David lilienthal, the atomic energy commission, and the conflict over militarization during early cold war



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11. Michael Sherry, In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), xi.

22. Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, vol. 1, The New World, 1939/1946 (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962), 486.

3. In his journal Lilienthal often references the “peaceful” atom and “dangerous” atom. “Dangerous” signifies all atomic applications designed to enhance the military while “peaceful” infers those non-military atomic applications.

4. Sherry, In the Shadow, 140.

5. Steven M. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal: The Journey of an American Liberal (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1996), 319, xx.

6. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 324.

7. David E. Lilienthal, The Journals of David E. Lilienthal, vol. 1, The Atomic Energy Years, 1945-1950 (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 263.

8. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 276.

9. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, xvii.

10. Ibid., xvi.

11. David E. Lilienthal, Change, Hope, and the Bomb (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963), 115-116.

12. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, xviii.

13. David E. Lilienthal, TVA: Democracy on the March (New York: Harper and Brothers), xxii.

14. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 642.

15. Ibid.

16. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 168.

17. Ibid., 169. Neuse is more specific when addressing the panel’s selections noting that Lilienthal suggested Barnard’s name and Groves favored Winne for the panel. Before working on the Acheson-Lilienthal Report it is evident that Lilienthal and Barnard had associated during the Chicago conference. Lilienthal writes that after he had spoken one of those who congratulated him was Barnard. See Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 642. The association between Lilienthal and Barnard became stronger. On November 9, 1949, when President Truman asked Lilienthal if he had anyone in mind to replace him as AEC chairman, the first name Lilienthal mentions is Barnard: “He [president] said, ‘have you thought anything further about someone to take your place?’ Well I hadn’t, but I described Chester Barnard. Yes, he knew him. Wasn’t he much pretty on the right? Yes I said, in a way he is, as a telephone executive, but he has independent views, approved my book on TVA, etc.” Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 595.

18. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 10. The journal entry also reveals that, according to Lilienthal, it was Acheson’s persuasion that finally spurred Truman and Byrnes to counter Groves’ unfettered power over atomic policy—the report was an attempt to wrestle back power from Groves. Curiously, Lilienthal’s explanation of the report’s origin is left out of the official history of the AEC. The AEC historians simply contend that it was Byrnes’ desire to have a committee begin formulating U.S. policy for the June U.N. meeting.

19. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 11-12.

20. Ibid.

21. Gregg Herken, Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2002), 164.

22. Leslie R. Groves, Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1962), 411.

23. Ibid. Groves’ quotation may stem from his knowledge of a pre-panel association between Lilienthal and Barnard. Referring back to Neuse, Lilienthal suggested Barnard and Groves favored Winne for the panel. For Groves to lump Barnard together with Lilienthal was most likely guilt by association.

24. Peter Michelmore, The Swift Years: The Robert J. Oppenheimer Story ( New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1969), 127. “Oppie” was the nickname of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

25. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 29.

26. Ibid., 27.

27. Ibid., 29.

28. Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: Signet, 1969), 211.

29. U.S. Department of State, A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy (Acheson-Lilienthal report) (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946), 1.

30. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 27.

31. Harry S. Truman, Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, vol. 2, Years of Trial and Hope (Garden City: Doubleday and Company, 1956), 6.

32. Groves, Now It Can Be Told, 410.

33. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 29.

34. Ibid., 30.

35. Ibid.

36. Acheson, Present at the Creation, 212.

37. Ibid.

38. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 59.

39. Editorial, “A Good Appointment,” New York Times, Mar. 19, 1946, 22.

40. “Baruch is Named to UNO Body,” New York Times, Mar. 19, 1946.

41. Herken, Brotherhood of the Bomb, 166.

42. Bert Pierce, “Groves Supports Baruch Plan,” New York Times, Oct., 10, 1946, 7.

43. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 177.

44. Barton Bernstein, “Reconsidering the ‘Atomic General,’” The Journal of Military History 67, no. 3 (July 2003): 916.

45. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 176.

46. Ibid., 177.

47. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 74.

48. Ibid., 82.

49. Joining Lilienthal on the commission were Bill Waymack, former editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune, Robert Bacher, a Los Alamos physicist; Gordon Clapp, TVA General Manager; Sumner Pike, former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman; and Lewis L. Strauss, former aide to Herbert Hoover.

50. Anthony Leviero, “Lilienthal Heads Atom Body; Control Passes From Army,” New York Times, Oct. 29, 1946, 3.

51. Editorial, “To Control The Atom,” New York Times, Oct. 29, 1946, 22.

52. Editorial, “Civilians Take Over Atom,” New York Times, Jan. 2, 1947, 26.

53. C. P. Trussel, “President Denies Lilienthal is Red; Endorses Fitness,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 1947, 1, 4.

54. Ibid.

55. Harold B. Hinton, “Military Liaison of Atom is Urged,” New York Times, Jan. 28, 1947, 16.

56. Ibid.

57. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 115.

58. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 198.

59. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 229.

60. Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy, “Atomic Energy Act of 1946,” in Robert C. Williams and Philip L. Cantelon (eds.), The American Atom: A Documentary History if Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1939-1984 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), 84.

61. Robert S. Norris, Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, The Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man (South Royaltown: Steerforth Press, 2002), 491. Memo from Groves to Brig. Gen. C. C. Alexander titled “On the Effect of Atomic Energy on the Army of the Future”—written on January 8, 1946.

62. Richard Hewlett and Francis G. Duncan, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Atomic Shield, 1947-1952, Volume II (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania University Press, 1969), 137.

63. Milton E. Key, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), “History of the Custody and Development of Nuclear Weapons, July 1945 through September 1977,” Mar. 30, 1978, 7, from The George Washington University’s National Security Archives, at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/19991020/04-01.htm, accessed on March 22, 2004.

64. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 262.

65. See Key, “History of the Custody, 7, for the discussion between Lilienthal and Brereton.

66. Samuel A. Tower, “Truman for Civil Control over Atomic Energy in US,” New York Times, Feb. 1, 1946, 1.

67. Truman, Memoirs, 7.

68. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 306-307.

69. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 308.

70. Ibid.

71. Ibid., 312.

72. Ibid., 342.

73. Ibid., 362.

74. Ibid., 377, as told by Truman aid Clark Clifford to Lilienthal.

75. Ibid., 384.

76. Ibid., 375.

77. Ibid., 387.

78. Ibid., 388-389.

79. Ibid., 389.

80. Ibid., 390.

81. Ibid., 390-391. Sandia is where the Air Force Special Weapon Program (AFSWP) was headquartered.

82. Ibid., 391.

83. Ibid.

84. Ibid.

85. David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 650.

86. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 391.

87. Ibid., 392.

88. Ibid.

89. William Lawren, The General and the Bomb: A Biography of General Leslie R. Groves, Director of the Manhattan Project (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1988), 285.

90. “Keep Bomb Secret, Gen. Groves Urges,” New York Times, Sep. 22, 1945, 3.

91. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 183.

92. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 200. Marshall tells Lilienthal a story of how he made Groves wait in his office while he wrote out a check for flower seed amounting to $3.94 while Groves came to Marshall requesting millions of dollars for a new defense program.

93. See Hewlett, New World, 649, for Nichols’ relationship with the AEC. The “transition period” refers to then the MED and Groves turned over control of the atomic program to the newly established AEC which was legally enforced at 12:00 A.M. on January 1, 1947, 3.

94. Ibid.

95. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 121.

96. Sidney Shalett, “Col. McCormack, 36, Appointed to Key Position on Atomic,” New York Times, Feb. 1, 1947, 3.

97. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 136.

98. Ibid., 139.

99. “General Groves Ill,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 1947, 10.

100. Robert Lapp, Atoms and People (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1956), 80.

101. Norris, Racing, 486.

102. Although Groves was not enamored with his new position on the MLC, Sherry seems equally unimpressed by the civilian-centered AEA of 1946, writing, “It was not much of a victory for civilian control, however, because it still provided for a powerful Military Liaison Committee.” (Sherry, In the Shadow, 137) Bernstein also qualifies the MLC as being “powerful,” and calls Groves’ position on the MLC “important.” (Bernstein, Reconsidering the Atomic, 914) But Groves’ letter seems to indicate otherwise, that the true power was at the AEC’s behest. Years later when Groves testified at the Oppenheimer hearing, as the general’s examiner was listing Groves post-war military credentials only the AFSWP is cited, not the MLC. Instantly recognizing the omission and not wanting it to be absent in the official record, Groves began his testimony by addressing the oversight, “I think you should add that during the period from about March of 1947 until my retirement on the 29th of February 1948, I was a member of the Military Liaison Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission.” U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Transcript of the Hearing Before the Personnel Security Board (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1954), 163.

103. Louis Galambos (ed.), The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, vol. 7, Chief of Staff (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1978), 1105 (notes).

104. Ibid., 1104.

105. Lapp, Atoms and People, 80.

106. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 171. Eisenhower’s concern for nuclear issues became a legacy of his presidency. “No President worried more about the dangers of initiating or stumbling into nuclear conflict, claims Sherry. Sherry, In the Shadow, 194.

107. Ibid., 174.

108. Ibid.

109. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 217-218. When Eisenhower said “those people who think he is the last word,” he was probably partly referring to politicians like Hickenlooper.

110. Walter Millis (ed.), The Forrestal Diaries (New York: The Viking Press, 1951), 291.

111. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 217-218.

112. Ibid., 236.

113. Ibid., 247.

114. Ibid.

115. Ibid., 248.

116. Ibid., 250. The Patterson citation refers to January 31 when the War Department head first alerted the AEC that Groves may be placed on the MLC.

117. James G. Hershberg, James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993), 357.

118. Ibid.

119. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 155, details the meeting. Of course Groves was a major part of the bettering of relations discussion.

120. Hershberg, James B. Conant, 358.

121. The general’s resignation had been anything but voluntary and historical accounts characterizing it as such have misinterpreted the event. In efforts to support his militarization thesis, Sherry writes, “The rush of wartime officers into civilian government, corporate, and research posts (Gen. Walter Bedell Smith as head of the CIA, Gen. Omar Bradley as board chairman of Bulouva Research Laboratories, Gen. Leslie R. Groves as vice president for research at Remington Rand) also eroded civil-military barriers of outlook, status, and experience.” Sherry, In the Shadow, 140. Sherry is correct in saying that Groves’ move to the civilian sector “eroded civil-military barriers of outlook” but just in a different context than he intended: it improved the strained relations between the AEC and Pentagon.

122. “Groves, Atom Chief, Will Leave Army to Take Position with Remington-Rand,” New York Times, Feb. 3, 1948.

123. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 511.

124. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 155.

125. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 303.

126. Ibid., 287. The reference to “six months” is the date when Lilienthal and the other AEC commissioner’s term expired. If the President decided to resubmit their names to Congress for additional terms they faced a Republican controlled Senate. The prospects that they would be given another AEC term seemed dim. Relative to John O’Donnell, this would not be the only instance in which Lilienthal would complain about the Hearst Press’ biases against the AEC chairman.

127. Millis, The Forrestal Diaries, 380.

128. Clayton Knowles, “Hickenlooper Asks Lilienthal Ouster,” New York Times, May 23, 1949, 19.

129. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 361.

130. David E. Lilienthal, “Our Faith is Mightier Than Our Bomb,” New York Times, Mar. 6, 1949, SM11.

131. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 569. Helen was Lilienthal’s wife.

132. Harry S. Truman, “Statement by the President on Announcing the First Atomic Explosion in the USSR, September 23, 1949,” in Robert C. Williams, and Philip L. Cantelon (eds.), The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies From the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1930-1984, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), 117.

133. Life, Oct. 3, 1949, 22.

134. Time, Oct. 3, 1949, 7.

135. Life, Oct. 10, 1949, 38.

136. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 561.

137. Ibid., 564. The “blast” Lilienthal is referring to is when Hickenlooper’s charged Lilienthal with “incredible mismanagement.”

138. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 374.

139. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 567.

140. GAC member Glenn Seaborg was in Sweden and not able to attend the meeting.

141. Hershberg, Conant, 474. Richard Rhodes, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 400.

142. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 582.

143. Ibid.

144. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 386. John Manley was executive secretary of the AEC.

145. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 590.

146. Ibid., 592.

147. Ibid., 594.

148. Ibid.

149. Three were against H-bomb development—Lilienthal, Smyth and Pike—and two were for it—Strauss and Dean.

150. Ibid.

151. LeBaron had replaced Carpenter. Lilienthal and LeBaron’s discussion took place on November 11, 1949.

152. Ibid., 596.

153. David Alan Rosenberg, “American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision,” The Journal of American History 66, no. 1 (June 1979): 63-87, on 69.

