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A Collection of Primary Sources. Posted - August 5, First Updated - April 27, Latest Update, August 4, click here. Washington, D. The nuclear age had truly begun with the first military use of atomic weapons. With the material that follows, the National Security Archive publishes the most comprehensive on-line collection to date of declassified U.

Besides material from the files of the Manhattan Project, this collection includes formerly "Top Secret Ultra" summaries and translations of Japanese diplomatic cable traffic intercepted under the "Magic" program.

Moreover, the collection includes for the first time translations from Japanese sources of high level meetings and discussions in Tokyo, including the conferences when Emperor Hirohito authorized the final decision to surrender. Ever since the atomic bombs were exploded over Japanese cities, historians, social scientists, journalists, World War II veterans, and ordinary citizens have engaged in intense controversy about the events of August Historians Herbert Feis and Gar Alperovitz raised searching questions about the first use of nuclear weapons and their broader political and diplomatic implications.

The controversy, especially the arguments made by Alperovitz and others about "atomic diplomacy" quickly became caught up in heated debates about Cold War "revisionism. Bernstein but it became explosive during the mids when curators at the National Air and Space Museum met the wrath of the Air Force Association over a proposed historical exhibit on the Enola Gay. Alperovitz, Bernstein, and Sherwin made new contributions to the debate as did historians, social scientists, and journalists such as Richard B.

Newman, Robert S. Norris, Tsuyoshi Hagesawa, and J. Samuel Walker. This briefing book will not attempt to answer these questions or use primary sources to stake out positions on any of them. Nor will it attempt to substitute for the extraordinarily rich literature on the atomic bombs and the end of World War II. This collection does not attempt to document the origins and development of the Manhattan Project.

Nor does it include any of the miscellaneous sources interviews, documents prepared after the events, post-World War II correspondence, etc. Instead, by gaining access to a broad range of U. To help readers who are less familiar with the debates, commentary on some of the documents will point out, although far from comprehensively, some of the ways in which they have been interpreted.

With direct access to the documents, readers may be able to develop their own answers to the questions raised above. The documents may even provoke new questions.

Contributors to the historical controversy have deployed the documents selected here to support their arguments about the first use of nuclear weapons and the end of World War II. The editor has closely reviewed the footnotes and endnotes in a variety of articles and books and selected documents cited by participants on the various sides of the controversy.

The task of compilation took the editor to primary sources at the National Archives, mainly in Manhattan Project files held in the records of the Army Corps of Engineers, Record Group 77 but also in the files of the National Security Agency.

Private collections were also important such as the Stimson Diary at Yale University although available on microfilm elsewhere and the papers of W. Averell Harriman at the Library of Congress. To a great extent the documents selected for this compilation have been declassified for years, even decades; the most recent declassifications were in the s. The U. To provide a fuller picture of the transition from U.

This includes a number of formerly top secret summaries of intercepted Japanese diplomatic communications; the documents enable interested readers to form their own judgments about the direction of Japanese diplomacy in the weeks before the atomic bombings. Moreover, this briefing book includes new translations of Japanese primary sources on crucial events, including accounts of the conferences on August 9 and 14, where Emperor Hirohito made decisions to accept Allied terms of surrender.

Background on the Atomic Project. To disabuse senior officials that such a monopoly was possible, they drafted this memorandum. Document 2 : Commander F. Ashworth to Major General L.

In late February , months before atomic bombs were ready for use, the high command selected Tinian , an island in the Northern Marianas Islands. Documents 3a-c: President Truman Learns the Secret:. Memorandum for the Secretary of War from General L. Untitled memorandum by General L.

Groves, Correspondence , box 3 , "F". Soon after he was sworn in as president, after President Roosevelt's death, Harry Truman learned about the top secret Manhattan Project. It was not until he received a briefing from Secretary of War Stimson and Manhattan Project chief General Groves , who went through the "back door" to escape the watchful press, that Truman understood the full scope of the enterprise.

Stimson, who later wrote up the meeting in his diary, also prepared a discussion paper, which raised broader policy issues associated with the imminent possession of "the most terrible weapon ever known in human history.

With respect to the last point, the first gun-type weapon "should be ready about 1 August " while an implosion weapon would be available that month. Alperovitz and Sherwin have argued that Truman made "a real decision" to use the bomb on Japan by choosing "between various forms of diplomacy and warfare. Robert S. Defining Targets. In late April, military officers and nuclear scientists met to discuss bombing techniques, target selection, and overall mission requirements.

The discussion of "available targets" included Hiroshima , the "largest untouched targets not on the 21 st Bomber Command priority list. Document 5 : Memorandum from J. Discussing the radiological dangers of a nuclear detonation, Oppenheimer explained to General Farrell, Groves 's deputy, the need for precautions. Document 6 : Memorandum from Major J.

Derry and Dr. Ramsey to General L. Scientists and officers held further discussion of bombing mission requirements, including height of detonation, weather, plans for possible mission abort, and the various aspects of target selection, including priority cities "a large urban area of more than three miles diameter" and psychological dimension.

If it was, he believed that the bomb would be the "master card" in U. This and other entries from the Stimson diary as well as the entry from the Davies diary that follows are important to arguments developed by Gar Alperovitz and Barton J.

Davies Papers, Library of Congress, box 17 , 21 May While officials at the Pentagon continued to look closely at the problem of atomic targets, President Truman, like Stimson, was thinking about the diplomatic implications of the bomb.

During a conversation with Joseph E. Davies, a prominent Washington lawyer and former ambassador to the Soviet Union , Truman said that he wanted to delay talks with Stalin and Churchill until July when the first atomic device would have been tested. Alperovitz treats this entry as evidence in support of the atomic diplomacy argument, but other historians, ranging from Robert Maddox to Gabriel Kolko, deny that the timing of the Potsdam conference had anything to do with the goal of using the bomb to intimidate the Soviets.

More updates on training missions, target selection, and conditions required for successful detonation over the target. In this memorandum, Norstad reviewed the complex requirements for preparing Bs and their crews for successful nuclear strikes. George A. Lincoln, chief of the Strategy and Policy Group at the U. Hoover proposed a compromise solution with Japan that would allow Tokyo to retain part of its empire in East Asia including Korea and Japan as a way to head off Soviet influence in the region.

Document 14 : Memorandum from R. Stimson and Truman began this meeting by discussing how they should handle a conflict with French President deGaulle over the movement by French forces into Italian territory.

Truman finally cut off military aid to France to compel the French to pull back. Document 16 : Memorandum from Arthur B. The outspoken Szilard was not involved in operational work on the bomb and General Groves kept him under surveillance, but Met Lab director found Szilard useful to have around. That possibility would be difficult if the United States made first military use of the weapon.

Martin Sherwin has argued that the Franck committee shared an important assumption with Truman et al. He believed it essential that the United States declare its intention to preserve the institution of the emperor. By contrast, Herbert P. Commenting on another memorandum by Herbert Hoover, George A. Samuel Walker has observed that those risks help explain why senior officials were unwilling to modify the demand for unconditional surrender.

Document 19 : Memorandum by J. With the devastating battle for Okinawa winding up, Truman and his military advisers stepped back and considered the implications and requirements of the invasion of Japan. In this meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff Truman reviewed plans to land troops on Kyushu on 1 November, heard a range of casualty estimates, and contemplated the possible impact of eventual Soviet entry into the war with Japan. This document has figured in the highly complex debate over the estimates of casualties stemming from a possible invasion of Japan.

While post-war justifications for the bomb suggested that an invasion of Japan could have produced very high levels of casualties dead, wounded, or missing , from hundreds of thousands to a million, historians have vigorously debated the extent to which the post-war estimates were inflated. This meeting has also played a role in the historical discussions of the alternatives to nuclear weapons use in the summer of According to accounts based on post-war recollections and interviews, McCloy raised the possibility of winding up the war by guaranteeing the preservation of the emperor albeit as a constitutional monarch.

Document 21 : Memorandum from R. Document 22 : Memorandum from George L. Reminding Stimson about the objections of some Manhattan project scientists to military use of the bomb, Harrison summarized the basic arguments of the Franck report. One recommendation shared by many of the scientists, whether they supported the Franck report or not, was that the United States should inform Stalin about the bomb before it was used.

This proposal had been the subject of positive discussion by the Interim Committee on the grounds that Soviet confidence was necessary to make possible post-war cooperation on atomic energy. Document 23 : Memorandum from George L. This document has also figured in the argument framed by Barton Bernstein that Truman and his advisers took it for granted that the bomb was a legitimate weapon and that there was no reason to explore alternatives to military use.

Berstein, however, notes that Bard later denied that he had a meeting with Truman and that White House appointment logs support that claim. Document 24 : Memorandum for Mr.

McCloy in modifying the concept of unconditional surrender so that the Japanese could be sure that the emperor would be preserved, it remained a highly contentious subject.

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