Federal Gov’t Used Media to Convince Public to Support War


Someone in the Federal  Gov't Used the Press to Stop this type of subversion prior to US entry into World War I

Someone in the Federal Gov't Used the Press to Stop this type of subversion prior to US entry into World War I


On this Date In History: The United States Government worked directly with the media to stir up support for war with German on this date in 1915. The newspaper to the left is from the New York World on Aug 15, 1915 when it reported the tactics Germany was using. Now, to be sure, the stories were true but the World got the story from the federal government who leaked it under the condition that the source not be revealed. I guess that pledge got broken at some point in time because I’m sitting here writing about it and you are reading about it. Presumably, the secret wasn’t revealed until well after the war was over.

The Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat on May 15, 1915 and most school history classes will point to that event as one that got Americans agitated. While it may have raised eyebrows, the American people remained largely isolationist and instead of real outrage, it was more like a collective yawn that was heard across the pond. But, with the sinking in the back of their minds, the American people got aroused when they heard from the World that Germans were planning on secretly buying all of America’s chlorine to prevent the US from selling it to Britain and France for use in poison gas. The Germans were going to secretly build munition factories in the US, take orders from the Allies and then not deliver and they intended to buy up so much incendiary powder that other companies would be unable to fill orders.

Coded and Deciphered Zimmerman Telegram

Coded and Deciphered Zimmerman Telegram

Pretty clever really. They were going to work within the American system to mess up the supply of their opponents. So, how did the Americans uncover this plot? They became the benefactors of a nitwit German spy.  Heinrich Albert was a commercial attache at the German Embassy. He kept meticulous records of all the German covert operations in the US. He carried his notes in a briefcase on a train and Secret Service Agent Frank Burke, who was assigned to tail Albert, grabbed the case and ran off the train. Albert quickly realized his mistake and saw Burke running away. He gave pursuit but failed when Burke jumped on a streetcar and convinced the motorman that he was being chased by a lunatic. The motorman responded by skipping the next stop, leaving Albert out of breath and out of luck.

Arthur Zimmerman

Arthur Zimmerman

It was the leaking of the information to the media that got the American public to begin to relinquish their isolationist stance. But, it wasn’t the until the Zimmerman telegram of 1917 that the US went to war when it was learned that Germany was trying to make a deal with Mexico to invade the US. I wonder if the information from the briefcase was leaked to the press in an attempt by lower level public officials to undermine President Wilson’s steadfast claim to neutrality. That practice continued with such incidents as the Pentagon Papers. Watergate and various leaks regarding the Iraq war…underlings who disagree with the boss running and telling the press. While some of these events may have created desirable results in your mind, it could be considered a dangerous practice to have loose cannons running around the government.

Weather Bottom Line:  Weekend looks pretty typical for this time of year, but not too bad. While humidity will be increasing, look for it to be reasonably comfortable with the mercury lurking in the upper 80’s and low 90’s.  Sunday will be the most likely day for 90.  Same for Monday but there will be a front sagging down. Rain chances will increase on Monday afternoon and then slowly crecendo as the week goes on because the actual front doesn’t get here until the middle of the week.


One Response

  1. New Blog for military history with URL: http://nikkotev.wordpess.co/ and name “War “Photoblog – II”
    Nikolay Kotev

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