Skip to main content

tv   Manhattan Project  CSPAN  June 24, 2017 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

2:00 pm
vision in 1938 -- fission in 1938. the smithsonian associates hosted this in washington, d.c. our speaker tonight's martin sure when, professor of history at george mason university. his biography of j robert oppenheimer won a pulitzer prize , the national book critics circle award -- he's also the ."thor of "the world destroyed it was the 1976 finalist for both the national book award and a pulitzer prize. the current paperback edition is subtitled "hiroshima and its legacy."
2:01 pm
he's held appointments at the corridors of fun visiting dutch fund.o -- at the cardozo berkeley,ght at uc princeton, dartmouth and the university of pennsylvania. he's received fellowships from the macarthur guggenheim sloan and rockefeller foundation and the national endowment for the humanities. he was a visiting scholar at the in 2007, heer -- was inducted into the american academy of arts and sciences. please join me now in a warm welcome for professor martin sherwin. [applause] sherwin: thank you.
2:02 pm
is it working? yeah? good. thank you, ruth. my mother wrote that in introduction. i hope you liked it. [laughter] prof. sherwin: it was more wholesome because my father didn't get a chance to edit it. here toly glad to be speak about this topic. subjectit is a kind of that needs to be reviewed again and again and again. because, unfortunately, the nuclear issue is still with us and it looks like it will be with us for a very long time. i've had a chance to chat with a few of you. that those i've chatted with have a particular interest in all broad aspects of the
2:03 pm
manhattan project. give,alk i'm going to however, focuses on the subtitle , visions of the nuclear future. that is it focuses on the people whatere thinking about nuclear weapons would do not only for the war in the but for the postwar period. that is one of the themes of this talk tonight. nuclear weapons were from the very beginning not just a weapon that was thought about with respect to the war, but the implications of such a powerful transformative weapon was automatically folded into ideas
2:04 pm
about what effect it would have on the postwar period. many of you no doubt are interested in the views of people like oppenheimer and and hanz beta and many other participants in the project. i would like to suggest to you that if you want to follow up future andhe nuclear the voices that are the subject of tonight's discussion, that you go to manhattan the atomic heritage foundation has a wonderful website with lots of interviews. some of which i did. lots of other interviews that
2:05 pm
withdone by other people the major figures in the manhattan project. sayink it's not too much to the atomic bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki structured the future of not only the atomic age and how the atomic tom was thus bomb -- the atomic bomb was seen and valued but also the future of civilization. we are talking about a very big subject here. effect has changed over time in terms of our views of the major issues. 70 years ago, there was a
2:06 pm
certain consensus on a view. morears ago, there was diverse the abuse about the issues. are many, many, many, many views. one of the interesting things is that the atomic bomb, although it was not predicted 100 years before it was developed, the idea that science would conditionthe human was something that people thought about even in the 19th century. one of my favorite quotes with respect to that issue was by henry brooke adams in a book he wrote in 1862 where he says the following. and has mounted science
2:07 pm
now run away with. i firmly believe that before many centuries more, science will be the master of men. the engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. theday, science may have existence of mankind in its power. and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world." that is 1862. the beginning of the nuclear age when thatt possibility emerged. no matter how devastating, no matter how terrible previous weapons were, there is
2:08 pm
that compareshing to the transformative effective nuclear weapons. -- affect of nuclear weapons. now, i'm going to talk about the period from the discovery of nuclear fission to the postwar period. i'm hoping we will be able to expand that discussion beyond to present-day. , i'veanize the talk divided it into four pieces. i've divided the pie in quarters. the first section of the talk is about possibilities. --n nuclear weapons were when fission was first discovered and its implications were thought about.
2:09 pm
what were the possibilities? tot runs from about 1939 1941 to the time in which the united states entered the war. after pearl harbor. the second period is from pearl harbor to about the time president roosevelt died in april 1945 and president truman took office. that was a time of panic. especially at the beginning of that period. and then about the time that truman comes in, we start to talk about promotion. that is, how is the bomb going to be promoted to the world? how is it going to be revealed? are we going to have just a
2:10 pm
test? are we going to use it on the japanese? re: not going to use it at all -- are we not going to use it at all? these were the issues that were discussed in visions of the nuclear future. peally come in the postwar riod, we are talking about soul eminence. the united states the sole possessor of this credible force. this incredible force. let's start at the beginning with the discovery of nuclear fission. i may be revealing something that most of you know. weapons -- nuclear fission was discovered in germany. it was discovered by two chemists. to and fritz.
2:11 pm
they were doing a series of experience where they were bombarding the element -- the atoms of elements in the pure attic table with neutrons to see what could happen. ,hey got to the 92nd element uranium, and they bombarded with a neutron and the most amazing thing happened. uraniumed up not with but with barium. atomic number 56. and, some leftover elements of uranium. so, they did it again and the same thing happened. they couldn't figure out what in the world had occurred. they sent their experiment to a jewishcolleague who was
2:12 pm
and had to leave germany. lisa was a physicist. nephew, another physicist, figured out what happened. in uranium atom had split two. when they waived the two elements, the barium and what was left over of the uranium, it weighed less than the uranium atom. how many of you are watching the einstein series on television? ok. -- equals mcared squared. when energy is converted into matter or matter is converted --
2:13 pm
energy can go back and forth. released inhad been this bombardment. it is gazillion of these atoms time,be split at the same obviously, an unprecedented amount of energy would be released. scary.s and it was fantastic. in a sense, it transformed the of what cantanding happen in the universe. this was in line with a lot of other transformations that had occurred in the 20th century. we mentioned einstein's theory of relativity and his special
2:14 pm
theory of relativity. bohr's conception of the atom and heisenberg's uncertainty principle. classical physics had been completely transformed by these new insights. and now, this. it was an amazing event with all kinds of not clearly understood possibilities. one being perhaps we could end up with a weapon. you all know about einstein's .etter to roosevelt friend,'s head to his
2:15 pm
linus, i made one great mistake in my life when i signed the letter to president roosevelt recommending the atomic bomb be made. but, there was some justification. the danger that the germans might get them. possibility that led to the panic. that letter that einstein wrote to roosevelt was not a letter that said we have to hurry up and make atomic bombs because the germans were ahead of us and they will build atomic bombs. it was much more cautious. it was written by leo, who worked with einstein in berlin years before. conceivablete it is
2:16 pm
though much less than fission as a source of power that extremely bombs of a new type -- powerful bombs of a new type might be constructed. a single bomb of this type carried by boat and exploded in port might very well destroy the whole port together with the surrounding territory. that, letter had ended at it might not have had the effect that it had, which was for roosevelt to say give it to an aid named paul watson and say "look into this." but, the last part of the letter was critical. wrote thatd einstein germany has stopped the sale of czechoslovakian
2:17 pm
mines, which he has taken over. you can understand that the framework for what would eventually become the manhattan project, even in this earliest stage, when nobody knew it was even possible weapon could come out of this discovery -- but the somethingwas this is really important that can make a difference. roosevelt -- well, roosevelt initiated activity. the activity in the united states was basically committees of scientists and some military studying not only the
2:18 pm
discovery,s of this which, by the way, was published in februaryagazine" 1939. the experiment had taken place in december 1938. a couple months later, it is published in "nature magazine," which was the premier science magazine in the english-speaking world. so, every physicist around the -- kneww about this about this and had the same thoughts put into this letter that einstein wrote to roosevelt. committees in the united states between the spring of 1939, when summer of
2:19 pm
the letter was sent to roosevelt -- could not figure a way that it was possible to build a nuclear weapon. they looked into all sorts of possibilities. in effect, got nowhere. however, there were two german refugees -- to refugees from germany, couple of jewish scientists. nephew, ands lisa's rudolph. theywere in britain and were not allowed to work on the most secret project the british were involved with. anybody know what that was?
2:20 pm
radar. and informed audience. -- an informed audience. [laughter] prof. sherwin: it was radar. decided,diately welcome what do we know best -- well, what do we know best? nuclear fission. let's work on that and see it we can figure out if it might be possible how a nuclear weapon could be built. withouttogether, alone a lot of advice from a lot of people, just pouring into the problem using their imaginations , they figured it out. thatcame to the conclusion if you could collect enough an isotope of , less thannium 238
2:21 pm
1% of uranium -- if there wasn't some way to extract uranium -- if there was some way to extract uranium 235, it would be possible to build a nuclear weapon in two years. discovery of nuclear weapons hadf nuclear fission december 1938, published in february 1939. that was more than two years ago. the discovery was made in germany. conclusion inhe britain two years later that a bomb could be built in two years. oh, my god. are the germans well on their
2:22 pm
way to building an atomic bomb? possible. at least the thought. the vision of the manhattan project. the germans are ahead of us. they must be ahead of us. they have a lot of good physicists who remained in germany. british, who happen agreement with united states to exchange information with each other that might be helpful for report effort send the to the united states. that report arrives sometime in the spring of 1941. that was before pearl harbor.
2:23 pm
and it has a transformative in theon the activities united states. been over bush -- vanover bush, who leads the office that oversees all the wartime atomic , gets this memo to henrys a memo simpson come the secretary of war, which also goes to president roosevelt. the reason goes to the secretary of war is the bomb project is gone to be under the secretary of war. certain. is ,f such an explosive were made
2:24 pm
it would be thousands of times more powerful than existing explosives and its use might be determining. use might be determining. that is the theme of the manhattan project. , theis the engine intellectual engine, so to speak , for the vision that drives the project at warp speed. roosevelt approves the manhattan project on december 6, 1941. very interesting date. the 6, 1941. december 7, at 8:00 and the morning, pearl harbor time, pearl harbor is bombed.
2:25 pm
the manhattan project is underway and the war is underway virtually at the same time. be remember, the germans may two years ahead of us. groves is appointed , heun the manhattan project is assured that he has the highest priority for material, he has the highest priority for recruiting scientists, he has the highest priority for everything because its use might be determining. projectthe manhattan toes as fast as possible completion. now, most studies of the atomic
2:26 pm
the or the atomic bombing, use of what came out of the manhattan project, begin on april 12 1945 when harry truman became president. that's a big mistake. because, franklin delano roosevelt's role is absolutely critical in understanding the attitudes towards atomic weapons that truman inherited when he became president. what happens after pearl harbor in the war? what is the environment in which the manhattan project develops? harbor,hs after pearl --re is the great battle
2:27 pm
navy battles of midway and carl c. the united states defeats the midway andeet at carl sea. that stops the advance of the japanese forces towards our country. and it begins the process of turning the war in the pacific difficult, bloody process of island hopping but one island battle after another begins. that is just six months after pearl harbor. that is june of 1942. that's the war in the pacific. it has turned around within six months.
2:28 pm
the war in europe takes longer. septemberthat begins of 1939. the united states comes in right after pearl harbor. stalingrad in the 1942-1943 stops the german advance and begins the process of turning the war around and moving the soviet forces towards germany. 1943, whichpring of opensctly when los alamos in april of 1943, the war is moving in the direction of victory for the united states.
2:29 pm
churchill and roosevelt and the american military and the british military believe we are going to win the war. if the british public and the american public continue to t,pport this difficult my bloody, awful, global war. we are going to win it. germans get the bomb first. if the germans get the bomb first, all bets are off. war -- the weapon could be determining. roosevelt believed that. churchill believed that.
2:30 pm
military who were about nuclear who were informed -- and there were very few. it was highly secret. whoever was informed believes if we got the bomb first, or if no one could build the bomb, we are going to win the war, but if the germans get it first, all bets -- all bets are off to an assigned -- off. course,scientists, of were behind this belief. the spring of 1943, only months after los up, the bomb is
2:31 pm
seen as this -- whatever you want to call it --and magic bullet. -- a magic bullet. thein itself, could win war. this was not a fantastic, off-the-wall idea. we talked about radar a few moments ago and how important that was to the british war effort. it was the most top-secret fact, i thinkin virtually all historians agree it was the british superiority with its radar that allowed the british to win the battle of britain in the skies over great totain, and turned hitler attack the soviet union, rather than finish off the british,
2:32 pm
which he couldn't do without air superiority. so, in the period between 1943 and 1944, the manhattan project is going at great speed, and press -- progress is being made. now, there are two types of bombs that are being developed. the one out of oak ridge, where uranium 235 is being isolated bomburanium 238, and that -- if we get enough uranium 235 -- is going to be a very simple device. they called it a gun-type bond. -- bomb. thin man was another name. in the front of the bomb there 235 --arget of uranium
2:33 pm
not so much that it would go critical. it was packed loosely enough so it was just sitting there. in the back of the bomb there was a plug or a bullet of uranium 235. dropped,the bomb was the idea was -- reach a certain altitude, the ideal altitude for it to explode -- the bullet in the back would be triggered, fired into the target, and it would blow up. in fact, that was the hiroshima bomb. that was never tested. that bomb -- they had total confidence that it would work unless somebody forgot to put two particular wires together, or something like that, which
2:34 pm
could always happen, but the theory of it was quite clear. at lost of the work alamos and the next at los alamos isangst at los related to the other type of bomb, thep, -- plutonium bomb. and peierls said it might be possible to make a plutonium bomb, and plutonium, a man-made element, was easier to hurt his than the uranium -- uranium 235.the they decided to put some plutonium on the front of the bomb, on the back of the bomb, and they discover -- they calculated -- they figured out
2:35 pm
there was no way the plutonium bullet could be fired fast enough into the plutonium target to make it go up. active -- so so much more active than uranium 235 that no matter how fast you fired that bullet, by the time it got halfway, it would start to explode, but it would really sizzle because you wouldn't get le, because you would not get the full effect. so we have this investment, so to speak, in plutonium. how are we going to make it work? they came up with this idea of -- packingn device the plutonium in, let's say, a andefruit-sized ball, designing explosives that were all around the plutonium ball that would go off at once.
2:36 pm
and when those explosives -- -- it was moren or less a square bomb with the plutonium sitting in the middle of it. and when it hit the right attitude, squash it down to a golf-ballsize -- .ize, and then boom that was much trickier than the first bomb. -- of the activity in 1944 most of the activity was related to figuring out how this could work. in the test of july 16, 1945 in a testmogordo desert was of this plutonium device. and remember i said at the beginning that scientists and
2:37 pm
policymakers, and everybody else -- and general growth -- groves -- involved in the nuclear weapons thought about it for the .ost-war period, too this was not something that was just for the war. this was something that would affect international relations --the post-war third cash post-war period. the advantage of the plutonium bomb was the plutonium was easier to get than uranium 235, and two, the design was much got morecient, and you bang for the buck, so to speak. so, there was this concern that this design -- design would
2:38 pm
work. so, that is what is going on at los alamos until -- and this is before -- you know, before truman comes into office. i said roosevelt's thinking was really important. roosevelt think about this? there is a very important 1944 --in september, september 18, 1944, after the second quebec conference, when roosevelt invites churchill to ,ome to his home at hyde park and they have many meetings over several days, and a lot of alcohol is consumed, especially by churchill. roosevelt has to restock everything after churchill leads. [laughter] -- there is and the
2:39 pm
a memorandum of what the british id on the discussion they had with respect to the atomic, and it is called the hyde park minute, or hyde park memorandum. they talked about several different things, and it is only three paragraphs long. but, in the middle of the first paragraph that says "but when a available --ly bomb -- which is in quotation some -- bomb is available to be used by the
2:40 pm
japanese until surrender." i want to go over that again. 55-some odd in the years i have been doing research related to foreign policy and whatnot seen anything like this description of how people are thinking. bomb, remember, which is in quotation marks, is finally available, it might, perhaps, after mature consideration be used against the japanese. why? let's think about that. why would the memorandum of this discussion the written that way -- be written that way? ,aybe during the q&a period
2:41 pm
people will have some ideas and a comment. -- onclusion is two things ne, this was written for history. it was written to make clear that both roosevelt and churchill understood that the bomb was something special. bomb -- it was some thatkind of special thing you just don't -- well, we decide to use it, we decide not to use it. after maturehaps, consideration, be used against the japanese. so, they are making the case -- and the second point i would say, might, perhaps after mature consideration, leaving open the possibility that possibility that we might --
2:42 pm
possibility that we might not use it because after mature consideration, whatever that entails, we might decide it is not a good idea. we might, perhaps, after mature consideration use it. air.t is left up in the --t is september of 1941 1944. now, at this time, just before shis hyde park meeting, neil bohr, the physicist who had escaped denmark -- who was smuggled out of denmark by the danish and british underground when they came to the conclusion that they were going to seize him, he is informed about the
2:43 pm
manhattan project. ohr annex,t say that b panics, butnex -- he is deeply troubled by the possibilities of the bomb entering the war in the post-war soiod, and what it would do, he writes a memorandum that are against that, a, it is not possible to keep this as a secret long-term. . b, the soviets probably know something about this. he was in contact with soviet physicists, read between some that once they know about the manhattan project -- that is what they meant, and they
2:44 pm
probably knew something about it or were working on the same thing. and if the war ends, and if the united states uses the bomb without bringing stalin into this club or community -- arrangement the united states has with the british, it is very likely that a peaceful relationship with the soviet union is going to be impossible. it will send a signal to stolen "watch it,hat fellow. you could be next." he goes to churchill when he is in london and make the case that stalin should be informed about the bomb, about the manhattan project, and churchill, in effect, throws him out of the office and says you know, you
2:45 pm
stick to your science, i will do the politics, and actually at hyde park, part of this memorandum is a note where rhurchill says professor boh should be watched. he is treading -- he is giving away secrets to the russians, or he wants to, to make connections. [laughter] [indiscernible] -- bohrwin: so, he comes to the united states and he makes the case to roosevelt before this hyde park meeting, and roosevelt is much more accommodating as roosevelt is want to be, and seems to be but eventually he is
2:46 pm
not because churchill is absolutely, adamantly against talin at of informing s all. well, roosevelt dies on april 12, 1945. and we come to the third period whenis -- the question of bomb- you know, how the will be presented to the world. , the promotion -- the promotion period. there were three points of view that emerge in the period
2:47 pm
between april, 1945, and august of 1945. is dorst point of view not introduce atomic energy to the world as a weapon used in one, and i will explain why shortly. is the second point of view used a weapon to warn the world of the danger that the world bomb isw that an atomic possible, but after the idea war, promote the atomic an international committee and an arrangement that will prevent a nuclear arms race. the third point of view is to use the weapon to end the war and to make it clear to the soviets that the advantage --
2:48 pm
that their advantage in conventional forces was now, pardon the expression, trumped. [laughter] say -- win: >> cannot adjust your microphone? you have to punctuate that joke a little more, right? mr. sherwin: ok. thank you. soviets.n and the truman becomes president on april 12, 1945, and he says to reporters, you know, guys, i feel like the moon, the stars, and the sun have fallen on my head. i mean, or harry truman, he has been vice president for 82 days. t cell roosevelt once, more -- he saw roosevelt once more or
2:49 pm
less for a photo op. since then a senator 1930's, but he focused mostly on domestic issues. he was head of the truman committee, which was a committee designed to prevent waste in war production activities, and he does that very well. and that is one of the reasons he is chosen to be roosevelt's vice president when roosevelt runs for his fourth term, but he knows absolutely nothing about foreign policy. hisbasically, all of information is inherited from roosevelt's advisors, but he does have views. he has strong views about the soviet union. this was a senator who said, when reporters asked him after
2:50 pm
the germans attacked the soviet union -- well, what you think "well,hat, and he said if the germans are winning, we should help the soviets, and if the soviets are winning, we should help the germans." this was, of course, before we got into the war. he does not like the soviets. he distrusts communism. he is right out there -- make america great. [laughter] mr. sherwin: you will have to excuse me. it is very hard not to throw these things in. when molotov, the soviet foreign minister comes to, you know, check truman out, to , onoduce himself, and so on april 21 or 22, i think it is,
2:51 pm
truman starts to -- they get in a conversation, and treatment starts to dress him down and says you are breaking your agreements. you are not doing this, and you are not doing that. so taken back -- i mean, this is their first diplomatic meeting. "i have never been talked to that -- like that in my life." and truman says like a scolding schoolteacher, keep your agreements, and you won't be talked to like that. all the people in the room are shaken. the acting secretary of state goes back to his office and tells people about it. word gets to simpson, the secretary of war. now, the secretary of war, on the night of april 12, had
2:52 pm
mentioned to truman casually after the first meeting there is a very important project i have to tell you about, and it just goes over's truman -- goes over truman's head, and since and has not told him enough to really alert him to the manhattan shook upbut he is because he feels the atomic bomb eitherg to be the key to world, orhe post-war a very difficult post-war period with the soviet union. so, he writes a memorandum, calls the white house and says i have to see the president as possible, and within two days he is in the oval office with his memorandum, talking to
2:53 pm
the president, and this is an absolutely amazing memorandum. it is april 25, 1945. it has nine paragraphs, each numbered, and it begins with the first paragraph, and he reads this to truman. "within four months we shall, in all probability, have completed the most terrible weapon ever -- onen human history bomb of which could destroy a whole city." and he goes on with two three, building on that case. fiveumber four and number "the world in its present state of moral advancement, compared with its technical development, would be eventually at the mercy of such a weapon. in other words, modern
2:54 pm
civilization might be completely destroyed." and then he goes on to say, seven,rmore" -- number "in light of our present position with reference to this weapon the question of sharing it with other nations, and if so shared, upon white terms -- what terms, becomes a primary question of our foreign relations." also, and this is really interesting because the moral dimension comes up quite often in this -- "also, our leadership in the war and in the development of this weapon has placed a certain moral responsibility upon us which we can not shirk without very serious responsibility for any disaster to civilization which
2:55 pm
it would further." and i am going to read that again because it is important and it is precious. "our leadership in the war and development of this weapon has placed a certain moral responsibility upon us which we cannot shirk without very serious responsibility for any disaster to civilization which it would further." hand, if the problem of the proper use of this weapon can be solved, we would have the opportunity to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved." , the post-warnius period depends on how we handle
2:56 pm
the atomic bomb. he is making the case. now, president truman, as i said, was not very well informed about foreign policy. so, he turned to the man had expected to be nominated as the --e president, james f burns . burns, who had been a supreme court justice. he was known as mr. assistant president during roosevelt's third term. he knew about the atomic bomb. he was at yalta and he took shorthand -- he was skilled at shorthand, so he had the very best notes of the yalta , and trumanf anyone reaches out to burns and taps
2:57 pm
him as his secretary of state. he doesn't officially become secretary of state until july 1, but he is at truman's side constantly, and of course, he is the one that whispered in r that the soviets were breaking their agreement at yalta. burns has a very different view than simpson -- the opposite view in fact. mccoy,'s assistant, john reported after a conversation with burns -- this is a memo "burns wassimpson, quite radically opposed to any relation to stalin about cooperating on atomic energy."
2:58 pm
he wished to have the implied threat of the bomb in his pocket during conferences after the war duringactual quote was the conference he was to attend in london beginning on september 4. that is after the war. burns' pg the work, ress secretary walter brown writes in his diary that burns atomic bomb "might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms that the end of the war." thought to the original -- the views may be determining -- the bomb may be determining. -- have two opposing
2:59 pm
decisions within the highest level of government. what is happening in the manhattan project? there are also opposing views their about the atomic by -- the re about the atomic bomb. there is a group at the university of chicago. franck, who write franckandum known as the report that argues that the atomic bomb should not be used because if we ever expect to cooperate with the soviet union after the war, such an action will make it impossible, and just to quote a
3:00 pm
few sentences from a very long report, "if we consider international agreement on total prevention of nuclear warfare as -- if weount objective are thinking about the post-war period -- he's in the post-war paramountour objective, and we believe it can be achieved, this kind of " that is using the " may reducepon," our chances of success. , asia and allied countries well as neutral countries, maybe deeply shocked. beht may be deeply -- may deeply shocked. it may be difficult to convince the world that a nation that was
3:01 pm
asable of releasing a weapon indiscriminate as the rocket bomb, and a million times more is totive -- destructive be trusted in its proclaimed desire of having such weapons abolished by international agreement." thethat is the argument scientists are making at the university of chicago, which is part of the manhattan project, as you know. --t is where the famous experiment place. on the other -- took place. on the other hand, robin alamos, is aat los member of a committee -- it is called the interim committee simpson,rganized by
3:02 pm
and he believes that the bomb should be used. -- he is backld and forth to washington -- and he is told we will have to invade japan, and the bomb may prevent the sn city -- necessity for the invasion. so he is supporting it. in fact, in the interim committee, he is arguing with two bombs are available, we should use both of them on the same day, but that is fortunately -- the idea is fortunately squashed. the you all probably know story of truman's attitude at the pops dem conference. conference dem begins in the middle of july,
3:03 pm
july 15, and the test of the atomic takes place in alamogordo on july 16, and general growth potsdam, hands in carried, and given to stimson, who briefs president trayvon -- president truman on it, and churchill, in his famous volumes on world war ii, when he potsdams's -- discusses he says now i know what happened to truman. he had learned about the atomic bomb and he had bossed everyone around that afternoon. suddenly, he was a different man. it gave him the confidence that the united states was in a effect, not only gets a war over with this
3:04 pm
weapon, but also to have something that stimson called at potsdam "the great equalizer." the atomic bomb would equalize sovietralize the huge advantage in conventional forces in europe. so, truman's attitude changes completely. he calls in general marshall, and he says marshall, you know, we came here with the intention of getting the soviets to live up to their promise to invade to come into the war. can we get them to back off that now that we have the atomic bomb? we don't need them.
3:05 pm
,n fact, we don't want them because we don't want them to participate in the occupation of japan. had, at yalta stalin promised roosevelt that within three months of germany's surrender he would come into the war against japan. you know, there was a nonaggression pact between the japanese and the russians. neither of them needed a two -front war, so they had this nonaggression pact, but stalin wanted piece of action -- of the action in japan after the war, and remember there was as 1905 war, which the japanese won, and they took a lot of territory from the soviets, and stalin certainly wanted that back.
3:06 pm
-- germanyonths surrenders on? may 8. mr. sherwin: may 8, and one -- y, june, july, august 8 three months? -- why three months? why did he enter the war immediately? because all the soviet troops were on the european front, and it would take three months to move all of the forces to the japanese front. is committed to coming in. there is no question. marshall says to truman, you know, we can tell them it is not necessary anymore, guys, thanks a lot, but it is not going to do any good. they are going to come in
3:07 pm
because they want to come in, and indeed that is the case. , the bombs are dropped on augustn august 6, and on nine. sixth, anda on the three days later on nagasaki. why three days? originally it was a five-day spread, and the reason for the five-day spread was it was expected to be a very armingated process for the second bomb -- the plutonium bomb. but the scientists are very gung ho on the island where the
3:08 pm
planes who attacked japan took off from, and when colonel plane, the enola gay, comes back after a successful raid on hiroshima, the scientists say we might be able to do this in four days now that we have had the expense with the first bomb, and tibbetts says can you do it in three days because bad weather is expected to come in? and that is, in effect, what happens. is madee-day spread and armyo scientists personnel on the island. it is not a truman decision. it is not a stimson decision. it is not a gross decision --
3:09 pm
groves decision. it is a battle decision. what effect did the bombings have on stalin? everyone was worried about stalin's reaction, and of course, they were right. a very well-known american russian historian writes in one of his books that the news of hiroshima and nagasaki "struck stalin like a thunderbolt." he was shocked. and there is a wonderful memorandum of a conversation about a week later stalin has bowman --sador harry the american ambassador to the
3:10 pm
the number twond man is there and takes the notes and writes this memorandum. there are couple of lines in it. harriman, we have entered the war despite your attempts to end it before we did so, and harriman replies the atomic bomb will end the war. expensive, and it was to build. it will have a great impact on post-war international relations. that has to be prepared text. ambassador like
3:11 pm
averell harriman doesn't say things like that off the top of his head -- it will have an effect on post-war relations, we have it, and you don't. japan was going to surrender anyway, and the secret of the atomic bomb might be hard to keep, and i cannot help but think that stalin had to work whento suppress a big grin he said that, because the soviets had been getting information on the manhattan project since 1943. stalin knew about the manhattan project long before harry truman, or averell harriman, etc., etc. what about the decision to use atomic bombs against two
3:12 pm
japanese cities? the first thing i would say about it -- it was neither nor was it necessary in order to end the war in august of 1945. now, why do i say that? there are several reasons. was not invasion scheduled to take place until november 1, and two, as stalin said, and he knew it because the japanese were trying to see smalltalk in moscow -- sees molotov in moscow, that the japanese were looking for a way to surrender with conditions for
3:13 pm
months, and we have all sorts of traffic from our decoding of the japanese diplomatic message traffic to this effect. states brokeunited the japanese diplomatic code. not the military code, but the diplomatic code. and throughout the war we were reading all their message traffic. it was referred to as magic. and you can see all of this stuff on the web. and it is fantastic, what we knew about what was going on in japan that the japanese didn't know that we knew. now, we were demanding unconditional surrender, which was unacceptable to all of japan's leadership because it implied at the opera -- emperor might be considered a war , atinal, and as you know
3:14 pm
that point in time, the japanese adt -- ad the emperor deity. it was opposed by the military -- the japanese military -- for very personal reasons. it was humiliating, and the japanese military understood they had lost the war, but they were trying to surrender with some kind of saving face. and they wanted conditions. for example, they wanted to disarm their own troops. there were four or five conditions. one of them i usually say sarcastically was that the japanese generals should get there -- get their tea in the morning served by american sergeants, but none of that was going to be acceptable.
3:15 pm
but all of japan was absolutely determined to fight to the death if the emperor's life was at stake. so, the japanese military proposed a dual strategy, or in duel strategy or imposed a dual strategy. one part was diplomatic. diplomatic part was japan's foreign ministry must approach the soviet union and try to persuade the soviet union -- bribe them with we will get back everything that was taken during war, andrusso-japanese whatever else made sense, to get the soviets to mediate between japan and the united states -- to mediate on behalf of the
3:16 pm
japanese for better surrender terms than unconditional surrender. and they argued that the advantage of this, also, was that if they were mediating on -- behalf -- japan's behalf that would keep them from attacking us, which, of course, the japanese realized was a possibility. that is the diplomatic part of the strategy. the military part of the strategy was that they would focus attention -- focus their military on all the areas that were most likely to be the areas of the american invasion, and the argument was that -- we know we are not going to be able to defeat the americans, but we can bloody them enough so that they will be willing to accept
3:17 pm
surrender with conditions. so, that is the strategy. but stalin intended to be a vector and an occupier, -- victor and an occupier, not a mediator. and once he entered the war, as i said, on august 8, 1945, the -- militaryategy strategy -- was completely lost. the diplomatic element had failed. but also, with the soviets coming into the war, the military, strategic planning had failed, because all of japan's troops were going to be in the southern part, and it was impossible for the japanese to fight a two-front war.
3:18 pm
not only that, when the soviets came in, what was the likely consequences? all were going to take -- of those other areas that the japanese had taken from them, but they were very likely to fact,okkaido, and in stalin proposed to truman after the war that he take hokkaido, and truman said "no way." to the other thing you have understand is that the japanese government was currently anti-communist -- more anti-communist than they thancans at the time -- the americans at that time. so, the thought of the soviet union coming into the war, sharing in the occupation, taking hokkaido -- it was japan's worst nightmare -- the
3:19 pm
worst nightmare. so, all of a sudden, when the soviets came in, the surrender -- japan's surrender to the united states appeared to be its best possible option. there was no way the japanese were going to lend themselves to being occupied by the soviet union if there was some way to prevent it. so, i think it is fair to say, certainly based on that line of argument and during the q&a period we can, you know, sort of , talk about other lines of , that the atomic bomb did not end the war. it was soviet entry into the
3:20 pm
war, and it is probably also fair to say that if the timing the bombing, since and the soviets entering the war occurred simultaneously, more or less, that the bombs did not save any american lives. in fact, i discovered in some research that i did, that two americans who are in a hiroshima jail -- two pilots, whose names , wereerman and ralph killed during the atomic bombing. what were the reactions? we are talking about visions of the manhattan project, and truman said in his memoirs that onn he heard the news it was
3:21 pm
a ship heading back to the united states. he gathered the sailors around him, told them the news, and said this is the greatest thing in history. it, eisenhower heard about he reports in his book crusade in europe, i was against it. we didn't have to hit them with that awful thing. and there is a whole list of admiral leahy and others who were opposed to it, but the one i find most interesting is john dulles, who becomes eisenhower's secretary of state, and the great promoter of massive retaliation and brinkmanship with nuclear weapons. --1945 -- august of 1945 after the first bomb is used, dallas writes to truman -- sends
3:22 pm
a telegram. a christianf we, as nation feel free to use a nuclear weapon in that -- atomic weapon and that way, men elsewhere will except that verdict. be lookedpons will upon as a normal part of the arsenal of work, and the stage will be set for the sudden and final destruction of mankind, taking us back to henry adams. mankind -- mankind," taking us back to henry adams. now, after the work, there is a concerted effort by oppenheimer to bring some sort of international control of atomic energy into being, and the first
3:23 pm
report -- state department report that he is not named in, but he is the author of the --, which called the comes out in february of 1945. the truman administration is not thrilled with this. -- whos it over to presents his own version to the tomic energyns' a commission in june of 1945, and by december of 1945, when it is voted on, it has to be unanimous to be accepted. the vote is 10-2. russia, the soviet union, and poland dissent, and that is really the end of a possibility of a serious effort to bring
3:24 pm
some kind of arms control to the nuclear issue. conclude in the next five minutes or so with some general points. no decision in history, certainly not any government decision is what was inevitable -- in -- decision is or was inevitable. if you believe inevitability, do not bother to study history, because history is the study of possibilities. b and c, chosen over and most important, in my view, what would have happened if b or c had been chosen? i will end with a hypothetical -- what if the results of the
3:25 pm
franck report that i read to you had carried the day? what if after the test in alamogordo, that was the last use of atomic bombs? what would have happened after the war? well, you could imagine there was no way to keep the manhattan project secret, and it was the most expensive project in wartime history -- $2 billion, which today is a drop in the bucket, but was big bucks back then. views aboutson's nuclear danger had prevailed, and the weapons were not used? well, there would have been a congressional hearing for sure. no special prosecutor, just a congressional hearing, and stimson would have been called,
3:26 pm
as the secretary of war who was in charge of the project, and what would he have said? he surely would have said what weapon truman, that this can destroy civilization, or if it is properly used can save civilization. that the united states is not nazi germany. we are not imperial japan. we have our own morality. we have our own way of calming to decisions -- coming to decisions, and since it was not necessary to use the bomb to end inconceivable that we would use such a weapon. atomic weapons are beyond the pale. atomic weapons are weapons that
3:27 pm
can destroy all human life on earth. we must work to make sure that these weapons do not become part of the arsenals of the world. you, if nuclear weapons had been introduced to the world as being a pariah weapon, rather than a magic usedt weapon that was twice on what oppenheimer later -- in reversing himself enemyessentially defeated , when things have been different? i don't know. candon't know, but we all have our opinions about that,
3:28 pm
and i submit to you that the most important thing that i have said to you tonight is to put that thought in your mind to think about -- to discuss with your children and grandchildren, and to talk about the whole decision-making process that point b,om point a to a nuclearly to weapons. it seems to me that counterfactuals are at the heart of the human condition. every animal can understand what is happening to it at a particular given moment, and it reacts accordingly, but only human beings can think about
3:29 pm
alternatives. we are not lemmings. and it is very, very important to always consider the alternative. let's think about it in the context of the united states and nuclear weapons today. i don't think anyone can argue convincingly that the iran nuclear treaty, for example, was inevitable. what about north korea right now? americans there an policy that is inevitable? i don't think so. choices are going to be made based on assumptions. sometimes those assumptions are right. sometimes those assumptions are wrong. there is nothing inevitable here. but there are compelling there are compelling logic's and i will end with what takes us to the most farsighted scientists
3:30 pm
of the manhattan project. by a commission in 1997 discussing nuclear weapons and the world. they say the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used accidentally or by decision defies credibility. that is a real downer to end on. i apologize for that. is the crux of the issue today. the world that we face with thatar weapons is a world is going to be far more
3:31 pm
dangerous. thank you very much. [applause] is there a microphone around? right here. >> did they ever think about using the atomic tom on the soviet union? certainly not during the war. afterwards, especially during the eisenhower administration, brinksmanship, the war plans that we have managed to be able
3:32 pm
to research are filled with plans to destroy the soviet union in a week. absolutely. >> thank you for a good presentation. [indiscernible] >> truman had little to do with foreign policy but he did serve in the artillery in world war i. that is not what happened.
