Hiroshima 67 Years On: “Hiroshima and Spinning the Atom: America, Britain, and Canada Proclaim the Nuclear Age, August 6, 1945.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda center, offers silent prayer during the ceremony to mark the 67th anniversarty of the atomic bombing at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kyodo News) from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the atomic holocaust over Hiroshima, the most important event of the Second World War if not world history. “As of March, the tally of survivors from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stood at 210,830, 8,580 fewer than last year. The average age of a survivor living in Japan is 78, according to the Hiroshima Municipal Government.” (Japan Times) Major General Leslie Groves wrote his memoir Now it Can be Told concerning his role as director of the Manhattan Engineer District, the formal name of the Manhattan Project. Now it is being told that the A-bomb was a public-relations exercise with 250,000 dead as a consequence! Other scholars including the great revisionist historian, Gar Alperovitz, have explored these initial efforts to manage and package the nuclear age. This article introduces a comparative history of three nations’ effort to “manage” history in the early hours of the atomic era. Until now, historiography has virtually ignored the coordinated allied effort to control the fallout from the genocidal use of these weapons and in particular has explored only the war-criminal administration of Harry S Truman. This article reveals that drafts of presidential announcements of the “Little Boy” bomb began during the Roosevelt Administration:

“Hiroshima and Spinning the Atom: America, Britain, and  Canada  Proclaim the  Nuclear Age, 6 August 1945,” The Historian, Winter 2009: 805-827.


When the Manhattan Project accelerated from theoretical physics to the actual engineering phase of the atomic bomb, Washington policy makers were determined to gain a propaganda advantage. Although no one knew precisely when the atomic bomb would be introduced into the Pacific War, senior civilian and military elites had resolved that, once that fateful decision was executed, they would inundate the American public and the international community with extremely positive and jingoistic justifications for the cataclysmic arrival of the nuclear age. In the United States, nuclear propaganda preparations began during the Roosevelt administration and intensified during the first months of the Truman presidency. The United States carefully orchestrated with the United Kingdom and Canada the release of multiple statements extolling the magnifi­cence of the new epoch. When the atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and World War II became a nuclear war, senior leaders of all three countries delivered five carefully coordinated announcements on that same day.

In the United States, the many drafts of presidential and secretary of war statements initially recognized the global peril of nuclear weapons’ proliferation. As the day of atomic bombing approached, however, the drafts increasingly envisioned that America would enjoy a prolonged atomic monopoly and barely mentioned the need for international arms control. Starting in 1945, the proposed public rhetoric of the drafts became wartime propaganda, increasingly

Peter N. Kirstein is a Professor of History at St. Xavier University and Vice President of the American Association of University Professors, Illinois. He is the author of “Challenges to Academic Freedom since 9/11,” in The Impact of 9/11 and the New Legal Landscape, ed. Matthew J. Morgan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). The author would like to thank Judith A. Dwyer for granting him a sabbatical to write this article and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


less reflective, and more exterminationist in substance. This aggressive language was consistent with a brutal and merciless war in which entire populations of burning cities were uprooted or wholly destroyed as if they were combatants.

Almost a year before the first atomic bomb detonated in the air over Hiroshima on Japan’s Honshu Island, the Roosevelt administration was preparing official statements that would accompany the first fission bomb attack in the air over Japan.1 As early as 18 September 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt con­sidered a nuclear warfare option against Japan when he privately told visiting British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that “after mature consideration,” Japan should endure a nuclear “bombardment [that] will be repeated until they surrender. ”2

While the historiography of atomic bomb announcement preparations includes only the Truman administration, documents contained in the National Archives reveal that the process developed rapidly during the last months of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. Several records from the Roosevelt years reveal a growing preoccupation within the administration about managing the dissemination of information on the development and use of the atomic bomb when it became likely that the Pacific War was to turn into a nuclear war.

Among the key players in the administration were Vannevar Bush and James B. Conant. Bush was director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (1941–1946), president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., and, later, member of the eight-person Interim Policy Committee on Atomic Energy (Interim Committee). Conant, on leave from his presidency at Harvard, was chair of the National Defense Research Committee and would serve on the Interim Committee.3 In their joint memorandum to the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson on 19 September 1944, Bush and Conant recommended establishing a process of informing a global audience that nuclear weapons were under development. They did not promote a propaganda statement of triumphalism, but a “detailed history” of the Manhattan Project that was to provide “scientific facts” and credit

  1. V. Bush and J. B. Conant to the Secretary of War, 19 September 1944; Roll 6, File 76, Harrison–Bundy Files Relating to the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1942–1946, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Record Group 77; National Archives—Great Lakes Region (Chicago) (hereafter referred to as H–B Files).
  2. Aide Memoire of Conversation between the President and the Prime Minister at Hyde Park, 18 September 1944; Roll 3, H–B Files.
  3. Bush–Conant File Relating to the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1940–1945, National Archives Microfilm Publications Pamphlet Describing M1392 (Washington, DC: National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1990), 1.


those atomic scientists involved in the A-bomb project.4 The two scientists urged the Roosevelt administration to announce the development of the atomic bomb even if the Pacific War were to end before the weapon could be deployed.

Expressing concerns about nuclear proliferation, they wanted to dispel the illusion that an indefinite American monopoly was possible. Bush and Conant urged Stimson to inform Roosevelt “as soon as possible” that “progress is bound to be so rapid in the next five years it would be extremely dangerous for this government to assume that by holding secret its present knowledge we should be secure.”5 Ten months later, on 16 July 1945, Manhattan Project scientists conducted the world’s first nuclear explosion with a plutonium-core “Gadget,” during the oddly named “Trinity” test in New Mexico. Conant and Bush stopped short of advocating an international control regime or even engaging the Soviet Union in postwar nuclear arms control talks. They recommended only a tripartite treaty arrangement with the United Kingdom and Canada, the junior partners in the Manhattan Project.

There is an ominous tone in the Bush-Conant memorandum. They stood in awe of this revolutionary technology that “gives rise to the heat of the sun” and anticipated the effects of nuclear weapons on Japan’s civilian population.6 They predicted that “radioactive poisons” would sicken those “in the immediate vicin­ity.” They expressed alarm about unauthorized dissemination of nuclear materials and urged strict governmental controls, fearing that “within a few years someone might devise an experiment which could wreck a considerable portion of a city.” The uranium-core “Little Boy” and plutonium-core “Fat Man” atomic bombs were indeed to “wreck” two urban population centers within eleven months of their prescient analysis.7

Although the Enola Gay did not release its one-bomb nuclear payload over Hiroshima for six more months, in February 1945, Stimson’s War Department began preparing Roosevelt’s announcement describing the “amazing force” of the nuclear weapon.8 Well before “Trinity,” the public relations campaign was gath­ering speed with F.D.R.’s planned announcement asserting that the harnessing of

4. Bush and Conant to the Secretary of War, 1.

5. Ibid., 2.

6. Ibid., 4.

7. United Nations Department of Public Information, The Nuclear Threat to our World, Pamphlet (New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1982).

