The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb

Part VI: The Manhattan District in Peacetime

Postwar Planning

The beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s was linked to the failure of the World War II allies to reach agreements on international controls respecting nuclear research and atomic weapons. Postwar planning in the United States began in earnest in July 1944, when Met Lab scientists in Chicago issued a "Prospectus on Nucleonics," which included plans for atomic research and advocated the creation of an international organization to prevent nuclear conflict. In August the Military Policy Committee making recommendations on the proper government role in postwar atomic research and development. The committee, composed of Richard Tolman (chairman), Warren Lewis, Henry Smyth, and Rear Admiral Earle W. Mills, recommended that the best way for the government to maintain a vigorous nuclear program was to set up a peacetime version of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Niels Bohr, aware that the Russians had known about the Manhattan Project since 1942 and convinced that the Soviet Union would spare no effort to catch up with the United States, advocated a policy of full publicity and international cooperation.

Roosevelt and Churchill included postwar planning on their agenda when they met at Hyde Park in September 1944. They immediately vetoed the idea of an open atomic world (Churchill adamantly rejecting Bohr's recommendation). Bush and Conant, meanwhile, contacted Stimson on September 19 and spoke to the necessity of releasing selected information on the bomb project, reasoning that in a free country the secret could not be kept long. When Roosevelt asked Bush for a briefing on S-1 several days later, Bush discovered that Roosevelt had signed an "aide-memoire" with Churchill, pledging to continue bilateral research with England in certain areas of atomic technology.63 Bush feared that Roosevelt would institute full interchange with Great Britain without consulting his own atomic power experts. Bush argued, prophetically, that leaving the Russians out of such an arrangement might well lead to an arms race among the Allied victors.

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