Part 3 (5/10/45 - 5/28/45)

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.]


[With the surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945, the U.S. focus turned toward defeating Japan and also toward the post-war period. Some felt Russian participation in the Pacific War might help end the war sooner. Others worried that Russian participation in the Pacific War might increase Russia's influence in the post-war world. Russia, who had a non-aggression pact with Japan, had agreed in Feb. 1945 to enter the Pacific War "two or three months after Germany has surrendered", on the condition that an agreement was reached between Russia and China over territorial matters (U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945", pg. 984).].

5/10/45 Diary Entry: [The Atomic Bomb and Russia]

"...I invited [U.S. Ambassador to Moscow W. Averell] Harriman to stay and lunch with McCloy, Bundy, and myself in my room [Stimson's assistants John McCloy and Harvey Bundy]. I wanted to get his views on the situation in Russia and the chances of getting a Russia that we could work with. It was rather a gloomy report that he gave us. He didn't think that there was any chance of getting the seeds of liberalism into Russia in the shape of liberalizing and implementing the new constitutions for the sixteen Soviet provinces or zones which Stalin has put forth but never implemented. Yet he thought that Russia would be afraid to throw down the Dumbarton Oaks plan [participation in the United Nations] or the associations with us altogether. He thinks that Russia is really afraid of our power or at least respects it and, although she is going to try to ride roughshod over her neighbors in Europe, he thought that she really was afraid of us. I talked over very confidentially our problem connected with S-1 in this matter."

"I had a short talk with [Army Chief of Staff General George] Marshall on rather deep matters - the coming program of strategy for the operations in the Pacific [war against Japan] where I wanted to find out whether or not we couldn't hold matters off from very heavy involvement in casualties until after we had tried out S-1. I found that probably we could get the trial [which was later known as the Trinity test of July 16th] before the locking of arms came and much bloodshed [in an invasion of mainland Japan]."

5/13/45 Diary Entry:

"...Jack McCloy blew in with a bagful of problems, mostly State Department problems, for we are rapidly getting under the load of matters which ought to be handled by that Department, but as most of them impinge on the War Department I am very glad to get a chance at them."

"The first was a message from Joe Grew enclosing a memorandum of problems on which he asked for my comment during the early part of the [upcoming] week in order that we could have another meeting with Ambassador Harriman before he returns to Moscow. The first list of questions were:

"Following this was a statement that the Start Department thought it desirable politically to obtain from Russia the following commitments in regard to the Far East prior to any implementation on our part of the Yalta agreement:

"These are very vital questions and I am very glad that the State Department has brought them up and given us a chance to be heard on them. The questions cut very deep and in my opinion are powerfully connected with our success with S-1. Certainly they indicate a good deal of hard thinking 'before the early part of this week' when they are to be discussed."

[The Under Sec. of State Joseph Grew memorandum referred to above is very similar to questions raised on May 12, 1945 by U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Averell Harriman (Harriman and Elie Abel, "Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, 1941-1946", pg. 461 - May 12 is the correct date, rather than the date in the Harriman/Abel book of "April 12"); see also Walter Millis, ed., "The Forrestal Diaries", pg. 56; and "Saturday, May 12: Conference with Joseph C. Grew, Averell Harriman, Charles Bohlen, William Phillips, James V. Forrestal on relations with Russia", Formerly Top Secret Correspondence of Sec. of War Stimson ("Safe File"), 7/40-9/45, Russia Folder, RG 107, National Archives. Sec. of the Navy James Forrestal had also raised similar questions on May 1st (Millis, pg. 52)].

5/14/45 Diary Entry:

"...at twelve o'clock Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Minister, came in. I had about forty-five minutes with him on general matters but especially S-1. He brought me messages of congratulation from the Prime Minister [Winston Churchill] and said that he would be very glad to convey to him anything that I wanted to tell him about S-1 in which he was deeply interested. I then outlined to him the progress which we have made and the timetable as it stood now, and told him my own feeling as to its bearing upon our present problems of an international character. After that we had lunch with Marshall and McCloy coming in to share it with us. There we had a talk in general about matters in Europe and particularly Germany and the complications which are being made by Russia's difficulties."

"I talked over with Marshall the list of questions which the State Department had fired at me and which I enumerated in my yesterday's diary and we both decided that they were rather impractical to discuss now with anyone. I had a talk with McCloy about them. I told him to look them over and see what he thought of them; if he thought there was anything serious to answer. I told him that my own opinion was that the time now and the method now to deal with Russia was to keep our mouths shut and let our actions speak for words. The Russians will understand them better than anything else. It is a case where we have got to regain the lead and perhaps do it in a pretty rough and realistic way. They have rather taken it away from us because we have talked too much and have been too lavish with our beneficences to them. I told him this was a place where we really held all the cards. I called it a royal straight flush and we mustn't be a fool about the way we play it. They can't get along without our help and industries and we have coming into action a weapon which will be unique [the atomic bomb]. Now the thing is not to get into unnecessary quarrels by talking too much and not to indicate any weakness by talking too much; let our actions speak for themselves."

