Dropping the Atomic Bomb


Petition to the President of the United States, July 17, 1945, Miscellaneous Historical Documents Collection.

- JuJ.:r 17, 194S


Diacoverieo Of which tM people of the United states are not ••are IUJ' affect the 1r8l!are of this nation 1n tM near tuture . n.. liberation of atollic power Wbich bu bean achiend pi.c.a atollic boaba in th& bands or the AzwT. It places in ;your bands, .. C0111111&Dder-1n-<:tli•r, the ratetul daciaion wbetlwr or not to eanetion the uaa o! such bombe in the present pbue or th• •ar against Japan.

We, tbe undaraianad aciantiata, have been workina 1n the field of atooal.c power .

Until recently ,.. haYe had to !ear that the United atatea llight be attacked by atomic bombs during th1e •ar and that her only · defense might lie in a counterattack by the eue mean• . Today, nth the defeat of (lennacy, thia danger is averted and we feel impelled to say wllat !ollon1

The war baa to be brought epeedily to a succeutul conclueion and attacks b,- ato.l.c bombs may very well be an effective method of warfare. We feel, however, that such attaeka on Japan could not be justified, at leut not unleoa the terms Wllicb 1r1ll be l.m- posed after the war on Japan •ere made public in detail and Japan lr9re given an opportunity to au.rrender.

If eucb public announcement gave assurance to the Japanese that they could look forward to a life devoted to peacetul pureui ts in their homeland and if Japan still re- fused to surrender our nation lligbt than, in certain c1rcW1atancee, find itself forced to resort to the use of atamic bombs. Such a step, holr8ver, ought not to be made at any time without aeriouely conaidaring the 110ral responsibilitiea 1rb1cb are involved.

The development or atc:mic power 1r1ll provide the nations lritb new neane o! des truction. The atollic bomba at our disposal represent only the first step 1n tl\1• direction, and there 1a aJ..oat no lbdt to the destructive powar Wbieb 1r1ll become nail- able 1n the course of their tutur• development. Thus a nation Wllich sets tbe precedent of using t hese newly liberated forces of nature tor purposes of destruction llAy have to bear the reeponeibility of opening the door to an era or devastation on an unillaginable scale.

If after thia war a aituation is allowed to develop in the world which permits rival powers to be 1n uncontrolled possession of these new means of destruction, the cities of the United States aa well •• the cities of other nations 1r1ll be 1n continuous danger or sudden 111nih1lation. ID t.b• resources of the United StatH, moral and material, 1111.Y ban to be 110bil11ed to pr&'fent tM adHnt or 1uch a world situation. Its prevention 1o at present the solemn reaponaibility o! the United Stetea-•in&led out by virtue or her lead 1n the field of atollic power.

The added material atrenath Wbicb this lead gives to the United States brings with it the obligation of restraint and if we •ere to violate thia obligation our moral position would be weakened 1n the eyea of the world and 1n our own eyes. It would then be more difficult for us to live up to our responsibility of bringing the unloosened forces of destruction under control.

In v181r o! the !oreaoing, wa, tbe undersigned, respectfully petition1 !1rat, that you exercise your power •• COllmlllder-in-chiet, to rule that the United St.~•• ohall not re1ort to the use of atomic bcmbe 1n this war unleu the terms which 1r1ll be imposed upon Japan have been ma.de public 1n detail and Japan knolring these terma haa retuaed to aurrender1 second. tbat 1n aueb VI e•e11t the ouestion whether or not tn nftft atoaic hnoohs

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be decided by you in the liiht ot t he conaideration1 presented in tbis petition aa well aa all t he other moral reeponaibilitias which are involved .

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