Hampton Roads Naval Museum Educator
On January 19, 1917, State Secretary of the German Imperial Foreign Office Arthur Zimmermann sent the German Ambassador to Mexico a coded telegram which included a very interesting arrangement. It informed the Mexican government that Germany would shortly resume unrestricted submarine warfare and that this would soon bring England to its knees. Germany also urged Mexico to join the war effort on the side of the Germany and her Allies Austria-Hungry and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers), and keep the United States engaged so it could not join the war on the side of Great Britain, France and the Russian Empire (the Triple Entente). In return, Germany promised financial and military aid and the opportunity to reclaim their lost territory in the Southwestern United States. This telegram, now known as the “Zimmermann Telegram” or the “Zimmermann Note” is, in itself, a well-known piece in the buildup to the US entering the First World War.
In Norfolk, the German overtures to Mexico were of secondary importance to the former point, that Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine warfare on the first of February. Since war in Europe began in 1914, Norfolk had become a boomtown. Her wharves and storehouses brimmed with coal, lumber, fertilizer, and foodstuffs ready to be loaded onto Entente and neutral ships bound for Europe. According to Old Dominion University professors Maura Hametz and Joyce Hoffman, “132,000 horses [were] shipped [from Norfolk] to the battlefields of France.” Ships leaving Hampton Roads were routinely stopped, inspected, and seized by British warships operating off the coast in order to slow the flow of supplies from the United States to Europe. With unrestricted warfare resuming, these same ships now became targets for German U-boats.
|(Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library)|
|(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)|
|(National Park Service)|