Few men are privileged to say that they were "present at the creation," to borrow Dean Acheson's felicitous phrase. John J. McCloy could make that claim with great pride, for he was assistant secretary of war during World War II, and he was one of a small circle of FDR's trusted advisers who were aware of the Manhattan Project. Thus, at a critical moment, John McCloy was in a position to change world history.
It was June 18, 1945, at the White House. President Truman was canvassing the views of his senior advisers on the prospect of invading Japan; various views were offered and just before the meeting broke up Harry Truman said, "We haven't heard from you, McCloy, and no one leaves this meeting without standing up and being counted." John McCloy proceeded to stand up and be counted: we ought to have our heads examined if we do not seek a political end to the war before an invasion, he said. We have two instruments to use: first, we could assure the Japanese that they could retain their emperor. Second, he said, we could warn them of the existence of the atomic bomb-a subject that was virtually taboo even in this restricted company. Truman was impressed, and sympathetic to the point about the emperor. He assigned McCloy and Secretary of War Henry Stimson to work out a plan, but history turned in a different direction-toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The point is not whether Mr. McCloy was right, but that he stands as an example of the bold and candid counsel provided by that heroic generation of men and women who served their country in peace and war, and served so wisely after Pearl Harbor. Indeed, Mr. McCloy served in various capacities and he was quick to remind us that he began as an artillery officer in World War I. Among his many accomplishments was his service as High Commissioner for Germany after World War II, when he and Konrad Adenauer carefully
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