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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons History Pre Cold War Interim Committee Log

Interim Committee Log Memorandum for the Record
3 October 1945 through 16 October 1945

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October 3, 1945.

With the approval of the President and in accordance with arrangements made by Secretary Patterson, a meeting was held in the office of Speaker Rayburn at 4:00 P.M. yesterday. There were present Speaker Rayburn, Senator Barkley, Under Secretary Acheson, Judge Rosenman, Secretary Patterson and myself. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the President's message on atomic energy. More specifically it was to determine whether the so-called long form of message, that is, the one which included a discussion of the international aspects as well as the bill itself, would delay or expedite the passage of the bill. All agreed that early enactment was essential. The only question was whether the last two or three pages of the message dealing with the international aspects of this field would unnecessarily delay the legislation. Both Mr. Patterson and I stated specifically that we were in favor of the President's general position on the international situation and that we had no substanitial objections to the paragraphs dealing with this phase as written in the long form of the message.

After reading the bill over twice in detail, both Senator Barkley and Speaker Rayburn said that they felt that discussion and debate on the foreign aspects of atomic energy, and especially the bomb, have proceeded so far that it would be impossible to isolate discussion in either the House or the Senate and confine it to the  enactment of a bill aimed only at domestic control. In other words, they both felt that the long form of message would probably help rather than hurt the passage of the bill.

Secretary Patterson stated that this decision satisfied him entirely, that his only hesitation was on the enactment of the bill litself, that he did not differ with the views expressed in the last paragraphs per se , and that if they, the Congressional leaders, felt that it was better to handle it the way they proposed he had no further question about it.

After the meeting broke up ar 5:15 P. M., Senator Barklley and Speaker Rayburn suggested that Secretary Patterson and I call on Senator Johnson, who is now the ranking member of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, and tell him that the message and the bill will both be coming up today. This we did. Senator Johnson was very cooperative and helpful and said he would be pleased to introduce the bill precisely in the form that it is sent to him and that he would do so immediately after the message was delivered.


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3 October 1945

Mr. Harrison talked with Dr. Bush and Dr. Conant by telephone this morning and informed them of the current situation with regard to the introduction of the legislation. He reviewed for them the state of affairs as reflected in Mr. Harrison's memorandum for the record of this date.

3 October 1945

At the request of General Greenbaum, Lt. Arneson sat in on a meeting in General Greenbaum's office with Paul Tobenkin, a labor reporter from the New York Herald Tribune , who had a labor story concerning the Manhattan Engineer District which he wanted to publish. General Greenbaum stated that the War Department would very much prefer that the story not be published until the bill going before Congress today had been passed by both Houses, for fear that to inject any labor problems into the picture at this stage might possibly cause delay in the bill. Mr. Tobenkin agreed to this.

Mr. Tobenkin raised the question whether security considerationswould continue to be controlling ober any program of unionization in these plants after the bill became law. General Greenbaum replied that while security would be relaxed it would certainly remain an important factor but that he did not know to what extent it would affect the labor situation.

General Greenbaum arranged for copies of an exchange of correspondence with Mr. Herzog, Chairman of NLRB, to be sent to Mr. Tobenkin from which he can quote in his article when it is released. This was checked by telephone with Mr. Herzog, who had no objection.

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4 October 1945

Secretary Forrestal called Secretary Patterson yesterday to inquire why the Navy Department had not seen the bill before it went to Congress. Commodore Strauss raised the same question with General Greenbaum. On being asked about this, Mr. Harrison explained that Mr. Bard, as a member of the Interim Committee, had been in on all discussions of the bill and had been given copies of several of the various drafts. This log shows, for example, that a copy of the third draft was given to Mr. Bard by Mr. Harrison of July 25 and that Mr. Bard returned this copy the same day without comment. It should be pointed out that at this time Mr. Bard was no longer Under Secretary of the Navy but at the request of Secretary Forrestal he continued to be a member of the Interim Committee. Mr. Harrison explained to Scetetary Patterson further that at about this same time he suggested to Mr. Bard that he, Mr. Harrison, see Secretary Forrestal to bring him up to date on the bill and the project generally. Mr. Bard reported back that Secretary Forrestal saw no necessity for so doing and felt that Mr. Bard could keep him adequately informed. Accordingly the matter was dropped.