8. “Possible Statement by the President,” War Department, 13 February 1945, 3; Roll 6, File 74, H–B Files.


the power of the atom had “changed the very nature of warfare [and] carries with it possibilities of the most vital importance for the future peace of the world.”9

The same draft also projected a US atomic monopoly “for some time to come.”10 It suggested a “handling” of its impact on international relations and warned that nuclear weapons technology must not be shared with developing countries. Because the author(s) of this draft proclamation did not know that World War II would become a nuclear war, they gave minimal attention to postwar domestic and international controls of this strange transformative force. The draft recommended that Roosevelt request the Senate and House leadership to appoint “small bi-partisan committees,” which were to consult with his national security team. Legislation should follow establishing centralized domestic sources of nuclear technology, which the Bush–Conant memorandum had also declared a major area of concern. International control of nuclear properties was another objective for “the field of international relations,” when a treaty might emerge from the proposed international organization that was soon to emerge as the United Nations. The Roosevelt administration draft was meant to reassure the international community that the United States “hoped” that the atomic bomb would not only confer “the greatest benefit of our own people but to help assure the future peace of the world and the greater happiness of mankind.”11 The subsequent proliferation of these systems and the persistent challenge of nuclear fuel rod waste management and unintended radioactive release from nuclear power plants dashed such hopes. While key scientists and War Department personnel somewhat understood the dangers of nuclear proliferation, relatively few specifics were to accompany the president’s revelation that the world had entered the nuclear age.

In a memorandum to Army Chief of Staff George Catlett Marshall on 26 March 1945, Major-General Leslie R. Groves expressed concerns about leaks to the press and noted that the Office of Censorship was concerned that a loss of centralized control was inevitable following the use of the bomb.12 Groves also

9. “Possible Statement by the President,” 1.

10.  Ibid., 1.

11.  Ibid., 3.

12.  Peter N. Kirstein, “False Dissenters: Manhattan Project Scientists and the Use of the Atomic Bomb,” American Diplomacy (2001), University of North Carolina, March 2001. After the Manhattan Project began its secret pursuit of the atomic bomb on 13 August 1942, Major-General Leslie R. Groves, an army engineer, became its director and remained so throughout the war.


worried that scientists claiming proprietary rights of discovery might disseminate information that would eviscerate government efforts to monopolize all aspects of the nuclear enterprise. While Bush and Conant recommended that the Roose­velt administration disclose many details of the Manhattan Project, Groves was alarmed “that the president might decide that it was wise to release certain facts; the follow up stories and comments to such a release could well be ruinous.”13

Stimson established the Interim Committee on 4 May 1945 in order to “survey and make recommendations on postwar research, development and controls, as well as legislation necessary to effectuate them.”14 Besides Stimson, Bush, and Conant, the Interim Committee’s membership consisted of Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, Assistant Secretary of State William L. Clayton, former Undersecretary of the Navy Ralph Bard as of July 1945, Karl T. Compton of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Tech­nology), and Stimson’s Special Assistant George L. Harrison (who was president of New York Life Insurance Company).15 The Interim Committee also provided recommendations on the use of the atomic bomb, suggesting options on how (rather than whether) the atomic bomb should be introduced into the Pacific.16

Groves recognized that the Interim Committee must approve any presidential or secretary of war statement but did not want it micromanaging subsequent publicity after the president’s planned broadcast. Groves told Harrison that the committee should not be “burdened with preparing or correcting” subsequent “publicity releases,” despite their importance to the nation and world.17 His real intent was maintaining as tight a loop as possible in the dissemination of the Manhattan Project information. While no evidence has surfaced that any Interim Committee member actually wrote an A-bomb draft announcement, Groves

13.  Leslie R. Groves to the Chief of Staff (George C. Marshall), 26 March 1945; Roll 1, File 5, Subfile 5b, Correspondence (“Top Secret”) of the Manhattan Engineer District, 1942–1946, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Record Group 77; National Archives—Great Lakes Region (hereafter referred to as “Top Secret Files”).

14.  Bush–Conant File, 6.

15.  Correspondence (“Top Secret”) of the Manhattan Engineer District, 1942–1946, National Archives Microfilm Publications Pamphlet M1109 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1982), 3; Walter Millis, ed., The Forrestal Diaries (New York: Viking Press, 1951), 54, 560.

16.  Notes of the Interim Committee Meeting(s), 31 May 1945 and 1 June 1945, cited from Michael B. Stoff, Jonathan F. Fanton, and R. Hal Williams, eds., The Manhattan Project: A Documentary Introduction to the Atomic Age (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1991), 117, 127–28; Howard Zinn, Postwar America: 1945–1971 (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1973), 9–10.

17.  Groves to George Harrison, 21 June 1945; Roll 6, File 75, H–B Files.


reported to Marshall on the day of the Hiroshima explosion that the Interim Committee did “prepare” such documents.18

In March 1945, the Army Corps of Engineers general had stated that nothing should be “published until direction had been secured from proper authority” and proceeded to implement his obsession with press manipulation.19 Groves informed Marshall that he wanted to hire a “suitable newspaperman” as the press corps’ sole pool correspondent to orchestrate any release of information. He also wrote that the Office of Censorship “very strongly” approved of his recommendation and, in a handwritten note on the right side of the memorandum, indicated that Marshall was on board: “This was shown to the C[hief] of S[taff] on 27 March and received his acquiescence. LRG.”

In early April, Groves hired William Leonard Laurence, a New York Times science reporter, whose articles on atomic energy for the Saturday Evening Post had caught his attention.20 Laurence continued writing for the New York Times, although working for Groves as an embedded reporter without the independence normally associated with journalistic reportage. Laurence visited each of the Manhattan Project’s major installations, gained access to major military and scientific figures, and witnessed the first nuclear atmospheric test at “Trinity.”21 The journalist described himself as “official historian of the atomic-bomb project,” but served in effect as its chief propagandist.22 While Laurence “was in despair” that he could not observe the atomic destruction of Hiroshima, he was on the Pacific Island of Tinian in the Marianas when the atomic bomb was loaded into a strategic bomber. He described the B-29 Enola Gay’s return from its nuclear mission “as a thing of beauty . . . its great silver body shimmering in the sun.”23 Laurence did witness the “Fat Man” destruction of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 while flying on The Great Artiste, one of two instrument planes that accompanied Bockscar. Its one-bomb payload was also inserted at Tinian.

Yet, in a caption underneath a photo of Hiroshima, Laurence expressed surpris­ing ambivalence about the atomic conflagration. He described the ruins as “a toy

18.  Groves to the Chief of Staff, 6 August 1945, 1; Roll 1, File 5, Subfile 5b, “Top Secret Files.”

19.  Groves to the Chief of Staff, 26 March 1945.

20.  Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (New York: Vintage, 1996), 594.

21.  Peter Bacon Hales, Atomic Spaces: Living on the Manhattan Project (Urbana, IL: U. of Illinois P., 1997), 350.

22.  William L. Laurence, Men and Atoms: The Discovery, the Uses and the Future of Atomic Energy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959), 96.

23.  Laurence, Men and Atoms, 146–48.


city ruthlessly trampled on.”24 As he approached Ground Zero over Nagasaki, Laurence resisted compassion for the “poor devils about to die,” which would number about 50,000–75,000 civilian casualties.25 He referred to Japan’s air raid on Pearl Harbor and its inhumane treatment of American prisoners of war during the April 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines as deserving atomic revenge.

Meanwhile, Groves had deflected Marshall’s request for less braggadocio in the president’s statement given the horrific number of casualties that were antici­pated. Instead, Groves also emphasized the need for vengeance in the name of the Bataan Death March casualties.26 After the war, Laurence described, in a less sanguine manner, the mushroom cloud enveloping Nagasaki as a “decapitated monster. . . a monstrous prehistoric creature.”27 Groves later took great pride in Laurence’s receiving a Pulitzer Prize for his dispatches that described the destruc­tion of Nagasaki as “a justly deserved award.”28

Roosevelt died on 12 April 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia, before unconven­tional weapons of mass destruction entered the arsenal, and was unable to proclaim their contribution to the “happiness of mankind.” Vice President Harry S. Truman was unaware of S-1, one of several code names for the Manhattan Project. On 25 April 1945, barely two weeks after Roosevelt’s death, Stimson briefed the new president on “the most terrible weapon ever known in human history, . . . one bomb [that] could destroy a whole city.”29 Stimson noted ruefully in this memorandum that the moral advancement of humanity was less developed than its technological achievements and that “modern civilization might be com­pletely destroyed.” He warned Truman that the weapon was “a menace” and that America’s atomic monopoly would not last “indefinitely.” The beginning of the nuclear era would, therefore, require “a certain moral responsibility” to manage proliferation and avert “disaster to civilization.”30

24.  William L. Laurence, Dawn over Zero: The Story of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Knopf, 1946), unnumbered photo caption.

25.  Bataan Death March, cited at http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/st/~ehimchak/deathmarch.html, accessed 6 December 2008; Laurence, Dawn, 234.

26.  Leslie R. Groves, Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (New York: Harper, 1962), 324; Tom Zoellner, Uranium: War Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World (New York: Viking, 2009), 91.

27.  Laurence, Men and Atoms, 160.

28.  Leslie R. Groves, Now It Can Be Told, 326–27.

29.  “Memo: Discussed with the President,” 25 April 1945; Roll 4, File 64, H–B Files.

30.  Ibid.


The Department of War now began drafting numerous presidential statements announcing the anticipated atomic bomb attack against Japan. Laurence’s duties expanded in importance as he composed several drafts of presidential radio comments. Laurence’s job title of “consultant” or “consultant to General Groves” belied his emergence as the principal public relations official of the Manhattan Project.31 Somewhat less charitable assessments described Laurence as the “mythmaker-in-chief” of the atomic age and “prophet of Atomic miracles.”32 In a twenty-nine-point public relations blitz, Laurence urged a full spectrum of public announcements that would accompany Truman’s radio remarks. Referring to the “Age of Atomics,” Laurence wanted to plant an article emphasizing the idea of progress from the “the various Cultural Ages from pre-historic through historic times.”33 In point nineteen, Laurence called for the publication of an article on “protection against radiations [sic],” which reaffirmed the Bush–Conant memo­randum warning about radiation disease. These documents confirm that prior to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki hibakusha sufferers, radiation effects from neutrons bombarding uranium and plutonium nuclei were understood. After the explosion of the gravity bomb in the skies above Hiroshima, however, Laurence planted stories denying that radiation disease was a grave component of nuclear weapons effects.34

On 17 May 1945, the same day Laurence sent his twenty-nine-point memoran­dum to Groves, the indefatigable journalist also completed a seventeen-page presidential statement. Incorporating the fourth point of those proposed to Groves, he counseled Truman to survey historic epochs from the Iron Age and Bronze Age, and conclude that the Nuclear Age was to be “the greatest age of all.” With unrestrained hyperbole, Laurence predicted that this era “will inevitably mean the increase of the wealth, health and happiness of mankind. . . as to challenge the most vivid imagination.”35 As Bush and Conant had previously urged Stimson,

31.  “Memorandum for General Groves,” from Laurence, “Plans for Future Articles on Manhattan District Project,” 17 May 1945, 3; Roll 1, File 5, Subfile 5A, “Top Secret Files;” “Tentative Draft of Radio Address by President Truman to be Delivered after the Successful Use of the Atomic Bomb overJapan,” from Laurence, 17 May 1945, 17; Roll 1, File 4, “Top Secret Files.”

32.  Michael D. Gordin, Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007), 109; Spencer R. Weart, Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1988), 98.

33.  Laurence to Groves, “Plan,” 17 May 1945, 1–2; “Top Secret Files.”

34.  Mark Selden, “Introduction: The United States, Japan, and the Atomic Bomb,” in The Atomic Bomb Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, eds. Kyoko and Mark Selden (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989), xxxii–xxxiii.

35.  “Tentative Draft of Radio Address,” 2 (emphasis added).


Laurence presented a scientific history of the Manhattan Project for inclusion in the post-atomic bomb encomium. In it, he summarized how uranium enrichment occurs when the concentration of the fissionable rare isotope U-235 dramatically increases in relation to the abundant U-238 isotope, which will effectuate a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The enrichment of U-235 for weapons-grade purposes must obtain about 90 percent concentration. The most successful uranium-enrichment process that achieved this was the gaseous diffusion method, developed at the Clinton Engineer Works (Oak Ridge) K-25 plant in Tennessee. Reaching this capacity was breathlessly declared to be “by far the greatest achievement ever attained by man.”36 Referring to “cosmic fire” descending from heaven to earth, Laurence’s exuberance led to repeated claims that God and/or Providence were responsible for America becoming the first nuclear weapons state. Laurence presented the Manhattan Project as the consummate confirmation of American exceptionalism with its implicit ethnocentrism of superior intelligence. Laurence’s draft predicted that no other nation would possess either the scientific or engineering expertise to create nuclear fission “from ten to twenty-five years.”37 Unlike Bush and Conant, Laurence was obsessed with maintaining an Allied atomic monopoly and eschewed international efforts at nuclear nonproliferation. Only “peace loving nations” should dominate the nuclear age and prevent the nuclearization of “warlike nations,” which “will insure the peace of the world for decades to come and possibly many generations.”38 Laurence believed that God ordained that only certain ethically superior nation-states should acquire a nuclear weapons capa­bility. On 29 August 1949, however, the Soviet Union conducted an atmospheric atomic bomb test, only four years after “Trinity.”

As Allied indiscriminate strategic bombing increasingly dominated military strategy during the Second World War, it triggered highly disparaging language that reflected a general disdain for other nationalities. No longer directed at government or military elites, “war rage” encompassed stereotypical character­ization of entire ethnic groups. Allied discourse about the Pacific War was laced

36.  Peter R. Beckman, et al., The Nuclear Predicament: Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000), 68–69.

37.  “Tentative Draft of Radio Address,” 2, 4, 17.

38.  “Tentative Draft of Radio Address,” 3–4, 15. The United Kingdom exploded its first atomic bomb on 3 October 1952, followed by France on 13 February 1960, China on 16 October 1964, and India’s “peaceful” test on 18 May 1974. Israel and apartheid South Africa conducted a joint test on 22 September 1977, Pakistan on 28 May 1998, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 8 October 2006.


with the use of “Japs” or “Nips.” Racist pro-war songs became popular in the United States, such as “They’re Gonna Be Playing Taps on the Japs,” and “We’re Gonna Have to Slap the Dirty Little Jap.”39 In the Toronto Globe and Mail appeared, above a page-one column, a racialised headline with typical dehumanizing war rage “Quit or Die, Only Things Left to Japs.”40

Laurence’s 17 May draft also reflected the war’s growing exterminationist rhetoric that accompanied indiscriminate bombing: “We can produce enough [atomic] . . . bombs to lay waste every one of their cities and . . . their country. . . will be a wilderness for generations to come. We therefore put this choice squarely before them: ‘Either surrender unconditionally or be destroyed.’”41 The precedent of conventional indiscriminate strategic bombing was amplified with the kiloton yields of atomic weaponry. Laurence’s “peace loving nations” waged a war from the air that eviscerated the Just War Principle of discrimination between combatants and civilians.

Three weeks later on 7 June 1945, another much shorter draft of seven pages appeared with the startling assumption that Nagasaki was the first atomic-bomb target.42 Its first sentence declared: “Two hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on the Nagasaki Naval Base and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy.”43 The draft, of course, did not explain that atomic bombs are inherently indiscriminate. The actual operation would not be a surgical strike against a military target such as a “naval base,” but was to target an entire city.

During the summer of 1945, Arthur W. Page, an assistant to the Secretary of War (and public relations vice president of American Telephone and Telegraph), increasingly assumed the responsibility as chief speech writer of these ongoing

39. John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon, 1986), 81.

40. Globe and Mail (Toronto), 9 August 1945, 1.

41. “Draft of Radio Address,” 7.

42. Subsequently, Kokura was selected as the primary target for the second atomic mission on 9 August because, unlike Nagasaki, it was not surrounded by hills that would contain the damage of a nuclear explosion (Thomas F. Farrell, “Report on Overseas Operations—Atomic Bomb,” 27 September 1945, 2; Roll 13, Manhattan Engineer District History, Records of the Defense Nuclear Agency, Record Group 374, National Archives—Great Lakes Region). Cloud-covered Kokura was spared destruction at the last moment when the B-29 Bockscar crew could not confirm the required visual sighting of ground zero. Nagasaki was then attacked as the secondary target because the aircraft, which was running out of fuel, nearly crash-landed on Okinawa (The Beverly Review [Chicago], 16 August 1995, 10).

43. “Draft” of Truman statement, 7 June 1945, 1; Roll 6, File 74, H–B Files.


A-bomb account revisions.44 Like Laurence, Page exhibited the growing extermi­nationist impulse against a nationality that was deemed subhuman. Page referred elsewhere to the “Jap” as a “savage” and, with stereotypical contempt, charged that he “cares little for human life. . . don’t trust them for a second.” These outbursts appeared on the letterhead from the ironically named Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation.45

From June 1945 onward, revenge explicitly appeared as a motivating factor behind the rapidly approaching one-sided nuclear war. The 7 June draft speci­fically cited the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor and sardonically noted that in dropping the atomic bomb, “[t]hey have been repaid a thousandfold.”46 Referring to the putative arms race between Germany and the United States as the “battle of the laboratories,” Providence was cited once again as the causal agent for America’s triumph in being the first to develop weapons of such unprecedented mass destruction. The 7 June statement celebrated how “marvellous” it was that American industrial prowess created the hardware that enabled scientists to unleash the energy of uranium and plutonium fission. The draft grossly exagger­ated Germany’s progress toward developing a nuclear capability. In his memoirs, Laurence was one of the first to concede there had been no “battle of the laboratories,” because Germany could not produce sufficient nuclear materials through either enrichment of uranium or reprocessing of plutonium. It had a few piles of uranium and heavy water but no fission was achieved.47

The linguistic “war rage” was pronounced in the third revised A-bomb announcement, which warned Japan either to surrender or to face greater devas­tation than Germany had suffered. With barely concealed sarcasm, the draft contained an invitation to Japan’s leaders to visit atomic-ravaged Nagasaki, which was still only projected as the primary target. Upon their findings, they were to contemplate whether to stay in the war. The exterminationist threat of a nuclear “rain of ruin” appeared here for the first time in the determination to destroy Japan’s “industrial civilization.”48

44. “Arthur W. Page Biography,” Arthur W. Page Society, cited at http://www. awpagesociety.com/site/about/page_biography/, accessed 28 February 2009.

45. Arthur W. Page to Harrison, 18 July 1945; Roll 6, File 74, H–B Files.

46. “Draft” of Truman statement, 7 June 1945, 1–3.

47. Laurence, Men and Atoms, 51. On the German nuclear program see David C. Cassidy, Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg (New York: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1992); David Irving, The German Atomic Bomb: The History of Nuclear Research in Nazi Germany (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967).

48. “Draft” of Truman statement, 7 June 1945, 5.


Another A-bomb statement draft appeared on 23 July, seven days after the “Trinity” test. It basically edited the June draft but strikingly maintained the projection that Nagasaki would be the first atomic sacrifice in the war of burning cities. It incorporated many of the prior handwritten emendations that appeared on the 7 June draft. Blank line spaces on the previous draft, meanwhile, contained specific Manhattan Project personnel statistics. It indicated a current workforce of 65,000, which had been as large as 125,000 during the construction of two major sites at the Washington State Hanford Plant (Richland) and at Clinton.49 Directed by Robert Oppenheimer, the nerve center of the Manhattan Project was the Los Alamos Laboratory, code-named Project Y; here, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs were assembled prior to shipment to Tinian.50 Yet there is only an oblique reference to “an installation near Santa Fe, New Mexico.”51

The statement proclaimed the purported virtues of the aborning nuclear age as “understanding. . . nature’s forces” and predicted that nuclear power might supplement oil, hydropower, and coal-fired energy plants as possible commercial sources of energy. As with prior Truman statement drafts, the 23 July version coveted an atomic monopoly by keeping secret “the greatest achievement of organized science in history.” While claiming that American scientists were dis­inclined to withhold vital scientific knowledge from the international community, its last paragraph requested that Congress establish an atomic regulatory “com­mission” to harness nuclear materials “within” the United States.52 Unlike the Roosevelt administration draft, there is no hint of pursuing international arms controls or using the newly established United Nations to constrain nuclear proliferation.

A week before Colonel Paul Tibbetts would fly the Enola Gay to Hiroshima and target and deploy the world’s first nuclear payload, another revised presiden­tial statement appeared.53 The statement suggested that the time between nuclear detonation and presidential proclamation was no longer set at “two hours,” and a blank appeared for Truman to indicate the actual time lapse. It estimated the “Little Boy” bomb’s yield at 20,000 tons of TNT (20 kilotons) as more powerful

49.  “Draft of 23 July 1945,” of Truman statement, 3; Roll 6, File 74, H–B Files. At the Hanford Plant, plutonium was reprocessed from spent irradiated uranium fuel.

50.  Los Alamos 1943–1945, The Beginning of an Era (Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1984), 3.

51.  “Draft of 23 July 1945,” 5.

52.  “Draft of 23 July 1945,” 5–6.

53.  “Draft of 30 July 1945,” of Truman statement, 1; Roll 6, File 74, H–B Files.


than an armada of conventionally armed B-29 strategic bombers. Another blank now replaced Nagasaki as the first nuclear target. The president was to identify the actual doomed city after the mushroom cloud appeared. Four Japanese cities were ranked in order of priority on a revised target list. The sequence of preflight target selection had Nagasaki fourth in line after Hiroshima, Kokura, and Niigata, but was predicated on weather conditions and revised combat operations.54

The July draft predicted nuclear weapons modernization and “[i]mprove­ments” in deployed systems that dwarfed the yield of the “best” nuclear weapons currently being developed.55 The threatening nature of these presidential drafts intensified. Prior references to a weapon that “can” destroy Japan’s “docks . . . factories . . . and communications” were now substituted with “shall,” accompanied by heightened exterminationist rhetoric: “Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.”56

Truman and Churchill: Advocates of strategic bombing during World War II: a barbaric, insensate war of burning cities. From Google Images, “Truman War Criminal.” I would remove the question mark? Image added to publication.

In the following weeks, the United States, Britain, and China issued the Potsdam Declaration.57 This tripartite document demanded “the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces…. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”58 The presidential draft message of 30 July asserted how “[i]t was to spare the Japanese people that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam.”59 This claim belied the fact that the Potsdam Declaration lacked an atomic warning. Moreover, Stimson did not succeed in modifying unconditional surrender with a guarantee that Japan could retain its emperor. The American occupation force, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, was to leave Emperor Hirohito on his Chrysanthemum Throne once the Pacific War ended. It is conceivable that Japan would have surrendered prior to its becoming the first nuclear battleground, if it had been promised that it was allowed to maintain its emperor.60 Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, however, rejected such assurances and treated the tripartite declaration as a formality and a prelude to the

54. Harry S. Truman, Year of Decision, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1955), 420.

55. “Draft of 30 July,” of Truman statement, 1.

56. Ibid., 4.

57. The Potsdam Conference outside Berlin convened from 17 July to 2 August 1945.

58. Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Touchstone, 1986), 692.

59. “Draft of 30 July,” of Truman statement, 4.

60. Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy: The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power (New York: Penguin, 1985), 27–28.


use of the atomic bomb. Together with a general threat of wholesale destruction if Japan did not unilaterally cease fighting, the Potsdam Declaration did not contain any suggestion that the signatory powers would allow anything less than unconditional surrender.61

Six copies were produced of the six-page 30 July draft. One contains significant handwritten editing, making it into a virtual new (sixth) draft. Words are crossed out and interlinear revisions abound. Deleted sentences are excised with diagonal lines in both directions and entire lines are scratched out with horizontal strikethrough marks. The official White House release of Truman’s Hiroshima blast statement incorporated these emendations word for word.62 It was Lieutenant R. Gordon Arneson, secretary of the Interim Committee, who had hand delivered Page’s final draft from Washington for Truman’s approval. Although Truman did not yet know the precise date of the dropping of the bomb, it was during the Potsdam Conference that he authorized its combat deployment against Japan.63

Truman learned about the Hiroshima explosion aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Augusta while returning home across the Atlantic after Potsdam. His first announcement of the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan was extem­poraneous remarks to the ship’s crew, in which the president exclaimed, “this is the greatest thing in history.”64 The White House released the formal statement the day before Truman returned to the United States, on the evening of 7 August.65 Under the existing conditions of maritime communications, the long-prepared radio address could not immediately be delivered, and it was the Associated Press that ran the first news bulletin about the explosion at 11:03 am, Eastern War Time.66 As with earlier A-bomb drafts that had depicted Nagasaki as an important military asset, the presidential statement described Hiroshima as a strategically

61.  Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon: The United States and the Nuclear Arms Race, 1939 to the Present (New York: Oxford UP, 1987), 24–25.

62.  “Draft of July 30,” edited version of Truman statement; “Statement by the President of the United States,” 6 August 1945, Roll 6, File 74, H–B Files.

63.  Oral History Interview with R. Gordon Arneson by Niel M. Johnson, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, 21 June 1989, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/ arneson.htm.

64.  Allan M. Winkler, Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety About the Atom (New York: Oxford UP, 1993), 24.

