Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. Race for the Superbomb Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources

John Lewis Gaddis on: The Soviet Response to Hiroshima
John Gaddis Q: How does the Soviet Union respond to the end of WWII, particularly Hiroshima Nagasaki?

JLG: I think the way to think about the impact of Hiroshima is to think about it as a sudden shift in the balance of power. If it had not been for the atomic bomb, the Russians would have been in a position to argue that they really had won the war, that their power was dominant, at least on the European continent. And there was really the prospect that they would be unchallenged on the European continent, because the American commitment in the Pacific, the probability that the United States would pull back from the European continent, was such that I think the Russians had every reason to expect dominance in that part of the world, in 1945.

The atomic bomb comes as a great shock to them. There's no question about that. They surely knew that we were building it, but they didn't know that we were going to use it. The use of it, I think, does come as a powerful surprise to Stalin. And we know from the speed with which he accelerated his own program in the aftermath of that, what an impact this had on them.

Q: What about American side? What sort of impact does it have on the thinking of Truman and his administration?

JLG: It goes through several stages, the thinking of the Americans about the atomic bomb. First of all, there was no assurance that it would work. So when it does work, it's a surprise. It's a bonus, from their point of view. Certainly, the fact that it provides the means to end the war is exhilarating, from their point of view. There briefly was the thought, certainly among Truman's advisers ([Henry] Stimson, [James] Byrnes, no doubt Truman himself), that the possession of this weapon would be useful in the dealings with the Russians in the early post-war years, that the simple possession of this weapon would make the Russians more malleable. What is interesting is how quickly they back away from this, in the light of the first experiences of trying to use it in that way with the Russians, within a month or so of the end of the war.

back to Interview Transcripts

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference