* Truman met often with Byrnes in the first few months of his Presidency.
* But there are almost no records or notes of what they discussed.
* And that was apparently Byrnes’ preference.
* He was known as being paranoid about leaks.
* a very devious politician
* Truman referred to him as his “conniving” secretary of state
* Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who liked Byrnes and found him personally charming, nevertheless had no illusions about him: “He was an operator. He was a kind of prior Lyndon Johnson.”
* Throughout this period Byrnes spoke with the authority of—and personally represented—the president of the United States on all atomic bomb-related matters in the Interim Committee’s deliberations.
* It is also quite clear that by early July 1945 when he was sworn in as secretary of state, Byrnes was firmly in control of U.S. foreign policy.
* And as we’ve seen before – while Truman seems to have looked up to Byrnes as a mentor, Byrnes privately didn’t like Truman.
* One of Truman’s close friends and advisers, his appointments secretary Matthew Connelly, later said that Byrnes thought Truman was “a nonentity, with no abilities to speak of, no knowledge of how to conduct foreign policy, or much else for that matter.”
* Matthew Connelly later described Byrnes without reservation as “a very Machiavellian character,” adding that “I never trusted him.”
* Similarly, Robert G. Nixon—who served as White House correspondent for the International News Service at the time—would later remark that “Byrnes looked down on Truman. He had a superior attitude.… He, in a sense, despised Truman … he looked upon Truman as an accident of history and not a very good accident at that.”
* According to Clark Clifford, Admiral Leahy, who initially was favorably disposed towards Byrnes, came to regard him as a “horse’s ass.”
* Bernard Baruch, the financier who presented Truman’s first nuclear arms control proposal at the United Nations in 1946, regarded his friend Byrnes as “power-crazy—that he wants to decide everything himself.…”
* Averell Harriman recalled that after Potsdam, “I was through with Jimmy Byrnes … I didn’t want to have anything more to do with him.”
* Almost immediately after taking office, Truman demonstrated his great trust in Byrnes by informing him of his intention to appoint him secretary of state sometime that summer—as, of course, he did. It should be kept in mind that the position of secretary of state carried far more weight in 1945 than it does today.
* At the time, before the post of national security adviser was established, it was the premier Cabinet office.
* Under then-existing law—with no vice president in office once Truman succeeded Roosevelt—the secretary of state was next in line of succession.
* If anything happened to Truman, Byrnes would become president.
* And of course, everyone knew that Byrnes *should* have been President.
* He was going to be FDR’s Veep in the 1944 election – up until the very last moment, when Truman was picked instead.
* Byrnes also appears to be a logical candidate for the adviser who convinced Truman to postpone meeting Stalin until the atomic bomb had been tested—one of the truly fundamental strategic decisions of the spring and summer.
* Although our information is even more sketchy in this area, we have seen that his mandate—and his alone—included both atomic and diplomatic issues.
* Moreover, all the other top advisers directly involved in diplomacy were pressing for an early meeting with Stalin, Thus, either Truman made the decision against their advice on his own or some other highly placed adviser concerned with the atomic bomb convinced him the new weapon would be critical in his approach to Stalin.
* So everything points to Byrnes as the man who made the decision to bomb Japan.
* Not to win the war – but as a message to Stalin.
* Byrnes, we should remember, was at Yalta.
* He helped draft the “Declaration on Liberated Europe” which vaguely promised consultation on how to achieve future free elections in Eastern Europe.
* And FDR sent him back to the U.S. early to be his representative, selling America on their new relationship with Stalin and the Yalta agreements.
* After attending an off-the-record briefing given by Byrnes, a reporter in the New York Sun’s Washington bureau had this to say about Byrnes’ view of Stalin: “Like everyone who has returned from Russia, [Byrnes] has been tremendously impressed by Joseph Stalin.”
* Indeed, on the Polish issue [Byrnes] said that time after time Stalin proved his readiness to compromise; that throughout he proved to be tractable and to possess a malleable mind. He made concession after concession. He points out that Russia will come out of this war as the most powerful nation in the world. Stalin has definite plans in the Pacific, he reported, but apart from that wants only to rebuild Russia and to bring it to the standard of living that it ought to enjoy with its vast resources. He believes that once Stalin has settled with the Japs, we can trust him to keep the peace.
* And as we know, in the intervening months, Stalin had annoyed the Anglo-American allies with his behaviour in Poland and Eastern Europe.
* Sounds to me like Byrnes felt personally embarrassed and wanted to use the bomb to pull Stalin back in line.
* He was personally identified with the Yalta accords and was about to become Sec of State.
* In his mind, I think, he was actually becoming the President.
* On April 30 he wrote Walter Lippmann:
* Peace in the future will not depend on what is written in any document at the conference. It will depend upon what is in the hearts of the people of Russia, Britain and the United States. We cannot promote it by promoting distrust of the Soviets. We must have confidence in each other.…
* If only he was still around today.
* We get a small hint of Truman’s thinking just before Potsdam with this comment from Jonathan Daniels—a man who had worked on Truman’s 1948 campaign staff and was close to the president.
* According to notes Daniels made after a 1949 discussion of the atomic bomb, Truman explained that as the Potsdam meetings were about to begin he felt: “If it explodes as I think it will I’ll certainly have a hammer on those boys.”
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