Part 2 (4/23/45 - 5/9/45)

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.

For information about the prior Henry Stimson diary and papers, click Stimson Diary and Papers, Part 1.

[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.]


[I'd like to start this section with some background from Harry Truman. In his Memoirs, President Truman wrote:]

[Truman went on to say:]

[For evidence that Truman may have known something about the atomic bomb project before 4/12/45, see David McCullough, "Truman", pg. 289-290 and Robert Ferrell, "Harry S. Truman: A Life", pg. 172 & 418 (note 37).].

[Truman later wrote of his reaction to Stimson's 4/25/45 discussion of the atomic bomb:]

[Stimson's 4/23/45 diary entry spoke of a meeting that day with Truman that illustrates how future foreign relations occupied much of Stimson's thinking at this time.]

4/23/45 Diary Entry:

"...I was plunged into one of the most difficult situations I have ever had since I have been here.

"[Sec. of State Edward] Stettinius had gotten into a jam with Molotov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, who arrived yesterday. The subject is Poland. The Russians had apparently flatly refused to permit the agreement at Yalta [the Feb. 1945 conference between Great Britain, Russia, and the U.S.] to be carried out to select a mixed delegation from Poland and they are insisting that the Lublin [Russian dominated] people shall be recognized as the government of Poland. ...we are at loggerheads with Russia on an issue which in my opinion is very dangerous and one which she is not likely to yield on in substance. Furthermore, although at Yalta she apparently agreed to a free and independent ballot for the ultimate choice of representatives of Poland, yet I know very well from my experience with other nations that there are no nations in the world except the U.S. & the U.K. which have a real idea of what an independent free ballot is. I learned that in Nicaragua and in South America, and I was very much alarmed for fear that we were rushing into a situation where we would find ourselves breaking our relations with Russia on the most important and difficult question which we and Russia have got between us.

"...I...told the President that I was very much troubled by it and I pointed out all these difficulties that I have just spoken of. I said that in my opinion we ought to be very careful and see whether we couldn't get ironed out on the situation without getting into a headon collision. He was evidently disappointed at my caution and advice...". "And nobody backed me up until it came round to Marshall who wasn't called until towards the end. Then to my relief a brave man and a wise man spoke; and he said that he, like me, was troubled and urged caution.

"You can see that the State Department has got itself into a mess. Contrary to what I thought was the wise course, they have not settled the problems that lie between the United States and Russia and Great Britain and France, the main powers, by wise negotiations before this public meeting [the United Nations first meeting, 4/25/45] in San Francisco, but they have gone ahead and called this great public meeting of all the United Nations, and they have got public opinion all churned up over it and now they feel compelled to bull the thing through." "...it was a very embarrassing meeting and finally the President said goodbye to [Sec. of the Navy James] Forrestal and myself and Marshall and [Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest] King and said he was going to go on and talk the thing over and try to make up his mind with the others. I have very grave anxiety as a result since then as to what will happen."

"...I had a conference with General [Leslie] Groves [head of the Manhattan Project] and George Harrison [an assistant to Stimson] in regard to my coming meeting with the President over S-1. They have drawn up a very interesting summary of the whole situation and I read that and talked with them about it."

4/24/45 Diary Entry:

"I wrote a letter to the President suggesting a talk on S-1 and during the rest of the day I read over again carefully General Groves' analysis and report on S-1, and late in the afternoon with Harvey Bundy [an assistant to Stimson] I wrote a memorandum giving an analytical picture of what the prospects of S-1 are and the problems which it presents to this country."

[Stimson's letter to President Truman, which Truman received on 4/24/45]:

"Dear Mr. President,

I think it is very important that I should have a talk with you as soon as possible on a highly secret matter. I mentioned it to you shortly after you took office but have not urged it since on account of the pressure you have been under. It, however, has such a bearing on our present foreign relations and has such an important effect upon all my thinking in this field that I think you ought to know about it without much further delay." (Truman, "Memoirs", Vol. 1, pg. 85).

