Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Mr. Bernard M. Baruch to President Truman 95

My Dear Mr. President: I was, of course, very much gratified that you should have expressed such great confidence in me as to appoint me the United States representative on the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.96 I do not underestimate either the honor or the responsibility but, as I have become more familiar with the situation, there are certain elements of it which are causing me concern, and which I, therefore, want to discuss with you. As I understand my duties and authority, they consist presently solely of the obligation of representing United States policy on atomic energy, as communicated to me by you directly or through the Secretary of State, before the United Nations Organization. I see nowhere any duty or responsibility on me to participate in the formation of that policy.

This situation has been brought very forcibly to my attention by the press announcements of the report rendered by Mr. Acheson’s Committee. I do not underestimate the effect of this publication in the United States or in the world at large, and while I have not had an opportunity to examine the report with care and cannot state my own definite views with respect to it, the letter from Secretary Byrnes to me transmitting the report97 states that it was unanimously recommended by a Committee headed by the Under Secretary of State. This brings the report pretty close to the category of the United States Government policy.

I have no doubt that the public feels that I am going to have an important relation to the determination of our atomic energy policy. There is no legal basis for this view and now that the Under Secretary of State’s Committee Report has been published, the determination of policy will be greatly affected by the contents of this report. Even the superficial and incomplete examination of the subject that I have been able to make in the last few days convinces me that this report is likely to be the subject of considerable and rather violent differences of opinion. Its publication, which I understand to have been unauthorized, does not render the situation any less difficult.98

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These are the things that have been bothering me, and I wanted to talk them over with you before coming to a final conclusion myself as to whether, in the circumstances, I can be useful to you. I will need a little more time to reflect. As it presently stands, I think that embarrassment all around would be avoided if you would ask Chairman Connally of the Foreign Relations Committee to postpone any action on confirmation of my appointment until I have had a little more time to think things over.

Respectfully yours,

[File copy not signed]
  1. Presented in person at the White House, March 26; for an account of this Truman–Baruch meeting, see Hewlett and Anderson, pp. 557–558.
  2. The appointment had been announced on March 18. In regard to the circumstances of the appointment, the selection and functions of Baruch’s staff, and the establishment of liaison between Baruch’s office and the Department of State, see Hewlett and Anderson, pp. 554–576.
  3. Letter of March 21, not printed.
  4. Accounts of the report had appeared in the press on March 25 although the document was not formally released by the Department of State until March 28.