reichstag in which he admitted that the telegram was genuine. [27] Zimmermann hoped that Americans would understand that the idea was that Germany would not fund Mexico's war with the United States unless the Americans joined World War I.

On February 1, 1917, Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare against all ships in the Atlantic bearing the American flag, both passenger and merchant ships. Two ships were sunk in February, and most American shipping companies held their ships in port. Besides the highly-provocative war proposal to Mexico, the telegram also mentioned "ruthless employment of our submarines". Public opinion demanded action. Wilson had refused to assign US Navy crews and guns to the merchant ships, but once the Zimmermann note was public, Wilson called for arming the merchant ships although antiwar members of the US Senate blocked his proposal. [28]

On April 6, 1917, Congress voted to declare war on Germany. Wilson had asked Congress for "a war to end all wars" that would "make the world safe for democracy". [29]

Wilson considered another military invasion of Veracruz and Tampico in 1917–1918, [30] [31] to pacify the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and Tampico oil fields and to ensure their continued production during the civil war, [31] [32] but this time, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, recently installed, threatened to destroy the oil fields if the US Marines landed there. [33] [34]

The Japanese government, another nation mentioned in the Zimmerman Telegram, was already involved in World War I, on the side of the Allies against Germany. The government later released a statement that Japan was not interested in changing sides and in attacking America. [35]

In October 2005, it was reported that an original typescript of the decoded Zimmermann Telegram had recently been discovered by an unnamed historian who was researching and preparing an official history of the United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The document is believed to be the actual telegram shown to the American ambassador in London in 1917. Marked in Admiral Hall's handwriting at the top of the document are the words: "This is the one handed to Dr Page and exposed by the President." Since many of the secret documents in this incident had been destroyed, it had previously been assumed that the original typed "decrypt" was gone forever. However, after the discovery of this document, the GCHQ official historian said: "I believe that this is indeed the same document that Balfour handed to Page." [36]


The Zimmermann telegram: the telegram that brought America into the First World War

More than 100 hundred years after British intelligence intercepted the Zimmermann telegram, Dr David Kenyon, research historian at Bletchley Park, talks to History Extra about how the telegram altered the course of the First World War and influenced future code-breaking operations…

This competition is now closed

Published: February 28, 2019 at 3:40 pm

In the spring of 1917, despite two and a half years of fighting, the Allied and German forces on the western front were still deadlocked. The battle of the Somme had just drawn to a close with huge losses on both sides. The Germans decided to seek victory through a different route – by unrestricted U-boat warfare in the Atlantic, which meant using submarines to sink all merchant ships heading for the UK regardless of their nationality, in order to starve out the UK population.

Up to this point, the US had remained neutral – though it was supplying the Allied forces with large amounts of food and war materials from its factories. Thus there were significant numbers of US companies and ships trading with Britain. The concern for the Germans was that attacks on this trade might bring the US into the war.

On 17 January 1917, British intelligence intercepted the Zimmermann telegram, leading to one of the first occasions when a piece of SIGINT (intelligence gained by eavesdropping on an enemy’s coded communications) heavily influenced the course of world events.

The telegram was an internal diplomatic message sent in January 1917 from the German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann in Berlin, to the German Embassy in Mexico. It proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico, in the event of the United States entering the First World War in support of the Allies. When the contents of the telegram were made public in the US, it became a major factor in debates about whether the US should enter the war on the Allied side – which they did on 6 April 1917, just five weeks after the telegram’s publication.

Intercepted by ‘Room 40’

Although wireless (radio) was used to send messages in the First World War, the principal means of diplomatic communication was via telegrams sent on undersea cables. In 1914 the Allies cut many German cables, forcing them to communicate via the cables of other powers. German communications with the US, and other embassies in north and south America, were routed through the neutral US Embassy in Berlin, via their cable to Stockholm, and on across the Atlantic. Yet this cable actually passed through the UK and could be tapped by the British intelligence services.

The Germans relied on the fact that although the signals were on a ‘public’ cable, they were written in code, so the contents would remain secret. What they did not appreciate was that the British had already broken the codes they were using, and so any messages sent could be read. The Zimmermann message was passed to the British code-breaking unit in ‘Room 40’ of the Admiralty, where it was tackled by senior British code-breakers including Nigel de Grey and William Montgomery. Although they managed to understand the significance of the message very quickly, their understanding of the code was incomplete, so it took them several weeks of hard work to complete a full decryption.

The telegram instructed the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, that if the United States appeared certain to enter the war, he was to approach the Mexican government with a proposal for military alliance with funding from Germany. The Mexicans were to be encouraged to invade the southern US with the aim of re-conquering those states that were formerly part of Mexico: Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Germany would support this effort with money and arms, and back Mexico’s territorial claims in any subsequent peace negotiations.

For Germany, an alliance with Mexico would simply be one of convenience. Mexico had suffered several years of war and political instability up to 1916, and Germany had already shown itself to be reluctant to involve itself in the country or support the current Mexican government. However, a stronger and friendly Mexico would be helpful in curbing the power of the US after the war. The US, on the other hand, regarded the Americas as their sphere of influence, and a rival power gaining a foothold in north America through alliance with their neighbour was highly undesirable.

The difficulty for the British Admiralty was that if they simply handed over the message to Washington, it would become clear that the British were tapping the US cable. If, however, they could acquire a copy from another source, this would provide a cover for why the British knew of the content of the message.

Sir Thomas Hohler had been first secretary of the British legation in Mexico City in September 1916. During that time Hohler had secretly arranged for copies of encoded messages from the German embassy in Washington to Mexico City (sent by commercial Western Union telegraph services) to be stolen, and passed to the British. Although he was no longer in his post in January 1917, this ‘arrangement’ continued, and so the British Embassy in Mexico was able to obtain a copy of the message on that leg of its journey. This had the added advantage that the message had been re-encrypted in Washington into a different German code, which was better understood by Room 40, so a more complete decryption could be created.

Influencing public opinion

Before the telegram was revealed publicly, Germany had waged ‘unrestricted submarine warfare’ between 4 February 1915 and 1 September 1915, and resumed from 1 February 1917. Several US ships were quickly sunk, and others were held in port for fear of being attacked. This led to a rise in anti-German, and pro-war feeling in the US. President Wilson was shown the Zimmermann message on 24 February, and released it to the press on 1 March. The wave of anti-German and anti-Mexican feeling grew in the US. Tensions with Mexico were already high General John J Pershing had long been chasing the revolutionary Pancho Villa and carried out several cross-border raids with US forces.

At the same time, many Americans wished to avoid the conflict in Europe. Anti-British elements, particularly among German- and Irish-Americans, protested against involvement in the war. Since the public had been told (untruthfully) that the telegram had been stolen in a deciphered form in Mexico, the message was widely believed at first to be an elaborate forgery perpetrated by British intelligence.

While it was not the only factor in the US declaration of war, the telegram was certainly influential in the decision. It took the US some time to fully mobilise, and US troops played only a relatively small part in the fighting in 1918, but their economic support, and the knowledge that they were preparing to help, was a huge factor in the Allied victory. Once the US had formally thrown its weight behind the Allied cause, it was clear that the Germans were doomed to lose the war in the long run. They were forced to change their strategy, from trying to slowly wear out the British and French, to needing to bring the war to a successful conclusion in a shorter period. The failed German offensive of March 1918 was a symptom of this.

Meanwhile, the decryption of the telegram, and the work done in Room 40 more generally can be seen as the direct precursor of the formation of the Government Code and Cipher School in 1919. ‘GC&CS’ would go on to be based at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and later formed the GCHQ of today. The political effect of the telegram contributed to the realisation of the power of codebreaking and signals intelligence in both war and peacetime diplomacy. As a consequence, when the Second World War broke out, Britain was already prepared to build on its experience to create a unique and war-winning SIGINT operation at Bletchley Park. This expertise, and the tradition of co-operation and intelligence sharing with the US, continues to form a key part of British defences to this day.

‘The Road to Bletchley Park’ exhibition, featuring the story of the Zimmermann telegram, can be found in Block C at Bletchley Park. For more information, visit www.bletchleypark.org.uk.

This article was first published by History Extra in April 2017.


Comments

Jonathan on August 16, 2012:

The U.S. entered WW I to protect the financial interests of American banks and corporations who were owed huge $$ by the British and French. If Germany won the war, those debts might not get re-paid.

So, we went to war to protect those financial interests.

Jakob on May 24, 2012:

Thank you! saved me so much time on my homework!

Gregorious on April 11, 2012:

A very informative hub! I would just like to add the wise words of Sun Tzu – The art of war is to avoid war.

louromano on March 24, 2012:

This helped me so much with my homework on the alliance system!

Mp on March 13, 2012:

What is a list of images that express the reasons US fought war. Create a poster to convince Americans to support the war effort. Any help. It&aposs kinda due tomorrow.

free-browsergames on December 20, 2011:

vavaiska on December 20, 2011:

This article is very useful. Watch out for germany&aposs role in the coming armageddon. The king of the north and new world order.

marg on December 15, 2011:

matt on November 29, 2011:

Hugo Khan on November 10, 2011:

This helped me so much with my homework on the alliance system!

buk on October 23, 2011:

twinkle on September 05, 2011:

i love to learn about history

nameless on August 10, 2011:

Ali, it is commonly agreed upon today by most historians that the Germans did not write the Zimmerman Note. most likely it was a ploy by Great Britain to get the US into the war.

tony gilmore on June 18, 2011:

I think this danger could happen again,ever read the book the rise of the fourth reich?

Marina on April 27, 2011:

What set off the war was the assasination on the archduke Franza Ferdinand after that a series of events started finally turning into the great war.

Ponny on March 24, 2011:

I was wondering, do you know just what set off the war? I have a test tomorrow, so if I could get an answer today it would be nice. :)

scruffels on March 08, 2011:

I don&apost think there will be a war anytime in our life time form where i come from "knock on wood" unless one of these convos startone :p but Thankyou very much for the information it helped me with my project a lot! :)

Anonymos on February 15, 2011:

One can only hope that people don&apost make the same mistakes as they did when these wars happened. Which I think they will unfortunately.

Lucy on January 24, 2011:

I love the facts in it! I also love history. I will recommend this site to my students.

Letitia on January 18, 2011:

this helped me on my history report that is due on friday, and i am glad i found this webstie

me on October 28, 2010:

okay, i agree with mch. drax, you are a bilergerant fool. while the US had made mistakes in the past, MANY of which I am aware of, so has the rest of the world. perhaps you should look past the blindness of your hatred and open your eyes to see the evil&corruption all over the world. including where you are from, rather than attacking others. for as the saying goes "it is easy to find a million faults in another, but the true feat is the abilty to find at least one in thy self.". so why don&apost you do a little reading from more than just your country&aposs point of view. america is not what many claim it to be. I know. but neverthe less i am proud to be an american. and i, as mch, will fight&die for this country. p.s. all information is in some way biest and from A point of view. think about it.

Stephaniee on September 16, 2010:

thaank you so much for your information . this website was very helpful. keep up the good work (Y)

Mikey on May 20, 2010:

I think this is a very good website. I love to read of war. As soon as I&aposm out of high school i&aposm going to sign up Im really a girl but everyone calls me a boy because of my interest in war. The site is awesome

poop on May 12, 2010:

if it wasn&apost for what happen in ww1 we wouldn&apost be war we are today. so be grateful.

gegego on March 27, 2010:

its really anoyig that you all think that germany is a bad country because they declared war. it was the government of germany at the time were not that different rally. :)

Kiana on March 25, 2010:

Thanks this has really helped me out.

Carlo on March 04, 2010:

MASM on February 24, 2010:

algeria on February 12, 2010:

thank s that helped me so much

Denno66 on December 22, 2009:

This is a very good hub explaining the reasons for the U.S.&aposs entry into the Great War. It was a monumental tragedy as are all wars, but America&aposs entry coupled with the exhaustive toll taken to date on all of the European armies, finally brought the War to an end. Thank you for the detailed read.

TUCK15 on November 30, 2009:

ali on November 12, 2009:

i think willson made the right choice on declaring war on Germany. Germany was making a serious threat to america for more than one reason.

1st:the Zimmerman letter which could&aposve lead us to losing a few of our states.

