Truman Reports, “It is an Atomic Bomb”

Sept. 1, 2006

“Statement by the President

of the United States”

President Harry S. Truman

Release on Use of the Atomic Bomb

Washington, D.C.

Aug. 6, 1945


On Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry S. Truman was aboard the cruiser USS Augusta, sailing from Europe to the US after the key wartime conference at Potsdam. Someone handed him a secret message from Henry L. Stimson, his Secretary of War. It said the US had just blasted Hiroshima with an atomic weapon.

Soon, the story of the bomb and the Japanese city was announced to the world. At 11 a.m. (Eastern time), Eben A. Ayers, acting White House press secretary, distributed a stunning, 1,160-word release. It had been drafted before Truman left for Potsdam. As Ayers passed out copies, he told reporters, “I have got what I think is a darn good story.”

Soon, radio stations began airing the story, informing Americans that the US had employed a strange new weapon. Truman said, for the first time, “It is an atomic bomb.”


Washington, D.C.


Statement by the President of the United States

Sixteen hours ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam,” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb, we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1s and V-2s late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

The battle of the laboratories held fateful risks for us as well as the battles of the air, land, and sea, and we have now won the battle of the laboratories as we have won the other battles.

Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in war was pooled between the United States and Great Britain, and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy, the research on the atomic bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together, we entered the race of discovery against the Germans. …

We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history—and won. … What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history. It was done under high pressure and without failure.

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. …

If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware. …

The fact that we can release atomic energy ushers in a new era in man’s understanding of nature’s forces. Atomic energy may in the future supplement the power that now comes from coal, oil, and falling water, but at present it cannot be produced on a basis to compete with them commercially. Before that comes, there must be a long period of intensive research.

It has never been the habit of the scientists of this country or the policy of this government to withhold from the world scientific knowledge. Normally, therefore, everything about the work with atomic energy would be made public.

But under present circumstances, it is not intended to divulge the technical processes of production or all the military applications, pending further examination of possible methods of protecting us and the rest of the world from the danger of sudden destruction.

I shall recommend that the Congress of the United States consider promptly the establishment of an appropriate commission to control the production and use of atomic power within the United States. I shall give further consideration and make further recommendations to the Congress as to how atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence towards the maintenance of world peace.