Part 7

July 4 thru July 20, 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.

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.]


July 4, 1945 Diary Entry:

"This was a pretty strenuous day without a single firecracker to remind anyone that some people might be having a holiday. All the intervals between my work were spent in talking with [Stimson's aide Colonel William] Kyle and others over the plans for the trip [to the Potsdam Conference near Berlin in Germany]. But there were very few such intervals. We started out as soon as I arrived at the Department [of War] with a meeting of the Combined Policy Committee of S-1 [the U.S./British committee for communication on the a-bomb], at which [Lord] Halifax [the British Ambassador to the U.S.], Field Marshal [Sir Henry Maitland] Wilson [head of the British military staff in the U.S.], Sir James Chadwick [the head British scientist on the Manhattan Project], Mr. [Clarence D.] Howe [the Canadian Minister of Munitions and Supply] of Canada, and Roger Makins, counselor at the British Embassy were all present representing the British, while Dr. [Vannevar] Bush [Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development] and I represented the American members of the Policy Committee and we had with us General [Leslie] Groves [head of the Manhattan Project], Harvey Bundy [Special Assistant to Stimson], and George Harrison [Special Consultant to Stimson]."

"We worked long and hard for nearly two hours. One of the main necessary formalities was to get the formal consent of both our nations to the use of S-1 against Japan. We talked a good deal about what the Interim Committee had done [see the May 31 and June 1 diary entries in Stimson Diary, Part 5]. Halifax had been absent from our meetings for some time and had news to bring of the attitude of Sir John Anderson [the British Cabinet member responsible for Britain's nuclear project] and the Prime Minister [Winston Churchill]. [Anderson and Churchill were concerned that the U.S. planned to give too much technical information on the a-bomb process to the world (Richard Hewlett, Oscar Anderson, "The New World", pg. 372-373]. Sir Henry for such a large and jovial person as usual was pretty full of real business and not at all haphazard. [At this meeting Wilson brought the official British approval for the use of the a-bomb on Japan]. Bush with his keen penetrating mind was helpful at the root of every problem. George Harrison is a new and very useful member, having been [acting] chairman of the Interim Committee. Harvey Bundy and Roger Makins, who has succeeded the former British member of the secretariat [Sir Ronald Campbell], guided the course of the meeting with great skill and harmony. The Swedish discovery was one of the most important matters discussed [that large amounts of uranium might be purchased from Sweden] and we set in motion machinery for attending to that."

[On July 6 Stimson left for the Potsdam Conference. Traveling by boat and then by plane, he arrived in Potsdam on July 15.]

July 15, 1945 Diary Entry [apparently written later. It also notes that Stimson was not an insider at the Potsdam meetings]:

"I remained in Babelsburg [a German town between Berlin and Potsdam] for about ten days until July 25th. As I was not a member of the Conference and did not attend the meetings, my function was limited to background advice to the President. He was very cordial about my usefulness, emphasizing it again and again. I called on him almost every day in the morning before they went to the Conference and he told me what had happened the preceding day and discussed with me certain things which came within my jurisdiction. These were, first, the treatment of Germany both in itself and in its effect on the rehabilitation of Europe; and second, the Far Eastern war and S-1. Both of these were very active."

"As to the war with Japan, the President had already received my memorandum in general as to the possibility of getting a substantial unconditional surrender from Japan which I had written before leaving Washington and which he had approved. [See July 2, 1945 Diary Entry in Stimson Diary, Part 6.]

July 16, 1945 Diary Entry:

"I spent the morning with McCloy and Bundy [assistants to Stimson]..."

"I also received important paper in re Japanese maneuverings for peace." [It is not certain what paper this is. Some elaboration can be found in a July 16 memo to Sec. of State James Byrnes and President Truman, in which Stimson wrote:] "It seems to me that we are at the psychological moment to commence our warnings [to surrender] to Japan. ...the recent news of attempted approaches on the part of Japan to Russia impels me to urge prompt delivery of our warning. (Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn., microfilm reel 113; see also U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945, vol. 2, pg. 1265-1267).

[One possibility is that the "important paper" was one of the Magic Diplomatic Summaries. These were summaries of Japanese telegrams the U.S. had intercepted in which Japan's government said they wanted to end the war short of unconditional surrender. Portions of the Magic Diplomatic Summaries can be found in my article on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima].

"At 7:30 PM Harrison's first message concerning the test of the S-1 bomb arrived and I took it at once to the President's house and showed it to Truman and Byrnes who of course were greatly interested, although the information was still in very general terms." [The Trinity test - the first test of an atomic bomb - had been successfully conducted near Alamogordo, New Mexico on the morning of July 16].

July 17, 1945 Diary Entry:

"I went to the White House [the house where Truman was staying in Potsdam] for a conference with Byrnes early in the morning. We first discussed methods of handling Harrison's paper [probably referring to Harrison's brief July 16 message that the a-bomb test had succeeded]. Byrnes was opposed to a prompt and early warning to Japan [to surrender] which I had first suggested. He outlined a timetable on the subject warning which apparently had been agreed to by the President, so I pressed it no further."