3:33 pm
stalin -- the use of the bomb on hiroshima and nagasaki struck stalin like a thunderbolt. he knew about the nuclear weapons. the fact that we would use them on what he thought was a defeated enemy, he saw as a warning to him that the soviets could be next. i am siad was not clear enough. >> do you believe as he intimated that heisenberg deliberately slowed the german efforts down?
3:34 pm
>> just to explain it to the rest of the audience, heisenberg, the famous german physicist who claim that after the war that he knew how to but did notmic bomb tell him about it because it was too horrible a weapon to give to him. physicist thatan the russians did not get were rounded up in an operation. they were sent to a building in britain which was completely bogged. when the announcement came over
3:35 pm
the radio that hiroshima had , one said to the rest of them if that is true, you are all second raters, implying they were trying to do it. argued that he did .ot know how to do it that the historians of science i have read make a fairly persuasive than his calculations are wrong. powersother hand, thomas was also a strong case and a biography of heisenberg.
3:36 pm
i guess it is kind of up in the air. believee inclined to that he made a mistake. but without evidence. why did oppenheimer change his views? he was convinced during the war the it was necessary to use bomb to prevent an invasion. soon after the war he learns that the war department and that it was not necessary. occasions, one in a public speech and one in an
3:37 pm
article in the earliest versions of the bulletin a scientist. he actually wrote it in writing that it was used against an essentially defeated enemy. he never argued publicly he should not have used it. when there have been a difference had roosevelt lived? >> that is another counterfactual. your guess is as good as mine. i tell my students when i say that, it is not actually as good as mine. believe, i have done a 180. -- andcome to believe the hyde park memorandum i read to you is a part of that -- that if roosevelt had lived, he would
3:38 pm
not have been used the way it was used. he had additional sort of reasons. his primary goal for the postwar period was good relations with stalin, with the soviet union. a very persuasive case is being made that if that is your primary goal, using the bomb on in august of 45 the way we did, it is going to undermine that goal. i think roosevelt's goal with good relations would have predominated. >> what he think about north korea? triggerountry pulls the
3:39 pm
they will will -- destroy themselves while destroying someone else at the same time. they want all the trigger and then -- where is this all leading? >> i'm glad you asked that question. i have an thinking about that. novembereoul last during the last election for a conference on nuclear history. we had a lot of korean speaking about their view of north korea. the south surprise, koreans that were at this conference argued that while kim be a bitppears to ,razy and totally unpredictable
3:40 pm
it is a strategy. this more wants to see very good life that he and the elite in north korea live completely destroyed by starting a war. said isr thing to be that what the south koreans worry about most is the united states taking some initiative that could start a war without consulting with them they believe they understand the situation a lot better. they have the most to lose because it would not take nuclear weapons to destroy seoul. --re are conventional everybody who is in the business they speak believes that have so many conventional
3:41 pm
weapons targeted on soul that in a day the city would be flattened. >> [inaudible] it is a mexican standoff. if you don't have it, you are weak. if you have it your stronger. people pay attention to you. the questionelf why does north korea want to spend money on new their weapon? because they have our attention. they are the bad guys. they have this perfect situation. they have south korea right there that they can swatch like a fly. without taking a
3:42 pm
chance having gone south korea destroyed, bomb north korea. why does and china do something? china does not want to see regime change collapse and worst of all they talk about china not wanting refugees streaming across the border. koreaon't want south which is an ally of the united states and have the united states on the yellow river. they ended the war for that reason. >> israel says they have the bomb. everyone who has the bomb has tested it to make sure it works. they don't know if it works or
3:43 pm
maybe they do, but we don't know that. on the other hand, iran developing the bomb and attitudes there and sensibilities there are a whole lot different than we could ever understand. israel?meaning iran or >> a couple of things. irst, you will recall that mentioned to the iranian bomb was not tested. that was the wrong that was dropped on hiroshima. -- testing is not an issue. that the testely
3:44 pm
off south africa way back when was probably on israeli test. with the point that it is really unstable? i will make a different argument. called an iranian nuclear armed iran. i don't think it is an existential threats to israel. threat toxistential israel's hegemony in the area. not north korea. is a similar situation i
3:45 pm
goes back back and back. they understand if they use nuclear weapons, israel would love them out of the water and maybe the united states would be there using it to thank. also, the wind comes. remember chernobyl and all of the poisoning. the bomb has become this silver bullet. this i am king of the mountain unless there is a real reversal in some way, which i certainly going to have more
3:46 pm
states with nuclear weapons. churchill said joy is better than war. the idea that we don't talk to these people because we don't want them to is insane. you look at the cold war between 1945 and the end of the statesr, when the united in the 1950's was hysterical about communism. absolutely certain they wanted to take over the world, they be in california if we did not stop them in vietnam. crazy. we had an and seek in moscow.
