Hopkins Papers

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (Bush)

Mr. Hopkins called me on the telephone and told me that the Prime Minister had formally raised the question of interchange on S–1, and asked me to confer with Lord Cherwell in his office to see if there could be a meeting of minds.

I met Mr. Hopkins and Lord Cherwell at 3:30. Lord Cherwell asked that I state why we had altered our policy in regard to interchange on this subject. In reply, I traced the entire subject from the standpoint of its organization, beginning with the Briggs Committee and going through the NDRC handling, the taking over by the military, the existence of the Military Committee, and the Policy Group consisting of the Vice President and others.2 I then outlined the way in which the present policy had been adopted by these groups, making it clear that a new policy was needed at the time that the matter went into production in the hands of the Army, inasmuch as OSRD previously had had to do only with the scientific angles. I then outlined the principle which was adopted and outlined its application. I then asked Lord Cherwell whether they disagreed with the principle itself or with the way in which it was being applied. He stated that he disagreed with the principle itself.

We then had a considerable discussion in which I outlined that this was a principle that was applied generally. I also made it clear that the reason for the restriction of information to those who could use it in this war was for security purposes. I made it clear that this [Page 210] was being applied impartially and that there were groups such as the Naval Research Laboratory which wished much more information but were not being given it because they could not utilize it in this war.

Incidentally, in discussing the reasons for a restricted policy, namely security, I told Lord Cherwell that, if we were to furnish the manufacturing information freely at all points to the British, we could not then very well refuse to pass similar information from one American company to another, that we had at the present time each company confined to its proper field, that no information was being passed beyond that necessary for each company to operate properly therein, and that we would feel that it was undesirable from a security standpoint to pass the information around more freely than this in American companies. He stated that of course if we furnished the manufacturing information it would be to the British Government, and I stated that of course I would assume that the British Government would immediately have to work with some company such as I.C.I. in order to utilize the information effectively, which he did not contest.

On my insistence that, under the present plans, the British could not use for the purposes of this war the information on the manufacturing process, Lord Cherwell agreed that this was true as far as the present plans go. He also stated, however, that, unless this manufacturing information was furnished to the British, they might feel impelled to alter the plans and go into manufacturing themselves, to the disadvantage of the balance of the war effort. I pressed him on the question as to whether they would expect in this way to attain results useful in this war, and he did not insist that they could. The matter finally came down to the point where he admitted rather freely that the real reason they wished this information at this time was so that after the war they could then at that time go into manufacture and produce the weapon for themselves, so that they would depend upon us during this war for the weapon but would be prepared after this war to put themselves in a position to do the job promptly themselves. He disclaimed the commercial aspects. He felt that it would be five or ten years before the matter came into use commercially, and that if commercial usage was indicated after study the British could readily go into that aspect of the subject. It was quite clear, and Mr. Hopkins reiterated it and emphasized it, that the reason the British wish the information was so that in the period immediately after this war they would be able to develop the weapon for themselves very promptly and not after a considerable interval.

The matter having gotten very definitely boiled down to this one point, I took the point of view, in which Mr. Hopkins joined me, that delivery of information to the British for after-the-war military reasons [Page 211] was a subject which needed to be approached quite on its own merits, and that this question is tied up with the large problem of international relations on this whole subject from a long-term viewpoint, Lord Cherwell stated that there was a connection, because unless the British could now be assured that they would have this information for the above purpose they might have to divert some of their war effort in order to get it. He stated that he did not wish to say that they would do this, that it was up to the Prime Minister, but that they might feel that they were constrained to do so in order that their position immediately after the war might be properly secure. He made it clear, of course, that he did not mean secure as against the United States, but rather as against some other country which might have it far developed at that time. Mr. Hopkins said some things about one administration not being able to commit a succeeding one, except where the matter was incorporated in a treaty.

In conclusion, Mr. Hopkins stated that he now had the point very definitely in mind for the first time, and that he understood now exactly what was the point at issue. He evidently intends to talk to the President about it, although he did not say so. I asked him whether he wished me at this time, in view of the new angle of the matter, to discuss it in any way with Mr. Wallace or Mr. Stimson. He stated that there was nothing further that he wished me to do, that he did not think that I should take the matter up with either of those men at the present time, and I said to him that I would sit tight and do nothing unless and until I heard from him further on the matter.

V. Bush
  1. The committees referred to in this sentence were those United States bodies established at various times from 1939 onward to deal with the atomic bomb project. For a narrative account of the organizational development of the project, see Hewlett and Anderson, chapters 2 and 3.