|Aug. 7, 1945|
By SIDNEY SHALETT
Special to The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 - The White House and War Department announced today
that an atomic bomb, possessing more power than 20,000 tons of TNT, a destructive
force equal to the load of 2,000 B-29's and more than 2,000 times the blast
power of what previously was the world's most devastating bomb, had been
dropped on Japan.
The announcement, first given to the world in utmost solemnity by President
Truman, made it plain that one of the scientific landmarks of the century
had been passed, and that the "age of atomic energy," which can
be a tremendous force for the advancement of civilization as well as for
destruction, was at hand.
At 10:45 o' clock this morning, a statement by the President was issued
at the White House that sixteen hours earlier - about the time that citizens
on the Eastern seaboard were sitting down to their Sunday suppers - an American
plane had dropped the single atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima,
an important army center.
Japanese Solemnly Warned
What happened at Hiroshima is not yet known. The War Department said it
"as yet was unable to make an accurate report" because "an
impenetrable cloud of dust and smoke" masked the target area from reconnaissance
planes. The Secretary of War will release the story "as soon as accurate
details of the results of the bombing become available."
But in a statement vividly describing the results of the first test of the
atomic bomb in New Mexico, the War Department told how an immense steel
tower had been "vaporized" by the tremendous explosion, how a
40,000-foot cloud rushed into the sky, and two observers were knocked down
at a point 10,000 yards away. And President Truman solemnly warned:
"It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the
ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected
that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain
of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth."
Most Closely Guarded Secret
The President referred to the joint statement issued by the heads of the
American, British and Chinese Governments, in which terms of surrender were
outlined to the Japanese and warning given that rejection would mean complete
destruction of Japan's power to make war.
(The atomic bomb weighs about 400 pounds and is capable of destroying a
town, a representative of the British Ministry of Aircraft Production said
in London, the United Press reported.)
What is this terrible new weapon, which the War Department also calls the
"Cosmic Bomb" ? It is the harnessing of the energy of the atom,
which is the basic power of the universe. As President Truman said, "The
force from which the sun draws its power has been lossed against those who
brought war to the Far East."
"Atomic fission" - in other words, the scientists' long-held dream
of splitting the atom - is the secret of the atomic nomb. Uranium, a rare,
heavy metallic element, which is radioactive and akin to radium, is the
source essential to its production. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, in
a statement closely following that of the President, promised that "steps
have been taken, and continue to be taken, to assure us of adequate supplies
of this mineral."
The imagination-sweeping experiment in harnessing the power of the atom
has been the most closely guarded secret of the war. America to date has
spent nearly $2,000,000,000 in advancing its research. Since 1939, American,
British and Canadian scientists have worked on it. The experiments have
been conducted in the United States, both for reasons of achieving concentrated
efficiency and for security; the consequences of having the material fall
into the hands of the enemy, in case Great Britain should have been successfully
invaded, were too awful for the Allies to risk.
All along, it has been a race with the enemy. Ironically enough, Germany
started the experiments, but we finished them. Germany made the mistake
of expelling, because she was a "non-Aryan," a woman scientist
who held one of the keys to the mystery, and she made her knowledge available
to those who brought it to the United States. Germany never quite mastered
the riddle, and the United States, Secretary Stimson declared, is "convinced
that Japan will not be in a position to use an atomic bomb in this war."
A Sobering Awareness of Power
Not the slightest spirit of braggadocio is discernable either in the wording
of the official announcements or in the mien of the officials who gave out
the news. There was an element of elation in the realization that we had
perfected this devastating weapon for employment against an enemy who started
the war and had told us she would rather be destroyed than surrender, but
it was grim elation. There was sobering awareness of the tremendous responsibility
Secretary Stimson said that this new weapon "should prove a tremendous
aid in the shortening of the war against Japan," and there were other
responsible officials who privately thought that this was an extreme understatement,
and that Japan might find herself unable to stay in the war under the coming
rain of atom bombs.
It was obvious that officials at the highest levels made the important decision
to release news of the atomic bomb because of the psychological effect it
may have in forcing Japan to surrender. However, there are some officials
who feel privately it might have been well to keep this completely secret.
Their opinion can be summed up in the comment by one spokesman: "Why
bother with psychological warfare against an enemy that already is beaten
and hasn't sense enough to quit and save herself from utter doom?"
The first news came from President Truman's office. Newsmen were summoned
and the historic statement from the Chief Executive, who still is on the
high seas, was given to them.
"That bomb," Mr. Truman said, "had more power than 20,000
tons of TNT. It had more than 2,000 times the blast power of the British
"Grand Slam" which is the largest bomb (22,000 pounds) ever yet
used in the history of warfare.
Explosive Charge Is Small
No details were given on the plane that carried the bomb. Nor was it stated
whether the bomb was large or small. The President, however, said the explosive
charge was "exceedingly small." It is known that tremendous force
is packed into tiny quantities of the element that constitutes these bombs.
Scientists, looking to the peacetime uses of atomic power, envisage submarines,
ocean liners and planes traveling around the world on a few pounds of the
element. Yet, for various reasons, the bomb used against Japan could have
been extremely large.
Hiroshima, first city on earth to be the target of the "Cosmic Bomb,"
is a city of 318,000, which is - or was - a major quartermaster depot and
port of embarkation for the Japanese. In addition to large military supply
depots, it manufactured ordnance, mainly large guns and tanks, and machine
tools and aircraft-ordnance parts.
President Truman grimly told the Japanese that "the end is not yet."
"In their present form these bombs are now in production," he
said, "and even more powerful forms are in development."
He sketched the story of how the late President Roosevelt and Prime Minister
Churchill agreed that it was wise to concentrate research in America, and
how great, secret cities sprang up in this country, where, at one time,
125,000 men and women labored to harness the atom. Even today more than
65,000 workers are employed.
"What has been done," he said, "is the greatest achievement
of organized science in history.
"We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every
productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall
destroy their docks, their factories and their communications. Let there
be no mistake: we shall completely destroy Japan's power to make war."
The President emphasized that the atomic discoveries were so important,
both for the war and for the peace, that he would recommend to Congress
that it consider promptly establishing "a appropriate commission to
control the production and use of atomic power within the United States."
"I shall give further consideration and make further recommendations
to the Congress as to how atomic power can become a powerful and forceful
influence toward the maintenance of world peace," he said.
Secretary Stimson called the atomic bomb "the culmination of years
of herculean effort on the part of science and industry, working in cooperation
with the military authorities." He promised that "improvements
will be forthcoming shortly which will increase by several fold the present
"But more important for the long-range implications of this new weapon,"
he said, "is the possibility that another scale of magnitude will be
developed after considerable research and development. The scientists are
confident that over a period of many years atomic bombs may well be developed
which will be very much more powerful than the atomic bombs now at hand."
Investigation Started in 1939
It was late in 1939 that Preident Roosevelt appointed a commission to investigate
use of atomic energy for military purposes. Until then only small-scale
research with Navy funds had taken place. The program went into high gear.
By the end of 1941 the project was put under the direction of a group of
eminent scientists in the Office of Scientific Research and Development,
under Dr. Vannevar Bush, who reported directly to Mr. Roosevelt. The President
also appointed a General Policy Group, consisting of former Vice President
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary Stimson, Gen. George C. Marshall, Dr. James
B. Conant, president of Harvard, and Dr. Bush. In June, 1942, this group
recommended vast expansion of the work and transfer of the major part of
the program to the War Department.
Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, a native of Albany, N.Y., and a 48-year-old
graduate of the 1918 class at West Point, was appointed by Mr. Stimson to
take complete executive charge of the program. General Groves, an engineer,
holding the permanent army rank of lieutenant colonel, received the highest
praise from the War Department for the way he "fitted together the
multifarious pieces of the vast country-wide jigsaw," and, at times,
organized the virtually air-tight security system that kept the project
A military policy committee also was appointed, consisting of Dr. Bush,
chairman; Dr. Conant, Liut. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer and Read Admiral William
In December, 1942, the decision was made to proceed with construction of
large-scale plants. Two are situated at the Clinton Engineer Works in Tennessee
and a third at the Hanford Engineer Works in the State of Washington.
These plants were amazing phenomena in themselves. They grew into large,
self-sustaining cities, employing thousands upon thousands of workers. Yet,
so close was the secrecy that not only were the citizens of the area kept
in darkness about the nature of the project, but the workers themselves
had only the sketchiest ideas - if any - as to what they were doing. This
was accomplished, Mr. Stimson said, by "compartmentalizing" the
work so "that no one has been given more information than was absolutely
necessary to his particular job."
The Tennessee reservation consists of 59,000 acres, eighteen miles west
of Knoxville; it is known as Oak Ridge and has become a modern small city
of 78,000, fifth largest in Tennessee.
In the State of Washington the Government has 430,000 acres in an isolated
area, fifteen miles northwest of Pasco. The settlement there, which now
has a population of 17,000, consisting of plant operators and their immediate
families, is known as Richland.
A special laboratory also has been set up near Santa Fe, N.M., under direction
of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer of the University of California. Dr. Oppenheimer
also supervised the first test of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. This
took place in a remote section of the New Mexico desert lands, with a group
of eminent scientists gathered, frankly fearful to witness the results of
the invention, which might turn out to be either the salvation or the Frankenstein's
monster of the world.
Mr. Stimson also gave full credit to the many industrial corporations and
educational institutions which worked with the War Department in bringing
this titanic undertaking to fruition.
In August, 1943, a combined policy committee was appointed, consisting of
Secretary Stimson, Drs. Bush and Conant for the United States; the late
Field Marshal Sir John Dill (now replaced by Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland
Wilson) and Col. J.J. Llewellin (since replaced by Sir Ronald Campbell),
for the United Kingdom, and C.D. Howe for Canada.
"Atomic fission holds great promise for sweeping developments by which
our civilization may be enriched when peace comes, but the overriding necessities
of war have precluded the full exploration of peacetime applications of
this new knowledge," Mr. Stimson said. "However, it appears inevitable
that many useful contributions to the well-being of mankind will ulitmately
flow from these discoveries when the world situation makes it possible for
science and industry to concentrate on these aspects."
Although warning that many economic factors will have to be considered "before
we can say to what extent atomic energy will supplement coal, oil and water
as fundamental sources of power," Mr. Stimson acknowledged that "we
are at the threshold of a new industrial art which will take many years
and much expenditure of money to develop."
The Secretary of War disclosed that he had appointed an interim committee
to study post-war control and development of atromic energy. Mr. Stimson
is serving as chairman, and other members include James F. Byrnes, Secretary
of State; Ralph A. Bard, former Under-Secretary of the Navy; William L.
Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State; Dr. Bush, Dr. Conant, Dr. Carl T.
Compton, chief of the Office of Field Service in OSRD and president of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and George L. Harrison, special consultant to the
Secretary of War and president of the New York Life Insurance Company. Mr.
Harrison is the alternate chairman of the committee.
The committee also has the assistance of an advisory group of some of the
country's leading physicists, including Dr. Oppenheimer, Dr. E.O. Lawrence,
Dr. A.H. Compton and Dr. Enrico Fermi.
The War Department gave this supplementary background on the development
of the atomic bomb:
"The series of discoveries which led to development of the atomic bomb
started at the turn of the century when radioactivity became known to science.
Prior to 1939 the scientific work in this field was world-wide, but more
particularly so in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy
and Denmark. One of Denmark's great scientists, Dr. Nells Bohr, a Nobel
Prize winner, was whisked from the grasp of the nazis in his occupied homeland
and later assisted in developing the atomic bomb.
"It is known that Germany worked desperately to solve the problems
of controlling atomic energy."
Copyright 1945 The New York Times