2nd: should Germany have won, we would&aposve lost democracy for there government is dictatorship.

3rd:the submarine welfare, germany was breaking the continantal law, and killing innocent people.

4th: "the freedom of seas" is another reason willson gave us. it meant we would be able to trade freely with who ever we want.

5th:by letting the war go on many lives of innocent people would be ended.

6th:the most obvious of all is power. should anyone country get too much power it would leave us all doomed.

there are many more reasons but i can&apost go on listing them all.

ali on November 12, 2009:

personally i think that willson made a good choice declaring war on germany. for three reasons

1:the zimmerman letter posted a serious threat to america, we could&aposve lost texas, new mexico, ect.

ali on November 12, 2009:

im confused on what drax is saying about how the war is bad or good?

tony on June 15, 2009:

this article is realy confusing and it has alotof info but confusing u no.

mch on June 03, 2009:

so drax let me get this staight u would like for america to be invaded america has done wat is right in protecting her people so your the only idiot really my dad and grandpa faught and died for this country so tea U.S.A beats anyone. And i will fight and die for my country and my children

WTF on January 11, 2009:

Kathy Europe isn&apost a country.

Eden on January 11, 2009:

dude thanks, this helps me so much on my news article!

leejean on December 05, 2008:

Thank you this helped me on my report!

mackenzie on November 24, 2008:

what about the war effort?

SirDent on April 25, 2008:

I read this and the comments left and I asked myself, how many American ships were to be sacrificed before America entered the war? Would a man allow someone to come into his home and attack his children and not do something to stop it from happening? There are times that one must stand and fight.

des donnelly from Co Tyrone. on April 04, 2007:

sorry Jimmy, what I said came out jumbled and unclear, this hub and the war series are fantastic, thanks for them. I meant that I was disappointed that countries are not declaring war on america today. and although I would agree with you on the futility of war there are times when a country needs to be taught manners. even if it is only at a symbolic level. this is where I would disagree with Kathy, imagine if Tovalu, Haiti, Iceland, Ireland and other small countries declared war on america, none of them would invade but the message sent would be extremely powerful.

Kathy on April 04, 2007:

It is the true mark of an intelligent nation if it is able to wage war unnecessarily but chooses not to. America has failed that test recently.

At the same time, it is moral cowardice when a country is able to wage a necessary war but chooses not to. Europe failed that one in the Balkans.

And finally, the opinion of countries that are powerless to do anything, anyway, is somewhat irrelevant.

Jimmy the jock (author) from Scotland on April 04, 2007:

sorry to dissapoint Drax, maybe by pushing the first and second world wars the leaderships of today and of the future, will learn the inhumanity stupidity and futileness of war.

des donnelly from Co Tyrone. on April 04, 2007:

Jimmy when I read this title I interpreted it as germany declares war on america and I thought . great. at least one country has some morals left. then I looked again and was disappointed. ah well, live in in hope. I suppose this marked the beginning of a belligerence that has brought us full circle to today and the creation of the first fully fledged terrorist state. . america, land of the afraid home of the idiot.


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Easily trace a conversation and keep communication efficient, no matter the group size.

Smart notifications
Mute the group to get notifications only when people mention you or reply to your messages.

Pinned messages
You can pin any message to be displayed at the top of the chat screen. All members will get a notification — even if they muted ordinary messages from your group.

Moderation tools
Appoint administrators that can mass-delete messages, control membership, and pin important messages. Define their admin privileges with granular precision.

Group permissions
Set default permissions to restrict all members from posting specific kinds of content. Or even restrict members from sending messages altogether – and let the admins chat amongst themselves while everybody else is watching.

File sharing
Send and receive files of any type, up to 2 GB in size each, access them instantly on your other devices.

Public groups
Get a short link for your group and make it public, like t.me/publictestgroup. This way, anybody can view the group's entire chat history and join to post messages.

Customization via bots
Create custom tools for any specific needs using our Bot API and Inline Bots.

Q: What's the difference between groups and channels?

Telegram groups are ideal for sharing stuff with friends and family or collaboration in small teams. But groups can also grow very large and support communities of up to 200,000 members. You can make any group public, toggle persistent history to control whether or not new members have access to earlier messages and appoint administrators with granular privileges. You can also pin important messages to the top of the screen so that all members can see them, including those who have just joined.

Channels are a tool for broadcasting messages to large audiences. In fact, a channel can have an unlimited number of subscribers. When you post in a channel, the message is signed with the channel's name and photo and not your own. Each message in a channel has a view counter that gets updated when the message is viewed, including its forwarded copies.

Q: How do I create a group?

iOS: Start a new message (tap the icon in the top right corner in Chats) > 'New Group'.
Android: Tap the circular pencil icon in the chat list > 'New Group'.
Telegram Desktop: Click the menu button in the top left corner > 'New Group'.

Q: Can I assign administrators?

You can add administrators to help you manage your group and define their privileges with granular precision.

iOS: Go to Group Info (tap the photo in the top right corner on the group‘s chat screen) > Edit > Administrators.
Android: Go to Group Info (tap the name in the header) > the pencil icon (in the top right corner) > Administrators.
Telegram Desktop: When in the group, click '…' in the top right corner > Manage group > Administrators.

Q: How do I add more members? What's an invite link?

You can add your contacts, or using search by username.

It is easy to migrate existing groups to Telegram by sending people an invite link. To create an invite link, go to Group Info > Add Member > Invite to Group via Link.

Anyone who has Telegram installed will be able to join your group by following this link. If you choose to revoke the link, it will stop working immediately.

Usernames and t.me

Q: What are usernames? How do I get one?

You can set up a public username on Telegram. It then becomes possible for other users to find you by that username — you will appear in contacts search under 'global results'. Please note that people who find you will be able to send you messages, even if they don't know your number. If you are not comfortable with this, we advise against setting up a username in Telegram.

You can set up a username in Settings and use the universal search box in the chat list to search for chats, messages, and usernames.

Q: How does t.me work?

Once you've set up a username, you can give people a t.me/username link. Opening that link on their phone will automatically fire up their Telegram app and open a chat with you. You can share username links with friends, write them on business cards or put them up on your website.

This way people can contact you on Telegram without knowing your phone number.

