The Zimmermann Telegram

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What to expect

In the dark winter of 1917, World War I was deadlocked. For Europe to be saved, the United States had to join the war—but President Wilson remained unshakable in his neutrality. Then, with a single stroke, the tool to propel America into the war came into a quiet British office. One of countless messages intercepted by the crack team of British decoders, the Zimmermann telegram was a top-secret message from Berlin inviting Mexico to join Japan in an invasion of the United States: Mexico would recover her lost American territories while keeping the US occupied on her side of the Atlantic. How Britain managed to inform America of Germany’s plan without revealing that the German codes had been broken makes for an incredible true story of espionage, intrigue, and international politics as only Barbara W. Tuchman could tell it.

Critics Review

  • “A true, lucid thriller…A tremendous tale of hushed and unhushed uproars in the linked fields of war and diplomacy…Mrs. Tuchman makes the most of it with a creative writer’s sense of drama and a scholar’s obeisance to the evidence.”

    New York Times
  • “Has most of the ingredients of an Eric Ambler spy thriller.”

    Saturday Review
  • “This is well-crafted history that flows like a novel. Wanda McCaddon captures the storyteller tone of Tuchman’s prose. You could be sitting across the table drinking coffee and learning that, unlike what you learned in high school, the sinking of the Lusitania is not the only reason America joined the Great War. You’ll learn about President Wilson’s naïve adherence to neutrality despite the warnings of his advisors and about the Germans’ cynicism and arrogance as they try to manipulate events and countries to their advantage. You’ll find out that the British through ingenuity and planning were reading German codes they thought were unbreakable and about the balancing act the British had to play to protect their source while at the same time informing the Americans. Whether you’re a history buff or not, you can learn from The Zimmermann Telegram. It captures the people and events in an era when personalities and alliances were every bit as convoluted as they are now.”
  • “Historian Barbara Tuchman tells of a secret telegram sent from the German foreign minister to the Mexican government in 1917. The message, which announced the beginning of unrestricted submarine warfare against Allied shipping, attempted to turn the sympathies of Mexico toward Germany with the promise of territorial rewards. The British decoded the message and leaked the contents to the US, hoping to provoke President Wilson to join WWI on the English side. Reading at a pace complementary to the author’s abundant flow of information, narrator Wanda McCaddon employs her award-winning talents to the fullest. She takes command of Tuchman’s prodigious vocabulary, making it sound comfortable and fluent. Her addition of appropriate foreign accents adds to the diplomatic intrigue.”


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