Part 8

July 21 thru July 25, 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 21, 1945 Diary Entry [Stimson and Truman receive the full report of the atomic bomb test]:

"At eleven thirty five General [Leslie] Groves' special report was received by special courier. [Groves was the general in charge of the Manhattan Project]. It was an immensely powerful document, clearly and well written and with supporting documents of the highest importance. It gave a pretty full and eloquent report of the tremendous success of the test and revealed far greater destructive power than we expected in S-1. ...I made an appointment with the President for as soon as he could see me, which was at three-thirty."

"At three o'clock I found that [Army Chief of Staff Gen. George] Marshall had returned from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to save time I hurried to his house and had him read Groves' report and conferred with him about it."

"I then went to the 'Little White House' and saw President Truman. I asked him to call in Secretary [of State James] Byrnes and then I read the report in its entirety and we then discussed it. They were immensely pleased. The President was tremendously pepped up by it and spoke to me of it again and again when I saw him. He said it gave him an entirely new feeling of confidence and he thanked me for having come to the [Potsdam] Conference and being present to help him in this way."

"I then left the 'Little White House', picked up [Harvey] Bundy [Special Assistant to Stimson], and went to the Prime Minister's [Churchill's] house where we conferred with him and Lord Cherwell [Churchill's closest advisor]. I turned over the paper [Groves' report] to Churchill and he began reading it but was interrupted a few minutes before five in order to hurry to the Big Three Conference at five o'clock. He asked me to return on the following morning to finish up the report."

[A copy of Groves' report, written on July 18, 1945, can be found in the Nuclear Files web site at www.nuclearfiles.org/docs/1945/450718-groves-trinity.html.]

"Massage and dinner, and then in the evening about ten-thirty two short cables came in from [George] Harrison [Special Consultant to Stimson] indicating that operations [for use of the atomic bomb on Japan] would be ready earlier than expected, and also asking me to reverse my decision as to one of the proposed topics [Gen. Groves' request to make the city of Kyoto the primary a-bomb target]. I cabled, saying I saw no new factors for reversing myself but on the contrary the new factors seemed to confirm it."

[Stimson continued to reject Kyoto as an atomic bomb target. For more information on this, see the June 1, 1945 diary entry at Stimson Diary Part 5. For the Harrison cables, see U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945", vol. 2, pg. 1372.]

[In a letter to his wife the morning of July 22nd, Stimson was still elated over the full report on the atomic bomb test:]

"The great bright spot to me is the news which has come to me from home from the great secret that has cheered everybody from the President down." (Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn., microfilm reel 113).

July 22, 1945 Diary Entry [Churchill's reaction to the full report of the a-bomb test]:

"Called on President Truman at nine-twenty. The foregoing day I had left with him my paper on reflections as to our relations with Russia, copy of which is hereto attached. [The paper was "Reflections on the Basic Problems Which Confront Us"; see the July 19 diary entry in Stimson Diary Part 7 for more information and excerpts]. I told him that this paper was in no sense an official paper - that it did not even contain my matured opinions, but that it represented an analysis which I thought was correct and a program of what I hoped might sometime be done. With that understanding he asked me to see it and I left it with him and this morning I picked it up. He gave it to me and stated that he had read it and agreed with it."

"I also discussed with him Harrison's two messages. He was intensely pleased by the accelerated timetable. As to the matter of the special target [Kyoto] which I had refused to permit, he strongly confirmed my view and said he felt the same way.

"At ten-forty Bundy and I again went to the British headquarters and talked to the Prime Minister [Churchill] and Lord Cherwell for over an hour. Churchill read Groves' report in full. He told me that he had noticed at the meeting of the Three [Truman, Churchill, and Stalin] yesterday that Truman was evidently much fortified by something that had happened and that he stood up to the Russians in a most emphatic and decisive manner, telling them as to certain demands that they absolutely could not have and that the United States was entirely against them. He said 'Now I know what happened to Truman yesterday. I couldn't understand it. When he got to the meeting after having read this report he was a changed man. He told the Russians just where they got on and off and generally bossed the whole meeting'. Churchill said he now understood how this pepping up had taken place and that he felt the same way. His own attitude confirmed this admission. He now not only was not worried about giving the Russians information of the matter [i.e., telling them the U.S. had the atomic bomb] but was rather inclined to use it as an argument in our favor in the negotiations. The sentiment of the four of us [Stimson, Churchill, Bundy, and Cherwell] was unanimous in thinking that it was advisable to tell the Russians at least that we were working on that subject and intended to use it if and when it was successfully finished."

[Stimson was not allowed to attend the Big Three meetings, but, like Churchill, he had also noticed a change in the President. On the 22nd Stimson's aide Col. William Kyle recorded in his notes, "The Secretary [Stimson] had a favorable visit with the President and mentioned that Mr. Truman has changed considerably since the first conference he had with the Secretary in Berlin [at the Potsdam Conference]. (Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn., microfilm reel 128, "Notes of the Trip of the Secretary of War, July 6 to July 28, 1945, inclusive", pg. 41).]

"At twelve-fifteen I called General [Henry 'Hap'] Arnold [the General in charge of the Army Air Force] over, showed him Harrison's two cables, showed him my answer to them and showed him Groves' report, which he read in its entirety. He told me that he agreed with me about the target which I had struck off the program. He said that it would take considerable hard work to organize the operations now that it was to move forward." [The order to use the a-bombs as soon as the bombs were ready was given to the Air Force just three days later; a copy of the order, written by Groves and signed by Gen. Thomas Handy, can be found at the Nuclear Files web site at http://www.nuclearfiles.org/docs/1945/450725-handy-spaatz.html].

July 23, 1945 Diary Entry:

"At ten o'clock Secretary Byrnes called me up asking me as to the timing of the S-1 program. I told him the effect of the two cables [from Harrison] and that I would try to get further definite news. I dictated a cable to Harrison asking him to let us know immediately when the time [for the use of the a-bomb on Japan] was fixed."

"At ten-fifteen Ambassador [to Moscow W. Averell] Harriman arrived and he and [Assistant Sec. of War John] McCloy, Bundy, and I had a talk over the situation [relations with Russia], Harriman giving us the information of yesterday afternoon's meetings. He commented on the increasing cheerfulness evidently caused by the news from us [about the atomic bomb], and confirmed the expanding demands being made by the Russians. They are throwing aside all their previous restraint as to being only a Continental power and not interested in any further acquisitions, and are now apparently seeking to branch in all directions."

"At eleven o'clock I went down to the 'Little White House' to try to see the President or Byrnes. I am finding myself crippled by not knowing what happens in the meetings [between Truman, Churchill, and Stalin] in the late afternoon and evening. This is particularly so now that the program for S-1 is tying in [with] what we are doing in all fields. When I got there I found Byrnes out, and I asked for the President who saw me at once. I told him that it would be much more convenient for me to form my program on the military side if I could drop in early every morning and talk with him or Byrnes of the events of the preceding day. He told me at once to come; that he would be glad to see me every morning and talk over these matters with me. I then told him of matters that came up in the conference with Mr. Harriman this morning which I just referred to, and told him that I had sent for further more definite information as to the time of operation [when the a-bomb would be ready for Japan] from Harrison. He told me that he had the warning message which we prepared on his desk [The Potsdam Proclamation surrender demand for Japan; see the July 2, 1945 Diary Entry in Stimson Diary, Part 6], and had accepted our most recent change in it, and that he proposed to shoot it out as soon as he heard the definite day of the operation [when the a-bomb would be ready for Japan]. We had a brief discussion about Stalin's recent expansions and he confirmed what I have heard. But he told me that the United States was standing firm and he was apparently relying greatly upon the information as to S-1. He evidently thinks a good deal of the new claims of the Russians are bluff, and told me what he thought the real claims were confined to."

"After lunch and a short rest I received Generals Marshall and Arnold, and had in McCloy and Bundy at the conference. The President had told me at a meeting in the morning that he was very anxious to know whether Marshall felt that we needed the Russians in the war or whether we could get along without them, and that was one of the subjects we talked over. [Until now Truman had said getting Russia into the war against Japan was what he came to Potsdam for; see Truman's July 18, 20, and 22 letters to his wife Bess in The Truman Diary]. Of course Marshall could not answer directly or explicitly. We had desired the Russians to come into the war originally for the sake of holding up in Manchuria the Japanese Manchurian Army [so that Japan could not move them to the Japanese mainland to fight U.S. troops in an invasion]. That now was being accomplished as the Russians have amassed their forces on that border, Marshall said, and were poised, and the Japanese were moving up positions in their Army. But he pointed out that even if we went ahead in the war without the Russians, and compelled the Japanese to surrender to our terms, that would not prevent the Russians from marching into Manchuria anyhow and striking, thus permitting them to get virtually what they wanted in the surrender terms. Marshall told us during our conference that he thought thus far in the military conference they had handled only the British problems and that these are practically all settled now and probably would be tied up and finished tomorrow. He suggested that it might be a good thing, something which would call the Russians to a decision one way or the other, if the President would say to Stalin tomorrow that 'inasmuch as the British have finished and are going home, I suppose I might as well let the American Chiefs of Staff go away also' that might bring the Russians to make known what their position was and what they were going to do, and of course that indicated that Marshall felt as I felt sure he would that now with our new weapon we would not need the assistance of the Russians to conquer Japan."

"There was further talk about the war in the Pacific in the conference. Apparently they have been finding it very hard to get along with [Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific Douglas] MacArthur, and Marshall has been spending most of his time in conferences in smoothing down the Navy."

"I talked to Marshall about the preparation of S-1 and he gave us a bad picture of the rainy season weather in Japan at this time and said that one thing that might militate against our attack was the low ceiling and heavy clouds, although there were breaks and good days in between."

"In the evening I received a telegram from Harrison giving me the exact dates as far as possible when they expected to have S-1 ready, and I answered it with a further question as to further future dates of the possibility of accumulation of supplies." [Harrison's telegram informed Stimson that regarding use of the a-bomb on Japan, there was "some chance August 1 to 3, good chance August 4 to 5 and barring unexpected relapse almost certain before August 10." (U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945", vol. 2, pg. 1374.)].

July 24, 1945 Diary Entry:

"At nine-twenty I went to 'The Little White House' and was at once shown into the President's room where he was alone with his work, and he told me about the events of yesterday's meeting [with Churchill and Stalin] with which he seemed to be very well satisfied. I then told him of my conference with Marshall and the implication that could be inferred as to his feeling that the Russians were not needed [in the war against Japan]. I also told the President of the question which Marshall had suggested might be put to Stalin as to the Americans going home, and he said that he would do that this afternoon at the end of the hearing, but he told me that there had been a meeting called by [the President's Chief of Staff Admiral William] Leahy of the Military Staffs to meet either this afternoon or I think tomorrow morning."

"I then showed him the telegram which had come last evening from Harrison giving the dates of the [atomic bomb] operations. He said that was just what he wanted, that he was highly delighted and that it gave him his cue for his warning. He said he had just sent his warning to [Chinese president] Chiang Kai-shek to see if he would join in it, and as soon as that was cleared by Chiang he, Truman, would release the warning and that would fit right in time with the [atomic bomb] program we had received from Harrison."

[The "warning" was the document Stimson had put together which came to be called the Potsdam Proclamation, in which the U.S., China, and Great Britain demanded "unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces". It noted that "There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest", and warned that "stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals". No mention was made of three of the key elements for ending the war: the emperor's fate, the atomic bomb, and Russia's plans to declare war on Japan. A copy of the Potsdam Proclamation can be found on the Nuclear Files web site at www.nuclearfiles.org/docs/1945/450726-potsdam.html. See also U.S. Dept. of State, "Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945", vol. 2, pg. 1474-1476].

"I then spoke of the importance which I attributed to the reassurance of the Japanese on the condition of their dynasty [i.e., retention of their emperor, whom most Japanese believed was a god], and I had felt that the insertion of that in the formal warning [the Potsdam Proclamation] was important and might be just the thing that would make or mar their acceptance, but that I had heard from Byrnes that they preferred not to put it in, and that now such a change was made impossible by the sending of the message to Chiang. I hoped that the President would watch carefully so that the Japanese might be reassured verbally through diplomatic channels if it was found that they were hanging fire on that one point. He said that he had that in mind, and that he would take care of it." [At the top of this page of his typewritten diary is Stimson's handwritten notation "Tell H.T. of importance of Emperor in warning - Byrnes keep it out".]

[To do all he could to get Japan to surrender, Stimson's original version of the Potsdam Proclamation contained the following sentence in paragraph 12:

"This may include a constitutional monarchy under the present dynasty if it be shown to the complete satisfaction of the world that such a government will never again aspire to aggression."

That sentence was removed by President Truman and Sec. of State Byrnes before the Potsdam Proclamation was sent to Japan. A copy of Stimson's original version can be found in the latter part of www.nuclearfiles.org/docs/1945/450702-stimson-draft.html at the excellent Nuclear Files web site.]

"We had a few words more about the S-1 program, and I again gave him my reasons for eliminating one of the proposed targets [Kyoto]. He again reiterated with the utmost emphasis his own concurring belief on that subject, and he was particularly emphatic in agreeing with my suggestion that if elimination was not done, the bitterness which would be caused by such a wanton act [a-bombing Kyoto, Japan's cultural center] might make it impossible during the long post-war period to reconcile the Japanese to us in that area rather than to the Russians. It might thus, I pointed out, be the means of preventing what our policy demanded, namely a sympathetic Japan to the United States in case there should be any aggression by Russia in Manchuria [which Russia was about to invade, as part of the Yalta Conference agreement with the U.S. and Great Britain]."

[Stimson had been excluded from the Potsdam Conference meetings, and with the a-bomb schedule set he felt his usefulness at the conference was over. In a letter to his wife on July 24, Stimson summarized his feelings about his limited role:]

"The President has been uniformly kind and accessible; I see him every morning without any difficulty and he has been greatly delighted with the [atomic bomb] news I have been able to give him... but not being at the formal meetings has taken away the excitement which usually stimulates such an occasion, and I have no direct responsibility for the carrying on of the business." (Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn., microfilm reel 112).

[On July 25th Stimson left Potsdam.]

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 9.

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