4-103 Memorandum for the President, September 6, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 6, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

September 6, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]

Very Secret

With reference to the most secret notes I sent you the other day on the DSM project (Dr. Bush’s and Dr. Conant’s affair)1 I understand the British officials concerned with this same matter have been waiting here in Washington for an agreement between you and the Prime Minister as to “exchange” details.2 I believe Dr. Bush submitted a special memorandum to you stating his and Dr. Conant’s views on the subject, but I am not certain about this.

The point is, the British are extremely desirous of having the matter decided. And Dr. Bush is equally anxious to get either your approval or an expression of your views.3

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. On June 26, 1942, the atomic bomb project was given the cover name “Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials,” or DSM, a term that continued in use as an official code name for the bomb project throughout the war. On August 16, 1942, the Manhattan District was officially established by the Corps of Engineers, and the term “Manhattan” gradually superseded DSM. Vannevar Bush, as director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, reported directly to the president. James B. Conant, president of Harvard University, was chairman of the office’s S-1 Executive Committee, which recommended contracts, supervised contract operations, and cooperated with the Army’s Manhattan District. Marshall, Bush, Conant, Stimson, and Vice-President Henry A. Wallace were members of what was informally designated the Top Policy Group on atomic matters. (Vincent C. Jones, Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1985], pp. 31, 43-45.)

2. American-British collaboration on atomic energy research and development, which had begun in the autumn of 1940, had nearly ceased by the end of 1942. (Ibid., pp. 228-32.) At the Quebec Conference on August 19, 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill signed an “Agreement Relating to Atomic Energy” which promised “complete interchange of information and ideas on all sections of the project,” and established a six-member Combined Policy Committee in Washington to ensure this collaboration. Stimson, Bush, and Conant were to be the U.S. representatives on the committee. (Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Quebec. 1943, pp. 1117-19.) But at the time Marshall wrote this memorandum, President Roosevelt had not revealed the details of the Quebec agreement to Manhattan officials. Stimson learned that he was to be chairman of the Combined Policy Committee only on September 8, when it held its first informal meeting. Arrangements to implement the agreement on information exchange were finally made in mid-December. (Jones, Manhattan, pp. 242, 245.)

3. The editors have not determined which “most secret notes” Marshall sent to Roosevelt, but later that day the secretary of the General Staff wrote to Marshall: “The President says he approves, but the Prime Minister has the papers and no final answer can be given until he expresses himself.” Marshall sent McCarthy’s memorandum to Harvey Bundy, Secretary Stimson’s assistant, with the following handwritten addition: “Mr. Bundy: Note above. Sir John Dill desires to get a date from Sec. of War for DSM committee to meet with British scientists. They will want to bring one man from Canada. Will you please arrange this. G.C.M.” (McCarthy Memorandum for General Marshall, September 6, 1943, NA/RG 107 [SW Safe, Harrison and Bundy].)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 120-121.

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Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 4-103

Rights: Public Information