By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
THE ZIMMERMAN COMMUNIQUE
—One of History’s Most Fascinating Moments—
German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman
In January of 1917, something occurred that might have forever damaged the relationship between the United States and Mexico. It preceded the United States’ entry into the First World War, a conflict that would go down in history as one of the costliest ever in terms of lost lives.
At this point, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II—the bombastic, choleric leader who had caused the war—was winning it against the Allies (mainly England and France) and the final outcome seemed but a few months away. The United States entry into the war seemed the only way that an Allied victory could be snatched from the jaws of defeat but though repeatedly provoked, the U.S. had managed to remain neutral.
However, Germany’s Foreign Secretary, (Arthur Zimmerman), fearing that the United States might eventually join the war on the side of the Allies, sent a cable to the Mexican government, advising it that if the US of A did enter the war, and if Mexico thereafter declared war on the Unites States, when the war was won, Germany would restore some of the territory (today, comprising much of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico) that Mexico had unjustly lost in the Mexican-American War of 1848. Implicit in the offer was that Germany would also join Mexico in that effort, meaning that the war might be brought to the very south-western doorstep of the United States.
Luckily, the note was intercepted and decoded by British Intelligence* and sent on to its counterpart in the United States. As might be imagined, reaction in the United States to the official note was swift and savage, feelings that were amplified a short time later when Germany admitted (foolishly) that the note was genuine.
That admission helped to further fuel the outrage and generated support for America’s formal declaration of war against Germany which came very shortly thereafter.
Postscript #1: What the initial official American response was to the Mexican government regarding the German proposal can only be imagined but it must have been something like “HEY, FORGET ABOUT IT!” Relations between the two countries would eventually greatly improve, however, during the Second World War men and women of Mexican blood played a substantial part in helping the United States and its allies to win that war.
Postscript #2: Once again in WWII, British Intelligence broke the German code that literally saved tens of thousands of Allied lives. The device that did the trick was called Enigma, which in many respects paved the way to the world of computers that we know today.
Column: Editor’s Page
Wrote/directed first movie about Mexican-Americans, Only Once in a Lifetime-- Recently purchased with another film of his, No Return Address, by Turner Classic Movies. Lifetime premiered at the Kennedy Center in Wash., D.C. —1979. Awarded Governor’s (California) Commendation—1980. Special Award of Appreciation from the National Association of Mexican-American Educators—1981. Wrote 23 film scripts, nine of which were either sold or optioned, some repeatedly.
Established Ajijic Writers Group in 1988. Wrote seven novels, three of which were at one time in 1400 libraries in the U.S., Canada, England and Ireland. Best Screenplay Award—Mexican International Film Festival—1999. Award of Appreciation from Ninos Incapacitados—2007. Biography appeared in Who’s Who in Mexico—2007. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 —Lakeside Community Awards Committee. Winner of IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award in 2014 for historical novel The Dark Side of the Dream. Editor-in-Chief of El Ojo del Lago for past 25 years.
Grattan’s seven novels, as well as his collection of articles, short stories and film/ literary/political commentaries are all in the Local Author’s Section of the LCS Library.
The last motion picture Grattan wrote and directed, Only Once in a Lifetime, is now in the LCS Video Library.