In 1917, a telegram was published in American Newspapers that changed everything. This telegram from German foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmerman, revealed that Germany was trying to persuade Mexico (a close neighbor of the United States) into joining the Central Powers and away from any alliance with the United States. It was called the Zimmerman Telegram and it was completely written in code. British cryptographers were able to decode this important document, and, in fact, this single document changed the course of history. In April of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson was forced to declare war.
Visit the U.S. National Archives to see the actual Zimmerman Telegram.
The War Continues
The first American soldiers made their way to Europe in July of 1917. The Allies were weary, tired, and almost out of resources, so the American soldiers were greatly welcomed. By 1918, the United States had a million soldiers fighting in Europe. The battles were ugly and many, many young men died. Battles were often fought in trenches. Millions of young men from around the world lost their lives.
On November 11, 1918, Germany surrendered and the fighting stopped. This day was known as Armistice Day, as that is when the armistice was signed that ended the war. It was signed at 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month.
President Wilson felt when the war ended there was no need for severe punishment. He felt severe punishment would lead to anger and instability for the defeated countries. This included Germany. He tried to move toward lasting peace. He came up with a 14-Point Plan that would put an end to any secret treaties, limited the number of weapons a nation could have, and called for a League of Nations where world leaders could meet to solve issues.
In Paris, where the peace treaty was being signed, President Wilson's 14-Point Plan was rejected by the Allies. They wanted Germany and its allies to suffer and to pay for what they had done. The defeated countries were very harshly punished. They were forced to pay reparations and to give up control of some land.
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