Carol's Reviews > The Zimmermann Telegram

The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W. Tuchman
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's review
May 30, 2011

it was amazing
Read from May 16 to 30, 2011

British ciphering skills, German craziness, the idea of Mexico invading the US to keep the Americans from entering WWI----truth really is stranger than fiction---what's not to like. Tuchman is such a great writer! More once I've finished it.
Finished the book, appropriately enough on Memorial Day. This is a short book, only 200 pages, but is packed with research and the writer paints an amazing picture of Woodrow Wilson, whose pacifism bordered on the insane (to me anyway). There is beautiful irony in the Brits' accurate reading of the Germans' arrogance: they could not conceive that their ciphers could ever be taken apart by a non-German so they stuck to them after they were "outed"--with their mindset, they could only assume that either treachery or sloppy spycraft led to the discovery of the title telegram. I had never heard of this successful effort by the Germans to make complete tools of the Mexican government--the idea being that if the US was busy fighting off the Mexicans, they wouldn't be able to enter WWI. There is a parallel to the codebreaking efforts to the Enigma program of the Brtis during WWII--e.g., the danger of revealing that a code has been broken will lead to its being changed.
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