The foregoing was explained to the Navy by Secretary Patterson and by General Greenbaum yesterday. Today Secretary Forrestal called Secretary Patterson and stated that this recital of facts was correct and that the complaint of the previous day was unjustified.

October 10, 1945.


I went over to the State Department with Judge Patterson and at his request reviewed the situation concerning the Combined Policy Committee: first, the lack of an American Joint Secretary; second, changes in U.S. membership; and, third, the request of the British for a meeting, if possible, on Saturday of this week.

Judge Patterson raised the question whether now is not the time to consider revamping or doing away with the Quebec Agreement. Forrestal was of the opinion that this should be done (though I think he has never seen the Quebec Agreement). Byrnes was a little hesitant, feeling, as I did, that there may be some advantage in not changing the Agreement just now. My argument was that the period during which we were obliged to comply with the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Agreement was now over, and that paragraph 4, which gives us all the commercial advantages and rights except to the extent that the President might make specific arrangements with the British with respect thereto, might be favorable to us during a period of discussion of the international situation. All present agreed with this point of view. It was suggested, however, that we consider what, if any, changes might be recommended at the meeting next Saturday.

All present felt that it was important that there be representation of the State Department in the American membership. Secretary Byrnes said he would like to be a member himself, and that he would be glad to attend the meeting next Saturday as suggested by the British.

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11 October 1945.

Secretary Patterson spoke to me this morning about the report in the newspapers of the action of the Oak Ridge scientists in urging Congress to give much time and study to the pending bill before taking action. They proposed, I think, that it be referred to a special joint committee of the two Houses. I told the Secretary that while I had not seen the article I had talked with Dr. Conant, who was much concerned and who felt that we ought to have a meeting of the Scientific Panel if only to give them the opportunity to try to bring the scientific group together. Mr. Patterson felt that this was an excellent idea and asked me if I wouldn't call Oppenheimer with a view to having the Scientific Panel meet here in Washington with him and then to discuss ways and means of presenting their views to Congress and of dealing with the recalcitrant members of the scientific group in Oak Ridge and Chicago. I called Dr. Oppenheimer and told him that we were much concerned by the publicity this morning and asked him whether he did not think it was a good idea to have a meeting. He agreed that it would be and that he thought it might be helpful if, as I suggested, some of the panel could go to Oak Ridge after the meeting to have a confidential talk with the group there as a whole. He said that he had heard last week before he left Washington that the outburst was to come, that he had told General Groves of it and of his conversation with Szilard, who apparently is the leader of the objectors. I asked what Szilard's objectives were. He said that Szilard feels that it is his personal obligation to tell all the Senators and Congressmen he can find of his views, that he feels that the meeting in Chicago last month gave him the assignment of propagandizing Washington in favor of his views. I asked Oppenheimer what those views were. He said that his principal objective was to be sure that the doors in the international field were not closed. After the President's message to Congress the doors seemed fairly wide open, so Szilard changed his tune to one of concern about the extraordinary powers which the bill contains, heavy penalties, the possibility of competing corporations, etc. Oppenheimer says he regards Szilard's objections as being trivial, except possibly his complaint about the extensive powers.

I then asked Oppenheimer if in the circumstances he would be willing to send a telegram on behalf of the Scientific Panel, giving his views about the legislation and the urgency for early passage. He said he would be glad to do that though he wasn't sure of Fermi's views, but that he would either send a telegram representing the views of all four or of the individual members who feel as he does. I then talked about the need for an early meeting of the panel as a whole to discuss what steps might be taken to straighten out the situation at Oak Ridge.

