A. Plan of the Investigation
This investigation will analyze the extent to which the Zimmermann Telegram influenced the United States decision to enter World War I on the side of the Allies? To accomplish this, the investigation will look at attempts made by the U.S to avoid involvement in the war and how the German government responded to such attempts. What the Germans hope to achieve by sending the telegram and how American opinion about the war was impacted by the publication of the telegram will also be investigated, with particular attention given to President Woodrow Wilson. The investigation will also take into consideration the impact of the German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare on the United States decision.
B. Summary of Evidence
When World War One began in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson immediately declared the United States neutral, imploring citizens to “be impartial in thought, as well as action” (Wilson, Message to Congress). Wilson then began his two year campaign to ensure both the United States continued neutrality, and to secure a “peace without victory” in Europe (Baker 24). Wilson succeeded in keeping the U.S out of European affairs until early 1915, when Germany announced that it would commence a policy of unrestricted U-boat warfare in the waters around the British Isles (Clements and Cheezum 37). Months later, on May 7th, German U-boats sank the British passenger liner the Lusitania without warning (Tuchman 64). President Wilson responded by demanding that Germany promise to abandon unrestricted U-boat warfare, and in late 1915, the Germans relented (Katz 32). Later, when Germany proclaimed it would resume unrestricted U-boat warfare, Wilson again demanded they abandon such “unlawful tactics”, and again, Germany relented (Katz 62). In December 1916, to bring peace and prevent the need for American military intervention, Wilson attempted to bring about a negotiated peace between both sides (Clements and Cheezum 82).
However peace negotiations proved fruitless (Clements and Cheezum 95), Germany grew increasingly desperate to end to war. So, the German government made the decision in early January 1917, to resume a policy of unrestricted U-boat warfare to economically strangulate the British (Clements and Cheezum 178). In response, Wilson decided to break diplomatic ties with Germany, without malice (Tuchman 147). Still, Wilson, who had been reelected on the slogan “He kept us out of the war”, upheld that he would not allow the provocation alone to lead to war (Tuchman 152), saying it would take an “overt act” (Boghardt 24). Realizing, that if they intended to fully enforce unrestricted U-boat warfare, an “overt act” against the United States was unavoidable, the German government began searching for allies (Knight 756). Arthur Zimmermann, the German State Secretary, believed that by provoking a Mexican-American war, America’s attention would turn away from Europe (Katz 50). His efforts culminated in...