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How Germany Planned to Make Mexico Join their Forces in WW1

Updated on June 12, 2016

America during the early years of WW1 was a reluctant warrior. Americans were more isolationists and felt the war from 1914-16, was Europe's war. American leaders did not feel it was any of their business or their interests. From the across the ocean, news reports were sporadic and dated. Europe in those days was remote to travel to. The fastest was a week by ship. Aircraft were in their infancy. News reports were not instant but the information finally getting into print was days old. The fastest means was the telegraph using Morse code. Even the telephone was a fairly new device for many, let alone calling across the Atlantic. That was the world before 1920.

Before 1917, when America finally did enter WW1, America viewed Germany as an awkward friend. The war was between Germany, France, Britain, Russia. America was not a world power, Britain was. America was clearly ascending to that status quickly, but was neutral. Both countries communicated many times about America's neutrality and that American ships travelling to Europe should be allowed to transit across without attacks from German U-boat submarines. American ships, both trade and passenger, continued to cross the ocean during the war. Up until 1915, that was the case. German U-boats allowed American ships to cross unmolested. But then, Germany declared that all waters surrounding Britain and Ireland as a warzone and any American ships entering them is at their own risk from German U-boats. American protests were ignored and on May 7, the passenger ship, Lusitana, was sunk carrying 124 Americans of a total of 1200 killed. Germany assured in July, that American ships would not be attacked. But, U-boats continued to sink transport ships. In early 1916, the US threatened to cutoff relations unless Germany stopped attacks upon passenger ships. Germany promised to leave passenger ships alone, but all others, were game. This worked for awhile until 1917, when Germany decided to target any ship crossing to Europe. That is when America broke all relations with Germany.

On February 26, 1917, the US Congress gave permission for American ships to be armed to defend themselves.Then, on the 28th, a secret telegram was intercepted sent from the German military command by the British. It was conveyed to the Americans. The telegram was from the German Foreign Affairs to the German Embassy in Mexico City.

The telegram stated that should America enter the war against Germany, the German Embassy was to propose a plan to bring Mexico in the war on the German side. Mexico was was to persuade Japan to switch sides from the Allied to the German side with the Central Powers.

Mexican military forces would then commence an attack across the US-Mexico border to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The impact of this, had this occurred, would have been huge. The Mexican military was really not a match for the Americans and most likely ending up badly for Mexico. But, the short term would have been a real distraction and diverting of forces destined for Europe, to some degree. America only had 135,000 in their Army

When the secret telegram was made public, the American people rallied against Germany, realizing WW1 was now a threat. By April, 1917, America had declared war on Germany.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 21 months ago

      In a way, Germany caused America to enter. Had they never attacked any US shipping crossing the Atlantic, the US might had stayed out much longer. That would have helped in the 1918 offensives.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 21 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Other than the Zimmerman telegram, I never really studied how serious the Germans were with this plan. I can't imagine that Mexico wanted any part of that. But you never know.

      Recently, I just heard how much sabotage really went on in the U.S. perpetrated by German agents during WWI. . It's really shocking to me and gave me more sympathy for Wilson's decision to enter the War.