Part 4 (5/29/45 - 5/30/45)

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.]


[First, a little background on Sec. of War Stimson's May 29 diary entry. On May 28, 1945, Acting Sec. of State Joseph Grew met with President Truman (Sec. of State Edward Stettinius was in San Francisco representing the U.S. at the conference that created the United Nations organization). Grew, the best expert on Japan among high level U.S. officials, offered Truman a plan to get Japan to surrender. Grew explained to Truman, "The greatest obstacle to unconditional surrender by the Japanese is their belief that this would entail the destruction or permanent removal of the Emperor and the institution of the Throne." Truman was scheduled to make a public address on May 31st. Grew proposed that Truman use that speech to tell Japan what Japan's surrender terms would be and why it was in Japan's best interests to surrender. Included in Grew's proposal was the following key sentence:

"This [the new Japanese government] may include a constitutional monarchy under the present dynasty if the peace-loving nations can be convinced of the genuine determination of such a government to follow policies of peace which will render impossible the future development of aggressive militarism in Japan."
Truman told Grew to discuss his proposal with Stimson, Sec. of the Navy James Forrestal, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King. A meeting was set up for May 29th. (Joseph Grew, "Turbulent Era" vol. 2, pg. 1428 - 1434). Stimson wrote about that meeting in his 5/29/45 diary entry.]

5/29/45 Diary Entry:

"...I had in Joe Grew the Acting Secretary of State, Jim Forrestal of the Navy, Marshall the Chief of Staff, and some assistants of each one of them. This meeting was called by Grew on the suggestion of the President and its purpose was to decide upon an announcement to the Japanese which would serve as a warning for them to surrender or else have something worse happen to them. It was an awkward meeting because there were people present in the presence of whom I could not discuss the real feature which would govern the whole situation, namely S-1 [not everyone present knew of the top secret atomic bomb project]. We had hesitated just before they came in whether we should go on with the meeting at all on account of that feature but decided to let Grew, who was the one who really had gotten it up, go ahead with it. He had brought with him the proposed statement of the Secretary of State to the Japanese which had been drawn up in the [State] Department. He read it and then called for our comment. I told him that I was inclined to agree with giving the Japanese a modification of the unconditional surrender formula and some hope to induce them to practically make an unconditional surrender without the use of those words [i.e., without calling it "unconditional surrender", a phrase that might delay Japan from surrendering]. I told him that I thought the timing was wrong and that this was not the time to do it [the atomic bomb was not yet ready to use as a response should Japan reject the warning to surrender]. After a discussion around the table I was backed up by Marshall and then by everybody else. [Special Counsel to the President Samuel] Rosenman was there, [Assistant Sec. of War John] McCloy, [Director of the Office of War Information] Elmer Davis, Forrestal's legal adviser Mathias Correa, and Eugene Dooman who is the Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of State [James] Dunn."

"After that meeting was over Marshall and McCloy and I stayed and discussed the situation of Japan and what we should do in regard to S-1 and the application of it."

[Altho not in the Stimson diary, I am including the notes from the above mentioned meeting of Stimson, Marshall, and McCloy here. They can be found at the College Park, MD branch of the National Archives, Record Group 107, Formerly Top Secret Correspondence of Sec. of War Stimson ("Safe File"), 7/40 - 9/45, S-1 Folder. The notes include General Marshall's views on how nuclear and chemical weapons might be used against Japan.]


Present: Secretary of War
         General Marshall
         Mr. McCloy

Subject: Objectives toward Japan and methods of concluding war with 
         minimum casualties.

The Secretary of War referred to the earlier meeting with the Acting Secretary of State [Grew] and Mr. Forrestal on the matter of the President's speech [scheduled for May 31] and the reference to Japan. He felt the decision to postpone action now [on the warning to surrender] was a sound one. This only postponed consideration of the matter for a time, however, for we should have to consider it again preparatory to the employment of S-1. The Secretary referred to the burning of Tokyo [by incendiary bombings on March 9 - 10 and May 23 - 26] and the possible ways and means of employing the larger [i.e., atomic] bombs. The Secretary referred to the letter from Dr. [Vannevar] Bush and Dr. [James] Conant on the matter of disclosing the nature of the process to other nations [the letter is described after this memorandum] as well as to Dr. Bush's memorandum on the same general subject. General Marshall took their letters and stated he would read them and give his views on their recommendations as soon as possible.

General Marshall said he thought these [atomic] weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave - telling the Japanese that we intended to destroy such centers. There would be no individual designations so that the Japs [sic] would not know exactly where we were to hit - a number [of possible targets] should be named and the hit should follow shortly after. Every effort should be made to keep our record of warning clear [altho no warning was given to Hiroshima before it was hit with the atomic bomb]. We must offset by such warning methods the opprobrium which might follow from an ill considered employment of such force.

The General then spoke of his stimulation of the new weapons and operations people to the development of new weapons and tactics to cope with the care and last ditch defense tactics of the suicidal Japanese. He sought to avoid the attrition we were now suffering from such fanatical but hopeless defense methods - it requires new tactics. He also spoke of gas and the possibility of using it in a limited degree, say on the outlying islands where operations were now going on or were about to take place. He spoke of the type of gas that might be employed. It did not need to be our newest and most potent - just drench them and sicken them so that the fight would be taken out of them - saturate an area, possibly with mustard, and just stand off. He said he had asked the operations people to find out what we could do quickly - where the dumps were and how much time and effort would be required to bring the gas to bear. There would be the matter of public opinion which we had to consider, but that was something which might also be dealt with. The character of the weapon was no less humane than phosporous and flame throwers and need not be used against dense populations or civilians - merely against these last pockets of resistance which had to be wiped out but had no other military significance.

The General stated that he was having these studies made and in due course would have some recommendations to make.

The Secretary stated that he was meeting with scientists and industrialists this week on S-1 [the Interim Committee meetings of May 31 and June 1] and that he would talk with the Chief of Staff [General Marshall] again after these meetings and the General repeated that he would shortly give the Secretary his views on the suggestions contained in the letter above referred to.

J.J. McC. [John J. McCloy]

[The "letter from Dr. Bush and Dr. Conant" referred to above is a letter and two memorandums written by Bush and Conant to Stimson on Sept. 30, 1944. Bush passed out copies of some or all of this material to Interim Committee members at their May 14, 1945 meeting. The letter summarized the purpose of the memorandums by stating:

"There is hope that an arms race on this [nuclear] basis can be prevented, and even that the future peace of the world may be furthered, by complete international scientific and technical interchange on this subject, backed up by an international commission acting under an association of nations and having the authority to inspect."

Bush-Conant Files, Record Group 227, Microfilm M1392, Roll 4, Folder 19, National Archives

5/30/45 Diary Entry:

"Today was the first day that I have succeeded in devoting myself almost wholly to S-1, the subject on which I had expected to devote the whole week. I read some papers all over again [most likely in preparation for the next day's Interim Committee meeting]. I then had in [Harvey] Bundy, [George] Harrison [assistants to Stimson], and General Groves for most of the morning, calling in General Marshall also for part of the time. We talked over the subject very thoroughly of how we should use this implement in respect to Japan. Groves gave me an account of his trip to [the uranium-235 purification plant in Oak Ridge] Tennessee with the five Congressmen and it seems to have been very successful. They have made themselves our friends in that matter." [Given the large expenditures of the secret Manhattan Project, some congressmen had to be told what was going on in order to prevent Congressional investigations of where the money was going.]

"I then went home to lunch and had a good nap afterwards. I then went back and had a long session with George Harrison who brought me a very important letter in regard to S-1 which had come in from one of the people who were employed on the place."

[My note: This was the letter from a Manhattan Project engineer named O.C. Brewster who pleaded, "With the threat of Germany removed we must stop this [atomic bomb] project." [Brewster feared] "the destruction of civilization... is a very real and, I submit, almost inevitable result." [Stimson was so moved by the letter that he forwarded it to Truman. Truman's reaction to the letter is not known.]

"Then in the evening Mabel [Stimson's wife] read to me this letter that had come in carefully and fully and also read over the two letters of Conant and Bush. [This probably refers to the Sept. 30, 1944 memos from Conant and Bush, since Stimson referred to them in his May 29, 1945 diary entry and he discussed them the next day at the Interim Committee meeting.] This occupied pretty nearly the whole evening."

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 5.

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