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Paul H. Nitze Oral History Interview, August 4, 1975

Oral History Interview with
Paul H. Nitze

From 1941 to 1944, Mr. Nitze served as Financial Director for the Coordinator of Inter American Affairs; Chief, Metals and Minerals Branch, Board of Economic Welfare; Director, Foreign Procurement and Development Branch, Foreign Economic Administration; and, as special consultant to the War Department. He served during the Truman administration as Vice-Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, 1944-46; Deputy Director, Office of International Trade Policy, U.S. Department of State, 1946; Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, 1948-49; and, Director, Policy Planning Staff, U.S. Department of State, 1950-53.

Northeast Harbor, Maine
August 4, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed | Additional Nitze Oral History Transcripts]


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened July, 1990
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed | Additional Nitze Oral History Transcripts]



Oral History Interview with
Paul H. Nitze

Northeast Harbor, Maine
August 4, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie

Summary Description:

Topics discussed include the Dillon, Read, and Company; administrative assistants to President Roosevelt in World War II; Office of Coordinator of Inter American Affairs; International Basic Economy Corporation; conscription law; Board of Economic Welfare; Combined Raw Materials Board; War Production Board; Reconstruction Finance Corporation; procurement of strategic materials in World War II; Foreign Economic Administration; foreign property disposal; Strategic Bombing Survey; Lend lease program; Quartz crystals for military radio communication; Joint Strategic Target Selection Group; the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan; Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor; surrender of Japan; effects of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; postwar missions of American armed forces; Office of International Trade Policy; U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff; Marshall plan; balance of payments policy; Committee for European Economic Cooperation; origins of Point IV program; Truman Doctrine; Trieste question; NSC-68; Joint Strategic Survey Committee; nuclear war strategy; Korean War; dismissal of General MacArthur; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; German rearmament; French Indo China; Middle East oil development; Iran oil controversy; transition to Eisenhower administration; defense budget in Eisenhower administration; and Spain and NATO.

Names mentioned include James Forrestal., Paul Shields, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Corcoran , Benjamin Cohen, James Rowe, Oscar Cox, August Belmont, Cordell Hull, Henry Wallace, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Harry Hopkins, Leo Pasvolsky, Arthur Krock, Will Clayton, Ferdinand Eberstadt, Nelson Rockefeller, Donald Nelson, William Burden, Charles Harding, Josh Figueres, William Knox, William Draper, George C. Marshall, Henry Stimson, Jesse Jones, Carl Spaeth, Milo Perkins, Cresswell Maku, Morris Rosenthal, Monroe Oppenheimer, Temple Bridgeman, Alan Bateman, Theodore Kreps, Willard Wirtz, Pierre de Lagarde Boal, George Ball, Leo Crowley, Harold Starr, Lucius Clay, Guido Perera, Franklin D'Olier, Henry Alexander, Victor Emanuel) Henry Riley, Don Hochschild, Simon Strauss, Harry S. Truman, Leon Pearson, Charles Thornton, Henry H. Arnold, J. Fred Searls, Muir Fairchild, Orvil Anderson, Frederick Castle, Carl Spaatz, Walter Rostow, Solly Zuckerman, Philip Farley, Rensis Likert, Albert Speer, Wolfgang Sklarz, J. Kenneth Galbraith, Burton Klein, Trevor Roper, Rolf Wagenfuehr, Phyllis Nitze, James F. Byrnes, William Leahy, Joseph Alsop, Albert Wedemeyer, Douglas MacArthur, Charles Willoughby, Robert Richardson, Prince Fumimaro Konoye, Marquis Kido, Lauris Norstad, Forrest Sherman, H.V. Kaltenborn, Ralph Ofstie, Thomas Moorer, Charles McCain, Jock Whitney, William Jackson, Clair Wilcox, Otis Mulliken, Dag Hammarskjold, Joseph Jones, Dean Acheson, Charles Bohlen, George Kennan, Charles Bonesteel, George Lincoln, Robert Tufts, William Phillips, William Bray, Harold Glasser, Oliver Franks, Richard Bissell, Thomas Blaisdell, Paul Hoffman, Robert Lovett, John Taber, Ernest Gross, Thomas Connelly, William Y. Elliott, Charles Burton Marshall, Walter Judd, Sol Bloom, John Lodge, Christian Herter, Phil Watts, Robert Lovett, Arthur Vandenberg, Alben Barkley, Kenneth McKeller, Jefferson Caffery, Robert Murphy, Mauricio Hochschild, Richard Coudenhave Kalergi, Eugene Loebl, W. Averell Harriman, William Draper, Harry Dexter White. V.I. Chuikov, George Kennan, George McGhee, James Reston, Clark Clifford, Loy Henderson, Robert Joyce, Sherman Kent, Robert Le Baron, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, David Lillienthal, Ernest Lawrence, Louis Johnson, H. Freeman Matthews, Truman Landon, Alexander Sachs, John Muccio, John Foster Dulles, John Ferguson, John Paton Davies, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andrew Corry, Samen Tsarapkin, Jacob Malik, Forrest Sherman, Niles Bond, C. Turner Joy, Arleigh Burke, Chester Clifton, Omar Bradley, Arthur C. Davis, Joseph Collins, Frank Nash, Royden E. Beebe, John McCloy, Robert Schuman, Ernest Bevin, Herve Alphand, Charles E. Wilson, Emmett Hughes, Bedell Smith, Milton Eisenhower, Everett DeGolyer, Walter Levy, Calouste Sortis Gulbenkian, Richard Wigglesworth, Mohammed Mossadegh, John W. Snyder, William Martin, J. Howard McGrath, Leonard Emmerglick, Henry Fowler, Clement Attlee, Harold Linder, Kennett Love, Herbert Hoover, Jr., Henry Cabot Lodge, Robert Cutler, Alfred McCormack, Frank Wisner, Henry Owen, Tom Mann, and Francisco Franco.