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Oppenheimer thought this a good idea, especially as he feels that Szilard really doesn't represent the views of the Oak Ridge group as a whole and that the Scientific Panel might have considerable influence as against Szilard in setting them straight.

About Noon, I called General Groves and told him of the problem of the Oak Ridge group and that Secretary Patterson, Conant and I thought it was necessary to convene the Scientific Panel fairly promptly for the purposes outlined above. General Groves said he thought the situation was serious and that it was an excellent idea to get a statement from the Panel and to have them convene, if possible, with a view to discussing ways and means of bringing the whole group more nearly together.

I called Oppenheimer again and told him of my conversation with Groves and that we would lilke to have a statement from the Panel by telegram as promptly as possible; that if it were not possible to get the Panel as a whole to agree to such a statement that we would like to have individual statements from them, especially Oppenheimer, Lawrence and Compton. Oppenheimer said that he would be very glad to try to accomplish this by telephone; that in any event he would send me a telegram from himself if he couldn't do more. I then said that in view of the fact that he has to be in New Mexico Tuesday and back in Washington on Wednesday, I wouldn't ask him to bring the group together in Washington before next Wednesday. He was very appreciative and said that he would attempt to do this.

Later in the afternoon, Dr. Lawrence telephoned me from Berkeley, California, saying that Oppenheimer had been in touch with him, that he was glad to sign a statement about the importance of early passage of the bill, and that either Oppenheimer would send a telegram for both of them or each of them separately, depending on how circumstances developed. He stated that he did not know whether Dr. Compton or Dr. Fermi would join in a statement. In discussing the importance of the meeting of the Panel he said that, if we really wanted him to, he would be glad to be here next Wednesday when Oppenheimer arrives.

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Telephone conversation with Oppenheimer
at 4:00 P.M., October 11, 1945 .

Oppenheimer: I am sorry to bother you again. But let me report to you. First, all members of the Panel will be in Washington by Wednesday evening and they will meet there with anyone you want on Thursday.

Harrison: First rate, and I am very grateful.

Oppenheimer: If there should be any change in the situation I think that you should let the Panel people know, or let me know, because for several of them it is not very convenient.

Harrison: I shall do that.

Oppenheimer: Lawrence and Fermi are glad to send a  telegram along the lines we wanted to send. Compton says that he is not sufficiently aware of the reason for haste to be willing to sign but he would look into this matter next week. Under these circumstances, shall I sign the telegram with the three names and leave the fourth off?

Harrison: Well, I should think so.

Oppenheimer: I thought so but I wasn't quite certain whether the absence of a single name would be disturbing.

Harrison: That is all right.

Oppenheimer: Lauritzen called me from Pasadena and said he has been asked to approve a message urging delay and deliberation by Hutchins' organiztion and he called me in great agitation. He is sending them a wire saying he doesn't approve and he wanted me also to support this telegram. I wasn't sure whether it would be appropriate for me to do this. 

Harrison: Well, I think it wouldn't be best to associate him with your telegram, because we can say these are three members of the Panel.

Oppenheimer: All right, I will send out the wire in a few minutes.


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16 October 1945

The columnist, Marquis Childs, called Mr. Harrison concerning an communication alleged to have been sent by "40 scientists" to the War Department protesting against the Johnson-May bill. Mr. Harrison explained that he had no knowledge of such a protest and had been unable to find anyone in the War Department who did. Mr. Childs stated that he had no real information on the matter but that he was simply trying to track down a rumor.

16 October 1945

Mr. Harrison had a talk with Secretary Patterson this morning on the question of reopening the House Committee hearings on the bill. Mr. Harrison stated his conviction that the War Department should not object to the reopening of hearings. He felt that there would be considerable advantage in taking a little more time in the House for it would probably save much time later in the Senate. With this view, Secretary Patterson strongly concurred.

Original at:  http://www.whistlestop.org/