The Atomic Press Release

August 6 marks the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Official announcement came through a press release issued by President Harry Truman:

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East…

Arthur W. Page, a legendary figure in public relations, wrote the release. Son of the co-founder of the Doubleday, Page & Co. publishing house, Mr. Page served as AT&T’s VP of Public Relations. During World War II, he oversaw the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation and was responsible for numerous communications and morale programs.

Noel L. Griese is the author of a definitive biography on Mr. Page. According to his account, Secretary of War Henry Stimson summoned Mr. Page to full-time duty in April 1945 and briefed him soon after on the Manhattan Project. The Trinity test blast would take place in the desert of Alamogordo, NM, on July 16. Mr. Page was asked to write the release that ultimately would be read to reporters at the White House on the day of the Hiroshima bombing while President Truman was at sea returning from the Potsdam Conference.

Arthur W. Page is credited with writing the most momentous press release in history. Whereas the 1969 moon landing–the 20th century’s other signature event–was beamed live to television audiences, Page’s release alone was the public’s introduction to the atomic age. It is likely the last time a sheaf of paper would change the world.

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About jasonkarpf

Public Relations. Marketing. Writing. Adjunct Instructor.
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6 Responses to The Atomic Press Release

  1. It’s chilling to think what it must have been like to write that. The poetry of Page’s words is obviously overshadowed by the gravity of the message. Reading this really stops you in your tracks.

    • jasonkarpf says:

      There are times in every PR pro’s life when you know something momentous before most everyone else does. One can only imagine Page’s thought process as he had to notify the world about one of the most important events in history.

  2. Of course, due to the 16-hour difference in time zones, the exact anniversary of the 8:15 AM bombing on 6 AUG 1945 will actually be at 4:15 PM on 5 AUG 2011 for those on the USA’s west coast.

    My mother was an assistant research chemist on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago, and two other relatives of mine were administrators of the Project. My father was a B-17 pilot who was shot down on his 20th mission over Germany and spent the last 18 months of the war in the same POW camp from which the Great Escape was made. They met and married after the war, and–ironically–she accompanied him a few years later when he was assigned to a USAF base in Japan just 260 miles from Hiroshima. As far as I know, she never visited the blast sites.

    Continuing in her atomic tradition, I was trained as a nuclear engineer in the US Navy, so I could work on shipboard reactors.
    ==============
    What strikes me about Truman’s press release is how it sometimes soars with literary phrasing (“The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East”) but peters out so completely at the end. The final two sentences are both very weak “I shall…” statements relating to recommendations to Congress. Today, a president would close with loftier oratory, unifying sentiments and expressions of hope in the grace of God and the goodness of men.

    OTOH, perhaps Truman’s announcement was an example of the traditional inverted-pyramid style of press-release construction, relegating the most boring and least newsworthy elements to the very bottom.

    • jasonkarpf says:

      Fascinating background, Steven. My mother wrote a miniseries script about the Manhattan Project in the 1970s, so I learned a great deal about the effort as a young teen.

      Good point about the abrupt and prosaic end of the three-page release. Perhaps parties decided on a calm conclusion to show Truman and the U.S. Government had this incredible new power in hand. Overall, the release is a remarkable narrative of the launch of the atomic age.

  3. Pingback: The power of words – a lesson in the strength and power of PR « Pivotal Comments

  4. Pingback: Arthur Page’s Hiroshima Statement Written for Harry Truman - PRNewser

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