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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons History Pre Cold War Interim Committee Log

Interim Committee Log Memorandum for the Record
14 Sept. 1945 Through 1 October 1945

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September 14, 1945.

MEMORANDUM for the files:

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At the request of the Secretary, I called on Mr. Acheson at 2:30 P.M. yesterday, September 13th, to give to him a copy of the Secretary's memorandum on the atomic bomb and Russia as well as a copy of his covering letter to the President. Incidentally, I brought at the same time the Secretary's letter to Mr. Acheson on British participation in the Brazilian contract.

Mr. Acheson said that he agrees with the Secretary's position vis-a vis Russia. He still is concerned about introcducing the proposed bill because it will raise international questions which are still officially undecided so far as he is concerned. I told him that in the circumstances as long as the President and Mr. Byrnes and the War Department are all in agreement that the bill should be introduced at once, perhaps it would be wise for him to talk to the President himself if he feels he needs further authority or background. He said he might do that. It was clear, however, that he is now impressed with the necessity of quick action.

Concerning the letter of Mr. Stimson to him on the subject of the Brazilian contract, he asked whether I thought it would be necessary for him to get the approval of the President before he signed it. I said that was a matter for him to decide but that if he wanted personal opinion, I would think it was unnecessary inasmuch as the arrangement for participation with the British has been definitely included in accordance with the records referred to in Mr. Stimson's letter. Both he and Mr. Marks, who was present during part of the conversation, agreed that that was probably right. At any rate, they indicated that they would not take it up with the President. Mr. Marks telephoned me later in the afternoon to ask whether it would not be possible for the State Department to have the use of Lt. Arneson in the matter of handling the bill. I told him there was no need of any formal assignment of that kind, that Mr. McCloy and I had already told Mr.Byrnes that the War Department would be glad in any way possible to help in the matter of the bill if the State Department wanted us. Mr. Marks said that was quite satisfactory. 

GEORGE L. HARRISON

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14 September 1945.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD:

A copy of the Agreement entered into between the United States Government and the Government of Brazil was transmitted to the British Embassy by letter dated August 27 from Secretary Byrnes to Mr. J. Balfour, Charge d'Affaires. On September 5 Mr. Harrison discussed with Mr. Acheson by telephone the need for an exchange of letters with the British recording their joint participation in this Agreement under the terms of the Combined Development Trust Agreement and the decisions taken at the Combined Policy Committee meetings of March 8 and July 4, 1945. In accordance with this conversation, the attached letter dated September 5 was sent to Mr. Acheson from Mr. Harrison transmitting the draft letter to be sent to the British Ambassador. Copies of the basic papers pertinent to this matter, namely - the Quebec Agreement, the Combined Development Trust Agreement, Aide-Memoire of Hyde Park conversations, History of negotiations leading to the Quebec Agreement, Minutes of the CPC, and membership of British Advisory Committee on tube alloys - had been handed to Secretary Byrnes by Mr. Harrison on August 29. Presumably Mr. Acheson and Mr. Marks, his assistant, were unable to find these materials in the State Department files. Mr. Marks came over to discuss the question with Mr. Harrison and on September 11 met with Lt. Arneson to go over the basic documents in order to fix in mind the nature of our agreements with the British on joint acquisition of certain materials. The upshot was that the letter of September 5 was redrafted in the State Department to include references to the Quebec Agreement, the Combined Development Trust Agreement, and the decisions of the CPC on British participation in the Agreement with Brazil. This letter as finally signed by the Secretary of War and dispatched to the State Department is attached.

R. GORDON ARNESON

1st Lieutenant AUS.

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September 18, 1945.

MEMORANDUM:

I had a long talk with Dr. Conant about the letter from him dated August 24th* when he was in town on September 12th. I told him that I personally was fearful of publication of statements on the political aspects of the bomb at this time. My reason was largely that the Secretary was even at that time trying to "sell" a point of view to the President, a point of view with which I knew that he and the scientists would agree. I pointed out that there were others in the Administration, however, who felt differently, and for him, Conant, to make a public statement just now might have the adverse effect of appearing to take sides. 

With this point of view, Dr. Conant was in complete agreement. He was very pleased to know of the Secretary's position and especially pleased that he was taking it up with the President.

Later on in the afternoon when the Secretary saw Dr. Conant and Dr. Bush he told them of the apparent success of his mission to the President. They were delighted.

