Part 1 (Dec. 31, 1944 - April 11, 1945)

The following are excerpts from Sec. of War Henry Stimson's diary and papers that have relevance to the atomic bombing of Japan. This is by no means a complete collection of such references from Stimson's diary and papers. These excerpts are published here with the authorization of the Yale University Library. The diary and papers can be found in the Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn. The diary and papers can also be found in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC and in the Center For Research Libraries, Chicago, IL.

The Stimson diary and papers are on microfilm. Due to the large number of microfilm reels, before attempting to look through the Stimson diary and papers, I would recommend consulting the Stimson diary/papers finding guide booklet. This booklet gives a brief description of what is on each microfilm reel. When requesting microfilm reels, be sure to indicate whether you want the diary or the papers, since there is a set of microfilm reels for each. For example, reel 9 of the diary contains entirely different material and dates from reel 9 of the papers.

The Stimson diary excerpts on this web site come from reel 9 of the diary.

The Stimson papers excerpts on this web site come from reels 113 and 128 of the papers.

[I have included some explanatory and contextual comments for the excerpts. My writing is in brackets and italics, as I have done with this paragraph.]

[A note of introduction]:

[From 5/1/43 till his retirement on 9/21/45, Sec. of War Henry L. Stimson was directly responsible to the President for the Manhattan Project (Henry Stimson, McGeorge Bundy, "On Active Service in Peace and War", pg. 612-613). Stimson's code word for the Manhattan Project/atomic bomb project, which he often used in his diary, was S-1].

12/31/44 Diary Entry:

[Stimson met with President Franklin Roosevelt. This was a resumption of their 12/30/44 meeting, which had included General Leslie Groves (commanding general of the Manhattan Project). At the 12/30/44 meeting Stimson expressed objections to FDR about the British revealing information on nuclear research to the French. Groves presented an atomic bomb status report to FDR, stating that the first plutonium atomic bomb was anticipated to be ready in late July and the first uranium U-235 atomic bomb was expected around 8/1/45 (U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945", pg. 383-384). At the 12/31/44 meeting, items discussed included the Yalta Conference, at which Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin would meet in February 1945. This led to a discussion of some non-nuclear differences between the U.S. and Russia. This led to the subject of the atomic bomb's connection to U.S./Russian relations]:

"While we were on the question of troubles with Russia, I took occasion to tell him [President Roosevelt] of Deane's [Major General John R. Deane, Commanding General, U.S. Military Mission to the Soviet Union] warning to us in the Department [of War] that we would not gain anything at the present time by further easy concessions to Russia and recommending that we should be more vigorous on insisting upon a quid pro quo [i.e., get something in return for something]. And in this connection I told him of my thoughts as to the future of S-1 in connection with Russia; that I knew they were spying on our work but that they had not yet gotten any real knowledge of it and that, while I was troubled about the possible effect of keeping from them even now that work, I believed that it was essential not to take them into our confidence until we were sure to get a real quid pro quo from our frankness. I said I had no illusions as to the possibility of keeping permanently such a secret but that I did not think it was yet time to share it with Russia. He said he thought he agreed with me."

1/3/45 Diary Entry:

[Due to the effect Stimson believed the atomic bomb would have on U.S. relations with other nations, Stimson felt Sec. of State Edward Stettinius should be informed of the Manhattan Project]:

"...I had a talk with Stettinius, [Special Assistant to the Sec. of War Harvey] Bundy being present, on the subject of S-1. This was done pursuant to my talk with the President last Saturday in which I told him that I wanted to have permission to take Stettinius into the secret because we are face to face with problems that will come up in regard to it and which will also involve other nations. In fact that already is upon us. We had a very good talk. With Bundy's help I outlined what the project was and how intensely important it was and the various elements of it, and I think that Stettinius was very much impressed." [See also, Edward Stettinius, "Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference", pg. 33-34.]

2/13/45 Diary Entry [ Vannevar Bush recommends sharing nuclear information with other nations]:

"I talked with Harvey Bundy about ...S-1 and its possible connection with the Russians. [Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development Vannevar] Bush is so delighted at the news which came this morning of the agreement at Yalta that he is anxious to be very chivalrous to the Russians on this subject, but I am still inclined to tread softly and to hold off conferences on the subject until we have some much more tangible 'fruits of repentance' from the Russians as a quid pro quo for such a communication to them."

[The Yalta conference had just ended. This meeting between the leaders of the U.S., Great Britain, and Russia produced agreements which seemed to point to a positive post-war collaboration between the three nations and which "delighted" Bush. The first meeting of the United Nations was scheduled for 4/25/45. A copy of the Yalta conference agreements can be found in U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945", pg. 968+.]

