Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The Arms Race Begins
Though the U.S. government knew about the Soviet atomic blast in Siberia on July 10, 1949, President Truman did not make it public until Sept. 23. Russia's surprising speed in creating the bomb caused the United States to hasten its programs to ensure nuclear dominance. An excerpt from The Post of Sept. 25, 1949, which also featured a lovely damsel setting her clock back as a reminder that daylight-saving time had ended:
David E. Lilienthal believes that Russia's evident possession of some atomic weapon means this country must do everything and anything necessary to "establish unquestioned and unmistakable leadership" in the atomic armaments race between the East and West.
The Atomic Energy Commission chairman, on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., talked by telephone with associates here. ...
Speaking for his fellow commissioners about the attitude with which they assumed control of the multi-billion-dollar atomic project two years ago, and their attitude now, he said:
"We believe as one man and the President, our immediate superior, believes that we should let nothing stand in the way of arming this country atomically in such a way as to erect a great deterrent to aggression in the world: that we should establish unquestioned and unmistakable leadership, and in this way thus to buy time for reason to prevail."
The country, Lilienthal said, "had to be told again and again that the monopoly and the knowledge in the making of atomic weapons was one that could not last indefinitely." It was also told, "and correctly, that Russia will in time be able to make the atomic weapon."
And he added that: "Numbers and not simply the first atomic weapon are the crucial item ..."
Because the commission has spent the great bulk of its energy and appropriations on jacking up the A-bomb stockpile, officials doubted that President Truman's disclosure of Russia's atomic progress would force any great revamping of the United States program. ...
Meanwhile, an atomic authority said this country plans not only to hang on to the lead it has over Russia but to stretch it -- "both qualitative and quantitatively."
This authority made no bones about what it was that exploded in Russia earlier this month. President Truman said merely that there was "an atomic explosion." But this man called it "an atomic bomb."