Military Wiki
Henry L. Stimson
Henry Lewis Stimson cph.3b21803
45th United States Secretary of War

In office
May 22, 1911 – March 4, 1913
President William Howard Taft
Deputy Robert Shaw Oliver
Preceded by Jacob M. Dickinson
Succeeded by Lindley M. Garrison
Governor-General of the Philippines

In office
December 27, 1927 – February 23, 1929
Deputy Eugene Allen Gilmore
Appointed by Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Leonard Wood
Succeeded by Eugene Allen Gilmore
46th United States Secretary of State

In office
March 28, 1929 – March 4, 1933
President Herbert Hoover
Deputy Joseph P. Cotton
William R. Castle, Jr.
Preceded by Frank B. Kellogg
Succeeded by Cordell Hull
54th United States Secretary of War

In office
July 10, 1940 – September 21, 1945
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Deputy Robert P. Patterson
John J. McCloy (1941–1945)
Preceded by Harry Hines Woodring
Succeeded by Robert P. Patterson
Personal details
Born Henry Lewis Stimson
(1867-09-21)September 21, 1867
New York City
Died October 20, 1950(1950-10-20) (aged 83)
Long Island, New York
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mabel Wellington White Stimson
Alma mater Yale College
Harvard Law School
Profession Lawyer, Diplomat, Administrator
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Army
Rank Colonel Colonel

Henry Lewis Stimson (September 21, 1867 – October 20, 1950) was an American statesman, lawyer and Republican Party politician and spokesman on foreign policy. He served as Secretary of War (1911–1913) under Republican William Howard Taft, and as Governor-General of the Philippines (1927–1929). As Secretary of State (1929–1933) under Republican President Herbert Hoover he articulated the Stimson Doctrine which announced American opposition to Japanese expansion in Asia. He again served as Secretary of War (1940–1945) under Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was a leading hawk calling for war against Germany. During World War II he took charge of raising and training 13 million soldiers and airmen, supervised the spending of a third of the nation's GDP on the Army and the Air Forces, helped formulate military strategy, and took personal control of building and using the atomic bomb.

Early career[]


Henry L. Stimson aged 10, with Mimi the cat


Stimson as a young lawyer

Stimson was born in New York City, the son of Lewis Atterbury Stimson, a prominent surgeon. He was brought up in part by his grandfather in New York. He was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he gained a lifelong interest in religion and a close relationship with the school. He was a trustee for many years. He then attended Yale College where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He joined Skull and Bones, a secret society that afforded many contacts for the rest of his life.[1] He graduated in 1888 and then attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1890, and joined the prestigious Wall Street law firm of Root and Clark in 1891. He became a partner in 1893. Elihu Root, a future Secretary of War and Secretary of State, became a major influence on and role model for Stimson.[2]

In 1893, Stimson married Mabel Wellington White, a great-great granddaughter of American founding father Roger Sherman and the sister of Elizabeth Selden Rogers. An adult case of mumps had left Stimson infertile[3] and they had no children.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Stimson U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Here, he made a distinguished record prosecuting antitrust cases. Stimson later served from 1937 to 1939 as president of the New York City Bar Association, where a medal honoring service as a U.S. Attorney is still awarded in his honor.

Stimson was defeated as Republican candidate for Governor of New York in 1910.

Secretary of War (1st term)[]

In 1911, President William Howard Taft appointed Stimson Secretary of War. He continued the reorganization of the Army begun by Elihu Root, improving its efficiency prior to its vast expansion in World War I. In 1913, following the accession of President Woodrow Wilson, Stimson left office.

World War I[]

Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he was a strong supporter of Britain and France, but also supported the nation's neutrality policy. He called for preparation of a large, powerful army and was active in the privately funded Plattsburg Training Camp Movement to train potential officers. When war came in 1917 Stimson was one of eighteen officers selected by former President Theodore Roosevelt to raise a volunteer infantry division, Roosevelt's World War I volunteers, for service in France in 1917. President Woodrow Wilson refused to make use of the volunteers and the unit disbanded. Stimson served the regular U.S. Army in France as an artillery officer, reaching the rank of colonel in August 1918.[4]

Nicaragua and Philippines[]

In 1927, Stimson was sent by President Calvin Coolidge to Nicaragua for civil negotiations. Stimson wrote that Nicaraguans "were not fitted for the responsibilities that go with independence and still less fitted for popular self-government". Later, after he'd been appointed Governor-General of the Philippines (succeeding General Leonard Wood), an office he held from 1927 to 1929, he opposed Filipino independence for the same reason.

Secretary of State[]

Stimson returned to the cabinet in 1929, when President Herbert Hoover appointed him Secretary of State. Both served until 1933. When he moved to Washington, D.C., Stimson lived in the Woodley Mansion. He lived there until 1946, when he resigned from office.

From 1930 to 1931 Stimson was the Chairman of the U.S. delegation to the London Naval Conference. In the following year, he was the Chairman of the U.S. delegation to World Disarmament Conference in Geneva. That same year, the United States issued the "Stimson Doctrine" as a result of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria: the United States refused to recognize any situation or treaty that limited U.S. treaty rights or that was brought about by aggression. Returning to private life at the end of Hoover's administration, Stimson was an outspoken advocate of strong opposition to Japanese aggression.

Secretary of War (2nd term)[]

After World War II broke out in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt returned Stimson, now aged 73, to his post at the head of the War Department. The Democratic President chose Stimson, a Republican, in part to foster bi-partisan unity supporting the war Roosevelt saw as inevitable. Ten days before the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Stimson entered in his diary the following statement: [Roosevelt] brought up the event that we are likely to be attacked perhaps next Monday, for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what we should do. The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.*[5] During the war, Stimson directed the expansion of the military, managing the conscription and training of 13 million soldiers and airmen and the purchase and transportation to battlefields of 30% of the nation's industrial output. He worked closely with his top aides Robert P. Patterson (who succeeded Stimson as Secretary),[6] Robert Lovett (who handled the Air Force), and John J. McCloy.[7]

General Patton[]

On November 21, 1943, the news broke that General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Seventh Army, had slapped an enlisted man suffering from nervous exhaustion at a medical evacuation hospital in Sicily.[8] The incident caused a storm of controversy, and members of Congress called for Patton to be relieved of command. General Dwight D. Eisenhower opposed any move to recall General Patton from the European theater saying privately, "Patton is indispensable to the war effort - one of the guarantors of our victory.".[9] Stimson and McCloy agreed; Stimson told the Senate that Patton would be retained because of the need for his "aggressive, winning leadership in the bitter battles which are to come before final victory."[10]

Morgenthau Plan[]

Stimson strongly opposed the Morgenthau Plan to de-industrialize and partition Germany into several smaller states.[11] The plan also envisioned the deportation and summary imprisonment of anybody suspected of responsibility for war crimes. Initially, Roosevelt had been sympathetic to this plan, but later, due to Stimson's opposition and the public outcry when the plan was leaked, the President backtracked. Stimson thus retained overall control of the U.S. occupation zone in Germany, and although the Morgenthau plan did influence the early occupation, it never became official policy. Explaining his opposition to the plan, Stimson insisted to Roosevelt that ten European countries, including Russia, depended upon Germany's export-import trade and production of raw materials and that it was inconceivable that this "gift of nature", populated by peoples of "energy, vigor, and progressiveness", should be turned into a "ghost territory" or "dust heap".

What Stimson most feared, however, was that a subsistence-level economy would turn the anger of the German people against the Allies and thereby "obscure the guilt of the Nazis and the viciousness of their doctrines and their acts". Stimson pressed similar arguments on President Harry S. Truman in the spring of 1945.[12]

Stimson, a lawyer, insisted — against the initial wishes of both Roosevelt and Churchill - on proper judicial proceedings against leading war criminals. He and the United States Department of War drafted the first proposals for an International Tribunal, and this soon received backing from the incoming President Truman. Stimson's plan eventually led to the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-1946 that have had a significant impact on the development of International Law.

