Szilárd Petition file photo [26955]

Szilárd Petition

Editor's Note: The following content is a transcription of a period document or a collection of period statistics. It may be incomplete, inaccurate, or biased. The reader may not wish to take the content as factual.

17 Jul 1945


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 of atomic 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 defense 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 an 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 mobilized 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 under control.

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 these 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 light of the considerations presented in this petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved.

This petition was signed by the following 70 people, in alphabetical order by surname:

David S. Anthony, Associate Chemist
Larned B. Asprey, Junior Chemist, S.E.D.
Walter Bartky, Assistant Director
Austin M. Brues, Director, Biology Division
Mary Burke, Research Assistant
Albert Cahn, Jr., Junior Physicist
George R. Carlson, Research Assistant-Physics
Kenneth Stewart Cole, Principal Bio-Physicist
Ethaline Hartge Cortelyou, Junior Chemist
John Crawford, Physicist
Mary M. Dailey, Research Assistant
Miriam P. Finkel, Associate Biologist
Frank G. Foote, Metallurgist
Horace Owen France, Associate Biologist
Mark S. Fred, Research Associate-Chemistry
Sherman Fried, Chemist
Francis Lee Friedman, Physicist
Melvin S. Friedman, Associate Chemist
Mildred C. Ginsberg, Computer
Norman Goldstein, Junior Physicist
Sheffield Gordon, Associate Chemist
Walter J. Grundhauser, Research Assistant
Charles W. Hagen, Research Assistant
David B. Hall
David L. Hill, Associate Physicist, Argonne
John Perry Howe, Jr., Associate Division Director, Chemistry
Earl K. Hyde, Associate Chemist
Jasper B. Jeffries, Junior Physicist, Junior Chemist
William Karush, Associate Physicist
Truman P. Kohman, Chemist-Research
Herbert E. Kubitschek, Junior Physicist
Alexander Langsdorf, Jr., Research Associate
Ralph E. Lapp, Assistant to Division Director
Lawrence B. Magnusson, Junior Chemist
Robert Joseph Maurer, Physicist
Norman Frederick Modine, Research Assistant
George S. Monk, Physicist
Robert James Moon, Physicist
Marietta Catherine Moore, Technician
Robert Sanderson Mulliken, Coordinator of Information
J. J. Nickson, Medical Doctor, Biology Division
William Penrod Norris, Associate Biochemist
Paul Radell O'Connor, Junior Chemist
Leo Arthur Ohlinger, Senior Engineer
Alfred Pfanstiehl, Junior Physicist
Robert Leroy Platzman, Chemist
C. Ladd Prosser, Biologist
Robert Lamburn Purbrick, Junior Physicist
Wilfrid Rall, Research Assistant-Physics
Margaret H. Rand, Research Assistant, Health Section
William Rubinson, Chemist
B. Roswell Russell
George Alan Sacher, Associate Biologist
Francis R. Shonka, Physicist
Eric L. Simmons, Associate Biologist, Health Group
John A. Simpson, Jr., Physicist
Ellis P. Steinberg, Junior Chemist
D. C. Stewart, S/SGT S.E.D.
George Svihla, Health Group
Marguerite N. Swift, Associate Physiologist, Health Group
Leo Szilárd, Chief Physicist
Ralph E. Telford
Joseph D. Teresi, Associate Chemist
Albert Wattenberg, Physicist
Katharine Way, Research Assistant
Edgar Francis Westrum, Jr., Chemist
Eugene Paul Wigner, Physicist
Ernest J. Wilkins, Jr., Associate Physicist
Hoylande Young, Senior Chemist
William F. H. Zachariasen, Consultant ww2dbase

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Added By:
C. Peter Chen


The Szilárd Petition

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Associated Figure(s):
» Harry Truman

Associated Event(s):
» Operation Trinity and Manhattan Project
» Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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The Szilárd Petition

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