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

Truman's Statement on Detection of Soviet Atomic Test

September 23, 1949
A specially equipped U.S. weather plane flying off the coast of Siberia picked up very high levels of radioactivity on September 3, 1949. After analyzing the data, scientists estimated that the USSR had detonated an atomic bomb at 0000 Greenwich Mean Time on August 29. They were off by only one hour. According to one nuclear physicist, President Truman delayed publicly announcing the test, until members of the detection committee personally signed a statement saying they really believed the Russians had the bomb.

I believe the American people to the fullest extent consistent with the national security are entitled to be informed of all developments in the field of atomic energy. That is my reason for making public the following information.

We have evidence that within recent weeks an atomic explosion occurred in the USSR.

Ever since atomic energy was first released by man, the eventual development of this new force by other nations was to be expected. This probability has always been taken into account by us.

Nearly four years ago I pointed out that "scientific opinion appears to be practically unanimous that the essential theoretical knowledge upon which the discovery is based is already widely known. There is also substantial agreement that foreign research can come abreast of our present theoretical knowledge in time." And, in the three-nation declaration of the President of the United States and the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and of Canada, dated Nov. 15, 1945, it was emphasized that no single nation could, in fact, have a monopoly of atomic weapons.

This recent development emphasizes once again, if indeed such emphasis were needed, the necessity for that truly effective and enforceable international control of atomic energy which this government and the large majority of the members of the United Nations support.

(back to Primary Sources)

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference