Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank



Q: You were given by him the actual cable message which authorised the dispatch of the bomb. Do you remember that? Did it seem to be something historic to you?

A: President Truman received a message from Washington that came through us in the map room, we were his communication officers there, saying that the timing for the weather circumstances and all, everything was very propitious for an early use of the bomb, and his permission was requested to release information about the bomb, a long statement that had been prepared in advance. And Truman reading this very hastily one morning misunderstood and thought he was being asked whether or not to drop the bomb itself. So he wrote out in long hand, and handed to me for dispatch, "Okay, release, but not before August two." Why August two? That was the day we were set to leave Potsdam to return to the States. Truman wanted to be away from Stalin before the bomb was dropped, or before there was any announcement because he didn't want to have to answer any questions from the Soviets as to what is this all about.

Q: Were you aware yourself that this was a real big turning point in history? Or did it just seem gradual of the war as a process?

A: At that particular time everything seemed a turning point in history. No, we in the map room had been aware of the Manhattan project for about three years, we knew what it was, we'd followed the progress reports, so it was not all that special. We hoped, as did everybody else who knew what it was all about, that this would bring a speedy end. The Japanese had ignored the Potsdam declaration of July 26th in which they were threatened with heavy devastation, loss of life, and damage if they did not surrender. They ignored the Potsdam declaration. It seemed that this was the next step, this had to be done.

Q: The war comes to an end, there's victory, but the climate seems to change. Can you remember yourself when you first felt that, yes, the President's really starting to get very worried about the Soviet Union. ...? Can you pin point that or did that also evolve slowly?

A: The mood, the attitude in Washington toward the Soviet Union had begun to change well before Potsdam. Storm signals were already flying. Within days after Roosevelt's death and Truman's taking office, our Ambassador in Moscow, Averell Harriman, flew back to Washington to meet, make sure the new administration knew of the, his concerns and the concerns of his staff about post-war intentions of the Soviets, particularly to be sure that we understood the problems that were arising with respect to Poland. And then while we were in Potsdam there were many, many arguments amongst the British, Soviets and Americans about reparations. The Soviets seemed to be reaching out to grasp everything that they possibly could. We could see that ourselves in Cicilienhof: lorries were drawn up just looting, taking absolutely everything out of the palace except the rooms where the conference was being held - light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, books, furniture, just sweeping it clean, and they were doing that all over the place in their zone. Anything that could possibly be of value they were taking. And this was again an, an indication of a frame of mind and an attitude that was going to be very, very difficult to live with. And we had no sooner returned to Washington than we began to receive cables from American representatives in what we were all later to call the satellite countries, on the behaviour of Soviet troops with respect to the people of Poland, of Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and so on. So trouble was in the air.


Q: Can you tell me about the receipt of the Kennan 'long telegram'? Did that end up on Harry Truman's desk pretty early on? Did that have any effect?

A: Kennan's telegram of February '46 created quite a splash throughout Washington, yes, copies came to the White House, Admiral Leahy who was Chief of Staff, had been Chief of Staff to FDR and continued as Chief of Staff to President Truman saw it, read it, discussed with those of us in the map room. It reinforced ideas he had long held. I can't personally say that I know that President Truman saw it and read it, but it's inconceivable to me that he didn't, given the interest in the White House. So, I can say - ninety-nine and point ninety-nine percent certain - that he studied it with care.

Q: The Middle East was troubling everyone, and particular Soviet actions in Iran ... in Turkey. Do you remember any of the to-ing and fro-ing that went on about Turkey and Iran?

A: Yes indeed. In the winter of '45, '46 word began to get back to us that Soviets were taking no steps to pull their troops out of Iran as they had pledged to do by the first of March of '46. That date came, Soviet troops were still in Iran and Truman with Secretary of State Burns began to let Stalin know that they were very, very displeased with this, and our Ambassador in Moscow, Walter Bedell Smith, was instructed by Truman to take it up personally with Stalin, that Truman's message to Smith was "I'd always thought the Marshall was a man of his word. He hasn't kept his word here and this upsets me very much." - words to that effect. There was no public protest, although Secretary of State Burns did make a radio address on the matter, but it was sort of a low-key diplomacy and it worked. The Soviets did begin to withdraw from Iran. With respect to Turkey it was perhaps a little bit blunter. It was apparent that the Soviets had designs on Turkey, and the Turkish Ambassador in Washington died suddenly and on the advice of State and the military President Truman took the rather bold step of sending the body of the Turkish Ambassador back to Turkey on the battleship Missouri, the biggest, strongest battleship in the American Navy at that time. The Missouri had the additional distinction of having been the ship on which the Japanese surrender had been signed, so it had a symbolic value as well, and that was the first presence of the United States Navy in the eastern Mediterranean and it has maintained a task force there ever since. But this was symbol to Stalin, "Don't push us and don't push Turkey, because if you push Turkey we'll be there."

Q: About this time Churchill is over here, the speech at Fulton. Were you aware of any talks between Churchill and Roosevelt on this whole question... thinking particularly about Turkey and the response to Turkey?

A: President Truman and Prime Minister - former Prime Minister Churchill had long talks at the time of Churchill's visit in March of 1946. They travelled by train together out to the mid-West, to Fulton, Missouri and the President was well aware of the content of what became known as 'the Iron Curtain speech'. They, between them did a tour d'horizon, they surveyed the whole world situation and Churchill of course was obsessed with the problems of the Soviet Union; Truman was becoming increasingly concerned about them. There was a thorough review of the world by the two of them.

Q: Clark Clifford and yourself are asked to compile a report to the President of overall thought and dealings with the Soviet Union. ... Can you tell me how you went about gathering that information yourself, and what was the response of the people that you were speaking to about the Soviet Union? ...

A: In July of '46 President Truman was increasingly irritated by the failure of the Soviets to live up to the promises made in the declaration of liberator to Europe, at Yalta and the subsequent discussions at Potsdam, asked his special counsel, Clark Clifford to compile a list of the agreements that the Soviets had made that they had broken, or were not living up to. And I was then Mr Clifford's assistant and he turned the task over to me. We talked about it a bit, and I said, "Well, it seems to me that - that's only scratching the surface, a list of agreements broken. There are much more fundamental problems in our relationship with the USSR than that. So let's go at it in a somewhat broader way." We requested replies from the Secretaries of the Army and the Navy, Secretary of State, the Director of the FBI, the Attorney General, all the agencies the United States Government, the executive branch, that would have significant information on American relations with the USSR. The replies came in, quite extensively, and detailed and I compiled them in a report for Mr Clifford to submit to the President. The gratifying, if you will, aspect was that there was absolute unanimity in all of the agencies concerned as to the nature of the problems we had, and the kind of response we were going to have to make. President Truman for the first time realised he didn't have a divided administration, he had strong support. Just a few weeks earlier, or as a matter of fact days earlier, before we submitted that report, he'd had a falling out and he'd had to fire the Secretary of Commerce, Henry Wallace who'd been a very much pro-Soviet voice and Wallace had given the impression that he was speaking for a large number of people throughout the government and the public. This report on Truman's desk made it apparent that Wallace was not at all speaking, was very much an isolated voice. Truman would have the backing of his administration, a very solid backing in any tough stance against the Soviet Union.