 

[111]

Third Oral History interview with Paul Nitze, August 4, 1975, Northeast Harbor, Maine. By Richard D. McKinzie, University of Missouri Kansas City.

MCKINZIE: In the last session, Mr. Nitze, you had talked about four questions that Mr. Truman asked you to address yourself to in this mission to Japan. You had talked about your investigations of the first two questions, namely, why Japan attacked at Pearl Harbor and why Japan surrendered when it did.

NITZE: Well, those four questions were in addition to the basic question of reporting the effects of air power in the Pacific War, and I'd dealt with the first two questions. The third one was the question of the effect of the atomic weapons dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We had recruited some 250 engineers and scientists to help on that particular job. There had been a preliminary survey done by a very small group, connected with the Manhattan Project, who'd come out immediately after the surrender. They'd done kind of a preliminary survey, but we did the basic, thorough survey of all the effects.

At that time the newspapers treated the atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being the ultimate weapons of ultimate horror and ultimate effectiveness. We thought our task was to be very precise as to exactly

 

[112]

what the effects were at what distance and how serious they were in other words, to put calipers on the effects so that you could say that this is what happened and this didn't happen, to really make the precise measurements of what the effects were.

I might start with an episode of when we were just getting ourselves set up. We had these 250 people arriving, and my executive assistant was a Colonel Strickland, who had been, before the war, a vice president of Proctor and Gamble and was a very effective administrative assistant. I sent him out to Hiroshima and Nagasaki from Tokyo, where we were, to see whether we could requisition buildings in which we could house these 250 scientists and engineers. And he came back and said, "I've cased the joint, and there is nothing there. There are no buildings standing to requisition."

I said, "Well, what do you suggest we do?"

He said, "Well, let me go down to see the admiral in command at Yokosuka;" I forget his name now. He went down to Yokosuka, and he came back and said, "I have a list of ships that the admiral makes at your disposal, any or all of them." This included, as I remember it, five aircraft carriers, four battleships, a couple of cruisers, twenty four destroyers, and thirty six destroyer escorts, command ships. Here was this

 

[113]

terrific navy with nothing to do. They couldn't send all those people back at one time, and here the Admiral had all these ships with no employment for them. He was looking for something useful to do with them, so he gave us the choice of this entire array, a whole fleet, and I guess Strickland and I chose a cruiser to go down to Truk, because we had to examine what happened at Truk. Then we chose five DEs and put one of those in the harbor at Kure, which is close to Hiroshima, and another in a harbor near Nagaski. We put jeeps aboard, and one of these DEs was fitted as a command ship; it had its printing press, and so forth and so on. So we could use these command ships in these two harbors as the place where we could house our scientists and engineers. And we had communications. We took three others of these DEs and sent one of them up to Hokkaido and another one down to the southern islands. But we used these ships as our headquarters, with everything else being destroyed.

Then when we got to Nagasaki, there was a hill in the center of town, and the bomb had gone off a little bit to one side of the hill. So, some of the houses in the town which were shielded from the blast effect by the hill continued to survive. But all that part which had been directly exposed was, in fact, totally

 

[114]

destroyed. What remained standing was the shape of an old church and some of the steel structure of a steel mill there which was bent and twisted. Then there was a big concrete building where some of the concrete structure had continued to stand, but all the inside part of it had been burned out.

One of the things I remember that impressed me was the fact that about a mile and a quarter, I think it was, from ground zero (directly underneath the explosion), there were some houses standing with tiled roofs. These buildings were still standing with these tiled roofs, but you could see where the tile had boiled. The heat had been so great that you could see these bubbles. There were some gas tanks some distance away, and you could see the reflection of the steel structure in front of them where they had been protected from the direct radiation; the paint was in one color. Where it had been exposed to the flash, it was kind of burnt. So, you could tell what the intensity was of the heat effects at varying distances. You could also clearly measure the blast effects by what had happened to structures of various kinds at various distances. measured all those things out.

Of course, you would also get the statistics from townspeople as to who had died where, and who had

 

[115]

survived where. There were some really very interesting episodes. For instance, the railroads were running in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki within thirty six hours after the explosion. It was clear the tracks weren't disrupted. It was merely the rolling stock on top of them which was disrupted. There were people who were sitting in a train going through the station at Hiroshima. Those who were sitting next to an open window seemed to be all right, because they weren't cut by broken glass. But they got the full effect of the radiation and they died, while the ones who had been protected from the instantaneous radiation, even though they were cut by the flying glass, survived. It is also noteworthy that some people who were in a tunnel right underneath ground zero survived, even though the tunnel didn't have any doors. It was just a simple tunnel dug into a hill, with kind of a gooseneck end at each end. But this indicated that at ground zero you could survive with that kind of an explosion it was, after all, twelve to twenty KT (kilotons) provided you were protected by the earth above and there was enough attenuation of the blast waves. So, they were not killed by the blast even though they were at ground zero, being in these tunnels.

Well, all these various effects were measured out.

 

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There was no residual radiation that you could find. But we measured all these things out and then fi