- Doug Long
In 1945 Ralph Bard was Under Sec. of the Navy. He was also a member of the Interim Committee, a small, secret government advisory group on the atomic bomb and nuclear energy. The Interim Committee's purpose was "to study and report on the whole problem of temporary war controls and later publicity, and to survey and make recommendations on the post war research, development and controls, as well as legislation necessary to effectuate them." (Henry Stimson letter to Vannevar Bush, 5/4/45, Bush-Conant Files, RG 227, microfilm publication M1392, roll 4, folder 19, National Archives, Washington, DC). (It should be noted that the Interim Committee was not President Truman's only source of advice on the atomic bomb).
On June 1, 1945, the Interim Committee recommended to President Truman "that the [atomic] bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible; that it should be used on a war plant surrounded by workers' homes; and that it be used without prior warning." (Notes of the Interim Committee Meeting, Friday 1 June 1945, Correspondence ("Top Secret") of the Manhattan Engineering District, 1942-1946, RG 77, microfilm publication M1109, file 3, National Archives, Washington, DC). The Interim Committee reaffirmed this recommendation at their 6/21/45 meeting.
But Bard continued to think about whether there was a better way to win the war against Japan. And on June 27, 1945, he wrote a memo for Sec. of War Henry Stimson that contained the results of his thinking. Stimson received the memo the following day. Bard may have also discussed this memo with President Truman in early July (Alice Kimball Smith, A Peril and a Hope, pg. 52-53), altho 15 years later, Bard did not recall this meeting with Truman (War Was Really Won Before We Used A-bomb, U.S. News & World Report, 8/15/60, pg. 73).
For the rest of his life, Bard insisted that this approach would have been better than using atomic bombs on the people of Japan.
The following is the complete text of Bard's 6/27/45 memo. A few notes of explanation: "S-1 bomb" means atomic bomb. The "three-power conference" refers to the Potsdam Conference between the leaders of the Great Britain, Russia, and the U.S., scheduled to begin on 7/16/45. "Russia's position" refers to the likelihood of Russia soon declaring war on Japan. "Assurances... with regard to the Emperor" referred to telling Japan that they could keep their Emperor, whom they believed to be a god.
Ever since I have been in touch with this program I have had a feeling that before the bomb is actually used against Japan that Japan should have some preliminary warning for say two or three days in advance of use. The position of the United States as a great humanitarian nation and the fair play attitude of our people generally is responsible in the main for this feeling.
During recent weeks I have also had the feeling very definitely that the Japanese government may be searching for some opportunity which they could use as a medium of surrender. Following the three-power conference emissaries from this country could contact representatives from Japan somewhere on the China Coast and make representations with regard to Russia's position and at the same time give them some information regarding the proposed use of atomic power, together with whatever assurances the President might care to make with regard to the Emperor of Japan and the treatment of the Japanese nation following unconditional surrender. It seems quite possible to me that this presents the opportunity which the Japanese are looking for.
I don't see that we have anything in particular to lose in following such a program. The stakes are so tremendous that it is my opinion very real consideration should be given to some plan of this kind. I do not believe under present circumstances existing that there is anyone in this country whose evaluation of the chances of the success of such a program is worth a great deal. The only way to find out is to try it out.
27 June 1945
(MEMORANDUM ON THE USE OF S-1 BOMB, Harrison-Bundy Files, RG 77, microfilm publication M1108, folder 77, National Archives, Washington, DC).