The Atomic Bomb
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no conditions would secrets be disclosed until international control was established. Two weeks later, the Interim Committee, at the urging of Robert Oppenheimer and other scientists, recommended that Truman advise the Soviets that the United States was working on the atomic bomb and expected to use it against Japan. The committee added that the President might also suggest future discussions to insure that “the weapon would become an aid to peace

The atomic bomb loomed ever larger in policy calculations as the war neared its end. Dependent diplomatically on a weapon that had been neither tested nor proved in combat, American officials scheduled the opening of the next meeting of the Big Three leaders at the Potsdam Conference in Berlin to coincide with the anticipated Trinity test. The successful test on July 16 buoyed Truman’s confidence and hardened his resolve toward the Soviet Union. Churchill described the bomb as “a miracle of deliverance.” Stimson later called it “a badly needed �equalizer.’” Dealing with the Soviets firsthand at Potsdam, however, started to wear on Stimson, and he began to reconsider international control. In a memorandum to the President, he noted that no control organization could function effectively if it had to rely on an autocratic nation dependent on secret political police who denied basic civil liberties. The United States needed to ask itself, he continued, if it dared share atomic secrets with the Soviets under any system of international control. The nation should proceed slowly, he concluded, and consider how it could use its atomic monopoly to remove the essential difficulty –- the character of the Soviet state. Apparently taking Stimson’s advice to heart, Truman and Byrnes decided to inform Soviet leader Josef Stalin about the bomb while revealing as little about it as possible. Upon the close of a plenary session on July 24, Truman, without his interpreter, casually walked over to where Stalin was standing and informed him that the United States had a new weapon of unusually destructive force. Stalin, who through Soviet espionage and unbeknownst to Truman was well aware of the atomic bomb, replied that he was glad to hear it and hoped that it would be used against Japan to good effect. Saying nothing about future discussions regarding the bomb as an “aid to peace,” Truman had done the minimum necessary to warn the Soviets of the impending use of the bomb.

(August to November 1945)
Events: Postscript — The
Nuclear Age, 1945-present
In the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, President Harry S. Truman and his top officials viewed the Soviet Union as the primary stumbling block in the move toward international control of the atomic bomb. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes represented the two poles of an uncertain and divided policy. Despite his ongoing misgivings concerning the Soviets, Stimson determined that unless the United States offered full partnership in the development of atomic energy the Soviet Union would begin “a secret armament race of a rather desperate character.” Byrnes, on the eve of the first postwar foreign ministers conference to be held in London, remained adamant in opposition to any attempt to cooperate with the Soviets on atomic energy and viewed the bomb as a diplomatic asset that would make the Soviets more amenable. As Stimson observed in his diary, Byrnes went to London fully set on having “the implied threat of the bomb in his pocket during the conference.”

In Byrnes’s absence, Stimson approached Truman about a direct offer to the Soviets on controlling the bomb. “In my plan,” Stimson told the President, there are “less dangers than in his and we would be on the right path toward . . . establishment of an international world.” Byrnes’s approach, he added, meant that “we would . . . be tending to revert to power politics.” The United States, Stimson noted in explaining his plan, might propose to stop all weapons work if the Soviets did likewise. The current stockpile might be impounded if an agreement could be reached on

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