740.0011 P. W./7–1645

No. 1236
The Secretary of War (Stimson) to the Secretary of State
top secret

Dear Mr. Secretary[:] I am enclosing herewith the original and a copy for your files of a memorandum to the President relating to the conduct of the war with Japan. It relates to a subject which I think is of supreme importance at the moment, and I would very much like to see the President with you about it at your earliest convenience.

On another matter in which the War Department is greatly interested, namely the administration of Germany, I also have some thoughts which I should like to submit to you and the President. They will be in written form the first thing in the morning.1

Faithfully yours,

Henry L Stimson

The Secretary of War (Stimson) to the President
top secret

Memorandum for the President

the conduct of the war with japan

With the great needs of rehabilitation both domestically and abroad facing us, we still find ourselves engaged in war with a major Pacific power. The length and limitation upon our lines of communications to the Pacific combat areas aggravate the strains upon our resources which the wastes of war always impose. The Japanese soldier has proved himself capable of a suicidal, last ditch defense; and will no doubt continue to display such a defense on his homeland. Yet we have enormous factors in our favor and any step which can be taken to translate those advantages into a prompt and successful conclusion of the war should be taken. I have already indicated in my memorandum to you of 2 July 1945,3 the reasons which impel me to urge that warnings be delivered to Japan, designed to bring about her capitulation as quickly as possible. While that war is going on, it [Page 1266]will be most difficult politically and economically to make substantial contributions to the reestablishment of stable conditions abroad. The longer that war progresses, the smaller will our surpluses become, and the more our over-all resources will be strained.

warning to japan

It seems to me that we are at the psychological moment to commence our warnings to Japan. The great marshalling of our new air and land forces in the combat area in the midst of the ever greater blows she is receiving from the naval and already established Army forces, is bound to provoke thought even among their military leaders. Added to this is the effect induced by this Conference and the impending threat of Russia’s participation, which it accentuates.

Moreover, the recent news of attempted approaches on the part of Japan to Russia,4 impels me to urge prompt delivery of our warning. I would therefore urge that we formulate a warning to Japan to be delivered during the course of this Conference, and rather earlier than later, along the lines of the draft prepared by the War Department and now approved, I understand, by both the State and Navy Departments.5 In the meantime our tactical plans should continue to operate without let up, and if the Japanese persist, the full force of our newer weapons should be brought to bear in the course of which a renewed and even heavier warning, backed by the power of the new forces and possibly the actual entrance of the Russians in the war, should be delivered.6

[Page 1267]

Whether the Russians are to be notified of our intentions in advance in this regard, would depend upon whether an agreement satisfactory to us had been reached with the Russians on the terms of their entry into the Japanese war.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Henry L Stimson
  1. See document No. 849.
  2. For the other sections of this memorandum, see documents Nos. 732, 1212, and 1274.
  3. Document No. 592, printed in vol. i .
  4. Cf. the following entry in Stimson’s diary for July 16: “… I also received important paper in re Japanese maneuvering for peace.…” The paper referred to has not been identified. Concerning Japanese approaches to the Soviet Union prior to this date, see documents Nos. 582 and 586, printed in vol. i ; cf. Millis, ed., The Forrestal Diaries, pp. 74–76.
  5. See vol. i, document No. 594.
  6. Stimson’s diary contains the following entries on the relationship between the warning to Japan and the successful test of the atomic bomb:

    “[July 17:] I went to the ‘White House’ for a conference with Byrnes early in the morning. We first discussed methods of handling Harrison’s paper [document No. 1303]. Byrnes was opposed to a prompt and early warning to Japan which I had first suggested. He outlined a timetable on the subject warning which apparently had been agreed to by the President, so I pressed it no further.…”

    “[July 23:] At ten o’clock Secretary Byrnes called me up asking me as to the timing of the S–1 program. I told him the effect of the two cables [see particularly document No. 1309] and that I would try to get further definite news. I dictated a cable to Harrison [ document No. 1310] asking him to let us know immediately when the time was fixed.…

    “At eleven o’clock I went down to the ‘Little White House’ to try to see the President or Byrnes.… When I got there I found Byrnes out, and I asked for the President who saw me at once.… [I] told him that I had sent for further more definite information as to the time of operation from Harrison. He told me that he had the warning message which we prepared on his desk, and had accepted our most recent change in it [see document No. 1241], and that he proposed to shoot it out as soon as he heard the definite day of the operation.…

    “[July 24:] At nine-twenty I went to ‘The Little White House’ and was at once shown into the President’s room where he was alone with his work, …

    “I then showed him the telegram which had come last evening from Harrison giving the dates of the operations [document No. 1312]. He said that was just what he wanted, that he was highly delighted and that it gave him his cue for his warning. He said he had just sent his warning to Chiang Kai-shek to see if he would join in it, and as soon as that was cleared by Chiang he, Truman, would release the warning and that would fit right in time with the program we had received from Harrison.”