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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:10
APUSH: KC‑7.3.II.A (KC), Unit 7: Learning Objective F, WOR (Theme)

Video transcript

As we enter into 1917, the United States has been able to maintain its neutrality in World War I. In fact, President Wilson has just won a re-election based on the platform that he kept us out of war. And to large degree, he was able to keep the US out of war because the German Empire had pulled back from its unrestricted submarine warfare. After the sinking of the Lusitania and how angered America had gotten, they said, OK, we're not going to attack passenger vessels anymore. We're only going to attack things that are definitely British, non-passenger vessels. But as we go into January 1917, the British blockade on the Central Powers was having its effect. And the Central Powers were getting desperate, in particular Germany. And so they are eager to essentially do the same to the British. Once again, go with the unrestricted submarine warfare. But the Germans knew that if they were to go back to this, that it's likely that the US would enter the war on the side of the Allies. So knowing that was likely to happen. They said, well, how could we slow the US down. And the thinking was, well, maybe we could somehow enlisted the help of Mexico which at the time was not the best terms with the United States. And so Arthur Zimmerman who was the German Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of the United States Secretary of State. The Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmerman sends an encoded a telegram to the Mexicans. And it's encoded, especially because it has to go over lines that are controlled by the Americans. And in it, he actually proposes an alliance to slow the Americans down. So this is what he wrote. So this is a coded telegram. And then, it was actually intercepted by British intelligence and decoded and then shared with the Americans, and then that was also then made public to the American public. And so this is why it's fascinating to actually read this stuff. This is January 1917. This is the Germans talking to the Mexicans. "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 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--" they're talking about the president of Mexico. "--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 Zimmerman." Now, the Mexicans, when they read this, they really didn't take it too seriously. They didn't think that they could seriously engage the US in a war. They couldn't seriously take back or occupy these territories. So they didn't really think much of it. The real effect of this telegram was to make the American public angry. They were going to go back into the unrestricted submarine warfare. And the Germans, themselves, talk about ruthless-- "ruthless employment of our the submarines." So when people talk about, what were the causes. What brought the US into war? The ones that are typically cited are the unrestricted submarine warfare. The sinking of the Lusitania. The Zimmerman telegram that was trying to get Mexico to somehow get into a war with the US and reclaim these territories. And as we'll see, a few months after this, the US actually does declare war on Germany and enter into World War I.