1945: Cables from the Pacific

General Farrell on Tinian sends a cable to Groves in Washington. Farrell arrived in Guam (the larger island just south of Tinian) the previous day, and met with LeMay.

His cable says, “1 August is interpreted by LeMay and Farrell as coming within the intent of the directive.” Between readying the bomb components (11 hours) and the time difference between the Pacific and Washington, the bomb could be ready as early as 10 am Washington time on August 1.

. . . .

Spaatz also has sent a cable to Groves, about the target and Allied POW camps.

Hiroshima according to prisoner of war reports is the only one of four target cities…that does not have allied prisoner of war camps.

Groves interprets this as a request to confirm or change the targets. No POW camps are in or near Hiroshima, but there’s a camp about a mile outside of Nagasaki. Groves compares this intelligence with other known intelligence about the POW camp and mulls it over—the camps may be here or there on one or the other side of the city. Either way, given the time of the bombing, prisoners of war would probably be out and about in the course of their forced labor.

Spaatz’ query was not an easy one to asnwer. I am sure he would not have sent it if the control of the operation had not been so closely held in Washington, for it involved a decision that normally would have been made by the commander in the field. Handy [The General acting as Chief of Staff while General Marshall was at Potsdam] felt that the decision should be made by the Secretary of War, but later agreed with me that we should tell Spaatz to disregard the reported camps; however we decided that I would show the Secretary the outgoing cable before sending it. This would free him of the burden of making the decision, as I felt we should, since the burden was my own. At the same time he would have an opportunity, if he chose to take advantage of it, to overrule us before any harm was done. A cable was therefore prepared, telling Spaatz that there was no change in the targets because of the POW situation; that he could, however, adjust the aiming points, which were already his responsibility, in such a way as to decrease the possibility of hitting any POW camp.

Groves takes both cables to show Mr. Stimson, explaining (about the POW cable) that these matters fell under military responsibility, and that he’s being shown this for his information. Stimson thanks Groves for the courtesy. Then Groves sends the cable to Spaatz:

Targets assigned…remain unchanged. However if you consider your information reliable Hiroshima should be given first priority among them.