501.BC Atomic/1–447

The United States Representative on the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (Baruch) to President Truman 1

Dear Mr. President: I have the honor to inform you that the first phase of the work of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission has been completed. The basic principles have been clearly stated in the Commission’s report2 which has been submitted to the Security Council and exposed to the study of the world.

Accepting the principles, substantially those first enunciated by the United States Delegation on June 14 last, the Commission,3 after more than a hundred conferences, voted on December 30 (last Monday) by 10 to 0 (Russia and Poland abstaining) to approve the formulae submitted [Page 333] by the United States, as in keeping with the desires of the nations represented and with the creating Act of the General Assembly on January 24, 1946 in London.4

The task of general disarmament, with special accent not only on the war use of atomic energy but on its peaceful uses, too, previously had been set by you in consultation in Washington with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of Canada in November 1945;5 and outlined and fortified by the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Moscow in December 1945,6 the personnel being Mr. Secretary Byrnes of the United States; Mr. Molotov7 of the Soviet Republics; and Mr. Bevin8 of the United Kingdom.

The active undertaking of the problem of General Disarmament by the Security Council, expressed in the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on December 14, 1946,9 has created a new situation in which our hand would be strengthened by an identic representation on the Security Council and the Atomic Energy Commission. This country is one of the few whose Atomic Energy Commission representative is not the same as the representative on the Security Council.

Former Senator Warren Austin, our member in that body, is thoroughly equipped to handle this business as it develops from now on. In fact, he would be handicapped by divided authority. And were he to take over the atomic subject, he would have the important aid of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (dealing with domestic phases of this matter), to the head of which you recently appointed the Honorable David Lilienthal. He would also have the assistance of the staff we have built up; of the State Department, which has been kept informed of our proceedings; and of the United States members of the United Nations Military Staff Committee.

So, because of my belief that the work of my American associates and myself is over, and because I am convinced that the job now should be taken over by Senator Austin, I submit my resignation and those of the men who have worked with me—all of whom worked without [Page 334] fee or expense allowance, and at considerable sacrifice to their personal affairs for nine months.10 Their efforts were of inestimable value to the country and, I hope, to the world. They include Messrs. John M. Hancock, Ferdinand Eberstadt, Herbert Bayard Swope, Fred Searls, Jr., Dr. Richard C. Tolman and Major-General Thomas F. Farrell.

We had the continuing help of Major-General Leslie R. Groves11 and his staff—he was the head of the atomic project since its military beginnings; and the help of our Scientific Panel: Drs. J. R. Oppenheimer, Robert F. Bacher, Harold C. Urey, Charles A. Thomas, Arthur H. Compton and I. I. Rabi. To this credit list I add the members of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Military Staff Committee, particularly Lieutenant-General M. B. Ridgway, USA, General George C. Kenney, USA, and his successor Brigadier General C. P. Cabell, USA, and Admiral R. K. Turner, USN; they represented the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States.

We acknowledge the debt we owe to the preliminary work done in the Acheson-Lilienthal report12 and, too, I am grateful for the ever present and efficient work of our staff, who gave their minds and hearts to the job, at far lesser compensation than they could have earned in private pursuits.

No acknowledgment would be complete without recording the unfailing, whole-hearted support given at all times by you and Secretary Byrnes.

Permit me to make certain points:

In working out the basic principles to govern the control of atomic energy, I make bold to suggest that I and my associates have carried out the primary orders given by you and the Secretary of State at the time of my appointment last April.

I accompany this letter by the full report of the work of the Commission. From its text you will understand why I see encouragement as to the eventual outcome, for with four of the Great Powers, permanent members of the Security Council and six other nations in agreement, the difficulty of gaining unanimity has lessened. While unanimous action is important, it must not be gained at the expense [Page 335] of principle. To do that would be to lull the world into a false sense of security.

As you and the Secretary of State are aware, in all of our insistences that “there shall be no legal right, by veto or otherwise, whereby a wilful violator of the terms of the treaty or convention shall be protected from the consequences of violation of its terms” (the language of the report), we did not attack the general right of veto in the Security Council. We opposed the secondary veto upon enforcement or punishment, called for by a treaty, if the treaty were approved by the Security Council and ratified “by the several nations necessary to assure its success.”

Let me say a word as to the final vote:

France, the United Kingdom and China together with the United States are the Four Great Powers approving the principles that were acted upon by the Commission. The six other nations were Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, the Netherlands and Canada. Those countries, excepting Canada, plus the two abstainers (Russia and Poland) compose, as you know, the Security Council. (Since the first of the year, Mexico, the Netherlands and Egypt have been succeeded in the Council and the Commission by Belgium, Colombia and Syria.)

As to the primary principles we have sought to enact, they are familiar to you, since they are definitely part of your instructions to us.

I can find no better way of summarizing the work of the Commission than to invite your attention to the Findings and Recommendations found from pages 18 to 27 of the Commission’s Report already referred to.

They include, among many others, these most important elements:

the creating of a comprehensive international system of control and inspection, under the direction of an agency within the framework of the United Nations, by means of an enforceable treaty, subject, of course, to ratification by our Senate;
that the control should start with the production of uranium and thorium when they are severed from the ground and extend through the production of fissionable material, using safeguards at each step, including accounting, inspection, supervision, management and licensing, as may be appropriate;
that the powers of the agency should be commensurate with its responsibility, with no government possessing the right of veto over the day-to-day operations of the agency;
that the agency should have unimpeded right of ingress, egress, and access for the performance of its inspections and other duties;
prohibiting the manufacture, possession and use of atomic weapons by all nations and providing for the disposal of existing stocks of atomic weapons and fissionable materials;
specifying acts constituting international crimes, and establishing adequate measures of enforcement and punishment, subject to the condition that there shall be no legal right, by veto or otherwise, [Page 336] whereby a wilful violator shall be protected from the consequences of violating the treaty.

The international control agency will require broad powers commensurate with its great responsibilities, so that it may possess the requisite flexibility to adapt safeguards to a rapidly developing technology. The safeguards that have been discussed are meant only to be indicative of the types of safeguards that must be erected, which should be strengthened and never weakened.

There is one more theme that I must emphasize, namely that the Commission’s recommendations constitute an integrated and indivisible whole, each part of which is related to, and dependent upon the others. This fact is stressed in the Commission’s recommendations. It must never be lost sight of. No partial plan for the control of atomic energy can be effective, or should be accepted by this country.

In the extended debates of the Atomic Commission, the original principles of the United States Delegation have been tested and the outcome shows them to be sound.

We believe that this beginning, translated into action, may begin a broad program to govern weapons of mass destruction. In fact, it could even include other armaments. Were such a system employed effectively, it might lead us into a warless age.

I know how near to your heart that objective is. I know the peoples of the world are yearning for the chance to live and work with dignity and without fear, in Peace and Security.

To that end I shall hold myself ready to answer any call you may make.

Let me add these final thoughts:

I see no reason why this country should not continue the making of bombs, at least until the ratification of the treaty.

I have drawn your attention before to the necessity of preserving the atomic secrets. Particularly is this wise as to our designs, know-how, engineering and equipment. The McMahon law13 carries authority for this protection. If this authority should be found to be inadequate, it should be broadened to meet any needs, until a treaty is ratified by our Senate.

While science should be free, it should not be free to destroy mankind.

Our gratitude goes to you for the opportunity of service you have given us.

With warm regard.


[File copy not signed]
  1. Baruch transmitted a copy of this letter to the Secretary of State on January 4.
  2. AEC, 1st yr., Special Suppl.
  3. For the text of Baruch’s statement at the 1st Meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission, June 14, 1946, which contained the initial United States proposal, see United Nations, Official Records of the Atomic Energy Commission, First Year, Plenary Meetings, pp. 4–14 (hereafter cited as AEC, 1st yr., Plenary), or Department of State Bulletin, June 23, 1946, pp. 1057–1062.
  4. Identical with the proposed resolution on atomic energy contained in the Communiqué of the Moscow Tripartite Conference of Foreign Ministers, December, 1945; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, p. 815, or United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, First Part, Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly during the First Part of the First Session, p. 9 (hereafter cited as GA (I/1), Resolutions).
  5. For the text of the Agreed Declaration on Atomic Energy, signed at Washington on November 15, 1945, by President Truman, Prime Minister Clement R. Attlee of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King of Canada, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1504, or 60 Stat. (pt. 2) 1479.
  6. For documentation on the Moscow Tripartite Conference of Foreign Ministers, December 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, pp. 560 ff.
  7. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  8. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  9. Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, p. 1099.
  10. For text of President Truman’s reply to the present letter, accepting Baruch’s resignation, see The Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman: 1947 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1963), p. 1, or Bernard M. Baruch, The Public Years (New York, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1960), p. 379.
  11. Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, Commanding General, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project; Commanding General, Manhattan Engineer District, the atomic bomb development program, 1942–1946; appointed to the Military Liaison Committee, United States Atomic Energy Commission, January 31, 1947.
  12. Department of State Publication 2498, A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy, March 16, 1946 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1946).
  13. Reference is to the Atomic Energy Act, August 1, 1946 (Public Law 585, 79 Cong.; 60 Stat. 755–775).