Skip to main content

Der Zimmerman Zinger

   Welcome to the Wannaskan Almanac for Friday.

   On this day in 1917, American newspaper readers woke up to discover that Germany had offered to give Mexico's lost territories of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico back to Mexico if Mexico would declare war on the United States. Germany was bogged down in fighting with Britain and France on the Western Front. Germany was being strangled by the British blockade while Britain could receive supplies from the U.S. Germany decided it had to start sinking these supply ships using its submarines.
   The U.S. population was deeply divided about entering the war. President Wilson wanted to send troops to help Britain, but Congress said no. Germany knew that if she started sinking American ships, Congress would be forced to declare war. If Germany could get Mexico to attack the U.S., that would tie down U.S. troops at home and keep them out of Europe.
   This offer to Mexico had been made in an encrypted telegram to the Mexican government, written by Arthur Zimmerman, Secretary for Foreign Affairs for the German Government. One of Zimmerman's jobs was to incite rebellions that would improve Germany's prospects. Germany sent the exiled Lenin back to Russia to help start the Russian Revolution, which took Russia out of the war. Russia had been an ally of Britain and France. Other attempts in India, Ireland and this one in Mexico went nowhere.
   How the telegram was revealed is quite interesting. At the beginning of the war, Britain had cut Germany's undersea cables to the U.S. If Germany wanted to communicate with the U.S. government it had to take its messages to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. The message then went to Denmark, Sweden, and finally through Britain, which maintained the transatlantic cable. Of course British Intelligence was copying all these messages, which some would call unethical.
   These messages were supposed to be in plain text, not encoded. But for some reason, the American ambassador in Berlin agreed to let Zimmerman's message go in code.  The British could read the German code. They had gotten part of the German code book after a battle in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the rest from a sinking German ship. The British knew that if the Americans saw this message, it would be one more motivation for the U.S. to declare war on Germany.
   But the British were in a pickle. They didn't want the Americans  to know they were reading their mail. Also, they didn't want the Germans to know they had broken their code. So they came up with cover stories that they had bribed the Mexican telegraph operator to get the coded message, and that a British agent in the German Embassy in Mexico had stolen a decoded version of the telegram.
   Everyone swallowed the bait dangled before them. The American public was outraged. There were still suspicions among those opposed to entering the war that the message was a British forgery. But on March 29th, Zimmerman himself admitted it was true. He hoped to explain his side of the story, but it was too late. On April 6th, the U.S. declared war on Germany. After a million or so more deaths, Germany surrendered.
   The British have always been good at getting out of trouble when their backs are against the wall. In World War II they would invent radar to let them know when German bombers were approaching. They would also break the new and improved German code.
   Let us hope they are clever enough to find a way out of their present crisis.

It's easy when you know the code (and German).



  1. Americans are typically gullible people when it comes to British 'truths' when you think about it. Here we are, only about 132 years after the American Revolution, 101 years after The Battle of New Orleans, 50 years after the Civil War, and there are still politicians who believe everything a Brit says, although Irish-Americans, in particular, are rather skeptical for some reason. Any self-respecting Irishman or woman would guffaw (loudly, I might add) and snort stout from their noses at the idea some British bloke could bribe a Mexican telegraph operator into giving up German code messages.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


Jerry Solom has died. He has sailed to the edge of the known world and has sailed over the edge. Which has left his friends and family here on the shore bereft. Jerry was fortunate to have a large family who loved him. He was someone who was interested in others so he had a multitude of friends. I was fortunate to live near him and have regular access to his friendship.
   In fact Jerry was my first friend when Teresa and I moved here to Palmville Township. Jerry and Marion and son Terry had also just moved back to Minnesota from Los Angeles. Jerry's father Helmer, also a machinist, thought Jerry was crazy to give up his good job as an airline mechanic. But Jerry wanted to get back to the place he grew up and start his own machine shop.
   Jerry and Marion bought an old farm on County Road 122 four miles south of Wannaska. They were both happy to be back among their large extended families. Jerry built a shop south of Mickinock Creek. The creek lacked a bridge. No problem. Jer…

January 21, 2020 Wannaskan Almanac...Tis Tuesday!

It is Tuesday.
Tuesday is either the second or the third day of the week, depending on how you look at it.  According to international standard ISO 8601 Tuesday is the second day of the week.  According to a guy who I ran into at Walmart, Tuesday is the the third day of the week.  I am not sure which edict carries more weight with me.
The name Tuesday derives from the Old English "Tiwesdæg" and literally means "Tiw's Day". Tiw is the Old English form of the Proto-Germanic god *Tîwaz, or Týr in Old Norse. ... The Latin name dies Martis ("day of Mars") is equivalent to the Greek ἡμέρα Ἄρεως (Iméra Áreos).  That is why the French word for Tuesday is Mardi, and the Greek word for Tuesday is Trítē.  Not to be Trite, but I like the Greek word for Tuesday best.
According to unverified rankings, Tuesday is the second worst day.  It is only subtly better than Monday according to most Weekologists.  That sick feeling you have on Monday morning is replaced by th…

Wannaskan Almanac for Saturday, June 2nd

Praise the Lord, we made it to June which means Mark Hamill's "May the ____" Tribute has come to a close. *Whew*

May The 26 Be The Counties In The Republic Of Ireland
May The 27 Be The 5 Vowels & 22 Consonants In The Spanish Alphabet
May The 28 Be A Complete Set Of Dominoes
May The 29 Be The Number Of Days In The Month Of February (In Leap Years Only)
May The 30 Be The Total Number Of Tracks On The Beatles' White Album
May The 31 Be The Number Of Flavors Of Baskin Robbins Ice Cream

This was much harder than it looks, folks. On May 26, Hamill tweeted:

Anyone interested in how anxious I am for this"May The"thing to end? Before deciding on today's tweet I seriously considered "May The 26 Be The Number Of Spacetime Dimensions In Bosonic String Theory" I KNOW! It's time for the "May The" END
Alas, our favorite fictitious galactic hero made it to the end.

We've now arrived at 31-Which means my work is finally do…