RD: ...said we are not going to usethe atomic bomb, and for that matter, Truman himmight not have known whether he was going to use the atomic bomb. Suppose, for example, that the Chinese pushed us back and back and back, and drove us off the peninsular to China, drove our forces back to Japan, [inaudible] back to Japan and then they pursued us to the... we would have used the atomic bomb, I'm sure. We weren't going to let... lose our bastion in the Pacific, which was Japan. I mean, there could have been circumstances in which we would have used it, but they were not at all in the picture in November 1930. But the President never shut it off. People kept asking him... kept coming back to it once it was on the table, we'll do this or that, but the President was never clear and said, look, we're not going to do it. So the atomic bomb thing got into the picture through... out of that press conference and it went around the world and horrified newspapers in Asia... You might be able to pick up something there.
INT: What were some of the headlines that went round the world, tell us about that, how it was kind of blown up and the story went round the world and the competition to get the story on the wire services. Was it a very tense press conferences as against more friendly press conferences?
RD: Yeah, it got focused in on atomic bomb when it shouldn't have been. The President couldn't seem to shut it off and when the press conference ended, the wire services - I'm thinking now of the United Press - sent out a bulletin saying that the President said that the use... I'm paraphrasing now, that the use of the atomic bomb in Korea was under consideration.... I th... the... the records will show that the American press understood that. The New York Times story the next day said... [inaudible] said that President Truman said at his press conference that we were going to fight to the end in Korea, that we were going to have peace and justice out of Korea and if necessary, with the atomic bomb. And that's about all that the New York Times said about the atomic bomb in its story. But that was far different from what the bulletins were.
INT: Give us an idea, the American press took this statement in its stride and it wasn't that big news...
RD: [Interrupts] Right.
INT: How did it get reported internationally?
RD: On wire services. Oh they would have their own correspondents there, but AP, UP go round the world, the wire services go round the world and they got these bulletins in Paris, New Delhi and other places and the reaction there was one of alarm and even in Great Britain, it was taken seriously enough so that Clement Atlee came to Washington right away for talks with the... the President about the bomb and they had very cordial talks for five days. But that's the point I'm trying to make now. I guess I can make it better than that.
INT: Well, maybe reflect upon the impact that the press conference had, not on the domestic readership, but the impact it had on the world's press...
RD: [Interrupts] Round the world.
RD: That's the whole purpose of it. Well, shall we start from now then?
INT: Tell me about the impact that the President's rather loose use of the atomic weapon terminology had on the world's press.
RD; Well, the bulletins about the President's press conference went around the world immediately and they fastened on the President saying that the atomic bomb was always under consideration, and that caused incredible alarm from Paris... we used to say, from Paris to New Delhi, and some of the papers went haywire on it. One of the papers somewhere said that the plane was already loaded to bring the bomb and even as serious and wise a man as the British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, was concerned enough to come to Washington at once to talk to the President about it. They talked for five days and Mr. Atlee went back saying he was very satisfied with their conversation. The reason was that, in the circumstances, Truman never dreamed of using the atomic bomb, but it was one of those things that got our of hand, but the Americans were used to Truman, they knew what he was saying, they knew the spirit in which he was talking. He should have shut it off earlier, but everyone... here's a thing. Once he started talking about the atomic bomb, every reporter in that room had to stop and think, what am I going to write about this? So, that started the questioning, everyone had to ask a question there. You see the point I make? It wasn't just one question. The fact that the bomb came up, then all of us had to know, well what do you say... what are you really saying here? So we'd ask a question and the questions went on and on. Truman couldn't get out from under these atomic bomb questions.
INT: That does explain it very well. People understand exactly how the kind of tension mounted.
RD: Oh yes, I agree to that.
INT: How did you report it?
RD: I wish to goodness I had a clipping of my story. I think pretty much.... Tony Lavero was the New York Times White House correspondent, I quoted his copy in there, which was a typical... and mine would have been that. I would have played up more and maybe he did it... no he didn't. I would have played up more the uproar at the press conference over this. I would have made a lot of that. But my story would have conveyed the idea that we were not going to use the atomic bomb in Korea.
INT: Truman didn't come out and say that the ultimate responsibility rests with the President, not the military people, what happened exactly?
RD: He talked about the fact that the men in the field had all the... you know, as always, they had been in the field, were the ones who'd say what weapons we were going to and so forth, neglecting the fact that both by custom and by law, nuclear weapons could only be used on the authority of the President of the United States, by custom in Hiroshima. The bomb was not dropped on Hiroshima until President Truman at the conference in Potsdam, set his authority for using it. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 specified that it couldn't be used without the President's approval. But this sort of got away in the carelessly worded answers the President gave. I think myself that the President had gripped, so to speak, had got a... with a roomful of American reporters, very much reduced his [inaudible] about how this would sound abroad, what he was saying.
INT: Do you think he didn't really think it through?
RD: I think he was trying to explain this to American reporters, in language that didn't sound quite the same in foreign countries. In other words, that left them in doubt. There's no question, Truman didn't clarify for the world what he had to say. He was in a give and take with a roomful of reporters, American reporters. [Inaudible] to press conferences.
INT: How difficult was MacArthur a figure for Truman to have to deal with?
RD: Let me tell you how difficult he was for me to figure out. I was at Wake Island with President Truman and we weren't getting anything, and all of a sudden, Eddie Farlier of the Washington Post said, there's General MacArthur over there. There were little shacks all over Wake Island and this was a Sunday in Wake Island. It was a Saturday in the United States and so we went over and MacArthur was on a little balcony, not much, we were all looking at him and you know, he seemed to have a far away look him, he had the scrambled eggs on his hat and he was off looking. I thought, my God, he's trying to look at the battlefield and Eddie Farlier said, well, what are you and the President talking about? And he said, you will have to ask the President's press agent, referring to the President's press secretary, and all of a sudden there was this noise going on, there was a flapping and what is it but a colonel coming up there. His pants were so tightly... flap, flap, flap and he got up there and MacArthur didn't look at him. And he came up and he said, General - boy were we bending ear - and, yessir, yes Smith, whatever his name was - he said it's Army seven, Michigan seven at the quarter, sir. [Laughs] That was the great affair at Wake Island. MacArthur insion being told every minute what the army team was doing in Washingtin the United States. But MacArthur, well he was a famous man and justifiably so. He had a wonderful record in the First World War. He was a great soldier. When the Second World War came long, his tactics in the Pacific, this island hopping, were very productive. I think that MacArthur was... What was the title in Japan?
BACKGROUND: Supreme Commander.
RD: Well, this wasn't military though. He was the...
INT: He was Supreme Commander, it is a military title as well.
RD: Well he was like the King of Japan. I mean, he ruled Japan. Well, anyhow, after the War, he was the Supreme Allied Commander and was in charge... was really in command of the defeated Japan... of Japan and I think if you read the Japanese constitution, MacArthur did great things for the Japanese people. He made it sort of a democratic country, and he did a lot to get Japan out of the depths of misery after the war and I think that's all to his credit. He had very, very strong views, absolutely strong views about what we should do in Asia when this thing started. He thought, for example, we should blockade China. That would have meant, according to the people of Washington, that would have meant blockading Iran, maybe Vladivostok what would happen... would the Soviet Union stand being blockaded? We turned it down. He wanted us to bomb Chinese industries. In other words, he wanted us to let the Chinese nationalists under Cho En Lai - have I got this right, yeah, Cho En Lai...