World War II – Document #6
question of whether the bomb should be used in war against Japan came up
for discussion. Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb
against the cities of Japan
in order to win the war. He knew at that time, as the rest of the government knew, that Japan
was essentially defeated and that we could win the war in another six months.
At that time Mr. Byrnes was much concerned about the spreading of Russian
influence in Europe....Mr. Byrnes’ concern about Russia I fully shared, but his
view that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more
manageable in Europe I was not able to share. Indeed I could hardly imagine any
premise more false and disastrous upon which to base our policy, and I was
dismayed when a few weeks later I learned that he was to be our Secretary of
source: Nuclear physicist Leo Szilard’s recollection of a 1945 meeting between James
Byrnes and a group of concerned atomic scientists (1949).