4/25/45 Diary Entry:

"I spent the first part of the morning going over with Harrison and Bundy the brief memorandum on S-1 which I had drafted with Bunder yesterday. I also showed it to [Army Chief of Staff General George] Marshall and to Groves who came in. Finally when we got it approved by all, I set it aside and called it a job."

[To see the above mentioned memorandum that Stimson gave to President Truman that day, click Stimson's 4/25/45 memorandum.]

"At twelve o'clock noon I went over for my conference with the President at the White House over S-1. General Groves was to meet me there, but he had to take a secret road around because if the newspaper men, who are now gathered in great numbers every morning in the President's anteroom, should see us both together there they would be sure to guess what I was going to see the President about. So Colonel [Frank] McCarthy, the Secretary of the General Staff, arranged to have General Groves conducted around through underground passages to a room near the President and there wait till I had got far on in my talk with the President. The talk worked very well indeed. First of all I showed the President the paper that I had drawn yesterday and this morning. It is on the political aspects of the S-1 performance and the problems which are involved with the public. He read it carefully and was very much interested in it. I then produced General Groves and his account of the manufacturing operation, and Groves and I and this report explained the matter to the President. The President took one copy and we took the other and we went over it and answered his questions and told him all about the process and about the problems that are coming up and in fact I think very much interested him. He was very nice about it. He remembered the time that I refused to let him to into this project when he was chairman of the Truman Committee [a Senate committee which investigated military spending] and was investigating it, and he said that he understood now perfectly why it was inadvisable for me to have taken any other course than I had taken."

"After three-quarters of an hour with the President, I left the White House..."

"...I had a talk with Bundy and Harrison over my interview this morning and they both seemed to think a great deal had been accomplished. I think so too."

5/1/45 Diary Entry: [Interim Committee proposal Oked by Truman]

"At ten o'clock Harvey Bundy and George Harrison brought in to me a paper which Harrison had drawn in reference to S-1 and in reference to the appointment of a commettee to outline a program of action now that we are getting close to the time when something is likely to happen which will require publicity. Harrison had drawn a very good paper. I approved it and I also approved the committee which he proposed that I should propose to the President to cover that." [Vannevar Bush and James Conant had been urging Stimson and his staff to create a committee to study the problems that could result from the creation of the atomic bomb].

"I took Harrison's paper to Marshall because I wanted to have him approve it, he being one of the very few men that know about S-1, and he did approve it."

[Harrison's 5/1/45 paper suggested "setting up a committee of particular qualifications for recommending action to the executive and legislative branches of the government when secrecy is no longer fully required." The paper emphasized, "Most importantly as soon as possible after use [of the atomic bomb] some assurance must be given of the steps to be taken to provide the essential controls over post war use and development, both at home and abroad." Regarding the atomic bomb, Harrison added, "If misused it may lead to the complete destruction of civilization." He summarized his recommendation with, "I suggest that a committee of six or seven be set up at once to study and report on the whole problem of temporary war controls and publicity, and to survey and make recommendation on post war research, development and controls, and the legislation necessary to effectuate them (Manhattan Engineering District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder # 69, RG 77, National Archives).]

5/2/45 Diary Entry:

"...my meeting with the President at 11:30 which was on the subject of S-1. I was delayed for about half an hour from getting in to the President by his earlier callers but when I got in we had a very pleasant and satisfactory conference. He told me not to hurry but to take my time as the delay had been his fault. So I had quite a satisfactory talk with him. The following are notes made by me after this meeting with the President:

5/3/45 Diary Entry:

"I had several conferences during the day with George Harrison and Bundy over S-1 and I called up the President to suggest that Jimmy Byrnes would be a good man to put in the position [as the President's representative] on the committee for S-1 that I had told the President about when I saw him yesterday, and late in the afternoon the President called me up himself and said that he had heard of my suggestion and it was fine. He had already called Byrnes up down in South Carolina by telephone and Byrnes had accepted. So my [Interim] committee is now complete. Bundy and Harrison were tickled to death with this Byrnes suggestion and now we can start at work on preparing for the many things that must be planned for S-1."