Q: What can I use as my username?

You can use a-z, 0-9 and underscores. Usernames are case-insensitive, but Telegram will store your capitalization preferences (e.g. Telegram and TeleGram is the same user). The username must be at least five characters long.

Q: Do I need a username?

You don't have to get one. Remember that Telegram usernames are public and choosing a username on Telegram makes it possible for people to find you in global search and send you messages even if they don't have your number. If you are not comfortable with this, we advise against setting up a username.

Q: If someone finds me by username, messages and I reply — will they know my number?

No. Neither party will see another's phone number (unless this is permitted by your privacy settings). This is similar to the case when you message a person who you've met in a Telegram group.

Q: How do I delete my username?

Go to Settings and save an empty username. This will remove your username people will no longer be able to find you via search. This will not affect existing conversations.

Q: What do I do if my username is taken?

Telegram usernames are distributed on a first come — first serve basis.

We understand that certain usernames are part of an online identity for some of us. If your desired username is already taken, we will be happy to help you acquire it for your account or channel, provided that you have that same username on at least two of these services: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Due to the fact that one account can register multiple bot and channel usernames, we reserve the right to recall usernames assigned to unused bots and channels, as well as openly squatted usernames.

To request a username, contact @Username_bot.

Q: What if someone is pretending to be me?

If a scammer is pretending to be you, please contact @NoToScam.

Security

If you are an advanced user, you may find our FAQ for the Technically Inclined useful as well.

Q: How secure is Telegram?

Telegram is more secure than mass market messengers like WhatsApp and Line. We are based on the MTProto protocol (see description and advanced FAQ), built upon time-tested algorithms to make security compatible with high-speed delivery and reliability on weak connections. We are continuously working with the community to improve the security of our protocol and clients.

Q: What if I’m more paranoid than your regular user?

We've got you covered. Telegram’s special secret chats use end-to-end encryption, leave no trace on our servers, support self-destructing messages and don’t allow forwarding. On top of this, secret chats are not part of the Telegram cloud and can only be accessed on their devices of origin.

Q: So how do you encrypt data?

We support two layers of secure encryption. Server-client encryption is used in Cloud Chats (private and group chats), Secret Chats use an additional layer of client-client encryption. All data, regardless of type, is encrypted in the same way — be it text, media or files.

Our encryption is based on 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, 2048-bit RSA encryption, and Diffie–Hellman secure key exchange. You can find more info in the Advanced FAQ.

Q: Why should I trust you?

Telegram is open, anyone can check our source code, protocol and API, see how everything works and make an informed decision. Telegram supports verifiable builds, which allow experts to independently verify that our code published on GitHub is the exact same code that is used to build the apps you download from App Store or Google Play.

We welcome security experts to audit our system and appreciate any feedback at [email protected]

On top of that, Telegram's primary focus is not to bring a profit, so commercial interests will never interfere with our mission.

Q: Do I need to trust Telegram for this to be secure?

When it comes to secret chats, you don't — just make sure that the visualized key of your secret chat matches the one in your friend's secret chat settings. More about this below.

Q: What if my hacker friend says they could decipher Telegram messages?

Anyone who claims that Telegram messages can be deciphered is welcome to prove that claim in our competition and win $300,000. You can check out the Cracking Contest Description to learn more.

Any comments on Telegram's security are welcome at [email protected] All submissions which result in a change of code or configuration are eligible for bounties, ranging from $100 to $100,000 or more, depending on the severity of the issue. Please note that we can not offer bounties for issues that are disclosed to the public before they are fixed.

Q: Can Telegram protect me against everything?

Telegram can help when it comes to data transfer and secure communication. This means that all data (including media and files) that you send and receive via Telegram cannot be deciphered when intercepted by your internet service provider, owners of Wi-Fi routers you connect to, or other third parties.

But please remember that we cannot protect you from your own mother if she takes your unlocked phone without a passcode. Or from your IT-department if they access your computer at work. Or from any other people that get physical or root access to your phones or computers running Telegram.

If you have reasons to worry about your personal security, we strongly recommend using only Secret Chats in official or at least verifiable open-source apps for sensitive information, preferably with a self-destruct timer. We also recommend enabling 2-Step Verification and setting up a strong passcode to lock your app, you will find both options in Settings > Privacy and Security.

Q: How does 2-Step Verification work?

Logging in with an SMS code is an industry standard in messaging, but if you're looking for more security or have reasons to doubt your mobile carrier or government, we recommend protecting your cloud chats with an additional password.

You can do this in Settings > Privacy and Security > 2-Step Verification. Once enabled, you will need both an SMS code and a password to log in. You can also set up a recovery email address that will help regain access, should you forget your password. If you do so, please remember that it's important that the recovery email account is also protected with a strong password and 2-Step Verification when possible.

Check this out for tips on creating a strong password that is easy to remember.

Q: Why can jailbroken and rooted devices be dangerous?

Using a rooted or jailbroken device makes it easier for a potential attacker to gain full administrative control over your device — root access.

A user with root access can easily bypass security features built into the operating system, read process memory or access restricted areas, such as the internal storage. Once an attacker has root access, any efforts to mitigate threats become futile. No application can be called safe under these circumstances, no matter how strong the encryption.

Secret Chats

Q: How are secret chats different?

Secret chats are meant for people who want more secrecy than the average fella. All messages in secret chats use end-to-end encryption. This means only you and the recipient can read those messages — nobody else can decipher them, including us here at Telegram (more on this here). On top of this, Messages cannot be forwarded from secret chats. And when you delete messages on your side of the conversation, the app on the other side of the secret chat will be ordered to delete them as well.

You can order your messages, photos, videos and files to self-destruct in a set amount of time after they have been read or opened by the recipient. The message will then disappear from both your and your friend's devices.

All secret chats in Telegram are device-specific and are not part of the Telegram cloud. This means you can only access messages in a secret chat from their device of origin. They are safe for as long as your device is safe in your pocket.

Q: How do I start a secret chat?

Open the profile of the user you want to contact. Tap on ‘…’, then ‘Start Secret Chat’.

Remember that Telegram secret chats are device-specific. If you start a secret chat with a friend on one of your devices, this chat will only be available on that device. If you log out, you will lose all your secret chats. You can create as many different secret chats with the same contact as you like.

Q: How do self-destructing messages work?

The Self-Destruct Timer is available for all messages in Secret Chats and for media in private cloud chats.

To set the timer, simply tap the clock icon (in the input field on iOS, top bar on Android), and then choose the desired time limit. The clock starts ticking the moment the message is displayed on the recipient's screen (gets two check marks). As soon as the time runs out, the message disappears from both devices. We will try to send a notification if a screenshot is taken.

Please note that the timer in Secret Chats only applies to messages that were sent after the timer was set. It has no effect on earlier messages.

Q: Can I be certain that my conversation partner doesn't take a screenshot?

Unfortunately, there is no bulletproof way of detecting screenshots on certain systems (most notably, some Android and Windows Phone devices). We will make every effort to alert you about screenshots taken in your Secret Chats, but it may still be possible to bypass such notifications and take screenshots silently. We advise to share sensitive information only with people you trust. After all, nobody can stop a person from taking a picture of their screen with a different device or an old school camera.

Q: What is this 'Encryption Key' thing?

When a secret chat is created, the participating devices exchange encryption keys using the so-called Diffie-Hellman key exchange. After the secure end-to-end connection has been established, we generate a picture that visualizes the encryption key for your chat. You can then compare this image with the one your friend has — if the two images are the same, you can be sure that the secret chat is secure, and no man-in-the-middle attack can succeed.

Newer versions of Telegram apps will show a larger picture along with a textual representation of the key (this is not the key itself, of course!) when both participants are using an updated app.

Always compare visualizations using a channel that is known to be secure — it's safest if you do this in person, in an offline meeting with the conversation partner.

Q: Why not just make all chats 'secret'?

All Telegram messages are always securely encrypted. Messages in Secret Chats use client-client encryption, while Cloud Chats use client-server/server-client encryption and are stored encrypted in the Telegram Cloud (more here). This enables your cloud messages to be both secure and immediately accessible from any of your devices – even if you lose your device altogether.

The problem of restoring access to your chat history on a newly connected device (e.g. when you lose your phone) does not have an elegant solution in the end-to-end encryption paradigm. At the same time, reliable backups are an essential feature for any mass-market messenger. To solve this problem, some applications (like Whatsapp and Viber) allow decryptable backups that put their users' privacy at risk – even if they do not enable backups themselves. Other apps ignore the need for backups altogether and leave their users vulnerable to data loss.

We opted for a third approach by offering two distinct types of chats. Telegram disables default system backups and provides all users with an integrated security-focused backup solution in the form of Cloud Chats. Meanwhile, the separate entity of Secret Chats gives you full control over the data you do not want to be stored.

This allows Telegram to be widely adopted in broad circles, not just by activists and dissidents, so that the simple fact of using Telegram does not mark users as targets for heightened surveillance in certain countries. We are convinced that the separation of conversations into Cloud and Secret chats represents the most secure solution currently possible for a massively popular messaging application.

Your Account

Q: Who can see my phone number?

On Telegram, you can send messages in private chats and groups without making your phone number visible. By default, your number is only visible to people who you've added to your address book as contacts. You can further modify this in Settings > Privacy and Security > Phone Number.

Note that people will always see your number if they know it already and saved it in their address book.

Q: I have a new phone number, what do I do?

Each phone number is a separate account on Telegram. You have several options if you are using multiple phone numbers:

  • If you will no longer use the old number (e.g., you moved to a new country or changed your number for good), simply go to Settings and change the number connected to your Telegram account to the new number. Important: make sure you have access to your connected phone number – otherwise you risk losing access to your account.
  • If you will use the new number for a limited time (e.g., you're on a trip or vacation), there's no need to do anything.
  • If you want to keep using both numbers (e.g., you have a work phone and personal phone), choose one as your Telegram number. You may create another Telegram account on the second number as well, for example, if you want to keep work and personal chats separated. It is possible to log in to one Telegram app with up to 3 different accounts at once.

Q: How do I log out?

Most users don't need to log out of Telegram:

  • You can use Telegram on many devices at the same time. Just use the same phone number to log in on all devices.
  • You can go to Settings > Data and Storage > Storage Usage> Clear cache to free up space on your device without logging out.
  • If you use Telegram with multiple phone numbers, you can switch between accounts without logging out.
  • If you use Telegram on a shared device, you can set up a passcode in Settings > Privacy and Security to make sure only you have access to your account.

If you do want to log out for some reason, here's how you do that:

iOS: Go to Settings > Edit > Log out.
Android, Telegram Desktop: Go to Settings > … (in the top right corner) > Log out.

If you log out, you will keep all your cloud messages. However, you will lose all your Secret Chats and all messages inside those secret chats when you log out.

Note that logging out does not trigger remote deletion of your secret chat messages on your partner's device — to do that, choose 'Clear History' first.

Q: How do I change my phone number?

You can change your number in Telegram and keep everything, including all your contacts, messages, and media from the Telegram cloud, as well as all your Secret Chats on all devices.

To change your number, go to Settings, then tap on your phone number (just above the username), then 'Change Number'. If you already have a different Telegram account on the target number, you'll need to delete that account first.

Q: How do I delete my account?

If you would like to delete your account, you can do this on the deactivation page. Deleting your account permanently removes all your messages and contacts. All groups and channels that you've created are orphaned and left without a creator but admins retain their rights.

This action must be confirmed via your Telegram account and cannot be undone.

We recommend using a non-mobile browser for this process.
Note that you'll receive the code via Telegram, not SMS.

Q: What happens if I delete my account?

As was just mentioned above, all your data will be flushed from our system: all messages, groups, and contacts associated with your account will be deleted. That said, your contacts will still be able to chat in the groups that you have created, and they will still have their copy of the messages you sent them. So if you want to send messages that can vanish without a trace, try using our self-destruct timer instead.

Termination of a Telegram account is irreversible. If you sign up again, you will appear as a new user and will not get your history, contacts or groups back. People, who have your phone number in their contacts, will be notified. The new user will be displayed as a separate conversation in their messages list and their conversation history with this new user will be empty.

Q: How does account self-destruction work?

