Interim Committee Log (October 3rd to October 16th)

3 October 1945:

With the approval of the President and arrangements made by Secretary Patterson, a meeting was held in the office of Speaker Rayburn at 4:00 P.M. yesterday. Speaker Rayburn, Senator Barkley, Under Secretary Acheson, Judge Rosenman, Secretary Patterson, and I were present. 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 notice, that is, the one which included a discussion of the international aspects and the bill itself, would delay or expedite the bill’s passage. 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. Mr. Patterson and I stated that we favored the President’s general position on the global situation and had no substantial 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 dialogue 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 the message would help rather than hurt the bill’s passage. Secretary Patterson stated that this decision satisfied him entirely, that his only hesitation was on the enactment of the bill itself, 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 around 5:15 P. M., Senator Barkley and Speaker Rayburn suggested that Secretary Patterson and I call on Senator Johnson, 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 it was sent to him and that he would do so immediately after the message was delivered.

Mr. Harrison talked with Dr. Bush and Dr. Conant by telephone this morning and informed them of the current situation regarding 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.

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 prefer that the report be issued when both Houses had passed the bill before Congress today for fear that injecting any labor problems into the picture at this stage might cause a delay in the statement. Mr. Tobenkin agreed to this.

Mr. Tobenkin raised the question of whether security considerations would continue to control any unionization program 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 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, which he can quote in his article when it is released. This was checked by telephone with Mr. Herzog, who had no objection.

George L. Harrison

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 on July 25 and that Mr. Bard returned this copy the same day without comment. I would like to point 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 Secretary 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. So then, the matter was dropped.

The preceding 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.

10 October 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 asked whether there is a better time to consider revamping or doing away with the Quebec Agreement. Forrestal thought this should be done (though he had never seen the Quebec Agreement). As I did, Byrnes was a little hesitant, feeling that there may be some advantage in not changing the Agreement just now. I argued that the period during which we were obliged to comply with the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Agreement was now over. That paragraph 4, which gives us all the commercial advantages and rights except that the President might make specific arrangements with the British concerning it, might be favorable to us during a discussion of the international situation. All present agreed with this point of view. However, it was suggested that we consider what changes might be recommended at the meeting next Saturday.

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

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 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 allow them to try to bring the scientific group together. Mr. Patterson thought 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 discuss ways and means of presenting their ideas 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 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, the leader of the objectors. I asked what Szilard’s objectives were. He said that Szilard feels that he must tell all the Senators and Congressmen he can find of his views and that the meeting in Chicago last month gave him the assignment of propagandizing Washington in favor of his thoughts. I asked Oppenheimer what those views were. He said his principal objective was to be sure that the doors in the international field were open. After the President’s message to Congress, the doors seemed pretty wide open, so Szilard changed his tune to one of concern about the extraordinary powers that the bill contains, heavy penalties, the possibility of competing corporations, etc. Oppenheimer says he regards Szilard’s objections as trivial, except for 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 was still determining 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 discussed the need for an early panel meeting to discuss steps to fix the situation at Oak Ridge.

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

About Noon, I called General Groves and told him about the problem of the Oak Ridge group and that Secretary Patterson, Conant and I thought it necessary to convene the Scientific Panel reasonably quickly for the abovementioned purposes. General Groves said he thought the situation was difficult and that it was an excellent idea to get a statement from the Panel and to have them convene, if possible, to discuss 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 like to have a statement from the Panel by telegram as promptly as possible; that if it were not likely to get the Panel as a whole to agree to such a statement that we would like to have individual reports from them, especially Oppenheimer, Lawrence and Compton. Oppenheimer said he would be happy to try to accomplish this by telephone; in any event, he would send me a telegram if he couldn’t do more. I then said that because he has to be in New Mexico Tuesday and back in Washington on Wednesday, I would only ask him to bring the group together in Washington 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 the 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 panel meeting, he said that if we wanted him to, he would be glad to be here next Wednesday when Oppenheimer arrives.

**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 panel members 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 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 had been asked to approve a message urging delay and deliberation by Hutchins’ organization, and he called me in great agitation. He is sending them a wire saying he disapproves and wants me to support this telegram. I wasn’t sure whether it would be appropriate for me to do this.”

Harrison: “Well, it wouldn’t be best to associate him with your telegram because we can say these are three-panel members.”

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

16 October 1945:

The columnist, Marquis Childs, called Mr. Harrison concerning a communication allegedly 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 accurate information on the matter but was trying to track down a rumor.

This morning, Mr. Harrison talked with Secretary Patterson about 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 there would be a considerable advantage in taking a little more time in the House, for it would save much time later in the Senate. With this view, Secretary Patterson strongly concurred.

Original at: