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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Questions regarding Woodrow Wilson views on WWI, the Treaty of Versailles, and The Paris Peace Conference.


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Who was the leading representative? 
What role did your nation play in the war? 
What territory do you claim? 
Who do you claim caused the war? 
Who should pay for the war? 
What role should Germany play in world affairs?  
Should any restrictions be placed on Germany? Why?  Or, why not? If so, what kinds of restrictions?

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Though he prided himself in his intellect, Woodrow Wilson may have been one of the least informed 20th century American Presidents.   Only Jimmy Carter has proven to be more naive. However,  In Wilson's defense one must remember virtually everything America learned about the European conflict was processed through a British information filter. ( The Brits cut the German cable to the US in the first week of the conflict.) 

Read his request for a declaration of war in April 1917, and note his vehement denunciation of submarine warfare to blockade England.  On the other hand, he found no fault with the surface-ships blockade of Germany.

Sadly, at the Paris peace conference his 14 points fell into instant abandonment; he and his team simply were no match for Clemenceau's thirst for revenge. 

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The British cut the German cable to the USA. They left the Swedish & US diplomatic ones crossing the Atlantic via the UK intact but tapped into them and decoded the signals, The Germans were allowed to use the Swedish one until the British protested in the summer of 1915. The Germans then used a Swedish cable to Buenos Aires. The British discovered this by the spring of 1916 but did not protest because they were obtaining valuable intelligence by reading the cables.


In late 1916 Wilson allowed the Germans to use the US cable for the specific purpose of discussing his peace proposals. However, they also used both it and the Swedish one via Buenos Aires to send what became known as the Zimmermann Telegram to their embassy in Mexico. In order to pass it on to the Americans without revealing that they were breaking at least Swedish diplomatic cables the British had to also obtain the telegram from the Mexican post office, which they did.


Sources and more detail in my blog.

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."Only Jimmy Carter has proven to be more naive". This is a subjective political comment on a living President and has no place here-the more so as it is in no way connected to the Great War. 


     " In Wilson's defense one must remember virtually everything America learned about the European conflict was processed through a British information filter"

    Absolute nonsense. Certainly, the Americans had to be careful  in what went through British-controlled cables. But to suggest that the British duped the Wilson Administration is very wide of the mark.  The British had no control over the diplomatic bag or of the movement of US diplomats- the more so in other states-such as the US Military Observers in France. As a fact-until the US entry into the war, the Americans were BETTER informed-as they had diplomats,consuls and favourable observers in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey,and Bulgaria  as the US was not a beligerent power. 

    The annual volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States  show that the US was well informed at all times.  The memoirs of those involved-though often discreet,as per the standards of the time- eg House's Memoirs and Lansing's "Peace Negotiations." show able men conducting high-level work. A good little book is the study on the role of Sir William Wiseman.  Documentary and printed accounts of the Peace Conference do not suggest that Wilson was conned into French ravanchiste plans- try looking at the proceedings of the Council of Four and the notes made by Paul Mantoux.


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Hallo Martin!


Your blog is an excellent source of detail.  I especially am impressed with your objective pursuit, as opposed to subjective views so often expressed by others.  As a new subscriber I shall look forward to every entry.

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