65.  Truman, Year of Decision, 334; Peter Wyden, Day One: Before Hiroshima and After (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), 229; New York Times, 8 August 1945, 1.

66.  Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (New York: Pantheon, 1985), 3.


“important Japanese Army base.”67 On 6 August, Truman no longer compared “Little Boy’s” destructive capacity to that of a fleet of B-29s, but instead noted how this new weapon was 2,000 times more powerful than the largest conven­tional British “Grand Slam” bomb. Edward Teller, as if downplaying this ghastly destructive force, smugly objected to Truman’s description of the nuclear weapon as “an atomic bomb” by observing that all matter consists of atoms and is atomic in nature.68 The prediction in the second paragraph of the 30 July draft that improved nuclear bombs were to surpass exponentially the destructive power of the current “best” atomic bombs was removed. The desire to maintain secrecy probably induced this deletion.

The British also participated in the drafting of Truman’s statement. In the seventh paragraph, they inserted an acknowledgment that the early pooling of the countries’ nuclear resources within the United States resulted from the United Kingdom’s duress of being “exposed to constant air attack [when it] was still threatened with the possibility of invasion.”69 The final White House release retained the threat of a “rain of ruin” atomic warning should Japan not accede to the unconditional surrender terms of the Potsdam Declaration.70 Truman charged that “[t]heir leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not accept our terms” was followed with the “rain of ruin” exterminationist threat that seemed to carry echoes of the 1944 Morgenthau Plan to pastoralize Germany:

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. . . . If they do not accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.71

Hanson W. Baldwin, the New York Times military affairs reporter, was less sanguine than his colleague William Laurence about the decision to use the atomic bomb. Writing two days after Hiroshima, he claimed that it “blasted. . . many of our previously conceived military values.” Baldwin feared that the atomic bomb

67.  New York Times, 7 August 1945, 4.

68.  Edward Teller, Memoirs: A Twentieth Century Journey in Science and Politics (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2001), 214.

69.  “President’s Statement,” n.d., 1; Roll 6, File 73, H–B Files.

70.  “Draft of 30 July,” of Truman statement, 4.

71.  “Statement by the President,” 3.


“suggests the end of urban civilization as we know it,” and that humankind, to avoid destruction, would be “tunneling into the earth rather than reaching upward into the skies.”72

Laurence’s May draft suggested that Truman describe in detail the principal installations of the Manhattan Engineer District.73 Later drafts (spanning over several months) transferred this depiction of the atomic bomb program to Secre­tary of War Stimson. By early June, presidential drafts projected that Stimson’s remarks on the arrival of the nuclear age would appear the day following Truman’s statement. The secretary of war was to describe the role of two major Manhattan Project sites, including the Hanford Plant and the Clinton facility. The 23 July draft and Truman’s actual announcement both indicated that Stimson was to deliver a statement “immediately” following the president’s. Stimson’s account now included mention of the Los Alamos bomb assembly facility and was one of the five coordinated atomic bomb statements.74

American and British personnel vetted the Stimson statement. Among the Americans were Interim Committee secretary Arneson and Lieutenant Colonel William A. Consodine, a public relations officer, who supervised the process.75 Consodine objected that a previous Stimson statement draft cited the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi as a leading figure in the development of atomic fission. Fermi was a Nobel Laureate in physics and, when working at the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory (Metlab), constructed the first atomic pile in a graphite-moderated nuclear reactor. On 2 December 1942, it produced a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction that would accelerate the hunt for a deliverable atomic bomb. Fermi’s wife was Jewish and they had escaped Mussolini’s oppressive fascism by emigrating to America.76 The nativist Con­sodine objected to any mention of Fermi because of his alien émigré status and bizarrely speculated that the Italian physicist might accept a cabinet-level appointment in a future Italian government.77 Stimson’s actual remarks removed

72. Hanson W. Baldwin, “The New Face of War,” New York Times, 8 August 1945, 4.

73. “Tentative Draft of Radio Address by President Truman,” 17 May 1945, 8–11.

74. Truman statement Drafts of 7 June, 6; 23 July, 5; 30 July, 5–6; “Statement by the President,” 3.

75. Oral History Interview with Arneson.

76. John Morton Blum, ed., The Price of Vision: The Diaries of Henry A. Wallace, l942–1 946 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973), 472.

77. William A. Consodine to George Harrison, 20 June 1945; Role 6, File 73, H–B Files; Alperovitz, Decision, 171, 596.


a lengthier acknowledgment of Fermi’s contribution to the Manhattan Project, but retained his ongoing advisory role to the Interim Committee.78 Consodine was also irritated that too many civilian scientists were lauded for their work on the Manhattan Project and wanted greater acknowledgment of the army’s role. Attesting to the limits of transparency the authorities were comfortable with, Consodine deleted from the 20 June Stimson draft an extensive reference to thorium, a radioactive chemical element that was known to have nuclear energy potentialities.79

After consulting with Groves and his deputy Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, Consodine recommended to the Interim Committee additional changes in the Stimson declaration. He urged accolades for private enterprise, in particular singling out General Electric, Chrysler, Allis-Chalmers, and Westinghouse for providing equipment to the Manhattan Project sites scattered across the United States.80 Consodine appeared concerned about the potential criticism of the Man­hattan Project’s secret funding of two billion dollars of secret expenditures and wanted to remove the definitive statement that scientists and engineers were consulted so “no expenditures were made which were unwarranted.”81 Consodine substituted a more nuanced process by indicating how “the expenditures were warranted by the potentialities of the program.” In his statement, Truman would bluntly announce that “we have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history—and won.”82

The British continued to press for greater recognition of their role in the Manhattan Project. Lord Halifax, the British ambassador to the United States, wanted Stimson’s announcement to render spacious treatment of the British

78. “Statement of the Secretary of War,” n.d., Roll 1, Subfile 5B, “Top Secret Files.”

79. Consodine to Harrison, 20 June 1945; “Atomic Fission Bombs” (Stimson Draft), 20 June 1945; Roll 6, File 73, H–B Files; William Sweet, The Nuclear Age: Atomic Energy, Proliferation, and the Arms Race (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1988), 36–37.

