The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman is one of those books that I wish I would have read a long time ago. It was written in the ’50s and so I don’t have much of an excuse for not having read it before now. The book takes place during World War I and it takes place among the most highly placed movers and shakers in the world at the time – Kings, Presidents, Chancellors and a stream of powerful diplomats, spies and politicos. The incident that is described probably brought the United States into the war and therefore probably assured victory for the allies. All in all a very critical moment in History. The reason I wished I had read it earlier is that when I finished this book I had a completely different notion of what World War I was all about.
I had encountered many of the story’s characters in my prior reading and I had, of course, read about many of the ongoing WWI events surrounding the story but I had not ever read how all of the characters fit into the big picture and, in particular, how the United States was drawn in to the conflict. The author did a beautiful job of laying out all of the details and building the story towards its astounding climax. I am always amazed at how complicated international politics can be and the politics in time of war are probably the most frantic of all. When it is all laid out in front of you, as it is in this book, it is sometimes almost hard to believe. If you are wondering how Germany, Mexico, Japan and the United States are related in the context of World War I then you need to read this book.