In the dark winter of 1917, as World War I was deadlocked, Britain knew that Europe could be saved only if the United States joined 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 U.S. 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.
©1958 Barbara W. Tuchman (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A true, lucid thriller…. 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)
“The tale has most of the ingredients of an Eric Ambler spy thriller.” (Saturday Review)
The sound is fair, takes some getting used to. Most people are aware of how the first world war got started, monarch is killed by a nationalist. Few know how the US got drawn into the war, was it the sinking of merchant ships, black operations in part of Germany, or a telegram... like most serious problems in the world it was most likely due to several reasons rather than just one. This book deals mainly with mainly one yet still shows the relevance of the others...
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a different perspective on what led to the US getting involved in WW1. The subject matter is a bit thin for an entire book and the author (while being rather accomplished for Guns of August) was a bit redundant and disorganized in laying out the details.
This is only the second Tuckman book I have read and it confirms my estimation she was a readers digest level historian. This has been a surprise to me because her Guns of August had near mythical standing. And thus I was actually angered when I listened to that travesty. I had just finished A World Undone and gave it five stars. So decided to find out her take on the origins of WWI.
IMHO she very seriously erred. Worse then that, I believe she must have willfully committed historical malpractice. Why or to what end is mystery. Accordingly, I recommend readers review the corresponding August part of the other book.
I do recommend this book for people, who, like me have only a passing knowledge of pre WWI American history. German efforts to divert American attention to threats from a dreamed of Japanese/Latin American alliance were actually rather sinister and plausible.
Further, the Allied Powers won the war on the Western Front before America ground forces piled on at the end. All of the several German offenses in the first half of the year failed spectacularly. The Germans were in full retreat when America forces were prematurely committed only days before the German withdrawal became apparent.
it was easy to follow understand and gave a clear time line. The story made Wilson's change more realistic not just politics as usual.
This history is packed with characters and twists and turns, being an ignorant geek I had never heard of this episode of history, the incompetence of the diplomats and the poor strategy of both the German military and the American president offset against the surprising competence and efficiency of the codebreakers in room 40.
It is a hard listen as it needed to be read a little more slowly to allow the dense information in the story to be absorbed. Still worth the effort as it explained a lot to this ignoramus.
Well done... good review of the events leading to and resulting from another intelligence coup. Strongly recommend!
Not to give too much away, suffice it to say this story is probably going to expose some interesting facts about US and international history and politics surrounding WWI not often heard in the US history books.
The book is pretty fast paced and there are many, many characters to follow and keep track of in this tale of espionage and intrigue. I had to stop and replay more than a few times when my attention strayed.
Non Fiction Reader
If you wanted to know every bit if minute of an event this is your book. Obviously, the telegram was important in bringing the U.S. into WWI. Somewhere that concept is lost in all of the needless detail. (Or I think it's lost; I couldn't finish the book having been down countless alleys and, after a while, not caring.) It's like someone assigned the author a set number of words and having to meet the quota just filled space (In acamedia it's called research, or trying to impress the teacher.) The story is so circuitous that it's hard following the people, the importance of events and where it's all leading. The narration is horrible! The lady reminds me of the English romance novels my wife listens to. Their diction is so perfect that after a while it sounds like cats fighting in a bag. The narration was so distracting that I found myself purposely tuning it out and missing the gist of the book. Finally, said "enough" and deleted it.
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