Incidentally, I told him of Oppenheimer's letter and the enclosed memorandum of his Mexico group urging an immediate political settlement. They asked that the Interim Committee authorize its public release. My position was - and Conant agreed with this too - that it was not a function for the Interim Committee to approve the release. In view of what I had already said to him, he thought that it would be a mistake in any event. I told him that I would talk with Oppenheimer and his group this week when they come to Washington.

GEORGE L. HARRISON

* Letter in "Interim Committee - Publicity" file.

18 September 1945.

Marks called Harrison this morning and reported that Acheson would like to see Oppenheimer when he comes to Washington toward the end of the week. If possible, Acheson said he would like to meet with the entire Scientific Panel in the event they are available in Washington. Harrison said he would look into the matter. Harrison wants to check with General Groves before he gives an affirmative reply to Acheson.

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19 September 1945.

Arneson talked with Marks concerning the exchange of correspondence with the British on the Brazilian Agreement. He reported that the letters should go out from the State Department this afternoon or tomorrow morning. 

Marks reported that Acheson saw the President yesterday and had a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning during which the various bills were discussed. Marks was not present at the time and does not know what the tenor of the discussion was. He did report that the Foreign Relations Committee appointed a sub-committee consisting of Senators Connally, Vandenberg, and Lucas to meet with the President to discuss this subject.

September 25, 1945.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE FILES:

Dr. Oppenheimer and I called on Acting Secretary of State Acheson yesterday afternoon (September 24th) at 2:30 P.M. Mr. Marks was present. At the beginning of the meeting, we went over Mr. Acheson's proposed statement to the President on the matter of negotiations with Russia concerning the control of the atomic bomb. On the whole, it was an excellent statement and, for our records only, was in substance a paraphrase of Secretary Stimson's statement.

He went pretty far in stating that the evidence seems to be that sooner or later it will be possible to improve the bomb to a point of world destruction, igniting the atmosphere, etc. Both Oppenheimer and I thought this was unnecessarily drastic as the evidence thus far merely indicates that perhaps that might some day be true but it is not likely.

A good part of the discussion, which lasted over two hours in all, related to the possibility of separating the types of information which might be given to the Russians. query: Is it possible to say that we will give them virtuually all of the scientific data but none of the technical information regarding the manufacture of material or the production of the Bomb? Dr. Oppenheimler said he thought that it was possible to make this distinction; although, to be fair, he said he believed that sooner or later, these processes or other processes would also be available to the Russians by their own effort.

However, I pointed out that for practical and political reasons it was both possible and wise to draw the line of distinction between the two classes of information. As to this, both Oppenheimer and Acheson agreed.

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Dr. Oppenheimer philosophized at great length about the work of the scientists, their objectives, their prejudices and their hopes. There is a distinct opposition on their part to doing any more work on any bomb -- not merely a super bomb but any bomb. However, as he pointed out in the letter which he had previously sent to the Secretary of War and a copy of which was given to Secretary Byrnes, if the Government, for political or security reasons, thought such work was necessary they would, of course, comply. He says that much of the restiveness in his laboratory is not so much due to the delay in legislation as to a feeling of uncertainty as to whether they are going to be asked to continue perfecting the bomb against the dictates of their hearts and spirits. This is true particularly in terms of a better one, but the feeling persists even as to continuing the manufacture of the present one. Mr. Acheson seemed much interested in this. Dr. Oppenheimer did point out, however, that the introduction and passage of the legislation would no doubt be helpful in the sense of giving some direction and certainty as to the future of their work and research.

GEORGE L. HARRISON

25 September 1945.

Mr. Harrison and Dr. Oppenheimer had a meeting with Secretary Patterson at 9:30 A.M. in order for the Secretary to get the views of the scientists.

The Secretary showed Dr. Oppenheimer a copy of his letter to the President. Dr. Oppenheimer was in complete accord with the views expressed and suggested only one minor change which the Secretary accepted. This suggestion was that in the last paragraph the phrase "industrial processes" be changed to "secret ordnance procedures", the point being that the former phrase is too broad and would cover many paeaceful commercial aspects of the program concerning which it probably would be found desirable to divulge information.

Mr. Harrison suggested that the Secretary would probably want to see General Groves and obtain his views which are quite different from those of the scientists.

1 October 1945

Secretary Patterson and Mr. Harrison met with Judge Rosenman at 5:00 P.M. Secretary Patterson recommended the short form of message but stated that, if it were the opinion of the Congressional leaders that the long form would be better, he would raise no objection.

Original at:  http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/index.php?documentdate=1945-07-20&documentid=44&studycollectionid=abomb&pagenumber=1