3:47 pm
the reason the cuban missile crisis did not end in a disastrous war was because kennedy and khrushchev were talking constantly. quite a few letters between them in that single five, six days. you have to keep talking. we should have embassies everywhere. they're cutting the state department budget. we need to triple the state department budget. the majority of the japanese people at the end of the war were willing to lay their life down for the emperor. that does not sound like a defeated and -- defeated enemy. what about the argument that is horrific or unfortunate as it is
3:48 pm
, we must eliminate the japanese people's will to fight by facing posesith a weapon which the threat of sure annihilation. second question, what makes you think that an unused weapon of this magnitude after the war is over would be recognized by the terrible thathing could result in an international effort to ban it when the history of previous arms controls and geneva convention was against a weapons that have been used in the war. what about the argument that using it created an incentive to see the true orders of war and result in an international movement? >> it is a perfectly legitimate
3:49 pm
argument. not alone in making it. there are historians who study this issue the way i do who are convinced that that is the way to look at the issue. , i go back to the idea that it was obvious to every inentist who was involved theear weapons even before bomb was built. memo saying this bomb , it is possible to build it.
3:50 pm
the pale to compare nuclear weapons to anything before. all, the results of using it are what we see what we've got. it an think declaring unacceptable weapon would not have changed things, then i cannot argue with you. i am thoroughly convinced that if nuclear weapons were introduced as beyond the pale and unacceptable that international relations have to around the effort to make sure that nuclear
3:51 pm
weapons are not reduced. so we know that they can exist. that thete possible history of the cold war would have been quite different. certainly in the first 10 years. remember, stalin dies in 1953. khrushchev and mulling cough during that time reach out to to united states and try break through the barrier of hostility that exists. they are totally rejected by the eisenhower administration. the rest is history. your putting that on the table because it is
3:52 pm
important. a lot of people think that way. one more question. >> there is no way that can happen. we don't know where they all are. to drop a 10 or 20 megaton hydrogen bomb on 25 miles fromt is the dmz. nuclear weapons just cannot be used on that continent to bring about any kind of result. [applause]
3:53 pm
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> this weekend on american history tv. today at 6:00 p.m. eastern, the disbanding of the northern confederate army of virginia. hademember, lee's terms surrendered his army. they had said nothing about declaring the confederacy defunct. there had been no peace treaty. as of may 9, jefferson davis remained on the run. 8:00, university of notre dame professor on the east texas oil boom of the mid-20th century and the expansion of u.s. oil businesses to saudi arabia and canada. geologists framed the idea of
3:54 pm
oil saying the american oil reserves were going to collapse by 1970, forcing the country into a difficult situation. this kind of apocalyptic year of america losing its oil sources will drive exploration of broad. united sunday, the 1979 nations film the palestinian people do have rights. >> retaliation brings only further retaliation. an eye for an eye is often paid at high interest rates. >> at 6:30, president reagan's speechwriter and the former u.s. ambassador recall reagan's trip to berlin and the brandenburg eight speech. >> he knew it was a great applause line. and i knew it was authentic ronald reagan. history has an arc.
3:55 pm
of course we would never celebrate that famous speech if in fact the events of 1989 had not transpired the way they did. historyur complete schedule, go to on august 10, 1964, president lyndon johnson signed the gulf of tonkin resolution which gave him broad powers to wage war in southeast asia. that was passed by congress in response to an august 2 attack involving u.s. destroyers and vietnamese torpedo boats. american history tv visited the archive in george washington university to learn about numerous declassified documents. of the the director national security archive.
3:56 pm
this is where we live. we are in a room full of boxes into declassified documents. it is really an artifact. most documents are actually digital. we can look through the historians work, the inside historians work. texts of the intercepts of the north vietnamese conversation. and then listen to president johnson's phone calls as he is talking with the secretary of defense. and begin to understand to huge realities that were not known to the public at the time. one, that the north vietnamese attacks on the second of august were actually provoked by us. they wanted the unprovoked aggression presented to the american public.
3:57 pm
in fact we were running all these secret patrols. to test coastal defenses, figure out how the north vietnamese radar worked, to see how they would respond and intercept their communications. as part of an ongoing pressure on the north vietnamese. boats wereks on our presented as unprovoked aggression when actually we had provoked them. , theresident knew it defense secretary knew it. we have them on tape talking about it. this certainly had something to do with that attack and president johnson knows about it. >> i think we can also explain this plan, the covert operation.
3:58 pm
had 14 boatswe from vietnam manned by vietnamese attack to islands. we expect a thousand rounds of ammunition of one kind or another. the following 24 hours after that was the destroyer in the same area. during the second of august attacks, there was a ton of electronic intelligence in between the boats directing them all the way through the period of the attack and withdrawal. during the fourth of august at the very moment you have destroyers with torpedoes in the water, there is no electronic signaling.
3:59 pm
coordinating these attacks. the summary, which the top policymakers used. we sacrifice to comrades. when you go back to the original wc the word comrades. when you go to to the summaries, you see boats. that sounds like a huge attack. to comrades are people who were wounded on the second of august. not shot on the fourth of august. just by going back and looking at these originals which is what the national security agency should have done at the time, but they didn't. they prepared a chronology that would show your a few to believe
4:00 pm
what the president said on television. the attack was repeated today by a number of hostile vessels attacking to u.s. destroyers with torpedoes. >> next, the lives of black elites in new york city. several people discussed or ms. peterson's ancestors. they often lived in racially mixed neighborhood. in 2011 at the jefferson market library in new york city. the greenwich village society hosted this hour 10 minute event.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on