[Byrnes' "timetable" may have been suggested to him by former Sec. of State Cordell Hull. On July 16 Hull advised Byrnes, "Would it be well first to await the climax of allied bombing and Russia's entry into the war?". However, while Hull's suggestion referred primarily to delaying when Japan might be told they could keep their emperor if they surrendered, Byrnes took it to mean that the issuance of the surrender warning itself should be delayed (U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945, vol. 2", pg. 1267-1268).]

[Later that day Stimson met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:]

"As he [Churchill] walked down to the gate I told him of Harrison's message [about the successful atomic bomb test]. He had not heard from his own people about the matter. He was intensely interested and greatly cheered up, but was strongly inclined against any disclosure [to Russia about the a-bomb]. I argued against this to some length." [Stimson felt Russia should be told of the a-bomb for the sake of U.S./Russian relations; see the Interim Committee recommendations in Stimson Diary, Part 6. But Stimson's views of Russia were becoming more pessimistic, as we will see in his July 19th diary entry].

July 18, 1945 Diary Entry:

"Harrison's second message came, giving a few of the far reaching details of the [atomic bomb] test. I at once took it to the President who was highly delighted."

"The President was evidently very greatly reenforced over the message from Harrison and said he was very glad I had come to the meeting."

[But Stimson was being excluded from the meetings at Potsdam, and he was having difficulty finding out what was going on:]

"In the afternoon after a rest I had a long talk with McCloy and Bundy. We were all troubled by the wastage of time in getting information about what is going on. Informal as well as formal conferences are being held, and we have to wait until they are finished and then McCloy gets hold of some one of the State Department subordinates who has been present, finds out from him what has happened and then brings it to me. So, on McCloy's insistence, I decided to go to see Byrnes and see whether I could not get admittance for McCloy into the conferences where other Assistant Secretaries were present."

July 19, 1945 Diary Entry [Stimson and McCloy continue to be excluded]:

"Shortly after nine o'clock I went around to the Little White House and saw Byrnes in respect to this matter of having McCloy participate in the Conference. He told me that in regard to the formal Conference there had been a limit placed on each nation bringing not more than two helpers, and that that would cut out the possibility of bringing in McCloy. I told him I knew of a great many informal conferences of the State Department subordinates going on and asked him if he had any objection to McCloy going to those. He said he had not and gave him his blessing. I then asked him about minutes - if any minutes were kept of the meetings which I could have the privilege of looking over. He said that there were none; that they were not being written up until the interpreters had finished at the end of the Conference. So my meeting with him was a rather barren one. He gives me the impression that he is hugging matters in this Conference pretty close to his bosom, and that my assistance, while generally welcome, was strictly limited in the matters in which it should be given."

"At twelve o'clock Lord Cherwell [Churchill's closest advisor] called, and he and Bundy and I sat out under the trees and talked over S-1. He was very reasonable on the subject of notification to the Russians, feeling about as doubtful as we."

[Stimson had recommended to President Truman on July 3rd that Russia should be told, if possible, about the atomic bomb (see Stimson Diary, Part 6). Now, after only four days of direct exposure to Russians at Potsdam, Stimson felt Russia should not yet be told. Stimson's memoirs note that "Stimson personally was deeply disturbed, at Potsdam, by his first direct observation of the Russian police state in action." (Henry Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, "On Active Service in Peace and War", pg. 638).]

"Later in the afternoon at a quarter to five McCloy, Bundy, and I had a long and interesting discussion on our relations with Russia; what the cause of the constant differences between the countries are, and how to avoid them. As a result, I dictated a memorandum on the subject to serve as a sort of analysis and possible basis for action. It boiled down to the possibility of getting the Russians to see that the real basis of the evil was the absence of freedom of speech in their regime, and the iron-bound rule of the OGPU [the Russian secret police]. I have been very much impressed on this visit with the atmosphere of repression that exists everywhere, and which is felt by all who come in contact with the Russian rule in Germany. While the Russian soldiers and American soldiers seem to like each other individually when they meet, the people who have to deal with the Russian officials feel very differently, and it greatly impairs the cooperation between our two countries. Churchill is very rampant about it, and most of our people who have seen the Russians most intimately think we have been too easy and that they have taken advantage of it."

"It is a very difficult problem because they are crusaders for their own system and suspicious of everybody outside trying to interfere with it. At the same time it is becoming more and more evident to me that a nation whose system rests upon free speech and all the elements of freedom, as does ours, cannot be sure of getting on permanently with a nation where speech is strictly controlled and where the Government uses the iron hand of the secret police. The question is very important just now, and the development of S-1 is bringing it to a focus. I am beginning to feel that our committee [the Interim Committee] which met in Washington on this subject and was so set upon opening communications with the Russians on the subject may have been thinking in a vacuum. Today's talk with McCloy and Bundy was a good one and opened up the situation."

[The "memorandum" Stimson referred to above was written on July 19th and titled "Reflections on the Basic Problems Which Confront Us". He gave the document to President Truman on July 21st. It expressed Stimson's doubts about telling Russia of the atomic bomb. Stimson's reasons for delay were due to the suspicions toward Russia he had developed since his arrival in Potsdam. The following are portions of Stimson's "Reflections" memorandum:]

"Daily we find our best efforts for coordination and sympathetic understanding with Russia thwarted by the suspicion which basically and necessarily must exist in any controlled organization of men" [referring to the Russian government].

"I believe we must not accept the present situation as permanent for the result will then almost inevitably be a new war and the destruction of our civilization."

"That something can be accomplished is not an idle dream. STALIN has shown an indication of his appreciation of our system of freedom by his proposal of a free constitution to be established among the Soviets. To read this Constitution would lead one to believe that Russia had in mind the establishing of free speech, free assembly, free press and the other essential elements of our Bill of Rights and would not have forever resting upon every citizen the stifling hand of autocracy. He has thus given us an opening."

"The foregoing has a vital bearing upon the control of the vast and revolutionary discovery of ____X____ [the atomic bomb] which is now confronting us. Upon the successful control of that energy depends the future successful development or destruction of the modern civilized world. The [Interim] Committee appointed by the War Department which has been considering that control has pointed this out in no uncertain terms and has called for an international organization for that purpose. After careful consideration I am of the belief that no world organization containing as one of its dominant members a nation whose people are not possessed of free speech but whose governmental action is controlled by the autocratic machinery of a secret political police can give effective control of this new agency with its devastating possibilities."

"I therefore believe that before we share our new discovery with Russia we should consider carefully whether we can do so safely under any system of control until Russia puts into effective action the proposed constitution which I have mentioned. If this is a necessary condition we must go slowly in any disclosures or agreeing to any Russian participation whatsoever and constantly explore the question how our head-start in ____X____ and the Russian desire to participate can be used to bring us nearer to the removal of the basic difficulties which I have emphasized." (Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn., microfilm reel 128; see also U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945, vol. 2, pg. 1155 - 1157).

July 20, 1945 Diary Entry:

"...[U.S.] Ambassador [to Moscow W. Averell] Harriman soon came in on my invitation to talk over the subject of our relations with Russia which McCloy, Bundy and I were discussing last evening. I showed him the paper which I had dictated on the importance of getting freedom of speech in Russia ["Reflections on the Basic Problems Which Confront Us"]. It wound up as a suggestion as to the importance of beginning to get the Russians accustomed to the thought of coming to that one of the Bill of Rights which in my opinion is the most important of all. Harriman read the paper and said that the analysis of the reasons for the differences were in his opinion exactly correct but he was pessimistic as to the chances of getting Russia to change her system in any way. He has been in Russia now for nearly four years and has grown evidently depressed and troubled by the situation. I talked with him for a long time regarding the matter and, in view of his intelligence and capacity, such a despairing view from him troubled me a great deal."

"Late in the afternoon Allen Dulles turned up and I had a short talk with him. He has been in the OSS in Switzerland and has been the center of much underground information. He told us about something which had recently come into him with regard to Japan."

[This is all Stimson said about Dulles' "underground information" in his diary, so let's fill in some blanks. Allen Dulles was the head of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in Berne, Switzerland. He had been receiving information from Japanese "peace feelers" who hoped to work out peace terms. Altho some peace feelers said they represented members of the Japanese government, Dulles did not know if this was true. Dulles passed his information on to OSS head William Donovan, who reported it to Sec. of State James Byrnes. The most promising comment in the July 1945 OSS letters to Byrnes was the statement, "Mr. Dulles believes... that a line is being opened which the Japanese may use when the situation in Tokyo permits Japan to accept unconditional surrender." (U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the U.S., 1945, Vol. VI", pg. 492)].

[Someone must have thought Dulles' information was significant, for Dulles was then called, perhaps by John McCloy, to meet with Stimson at the Potsdam conference. Dulles later recalled of his July 20, 1945 meeting with Stimson, "I told him the whole story. He asked me a number of questions: my attitude about the Emperor; did I think these people were sincere? Did they have authority? On the last I said: 'I can't tell you. I don't think anybody knows what's going on in Tokyo well enough to say. But I think they're sincere.' ...I spent an hour or two with him. He did not comment." (Quoted in Len Giovannitti and Fred Freed, "The Decision To Drop the Bomb", pg. 215-216).]

[Stimson's response to the peace feelers may be found in his memoirs: "There were reports of a weakening will to resist and of 'feelers' for peace terms. But such reports merely stimulated the American leaders in their desire to press home on all Japanese leaders the hopelessness of their cause... the only road to early victory was to exert maximum force with maximum speed." (Stimson and Bundy, "On Active Service in Peace and War", pg. 629).]

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 8.

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