If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Troy Treasure
In a July 1, 2020 enterprise article in the Shelby County Herald, Shelbina resident Ken Jones indicated he and his future wife, the late Margarent Jones, worked on the Manhattan Project during the early 1940s.
“I had a top-secret clearance but there were thousands of people that worked on that program,” Jones said. “I was just one little spoke in the wheel.”
Jones did not elaborate on what kind of work he actually did. To this day, he said the information is classified for reasons of national security.
The original article is available at shelbycountyherald.com by clicking the news tab.
What follows is part of how the Manhattan Project led to the end of World War II.
President Truman (pictured above) was not informed about research weaponizing nuclear energy until he assumed office upon the sudden death of Franklin Roosevelt, according to one of his closest associates. In his 1991 book with co-author Richard Holbrooke, presidential aide Clark Clifford, recalled a discussion he had while working for Mr. Truman.
“He told me he first heard of the existence of ‘the most terrible weapon’ on the evening he became President, less that four hours after Roosevelt died and only 20 minutes after being sworn in as President,” Clifford said in Counsel To The President: A Memoir.
“This was not an oversight, but a deliberate – and, I believe, irresponsible – decision by President Roosevelt and his senior advisors to withhold from the man next in the chain of command the most vital secret of the war,” Clifford and Holbrooke wrote.
In the book, Clifford indicated Truman said Secretary of War Henry Stimson took him aside and told him that Roosevelt had set up a special organization to develop a super-bomb that was almost ready for its first test.
“President Truman said he was so overwhelmed by the events of the day that the information about the bomb did not sink in – a clear demonstration, if any were needed, of neccessity to keep the Vice-President fully informed of important events so that he (or she) can make decisions quickly if the President is unable, for whatever reason, to perform the duties of office,” Clifford said.
Two weeks later, Stimson and Army Major General Leslie Groves, who was commanding the Manhattan Project, met with the President.
“They handed President Truman a detailed memorandum that contained a heart-stopping sentence: ‘Within four months we shall in all probability have completed the most terrible weapon ever known in human history, one bomb which could destroy a whole city,” Clifford said.
A bit of information on Clark Clifford. He was born on Christmas Day 1906 in Fort Scott, Kansas while his father was on a temporary assignment for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. When the job ended, Clifford’s family moved back to his parents’ hometown of St. Louis. Raised there, he was a man who took education seriously. Clifford graduated high school at the age of 15. After working for a time at Missouri Pacific to raise money, he entered Washington University in 1923. He graduated from the university’s law school in June 1928 and a month later passed the bar examination at age 21.
Beginning with the Truman administration, Clifford would rise to become one of the most influencial members of the Democrat Party for decades. He once served as President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Defense.
Most individuals with keen knowledge of Missouri political history will recall the name Stuart Symington. In Counsel To The President, Clifford and Holbrooke tell the story of how the Missouri senator was once hours away from being selected by 1960 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kennedy to be his running mate.
As previously reported in the Herald’s piece on Ken Jones, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Three days later, Nagasaki felt atomic wrath. The next day (August 10), Japan announced it would surrender and did so on August 14.
“When President Truman discussed these events later, he always emphasized that he had only one goal: ending the war as soon as possible,” Clifford said. “In the end, what weighed most heavily on President Truman was the military estimate that enormous numbers of American casualties would be suffered in an assault upon the main islands of Japan. The estimate that stayed in his mind was the total of 500,000, half killed in action, and half wounded.
“Thus the decision was relatively simple in President Truman’s mind, a choice of sacrificing a horrendous number of Americans or use a weapon that could shorten the war dramatically. Although later he spent considerable time defending his decision, he did not agonize over it at the time,” Clifford continued. “Death and destruction on the most massive scale had been the hallmarks of both World War I, in which Harry Truman had fought, and the war whose conclusion was now in his hands. He wanted to end it as quickly as possible.”
Counsel To The President: A Memoir by Clark Clifford and Richard Holbrooke was published in 1991 by Random House.