Interim Committee Log (September 14th to October 1st)

September 14, 1945:


The Secretary asked for me; I called on Mr. Acheson at 2:30 P.M. yesterday, September 13th, to give him a copy of the Secretary’s memorandum on the atomic bomb and Russia and his cover 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 he agrees with the Secretary’s position vis-à-vis Russia. He still is concerned about introducing the proposed bill because it will raise international questions, which still need to be officially decided 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 agree 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 was now impressed with the necessity of quick action.

Concerning Mr. Stimson’s letter about the Brazilian contract, he asked if I thought it 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 a personal opinion, it was unnecessary since the arrangement for participation with the British has been included by the records referred to in Mr. Stimson’s letter. He and Mr. Marks, who was present during 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 use Lt. Arneson to handle the bill. I told him there was no need for 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 entirely satisfactory.

George L. Harrison

14 September 1945:


A copy of the Agreement 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. By 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 essential 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, could not find these materials in the State Department files. Mr. Marks came over to discuss the question with Mr. Harrison. On September 11, they met with Lt. Arneson to review the essential documents to fix the nature of our agreements with the British on the 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, finally signed by the Secretary of War and dispatched to the State Department, is attached.

R. Gordon Arneson, 1st Lieutenant AUS.

September 18, 1945:


I talked long with Dr. Conant about his letter dated August 24th* when he was in town on September 12th. I told him that I was fearful of the publication of statements on the political aspects of the bomb at this time. My reason was mainly 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 delighted to know of the Secretary’s position and especially happy he was taking it up with the President.

Later 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 of the Interim Committee to approve the waiver. Given what I had already said to him, he thought it would be a mistake. I told him 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. Acheson said he would like to meet with the entire Scientific Panel if 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.

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 met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning, during which the various bills were discussed. Sports was not present at the time and did not know the tenor of the discussion. 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.

25 September 1945:


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 reviewed Mr. Acheson’s proposed statement to the President on negotiations with Russia concerning the control of the atomic bomb. Overall, it was a remarkable 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 is that sooner or later, it will be possible to improve the bomb to the point of world destruction, igniting the atmosphere, etc. Oppenheimer and I thought this was unnecessarily drastic as the evidence thus far indicates that that may 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: Can we say that we will provide them with virtually all of the scientific data but none of the technical information regarding the manufacture of material or the production of the Bomb? Dr. Oppenheimer said he thought it possible to make this distinction, although, to be fair, he believed that sooner or later, these processes or other processes would also be available to the Russians through their 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.

Dr. Oppenheimer philosophized greatly about the scientists’ work, objectives, prejudices, and 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 he had previously sent to the Secretary of War and a copy of which was given to Secretary Byrnes, they would comply if the Government thought such work was necessary for political or security reasons. 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 will 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 to continue manufacturing 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 help give some direction and certainty as to the future of their work and research.

Mr. Harrison and Dr. Oppenheimer met with Secretary Patterson at 9:30 A.M. 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 opinions 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 term is too broad and would cover many peaceful commercial aspects of the program concerning which it probably would be 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.

George L. Harrison

1 October 1945:

Secretary Patterson and Mr. Harrison met with Judge Rosenman at 5:00 P.M. Secretary Patterson recommended the short form of the message but stated that, if it were the opinion of the Congressional leaders that the long form would be better, he would not object.

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