80. Consodine to Harrison, 29 June 1945.

81. Ibid.

82. Prior to his conditional misgivings about deploying the bomb while working at Metlab, Leo Szilard was a seminal figure in persuading Roosevelt to launch the Manhattan Project; after the war, he disparaged the material triumphalism that Truman expressed here as failing to comprehend the deeper meanings of the atomic age (Peter N. Kirstein, “False Dissenters: Manhattan Project Scientists and the Use of the Atomic Bomb,” American Diplomacy [2001], University of North Carolina, March 2001; Leo Szilard, “President Truman Did Not Understand,” U.S. News & World Report, 15 August 1960, 71; Lawrence S. Wittner, One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement [Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1993], 8–9).


and Canadian scientific contributions.83 In recognition of them, the 20 June and 30 June drafts had described Ernest Rutherford’s bombardment of a nucleus with its subsequent release of energy, and James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron. But the British wanted greater attribution of British scientists who “fully participated in the development of the project in the U.S.A.”84

Ultimately, references to Rutherford and Chadwick were excised from the final draft of 6 July, and “fully” was removed. Stimson merely observed that “British scientists . . . participated in the development of the project in the United States.”85 While the British government lobbied ineffectually for recognition of British science, Stimson spared no praise for the Americans. He claimed no other nation’s scientists “performed so successfully” during war and they have earned “the very highest expression of gratitude.”86 Stimson repeated in the officially released statement over his name in August the erroneous assumption that Germany was “feverishly” engaged in developing weapons of mass destruction, but he was forthright in noting that Japan did not possess a nuclear deterrent.87 While admiring Oppenheimer’s “genius” in assembling nuclear bomb components at Los Alamos, the complex’s name does not appear but for a furtive reference to an “isolated area in the vicinity of Santa Fe, New Mexico.”88

Atomic nationalism or the desire to remain the world’s only nuclear power fueled the secrecy in the official rhetoric about the Manhattan Project. The secretary of war specifically mentioned uranium as the ore of choice in achieving atomic fission and affirmed that the United States had and would secure adequate supplies of this essential nuclear fuel. He tried to reassure war-weary Americans that nuclear combat was not the only application of this technology and that “our civilization will be enriched when peace comes.”89 Stimson speculated that the atom might be harnessed for nuclear energy and power transmission at some

83. “British Suggestions: Mr. Stimson’s Statement,” n.d., 1–3, Role 6, File 73, H–B Files.

84. “Atomic Fission Bombs,” Stimson Draft, 30 June 1945, 3; Role 6, File 73, H–B Files.

85. “Draft of 6 July 1945,” Stimson statement, 3–4; Role 6, File 73, H–B Files.

86. Ibid.

87. New York Times, 7 August 1945, 4. The White House also released Stimson’s statement while he was away from from Washington while visiting his home on Long Island (see Herbert Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II [Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1966], 123–24).

88. New York Times, 7 August 1945, 4.

89. Ibid.


future date. Both Truman’s and Stimson’s statements emphasized the importance of maintaining an atomic monopoly and vaguely addressed nonproliferation efforts to cleanse the burgeoning nuclear menace from the world. Many in the government agreed with Groves that the United States could maintain its nuclear monopoly for at least ten years.90 While choosing to ignore the Interim Commit­tee’s pre-bomb targeting role and even creating the false impression that it was in the early stages of formation, Stimson announced that this committee would provide the president with “recommendations with regard to the problems of both national and international control.”91 This was the only reference to international nuclear arms control in the secretary’s declaration, the longest of those issued subsequent to the Hiroshima attack.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada jointly revealed the arrival of the nuclear age on 6 August in a carefully choreographed propaganda blitz. Truman and Stimson would issue their statements first, followed in London with new Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s brief introduction of Churchill’s remarks, and conclude with Canada’s announcement from Ottawa. Groves informed General Marshall that “these statements are satisfactory to us.”92 C. D. Howe delivered the Canadian message. Howe was born and edu­cated in the United States and, as Minister of Reconstruction, was the chief planner of Canada’s significant contribution to the Manhattan Project.93 It is evident that both Britain and the United States were intimately involved in the editing of Howe’s statement. The British Embassy staff member Roger Makins inquired from George Harrison at the Pentagon if it was “acceptable to you” that Howe “wishes” to make some changes in the opening lines of paragraph fourteen.94 Even though these redactions were relatively minor (the substitution of the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada for the names of their heads of state during the critical years of the top secret program), Makins sought Harrison’s approval.

90.  Groves to the Chief of Staff (George C. Marshall), 6 August 1945, 2.

91.  New York Times, 7 August 1945, 4.

92.  Groves to the Chief of Staff, 6 August 1945, 1.

93.  Susan Monroe, “C.D. Howe,” Canada Online, cited at http://canadaonline.about.com/od/ canadaww2/p/cdhowe.htm, accessed 7 October 2009.

94.  Roger Makins to George Harrison, 4 August 1945, Roll 6, File 75, H–B Files. British efforts to clear Howe’s statement with the Department of War reflected Canada’s more junior status in the tripartite development of the atomic bomb.


Major-General Groves sent a memorandum to Harvey H. Bundy, Stimson’s special assistant (and a former assistant secretary of state during the Hoover administration), requesting further revisions to Howe’s A-bomb message. In Howe’s eighteen-paragraph draft, Groves objected to the repeated use of the phrase “international agreement is reached” to control this quantum leap in destructive power.95 This phrase is twice crossed out; the edited phrases of “arrangements are made” and “appropriate methods are devised” are scrawled above the original typed entries. Groves felt that the Canadian minister’s advocacy for an internationalist approach to the challenges of the nuclear era should not be “demanded” or “sought,” but proceed only after the United States, Great Britain, or Canada declared it as official policy.

Howe’s draft, however, contained no demand for an international control regime of nuclear fissile materials or weapons, but presented a carefully crafted and circumspect approach to the looming challenge of nuclear proliferation. In its ninth paragraph, Howe’s statement suggested that “all supplies of uranium might be obtained for the Crown and ultimately used under whatever international agreement is reached for controlling the release of atomic energy in the interests of mankind.”96 In paragraph fifteen, Howe modestly observed that “until some international agreement is reached to control this new source of energy that has been developed[,] it will not be possible to divulge the technical processes of production or of military application.”97

The Canadian announcement was more nuanced and analytic than Truman’s militaristic gusto. Howe hoped that the atomic age would produce “paths of peace” following the birth pangs of its “incredible feat of destruction.”98 He avoided exterminationist rhetoric. Howe’s statement does not even mention Japan, even though Canada suffered casualties in Asia during World War II.99 Howe emphasized the need to move beyond the wartime deployment of nuclear arms and seek alternative nuclear outcomes “for the benefit of mankind… [and] the maintenance of peace.”100 Describing the nuclear age as “one of the major

95. Groves to Harvey H. Bundy, 3 August 1945; Roll 6, Target 4, File 75, H–B Files.

96. “Draft Statement By the Hon. C. D. Howe,” n.d., 2–3, Roll 6, Target 4, File 75, H–B Files.

97. Ibid.

98. Ibid.

99. Minister of Supply and Services Canada, “Canada and the Second World War Valour Remembered, 1939–1945,” Veterans Affairs, Canada: Catalog No. V32-26/1981, cited at http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/Canada2.

100.  “Draft Statement By the Hon. C. D. Howe,” 3–4.


scientific advances in history,” he rather idealistically, if not naively, concluded that the momentous development of nuclear fission could be separated “from the political and military aspects.”101

Howe humbly recognized that the role Canadian scientists played in the development of the atomic bomb “cannot be compared. . . with the truly stupen­dous effort” of the United States.102 Without posturing, he summarized the Cana­dian role in the Manhattan Project and praised the National Research Council’s staff of 140 scientists for their applied technical achievements. Canada tasked many of its universities to work on nuclear fission research, as the United States had done with Metlab at the University of Chicago. Howe revealed how Canada built a pilot plant dedicated to producing nuclear materials, for which 10,000 acres were expropriated to accommodate its residents and industrial infrastruc­ture.103 Press accounts were ecstatic over the revelation of Canada’s possession of uranium ore, which bestowed upon the country a status as one of “the most vital areas in the world.”104 While the Howe statement has been virtually ignored in the historiographical literature of the atomic bomb, it represented a striking contrast to the bombast of Truman and Churchill.

When Clement Attlee became prime minister on 26 July, the day of the Potsdam Declaration, he replaced Churchill at the Potsdam Conference.105 Attlee’s comments on 6 August were only two paragraphs in length, which was still longer than an earlier draft contained within the H–B Files.106 Attlee’s laconic statement matter of factly observed that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan and that British scientists had participated in its development. He informed the international community that Churchill had prepared a much longer statement prior to leaving 10 Downing Street (at the same time, therefore, when American officials were finalizing the Truman drafts in Washington). Given his fondness for expansive oratory, Churchill’s remarks were not surprisingly some five hundred words longer than the president’s. Churchill’s statement is conceptually similar to

101. Ibid.

102. Ibid.

103. Ibid., 1–2.

104. “A New Force in the World,” Globe and Mail, 7 August 1945, 6.

105. In a stunning defeat less than two months following Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day), Attlee’s Labour Party’s victory in the 5 July 1945 election drove Prime Minister Churchill’s Conservative Party from power.

106. Untitled and undated Attlee Draft, Roll 6, File 75, H–B Files; New York Times, 7 August 1945, 8.


Truman’s. The invocation of God’s agency in marshalling Anglo-American scien­tific exceptionalism appears in both announcements. The former prime minister wrote: “By God’s mercy British and American science outpaced all German efforts which might have altered the course of the war.”107 In a similar vein, Truman averred that Providence should be praised because the Germans could not “enslave the world” and lost the “battle of the laboratories.”108 The similarity of both statements resulted from bilateral nuclear collaboration and Truman and Churchill’s belief that an Anglo-American exceptionalism created a chosen people destined to possess an atomic monopoly. While not as openly exterminationist as Truman’s “rain of ruin,” Churchill threatened additional nuclear attacks should Japan not leave the war, warning that “[i]t is now for Japan to realize in the glare of the first atomic bomb which has smitten her what the consequence will be of an indefinite continuance of this terrible means of maintaining a rule of law in the world.”109

Both Truman and Churchill concluded their announcements with some measure of hope for world peace following the apocalyptic birth of the nuclear age. Truman sought Congressional cooperation on “how atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence towards the maintenance of world peace.”110 Churchill “pray[ed]” that nuclear Armageddon would be averted and “peace among the nations, and. . . a perennial fountain of world prosperity” would result from this “revelation of the secrets of nature.”111

Neither Truman nor Churchill, in contrast to Howe, suggested an urgent need for nuclear nonproliferation under international treaty. In his speech, Truman seemed to relish the atomic power at his disposal. Churchill saluted America for achieving “one of the greatest triumphs. . . of human genius of which there is record.”112 Other than their joint desire for an eventual nonmilitary application of atomic power, no policy initiatives appeared that would enhance international control of fissile materials, provide safeguards for the inspection of atomic reactor facilities, and account for nuclear weaponry. Truman merely wanted public con‑

107.  James Sloan, “By God’s Mercy It’s Our Bomb, Churchill Says,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 August 1945, 4. The New York Times and Harrison–Bundy Files’ versions do not contain “…which might have altered the course of the war.”

108.  “Statement by the President,” 1.

109.  New York Times, 7 August 1945, 8.

110.  “Statement by the President,” 4.

111.  New York Times, 7 August 1945, 8.

112.  Ibid.


trols over the nuclear enterprise “within the United States.”113 This preference for an atomic monopoly likely stimulated other countries to develop their own nuclear arms.

World War II accelerated the rise of the national security state with its nuclear triad adorning a military–industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisen­hower denounced three days before leaving office in his iconic farewell address in 1961. As the Manhattan Project neared its fateful conquest of the atom as a weapon for war, a parallel resolute propaganda campaign developed that lionized the nuclear age with its awe-inspiring new bombs. Officials characterized its creation as a messianic gift to the American people.

The American government’s rationalization of enormous military expenditures became rather sophisticated with the unfolding of the Manhattan Project. It was understood that this required an ongoing massive public relations effort that incorporated both civilian and military units of the government. The bombard­ment of the public with justification for vast outlays in the name of national security did not abate in the sixty-five years after the end of the Pacific War. Defending American interests became a ritualized component of nuclear propa­ganda. If the public desired peace, it must prepare for war. Propaganda claimed that nuclear weapons were needed to protect the state, “deter” the enemy, and preserve our freedoms.

Secretary of War Stimson was a chief architect of the atomic spin machine, who publicly justified the decision to use the atomic bomb but privately revealed that war had “grown steadily more barbarous, more destructive, [and] more debased in all its aspects.”114 Stimson believed that nuclear weapons worn “rather osten­tatiously on our hip” could not guarantee the ultimate strategic victory, which only diplomacy aimed at nonproliferation could achieve. The latter should, therefore, preoccupy American foreign relations. Even now, the private and public Stimsons need to be reconciled better in the area of public policy. As Stimson warned: “The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. . . made it wholly clear that we must never have another war. . . . There is no other choice.”115

113.  Statement by the President, 4.

114.  “Memorandum for the President,” 11 September 1945; Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948), 641–48, quoted in William Appleman Williams, ed., The Shaping of American Diplomacy: 1900–1955, vol. 2 (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1956), 955.

115.  Henry L. Stimson, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harper’s Magazine, February 1947, 99.

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