8 1. HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
new networks and methods of secret communication. In the end, the cryp-
tographic efforts of the South were not as advanced and effective as those
of the North. Despite the variety of codes and ciphers applied during the
Civil War, none affected the outcome of the war as much as telegraphy did.
Telegraphy and Morse code enabled Grant to use broad strategies on many
fronts, contributing to Lee’s surrender in 1865.
1.2. Cryptography During the Two World Wars
1.2.1. World War I
Cryptography has played an important role in the outcome of wars. The
inadequacy of the cryptographic techniques at the beginning of World War
I probably contributed to the loss of early potential Allied victories. Early
attempts by the Russians, who far outnumbered the Germans, failed because
the Russians sent messages in unprotected text that were picked up by
German eavesdroppers, who then foiled the attacks.
The Allies were no better at intelligence gathering. Even though they
intercepted a radio message from the German warship, Goben, in 1914 and
deciphered the message, it was too late to prevent the shelling of Russian
ports which ultimately caused Turkey to ally with the Germans. In general,
decrypted messages were not generally trusted.
It was the hard work of the military and the intelligence gathering of the
Allies that initially brought the plot of Zimmerman to the attention of the
U.S. During the First World War, British naval intelligence began inter-
cepting German radio messages. They amassed a group of scholars whose
job was to decipher these German communications. With the help of the Al-
lied forces and some good luck, they were able to come across German code
books. Armed with their knowledge and hard work, the British cryptogra-
phers of what became known as Room 40 decoded a message, called the
Zimmerman telegram, from the German Foreign Minister Zimmerman.
It described German plans first sent to the German ambassador in the
U.S. and then to the German ambassador in Mexico City. The message
indicated that Germany was about to engage in submarine warfare against
neutral shipping. Zimmerman, fearing that the U.S. would join England,
proposed an alliance with Mexico. If the U.S. and Germany were to go to war
with each other, Mexico would join forces with Germany, who would support
Mexico regaining the land it lost to America in the Mexican-American War
of 1846 to 1848. Room 40 analysts intercepted the telegram, deciphered it,
and kept it secret for a while. It was then released to the Associated Press.
The expos´ e shocked the U.S. into joining the war as an ally of the British.
1.2.2. Native Americans and Code Talkers in World War I and II
A group of Choctaw Indians were coincidentally assigned to the same
battalion early in World War I, at a time when the Germans were wiretap-