2/15/45 Diary Entry:

"Dr. Vannevar Bush came in to talk with me about postwar scientific problems. He is proposing a general pooling among the nations of all scientific research and an interchange of everything that is susceptible of military use. He hopes in this way to prevent secret plans for secret weapons such as Germany has been getting her scientists to do during times of peace. After a talk with him I thought that such a plan was along the right lines but that it would be inadvisable to put it into full force yet until we had gotten all we could in Russia in the way of liberalization in exchange for S-1. After the discussion Bush and I thought that perhaps it would be good to make a start with one form of scientific research and he suggested bacteriological research as probably the most practical one to try."

[Bush showed Stimson a letter at their 2/15/45 meeting which Bush later sent to President Roosevelt. The letter looked ahead to the possible international control of nuclear weapons by the United Nations. Bush recommended in his letter:

"The Charter of the United Nations, to be drafted at San Francisco in April, should provide for an International Scientific Section...

"It should recommend means for policing the scientific activities of aggressor nations to ensure that they do not, in secret, provide for a new aggression by unusual methods. It should provide for full interchange between peace-loving nations on all scientific subjects which have evident military applications, to the end that no nation shall be caused to fear the secret scientific activities of another...

"It [the U.N. International Scientific Section] should stand ready to aid should the time come when the United Nations organization may be entrusted with various aspects of the control of excessively powerful weapons of the future...". (Record Group 227, Bush-Conant File, Microfilm Roll 5, Folder 37, "Draft of Feb. 15, 1945", National Archives).]

[After the meeting with Stimson, Bush wrote a letter to James Conant in which he made a telling comment about the 77 year old Secretary of War: "He is a very wise man and I only wish that he had more of the vigor of youth when he is so badly needed." Record Group 227, Bush-Conant File, Microfilm Roll 5, Folder 37, "February 15, 1945 Memorandum for Dr. Conant", National Archives).]

[The following background information for the next diary entry, 3/5/45, can be found in the official history of the Atomic Energy Commission:

"Bush and Conant [James Conant, chairman of the National Defense Research Committee], impatient, cornered [Harvey] Bundy on Saturday, March 3. Many matters [pertaining to the atomic bomb] demanded attention, they said: public statements, draft legislation, international control, the postwar technical program. Unless something were done, confusion would fill the vacuum when the bomb became public knowledge."

"Bundy was impressed. On Monday afternoon [3/5/45], he spent two hours laying before Stimson the whole sweep of impending issues. From domestic regulation to international control, the story captured Stimson's imagination." (Richard Hewlett, Oscar Anderson, "The New World", pg. 338-339).]

3/5/45 Diary Entry:

"...I called in Harvey Bundy who had been anxious to see me as to S-1 and we had a most thorough and searching talk about certain phases of it which we hadn't gone into yet together before. He had done a very good job in reading about them and in preparing his thoughts on the subject. We are up against some very big decisions. The time is approaching when we can no longer avoid them and when events may force us into the public on the subject. Our thoughts went right down to the bottom facts of human nature, morals and government, and it is by far the most searching and important thing that I have had to do since I have been here in the office of Secretary of War because it touches matters which are deeper even than the principles of present government. After it was over I went in and caught [Army Chief of Staff General George] Marshall just as he was going home and gave him a little talking to on the subject. He is one of the very few men who know about it and I wanted to get him thinking on this postwar set of problems in regard to this matter which are the ones that I was talking with Harvey [Bundy] about."

3/8/45 Diary Entry:

"I returned to the Department [of War] in time to get there at a quarter before three and attend a meeting of the Combined Policy Committee of S-1 [representatives of the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada who helped coordinate and advise those three nations on Manhattan Project decisions]. Lord Halifax, Field Marshal Wilson, Sir James Chadwick, Dr. Mackenzie of Canada, Dr. Jim Conant of Harvard, and General Leslie Groves were there besides Harvey Bundy and Dr. Webster, who are the secretaries; and Dr. Rickett of the British Embassy who is coming in to take the place of Webster temporarily. We were in session for two hours and transacted a good deal of business. In fact this matter [the atomic bomb] now is taking up a good deal of my time and even then I am not doing it justice. It is approaching its ripening time and matters are getting very very interesting and serious."

3/15/45 Diary Entry:

"...I had a talk with George Harrison and Harvey Bundy [Stimson's assistants]. Harrison had just come back from his long illness and thinks that he will be able to go on with the work in regard to S-1, particularly in laying out a plan of operations there, and we discussed that.