5/15/45 Diary Entry: [The Importance of the Atomic Bomb to Relations With Russia]

"At 9:30 we went into our meeting of the Committee of Three, - Grew, Forrestal and myself being present with McCloy as recorder. Averell Harriman, the Ambassador to Russia, came with Grew; also William Phillips, formerly Under Secretary of State years ago. Forrestal brought Major Correa [Mathias Correa, Special Assistant to the Sec. of the Navy]. We had a pretty red not session first over the questions which Grew had propounded to us in relation to the Yalta Conference and our relations with Russia. They have been entered in the diary here so I will not repeat them [see the diary entry for 5/13/45]. I tried to point out the difficulties which existed and I thought it premature to ask those questions; at least we were not yet in a position to answer them. The trouble is that the President has now promised apparently to meet Stalin and Churchill on the first of July [at the Potsdam Conference, which would actually begin on July 16th] and at that time these questions will become burning and it may be necessary to have it out with Russia on her relations to Manchuria and Port Arthur and various other parts of North China, and also the relations of China to us. Over any such tangled wave of problems the S-1 secret would be dominant and yet we will not know until after that time probably, until after that meeting, whether this is a weapon in our hands or not [since the first atomic bomb test was not scheduled to occur until mid-July]. We think it will be shortly afterwards, but it seems a terrible thing to gamble with such big stakes in diplomacy without having your master card in your hand. The best we could do today was to persuade Harriman not to go back [to Russia] until we had had time to think over these things a little bit harder."

"Well when this meeting adjourned, I called in George Marshall, and he and McCloy and I talked out the proposition of the coming Asiatic campaign [to win the war against Japan]. That involves trouble. T.V. Soong [Chinese Prime Minister and also Minister of Foreign Affairs] has turned up here and has been to the White House to try to persuade the President that the easiest way for America to win the war over Japan is to fight it out in China on the mainland of Asia - the very thing that I am resolved that we shall not do unless it is over my dead body; and there is also a slight difference of opinion in the Chiefs of Staff between the Navy and the Army [the Navy favored using blockade and bombing of Japan as the primary strategy to win the war, whereas the Army favored an invasion of the Japanese mainland as the primary strategy for victory]. Marshall [the Army Chief of Staff] has got the straightforward view and I think he is right, and he feels that we must go ahead [with plans for the invasion of the Japanese mainland]. Fortunately the actual invasion will not take place until after my secret is out [i.e., the atomic bomb would be ready before it was time for the invasion]. The Japanese campaign involves therefore two great uncertainties; first, whether Russia will come in though we think that will be all right; and second, when and how S-1 will resolve itself. We three argued the whole thing over and over for at least an hour."

5/16/45 Diary Entry:

"...I went over to the White House and was received as usual very promptly and had about twenty to thirty minutes with the President. He was as usual friendly and appreciative. I asked him about my going away, telling him that I was doing so at the command of the doctors for a short rest [the 77 year old Stimson was suffering from heart problems and fatigue]. He was very encouraging and told me to go without any delay whatever and come back fit for the big problems that were ahead. I annex hereto a memorandum which I drew up after my conference with him at his request, going over the matters that I discussed with him."

[Below are excerpts from Stimson's 5/16/45 memorandum to President Truman. Point 3 refers to the concern Stimson expressed in his 5/15 diary entry over waiting for the atomic bomb test before making agreements with Allies:]

"Dear Mr. President:

Here is a skeleton outline of the views which I presented to you this morning:


The campaign against Japan

1. There should be no attempt to engage the masses of the Japanese Army in China by our own ground forces. It is neither the best strategic way to beat Japan nor in my opinion would it be acceptable to the American people, and it would be a hard strain upon the morale of our Army which has fought so well thus far. If those Jap [sic] troops have to be beaten in that location, China should do it.

2. The plans for the campaign are now being worked out by the Joint Chiefs of Staff [the U.S. military heads]. I believe they will be adequate for the defeat of Japan without such a sacrifice of American lives as would be involved in such an engagement in China.

3. The work of redeploying our forces from Europe to the Pacific will necessarily take so long that there will be more time for your necessary diplomacy with the other large allies than some of our hasty friends realize [such as British Prime Minister Churchill, who wanted to meet with the Russian leaders as soon as possible, which would be before the atomic bomb was tested]. Therefore I believe that good and not harm would be done by the policy towards your coming meeting which you mentioned to me [the Potsdam Conference]. We shall probably hold more cards in our hands later than now.

4. For reasons I mentioned to you, I am anxious to hold our Air Force, so far as possible, to the 'precision' bombing which it has done so well in Europe. I am told that it is possible and adequate. The reputation of the United States for fair play and humanitarianism is the world's biggest asset for peace in the coming decades. I believe the same rule of sparing the civilian population should be applied as far as possible to the use of any new weapons."

[Stimson went on to discuss postwar "Rehabilitation in Europe". At the end of this portion of his 5/16/45 memorandum he noted:]

"All of this is a tough problem requiring coordination between the Anglo-American allies and Russia. Russia will occupy most of the good food lands of central Europe while we have the industrial portions. We must find some way of persuading Russia to play ball."

[Stimson finally followed his doctors' orders to take some time off from work. On the afternoon of May 17th, he left for Highhold, his farm in Long Island, New York. He did not return to Washington until May 28th, but remained in contact with work matters via phone calls and a visit from his assistant, John McCloy. On May 27th, he phoned President Truman:]

5/18-27/45 Diary Entry:

"On Sunday I called up the President from Highhold. ...I told him that I was planning to confine my work during the following week to S-1 and was trying to arrange a program of matters which I would talk with him about some time during the week. He said he would be glad to see me on that matter."

5/28/45 Diary Entry:

"On Monday [5/28/45] we flew back to Washington, reaching there at eleven A.M. For some reason or other I felt used up that day and confined myself to conferences with Bundy, Harrison and Marshall over matters relating to S-1. I have made up my mind to make that subject my primary occupation for these next few months, relieving myself so far as possible from all routine matters in the Department [of War]."

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 4.

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