●The Petition from the Scientists Asking that the Atomic Bomb
Not Be Used
July 17, 1945
A PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Discoveries of which the people of the United States are not aware may
affect the welfare of this nation in the near future. The liberation ofatomic
power which has been achieved places atomic bombs in the hands of the
Army. It places in your hands, as Commander-in-Chief, the fateful decision
whether or not to sanction the use of such bombs in the present phase
of the war against Japan.
We, the undersigned scientists, have been working in the field of atomic
power. Until recently we have had to fear that the United States might
be attacked by atomic bombs during this war and that her only defence
might lie in a counterattack by the same means. Today, with the defeat
of Germany, this danger is averted and we feel impelled to say what follows:
The war has to be brought speedily to a successful conclusion and attacks
by atomic bombs may very well be an effective method of warfare. We feel,
however, that such attacks on Japan could not be justified, at least not
unless the terms which will be imposed after the war on Japan were made
public in detail and Japan were given opportunity to surrender.
If such public announcement gave assurance to the Japanese that they could
look forward to a life devoted to peaceful pursuits in their homeland
and if Japan still refused to surrender our nation might then, in certain
circumstances, find itself forced to resort to the use of atomic bombs.
Such a step, however, ought not to be made at any time without seriously
considering the moral responsibilities which are involved.
The development of atomic power will provide the nations with new means
of destruction. The atomic bombs at our disposal represent only the first
step in this direction, and there is almost no limit to the destructive
power which will become available in the course of their future development.
Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated
forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility
of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale.
If after this war a situation is allowed to develop in the world which
permits rival powers to be in uncontrolled possession of these new means
of destruction, the cities of the United States as well as the cities
of other nations will be in continuous danger of sudden annihilation.
All the resources of the United States, moral and material, may have to
be mobilised to prevent the advent of such a world situation. Its prevention
is at present the solemn responsibility of the United States - singled
out by virtue of her lead in the field of atomic power.
The added material strength which this lead gives to the United States
brings with it the obligation of restraint and if we were to violate this
obligation our moral position would be weakened in the eyes of the world
and in our own eyes. It would then be more difficult for us to live up
to our responsibility of bringing the unloosened forces of destruction
In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition:
first, that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief, to rule that
the United States shall not resort to the use of atomic bombs in this
war unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan have been made public
in detail and Japan knowing there terms has refused to surrender; second,
that in such an event the question whether or not to use atomic bombs
be decided by you in the light of the considerations presented in this
petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved.