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Professor Seth Jacobs Interview Transcript

Professor of History at Boston College


Specializes in 20th Century History, American-Asian Relations
Interviewed on November 5, 2014 by the Manhattan Project Group
GROUP: How was the Potsdam Conference a source of tension for the US and its allies?
JACOBS: Washington and Moscow had very different notions about the future of Eastern
Europe, especially Germany. Truman wanted an economically whole Germany that
would contribute to Europe's postwar recovery. Stalin wanted Germany kept divided and
weak, so that it could not repeat the devastation it unleashed on the Soviet Union in 19411944.
GROUP: How many government officials knew about the Manhattan Project?
JACOBS: Not many at all. Truman himself didn't find out about it until after he was
sworn in as President. President Roosevelt had never told him.
GROUP: Was there any hesitation from Truman about the decision to drop the bomb?
JACOBS: He later claimed no. His memoirs state that he never had the slightest
hesitation in ordering the bomb's use.
GROUP: Would Japan have likely surrendered after the first bomb on Hiroshima?
JACOBS: I suspect so, but Washington didn't give the Japanese government time to
adequately assess the damage created by the first bomb before dropping the second.
GROUP: Was it completely necessary for the US to drop the bombs?
JACOBS: In my opinion, it was not completely necessary. I think that Soviet entry in the
Pacific War on August 8 guaranteed a Japanese defeat, and that Tokyo would have
surrendered to the U.S. shortly thereafter. But, of course, there's no way to prove that
claim. Many historians --Wilson Miscamble foremost among them--continue to claim
that the bomb was essential in securing Japan's surrender.