"At one o'clock I had [Supreme Court] Justice [Felix] Frankfurter as my guest. He had asked for the appointment and said it was very important and, when he finally revealed it, by Jingo it was a talk about S-1 which he had learned of from a Danish scientist whom he came in contact with in London and who is here in America now. [Niels Bohr. According to Frankfurter, he learned of the atomic bomb project from "some distinguished American scientists" rather than from Bohr (Richard Rhodes, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", pg. 526)]. I found that Frankfurter had talked over the question of S-1 with the President [Roosevelt] and knew quite a good deal about it. He was worried on exactly the same subject that I have been at work on for the past two or three days and on which I have finally appointed this [Interim] Committee. He was much relieved to find how well we had the affair in hand."

5/4/45 Diary Entry:

"In re S-1. After Cabinet [meeting] I asked the President for the details for the J. F. Byrnes acceptance of membership on my [Interim] committee and he said he accepted; that he was coming here tomorrow, May 5th, would be here over Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday [i.e., thru May 9th]. I told the President that we were at work on the agenda so as to get the thing started as soon as Byrnes was available."

[The invitations to become members of the Interim Committee were sent by Stimson on 5/4/45. Those invited were James Byrnes (as President Truman's representative; he would soon become Sec. of State), Vannevar Bush (Director, Office of Scientific Research and Development), Karl Compton (Chief, Office of Field Service, Office of Scientific Research and Development ), James Conant (Chairman, National Defense Research Committee), William Clayton (Assistant Sec. of State), and Ralph Bard (Under Sec. of the Navy). Stimson was chairman of the committee, and George Harrison was his alternate. All who were invited to become members accepted. As to the Interim Committee's function, the invitations read:]

5/8/45 Diary Entry:

"At about half past three Justice Byrnes came in and for two hours I talked with him first alone and then bringing in General Groves, Bundy, and Harrison. I first unfolded to him the story of S-1 [of which Byrnes already had knowledge] and then we all discussed the functions of the proposed Interim Committee. During the meeting it became very evident what a tremendous help Byrnes would be as a member of the Committee."

[Byrnes' influence over the Interim Committee has often been noted by those who have studied the Committee. The explanation usually given for Byrnes' influence has been that he was the President's representative. Another possible reason, altho I have found no corroboration for it, can be found in Sec. of the Navy James Forrestal's diary entry for 5/8/45: "...Stimson told [Acting Sec. of State Joseph] Grew and myself that he was forming a committee on manhattan to be headed by Jimmy Byrnes..." [my underlining] (Walter Millis, ed. "The Forrestal Diaries", pg. 54). Stimson was chairman of the Interim Committee.]

5/9/45 Diary Entry: [The first Interim Committee meeting]

"At ten minutes to ten my first conference of the Interim Committee which I am appointing in S-1 got under way. Everybody was present except Dr. Conant, viz: Byrnes, Bush, Compton, Bard, Clayton, Groves, Bundy, and Harrison and myself. Several of the members did not know the basic facts in the matter and I explained them to them, and we had a talk over the whole subject until nearly eleven when Harrison and Groves took them off into another room to go further into details."

[In the Interim Committee notes for the 5/9/45 meeting, the topics Stimson told the Committee they should address are almost identical to those listed in his invitations to join the Committee. The 5/9/45 meeting notes state:]

[No mention was made in the meeting notes of any role for the Committee in recommending whether or not the atomic bomb should be used, nor was the Committee given essential military and diplomatic information that would have enabled it to make an informed recommendation on whether the atomic bomb should be used.]

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 3.

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