"I spent part of the morning in getting ready for an interview with the President on this subject of S-1. I had asked Miss Tully [President Roosevelt's personal secretary] to get the date fixed for my talk with him this week which the President had suggested last Saturday that he would have with me. She proposed tomorrow, Friday, or Saturday and I said either one would do. But then at the last minute after half past twelve I got a telephone message from the White House and she told me that the President had suggested that I come over to lunch today [Thursday]. That upset my schedule a little and made me hustle like fury to get ready on the S-1 matter before I went over; but I finally did so and got the papers all ready. When I got there I had to wait half an hour for him because he is lunching nowadays in the main building of the White House and he often gets detained in the Executive Office with tardy appointments. But we sat down at about ten minutes of two.

"First I took up with him a memorandum which he sent to me from Jimmy Dunn [an error; actually it was from James Byrnes, then the director of the Office of War Mobilization] who had been alarmed at the rumors of extravagance in the Manhattan project. Jimmy suggested that it might become disastrous and he suggested that we get a body of 'outside' scientists to pass upon the project because rumors are going around that Vannevar Bush and Jim Conant have sold the President a lemon on the subject and ought to be checked up on. It was rather a jittery and nervous memorandum and rather silly, and I was prepared for it and I gave the President a list of the scientists who were actually engaged on it to show the very high standing of them and it comprised four Nobel Prize men, and also how practically every physicist of standing was engaged with us in the project. Then I outlined to him the future of it and when it was likely to come off and told him how important it was to get ready. I went over with him the two schools of thought that exist in respect to the future control after the war of this project in case it is successful, one of them being the secret close-in attempted control of the project by those who control it now, and the other being the international control based upon freedom both of science and of access. I told him that those things must be settled before the first projectile is used and that he must be ready with a statement to come out to the people on it just as soon as that is done. He agreed to that. I told him how I had settled [House Subcommittee on Military Appropriations member Congressman Albert] Engel's rebellion a few weeks ago when he was threatening to make a speech on the subject in the House and I had invited him down to the office and showed him some of the cost figures and tamed him down. Then I told him that I was proposing to lay the project for the same method of treatment before Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, when it comes time for the next big appropriation which will be probably in April. I told him that I thought we would probably propose to send four men of the House through the establishment, namely outside of the buildings, and let them see the construction and generally let them be able to say that they have been through it. On the whole the talk I had with the President was successful."

[That was the last time Stimson discussed the atomic bomb with President Roosevelt, who died on 4/12/45.]

[Since Stimson considered the atomic bomb an important factor in U.S. relations with Russia, I've included excerpts from diary entries on 4/2/45 and 4/3/45 to give some of Stimson's thoughts about Russia at that time.]

4/2/45 Diary Entry:

"I had a very important conference with [Sec. of State Edward] Stettinius and [Sec. of the Navy James] Forrestal. I had called it to talk over with Stettinius the trustee question but as soon as he came in he asked to bring up some emergency news that he wanted to consult us about. The principal part of this was the increasing strain of the relations between us and Russia which, as he told us, had resulted in a recent pretty sharp message from the President to Stalin. A good many of these incidents have passed through my hands and I knew about them - at least certain phases of them..."

[The above message to Stalin expressed the President's concern that Russia was not upholding agreements made at the Feb. 1945 Yalta Conference, particularly those involving the formation of the Polish government (Edward Stettinius, "Roosevelt and the Russians: the Yalta Conference", pg. 313-314)].

[In regard to the first meeting of the United Nations, scheduled for 4/25/45, Stimson asserted to himself in the 4/2/45 entry]:

"...we simply cannot allow a rift to come between the two nations [the U.S. and Russia] without endangerous [sic] the entire peace of the world."

"I told Stettinius that in retrospect Russia had been very good to us on the large issues. She had kept her word and carried out her engagements. We must remember that she has not learned the amenities of diplomatic intercourse and we must expect bad language from her."

4/3/45 Diary Entry:

"There has been growing quite a strain of irritating feeling between our government and the Russians and it seems to me that it is a time for me to use all the restraint I can on these other people who have been apparently getting a little more irritated. I have myself been in the various crises enough to feel the importance of firm dealing with the Russians but, as Marshall agrees, what we want is to state our facts with perfectly cold-blooded firmness and not show any temper."

4/6/45 - 4/11/45 Diary Entry:

[Stimson had visited the plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where uranium-235 was being separated from uranium for atomic bombs. U-235 is a fissionable material that can be made to chain react, causing a nuclear explosion.]

"I returned from my trip to Tennessee cheered up and braced up by the change of work and scene. I was there confronted with the largest and most extraordinary scientific experiment in history and was the first outsider to pierce the secrecy of its barricades and to have explained to me the tremendous development which has been going on not only in scientific experiment but in the creation of an orderly and well governed city, in size the fifth largest in the State of Tennessee. General Groves who went with me is the man who has done the job and a marvelous job it is. It has this unique peculiarity: that, although every prophesy thus far has been fulfilled by the development and we can see that success is 99% assured, yet only by the first actual war trial of the weapon can the actual certainty be fixed."

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 2.

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