Telegram is not a commercial organization, and we value our disk space greatly. If you stop using Telegram and don't come online for at least six months, your account will be deleted along with all messages, media, contacts and every other piece of data you store in the Telegram cloud. You can change the exact period after which your inactive account will self-destruct in Settings.

Q: My phone was stolen, what do I do?

First of all, sorry about your phone. Unfortunately, the phone number is the only way for us to identify a Telegram user at the moment. We don't collect additional information about you, so whoever has the number, has the account. This means we can't help you unless you have access either to the phone number or to Telegram itself on any of your devices.

I have access to Telegram on another device
  1. Go to Telegram Settings > Privacy and Security and turn on Two-Step Verification. This way the phone number alone will not be enough to log in to your account.
  2. Go to Settings > Devices (or Privacy & Security > Active Sessions) and terminate your Telegram session on the old device. Whoever has your phone will not be able to log in again, since they don't know your password.
  3. Contact your phone provider, so that they block your old SIM and issue a new one with your number.
  4. If you decide to switch to a new phone number, don't forget to go to Settings, tap on your phone number and change your Telegram number to the new one.
I don't have access to Telegram on any other devices
  1. First and foremost, you need to contact your phone provider, so that they block your old SIM and issue a new one with your number.
  2. Wait till you receive your new SIM with the old number, log in to Telegram, then go to Settings > Devices (or Privacy & Security > Active Sessions) and terminate your Telegram session on the old device.
Removing sensitive data

Common thieves usually throw out the SIM card immediately (the phone is harder to locate this way), then wipe the devices and sell them, so there isn't much risk for the data in case of regular petty theft. But if you have reasons to worry about the data on the device and are unable to log out the other device, it is best that you wipe it remotely. You can read more about it here: Apple iOS, Android. Unfortunately, this requires you to have prepared in advance for this scenario.

You can delete your Telegram account if you are logged in on at least one of your other devices (mobile or desktop). Note that inactive Telegram accounts self-destruct automatically after a period of time — 6 months being the default setting.

If you're a developer, you may find our Bots FAQ more useful.

Q: What are bots?

Bots are like small programs that run right inside Telegram. They are made by third-party developers using the Telegram Bot API.

Q: How do I create a bot?

Creating Telegram bots is super-easy, but you will need at least some skills in computer programming. If you're sure you're up to it, our Introduction for Developers is a good place to start.

Unfortunately, there are no out-of-the-box ways to create a working bot if you are not a developer. But we're sure you'll soon find plenty of bots created by other people to play with.

Q: A bot is sending me messages, how do I make it stop?

If you don't want a bot to send you messages, feel free to block it – same as you would block a human user. Some Telegram clients have a 'Stop Bot' button right in the bot's profile.

That said, most bot developers offer commands that silence the bot, check its /help for clues.

Q: Are bots safe?

Yes. Bots are no different from human users that you meet in groups for example. They can see your public name, username, and profile pictures, and they can see messages you send to them, that's it. They can't access your last seen status and don't see your phone number (unless you decide to give it to them yourself).

Naturally, any bot should be treated as a stranger — don't give them your passwords, Telegram codes or bank account numbers, even if they ask nicely. Also, be careful when opening files sent by bots, same as you would deal with ordinary humans. Example: If a bot sent us a file called OpenMe.exe, we probably wouldn't open it.

Q: If I add a bot to my group, can it read my messages?

Bots can work in two modes when you add them to groups. By default, bots only see messages that are meant for them. In this case, you'll see 'has no access to messages' in the group members list next to the bot.

Some bots need more information to work, so developers may disable the privacy mode. In this case, the bot will see all messages sent to the group, and you will see 'has access to messages' in the members list next to the bot.

If your group contains very sensitive information, maybe it's better to avoid adding bots you don't trust 100%.

Q: Are bots made by Telegram?

No. While we have some official bots for specific purposes (like @gif or @GDPRbot), we don't usually make bots. Bots are made by third-party developers using the Telegram Bot API and platform.

Q: Where can I find more bots?

There is no official store at the moment, so you'll have to ask your friends or search the web for now. We're pretty sure you'll find some bots to play with.

Deeper questions

Q: Can I get Telegram's server-side code?

All Telegram client apps are fully open source. We offer verifiable builds both for iOS and Android – this technology allows to independently verify that the application you download from the app stores was built using the exact same code that we publish.

By contrast, publishing the server code doesn’t provide security guarantees neither for Secret Chats nor for Cloud Chats. This is because – unlike with the client-side code – there’s no way to verify that the same code is run on the servers.

As for Secret Chats, you don’t need the server-side code to check their integrity – the point of end-to-end encryption is that it must be solid regardless of how the servers function.

In a post on his channel, Pavel Durov explained why Telegram hasn't published the server code, even as a publicity stunt.

The encryption and API used on Telegram's servers are fully documented and open for review by security experts. We welcome any comments at [email protected]

Q: Can I run Telegram using my own server?

Our architecture does not support federation yet. Telegram is a unified cloud service, so creating forks where two users might end up on two different Telegram clouds is unacceptable. To enable you to run your own Telegram server while retaining both speed and security is a task in itself. At the moment, we are undecided on whether or not Telegram should go in this direction.

Q: Can I use the Telegram API?

Yes. Developers for all platforms are welcome to use our protocol, API and even source code. Check out the Getting started section of the docs.

Don't forget about our Bot API that lets you build cool stuff on our platform.

Q: Do you have a Privacy Policy?

Q: What does the iOS privacy sheet mean?

Apple created privacy sheets to inform users about what data apps may collect, but information there is vague and can be misleading. You can see a detailed explanation of Telegram's sheet here.

Q: Why do you have two apps in the Mac App Store?

One is our app for macOS, the other is Telegram Lite, the macOS version of our multi-platform client. Both apps are official. Both started out as unofficial applications by two different developers and vary in design and functionality.

Telegram for macOS supports many platform-specific features, such as the MacBook Pro Touch Bar, gesture navigation, integration with the Mac's Share menu and more. It has every feature from the iOS version of the app including Secret Chats.

Telegram Lite is a lightning-fast app, optimized for work-related tasks and handling large communities. It offers a three-column interface, perfect for multitasking and quick access to media, files and links shared in your chats. This app can also be used to export your Telegram data and chats.

Q: Can I translate Telegram?

Telegram is officially available in English, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Korean, Malay, Russian and Ukrainian on most platforms, and we are gradually expanding the list of languages built into the apps.

If you don’t like how a specific element in Telegram's interface is translated in your language, or would like to help us maintain the translation, check out our localization platform. Everyone can suggest translations and vote for the best ones, making Telegram localization a community-driven effort.

If you're looking to go beyond suggestions for individual phrases and would like to help us maintain the official translation to your language on a continuous basis, you can contact @TelegramAuditions. Please include a hashtag with the English name of your language (e.g. #Albanian) and a few links to phrases on this platform with your translation suggestions or comments. Be sure read the Style Guide carefully before you apply.

Q: Can I help?

Yes, we are always looking for volunteers to help us with user support. If you would be interested in answering questions about Telegram to users from your country, contact our auditions account.

Before you apply, please check out the Telegram Support Initiative.

Passport

Telegram Passport is a unified authorization method for services that require personal identification. With Telegram Passport, you can upload your documents once, then instantly share your data with services that require real-world ID (finance, ICOs, etc.).

Your identity documents and personal data will be stored in the Telegram cloud using End-to-End Encryption. To Telegram, this data is just random gibberish, and we have no access to the information you store in your Telegram Passport. When you share data, it goes directly to the recipient.

You can find more information about Telegram Passport on our blog.

If you're a developer or owner of a service that requires real-life ID, kindly take a look at this manual. You can also try requesting Telegram Passport data using this page.

Troubleshooting

Login and SMS

Please make sure you are entering your mobile phone number in the international format.
I.e.: +(country code)(city or carrier code)(your number)

If you are having registration or login problems, please contact us using this form.

Getting a code via a phone call

For security reasons, login codes dictated via a phone call are only available for accounts that have two-step verification enabled (Settings > Privacy & Security > Two-Step Verification).

Please also note that Telegram accounts can only be connected to a mobile number. We currently don't support landline numbers.

Getting a code via Telegram

If you have recently used one of our apps on another device (it could also be a different app on the same device), we may send the login code via Telegram instead of SMS.

To receive such a code, just check Telegram from any of your connected devices. You will find it in the chat with Telegram, a verified profile with a blue check:

Login code sent via Telegram

WARNING! Please note that getting codes via Telegram should not be considered an alternative to using an up-to-date phone number. In case of a change in numbers, always make sure Telegram is connected to a phone number you control, otherwise you risk losing access to your account forever.

Notification problems

  1. Go to Telegram Settings — Notifications and Sounds, make sure that notifications are ON and Importance is set to “High” or greater.
  2. Check whether contact or group is muted.
  3. Make sure Google Play Services are installed on your phone.
  4. Check notification priority for Telegram in Android settings, it can be called Importance or Behaviour depending on your device.
  5. If your phone uses some battery saving software, make sure that Telegram is whitelisted in that application.

NOTE: Huawei and Xiaomi devices have evil task killer services that interfere with the Telegram notification service. For our notifications to work, you need to add Telegram to allowed apps in those devices' security settings. Huawei: Phone Manager App > Protected Apps > Add Telegram to the list. Xiaomi: Services > Security > Permissions > Autostart, find Telegram and enable autostart.

  1. Go to Telegram Settings — Notifications and Sounds, make sure that notifications are ON in Telegram.
  2. Check that notifications are ON in phone Settings.
  3. Check, whether contact or group is muted.
  4. Shut down Telegram (go to home screen, double tap home button, kill Telegram (swipe upwards), then go to phone settings, set the alert style for Telegram to NONE. Relaunch Telegram, go to phone settings, set alert style back to banners.

Problems with contacts

If you know your friends have Telegram, but you can't see them — or they appear as numbers instead of names.

  1. Make sure you are using the latest version of the app.
  2. Relaunch the app (by terminating it from processes list and launching again).
  3. Temporarily change the name of the contact in phone contacts (add a few symbols, then change back again).
  4. If that didn't help, re-login. Remember that logging out kills your Secret Chats.
  1. Force quit the app (double tap home button, then swipe up on Telegram), then relaunch and check if it helped.
  2. If that doesn't help, temporarily change the name of the contact in phone contacts (add a few symbols, then change back again).
  3. If that doesn’t work, re-login: Settings > Edit > Log Out. Remember that logging out kills all your Secret Chats. Then log in again.

Deleting contacts on Android

To delete a contact, open a chat with the person, tap on their profile photo in the top area of the chat screen, then tap on '…' in the top right corner > 'Delete'.

If you want to delete the contact completely, make sure you also delete them from your phone contacts. Telegram stays in sync and will add the contact back if you don't.

Where did my Secret Chat messages go?

Secret Chats are established between the two devices they were created on. This means that all those messages are not available in the cloud and cannot be accessed on other devices.

Moreover, Secret Chats are also tied to your current login session on the device. If you log out and in again, you will lose all your Secret Chats.

Can't send messages to non-contacts

When users report unwanted messages from a Telegram account, we apply a limit: Reported accounts can only send messages to people who have their number saved as a contact.

This means that if you randomly contact people you don't know and send them annoying messages, you may lose the ability to do so in the future.

If you think that this limit was applied to your account wrongly, please visit this page.

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Why Did the US Enter WW1? Real Reasons That No One Ever Told You

Historians are divided over why the United States entered WW1 in 1917 after having stayed neutral for nearly three years. We will see what prompted President Woodrow Wilson to take a decision that he had avoided for most part of the war.

Historians are divided over why the United States entered WW1 in 1917 after having stayed neutral for nearly three years. We will see what prompted President Woodrow Wilson to take a decision that he had avoided for most part of the war.

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. The turn of events following his assassination laid the foundation of the first World War.

July 28, 1914: World War I begins with Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia.

August 19, 1914: President Woodrow Wilson declares that the United States of America would remain neutral in this conflict.

February 22, 1917: The US gears up for a war with the Congress passing the $250 million Arms Appropriations bill.

April 2, 1917: President Wilson delivers his famous war message to a special session of the Congress.

April 4, 1917: The US Senate votes in favor of declaring war on Germany by a vote of 82 to 6.