154. Ibid., for information about Truman’s 1950 budget limiting military options.

155. Ibid., 87.

156. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 370.

157. McMahon was the Connecticut Senator whose legislative fight ensured civilian control of the AEC. After resigning as chairman of the JCAE, McMahon placed William Liscum Borden, a twenty-eight-year-old recent graduate of Yale Law School, as the JC’s executive director. Borden had already vociferously advocated the build-up of America’s atomic stockpile in a book titled There Will Be No Time which described a nuclear attack on Pearl Harbor. Herken, Brotherhood, 194.

158. Ibid., 393.

159. Ibid., 395.

160. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 568.

161. Lewis S. Strauss, “Lewis Strauss to Harry S. Truman, November 25, 1949,” in Williams and Cantelon (eds.), American Atom, 128.

162. Teller’s association with the Super is well known. He and Enrico Fermi discussed the potentialities of a thermonuclear reaction during the winter of 1942 at Columbia University. He first alerted his colleagues to the notion of a hydrogen bomb during conference later that year at Berkeley. In an interview with Herken in 1992, Serber told Herken that Teller’s revelation caused great excitement among those at the conference: “Everybody forgot about the A-bomb as if it were old hat.” (Herken, 66) Oppenheimer was deeply troubled by Teller’s ideas. He immediately called Arthur Compton and the two met three days later on Michigan beach. The two men “briefly considered recommending that scientists go no further down the road that might lead to the superbomb.” Herken, Brotherhood, 67.

163 . Herken, Brotherhood, 202.

164. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 577.

165. Herken, Brotherhood, 203.

166. Ibid., 194.

167. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 594.

168. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 400.

169. Rosenberg, “American Atomic Strategy,” 83.

170. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, 403.

171. Lay was soon replacing Souers as the National Security Council’s executive secretary.

172. Ibid.

173. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 627.

174. Harry S. Truman, “Statement by the President on the Hydrogen Bomb, January 31, 1950,” in Williams and Cantelon (eds.), American Atom, 131.

175. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy Years, 633.

176. Ibid., 634.

177. Ibid., 118.

178. Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and its Youthful Opposition (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), xxi.

179. David E. Lilienthal, “If This Continues, the Cockroach Will Inherit the Earth,” New York Times, June 20, 1975, 35.

180. David E. Lilienthal, Atomic Energy: A New Start (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), 116.

181. David Burnham, “U.S. Ban on Nuclear Equipment Urged by Former Atomic Energy Chief,” New York Times, Jan. 20, 1976, 2.

182. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 299.

183. Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society (Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1989), xiv.

184. Reich, The Greening, 53

185. Ibid., 60. That the individual should become part of a system greatly appealed to Lilienthal who connected the idea with “grass roots democracy.” In TVA he wrote: “When the principles of grass roots democracy are followed, electricity, like soil minerals, provides men with a stimulus in their own lives, as well as an opportunity to work together with others toward a purpose bigger than any individual.” Lilienthal, TVA: Democracy on, xxii. Lilienthal saw the system as enhancing individual civil liberties. The messages of many counter culturists had a Libertarian feel to them—big government takes away individual rights.

186. Ibid.

187. Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), 18.

188. Roszak, The Making, 8.

189. Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A History of the American Genius for Invention (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), 444-445. It is worth noting that not all associated with the counter culture were critical of technology. Lilienthal’s views were reminiscent of another counter culture figure, Robert S. Pirsig. Through his 1974 popular book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM), Pirsig celebrated technology: “Technology is not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both.” Pirsig’s lauding of technology has been misinterpreted in two historical accounts on the 1970s by David Frum and Peter Carrol. In his book How We Got Here: The 70s, The Decade That Brought You Modern Life For Better Or Worse, Frum references ZAMM in a section of his book listing literary works which denounced rationalism and technology. Likewise, Peter Carroll’s study of the 1970s titled It Seemed Like Nothing Happened also portrays ZAMM as an attack on science.

190. David E. Lilienthal, Big Business: A New Era (New York: Harper & Row, 1953), 204.

191. Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981), 323.

192. Neuse, David E. Lilienthal, 256.

193. David E. Lilienthal, The Journals of David E. Lilienthal, vol. 7, Unfinished Business, 1968-1981 (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 75.

194 Sherry, In the Shadow, 234, taken from Eisenhower PP, 1960-1961: 1035-40.





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