April 6, 1917: The US House of Representatives upholds the Senate’s decision by a vote of 373 to 50.

In July 1914, Austria-Hungary took an aggressive stand against Serbia, whom they blamed for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Threatened by Austro-Hungarians, Serbians asked Russia for help, and they were happy to oblige. Fearing Russia aggression, Austria-Hungary turned to Germany for help and with their support, declared war on Serbia. Other countries, including Britain and France, joined World War I out of obligations. When Germany attacked Russia , for instance, France was obligated to declare war on Germany, as it had signed a treaty with Russia . When Germany marched through Belgium to attack Russia, the Brits were obligated to help Belgium because of a treaty they had signed with them.

Until April 6, 1914, the only role that the then-neutral United States played in World War I was that of the arms supplier. When the war began in 1914, even the public opinion was in favor of staying out of the conflict, and therefore, President Wilson’s pledge of neutrality didn’t come as a surprise.

Why did the United States Join World War I?

A whole lot of sources say that the main reason for the US joining WWI was the attack on the British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, which left 1,200 people―including 128 Americans―dead. That, however, is not the case. The sinking of Lusitania is one of the many reasons that eventually led to the US joining this war. The attack on Lusitania took place in 1915, but the US declared war on Germany only in 1917.

In between these two events, much of the water had gone under the bridge. In fact, President Wilson’s famous war message to a special session of Congress only came after a series of unsuccessful attempts to make peace over the course of the first three years of war.

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

✦ During the period of neutrality, American bankers were allowed to lend money to either sides involved in the war in what was referred to as the policy of fairness. Even trade with both sides was open.

✦ Things changed when the Brits decided to enforce a naval blockade of the German coastline, thus hindering the trade between the United States and Germany.

✦ In response, the Germans retaliated with unrestricted submarine warfare or U-boat Campaign, torpedoing armed merchant ships plying the trade routes of the Allies without any warning.

RMS Lusitania and Sussex Pledge

✦ RMS Lusitania was not the first casualty of Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare, but the loss of 128 American lives in this incident and three more in the torpedoing of SS Arabic on August 19, 1915, prompted President Wilson to take a stand on the issue.

✦ Following the torpedoing on a French passenger ferry, SS Sussex on March 24, 1916, Wilson threatened to sever diplomatic ties with the Germans if they were to continue this practice.

✦ On March 24, 1916, the Germans issued the Sussex Pledge and promised that passenger ships would not be targeted merchant ships would only be targeted if the presence of weapons was confirmed, and if at all merchant ships were to be targeted, then it would be only done after taking the safety of the crew into consideration.

Reintroduction of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

✦ The Sussex Pledge was an attempt to buy time and keep the United States out of the war. In December 1916, Admiral von Holtzendorff submitted a memorandum, which suggested that the reintroduction of unrestricted submarine warfare would guarantee the defeat of Allied Forces within six months.

✦ On January 31, 1917, Germany conveyed to the US its decision to reintroduce unrestricted submarine warfare from the very next day, i.e., February 1, 1917. In doing so, the Germans ignored the warning of Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, the then Chancellor of Germany, who was of the opinion that such a step would draw the US in the war.

✦ Once again, the German U-boats were authorized to torpedo any ship that they thought was providing any sort of aid to the enemy. On February 3, 1917, the American cargo ship, Housatonic, was torpedoed by German submarines.

✦ On the same day, President Wilson severed ties with Germany. However, targeting and sinking of American ships continued throughout February and March. And then came the Zimmermann Telegram, which changed the tide of public opinion in the favor of declaration of war.

Zimmermann Telegram

✦ Amidst all the chaos revolving around German aggression in the Atlantic, the United States came to know that Germany was wooing Mexico to join forces, in case the US was to join the war.

✦ This ploy came to light when the British naval intelligence, on January 19, 1917, intercepted a telegram sent by the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmermann to the German Ambassador in Mexico City. In return, the Germans were to help the government of Mexico to recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona that they had ceded to the US in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War.

✦ After a brief hesitation fearing that the Germans would come to know that they had broken their code, the Brits handed this telegram to the United States on February 24. The same was eventually published in the newspapers, and that played a crucial role in changing the public opinion in the US.

The Congressional Approval

✦ Overall, the Germans had made it clear that they had no intentions to end this conflict. They were perhaps confident that the US would never join the war.

✦ The latter though, proved them wrong and joined the war with the Senate voting in favor of the same on April 4, 1917, and the House of Representatives upholding it on April 6, 1917. That gave a much-needed boost to the Allies not just on the military front, but also on the economic front. After all, they were saved from an evident bankruptcy that they would have endured, had they continued spending on arms and supplies.

✦ In the aftermath of the US entry in WW1, a counter strike by the strengthened Allied Forces, worsening conditions at home, and desertion by its allies―notably Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria―resulted in the Germans formally surrendering on November 11, 1918.

Like we said, historians are disunited over why President Wilson chose to join WW1 only in 1917.

(i) Some say that too much was at stake for the US on the economic front. They had already invested over $2 billion in the war, and the chances of recovering this money would have become bleak, in the event of a loss for the Allied Forces.

(ii) Some argue that by then, it had started to look like the Germans were going to be defeated, and the US didn’t want to miss the opportunity to pitch itself as the savior of democracy.

(iii) Then there is a third lot who believe that it was Britain who manipulated the US into joining the war by strategically timing the Zimmermann telegraph revelation.

Nevertheless, we often state that the US joined WW1 on April 6, 1917 after a nod from Congress. That, however, was the moment when the US had officially joined the war. Unofficially, it had become a part of the conflict the moment President Wilson placed the US navy personnel on civilian ships to protect them from the German attacks, citing an archaic anti-piracy law. In accordance to the International law, this step in itself constituted an act of war.


How did American entry change the course of the war?

Within a year of declaring war, America was sending 10,000 troops to the Western Front every day.

US ships now defended Atlantic convoys and bolstered the Royal Navy in the North Sea.

Germany had hoped to deal a decisive blow before US troops arrived with 1918's Spring Offensive.

But the vast attack quickly lost momentum and by November that year the exhausted German forces were suing for peace with the Allies.


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