Atomic bomb[]

As Secretary of War, Stimson took direct personal control of the entire atomic bomb project, with direct supervision over General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project. Both Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman followed Stimson's advice on every aspect of the bomb, and Stimson overruled military officers when they opposed his views.[13][14]

The Manhattan Project was managed by Major General Groves (Corps of Engineers) with a staff of reservists and many thousands of civilian scientists and engineers. Nominally Groves reported directly to General George Marshall, but in fact Stimson was in charge. Stimson secured the necessary money and approval from Roosevelt and from Congress, and made sure Manhattan had the highest priorities. He controlled all planning for the use of the bomb. Stimson wanted "Little Boy" (the Hiroshima bomb) dropped within hours of its earliest possible availability. And it was. Stimson wanted Japan to surrender, and thought the Hiroshima bomb on August 6 would provide the final push Tokyo needed. When nothing seemed to happen he had Truman drop "Fat Man" on Nagasaki on August 9. The Japanese offered to surrender on August 10.[15]

Stimson's vision[]

In retrospect historians debate whether the impact of continued blockade, relentless bombing, and the Russian invasion of Manchuria would have somehow forced the Emperor to surrender sometime in late 1945 or early 1946 even without the atomic bombs (though not without very large numbers of Japanese casualties.)[16] But Stimson saw well beyond the immediate end of the war. He was the only top government official who tried to predict the meaning of the atomic age—he envisioned a new era in human affairs. For a half century he had worked to inject order, science, and moralism into matters of law, of state, and of diplomacy. His views had seemed outdated in the age of total warfare, but now he held what he called "the royal straight flush." The impact of the atom, he foresaw, would go far beyond military concerns to encompass diplomacy and world affairs, as well as business, economics and science. Above all, said Stimson, this "most terrible weapon ever known in human history" opened up "the opportunity to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved." That is, the very destructiveness of the new weaponry would shatter the ages-old belief that wars could be advantageous. It might now be possible to call a halt to the use of destruction as a ready solution to human conflicts. Indeed, society's new control over the most elemental forces of nature finally "caps the climax of the race between man's growing technical power for destructiveness and his psychological power of self-control and group control--his moral power."[17][18]

In 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria, Stimson, as secretary of state, proclaimed the famous "Stimson Doctrine." It said no fruits of illegal aggression would ever be recognized by the United States. Japan ignored it. Now, according to Stimson, the wheels of justice had turned and the "peace-loving" nations (as Stimson called them) had the chance to punish Japan's misdeeds in a manner that would warn aggressor nations never again to invade their neighbors. To validate the new moral order, he believed, the atomic bomb had to be used against civilians. The question for Stimson was not one of whether soldiers should use this weapon or not. Involved was the simple issue of ending a horrible war, and the more subtle and more important question of the possibility of genuine peace among nations. Stimson's decision involved the fate of mankind, and he posed the problem to the world in such clear and articulate fashion that there was near unanimous agreement mankind had to find a way so that atomic weapons would never be used again.[19][20][21]


Stimson resigned from office on September 4, 1945 due to health reasons and retired to write his memoirs with the aid of McGeorge Bundy. On Active Service in Peace and War was published by Harper in 1948 to critical acclaim. It is often cited by historians, as are the 170,000 typed pages of candid diaries that Stimson dictated at the end of every day. The Diary is now in the Yale University Library; parts have been published in microfilm.[22] Stimson suffered a heart attack in October 1945.

In 1946 Stimson joined the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Stimson died in October 1950 age 83 at his estate in West Hills, New York.[23] He is buried in the adjacent town of Cold Spring Harbor, in the cemetery of St. John's Church.[24]

Stimson is remembered on Long Island with the Henry L. Stimson Middle School in Huntington Station and by a residential building on the campus of Stony Brook University. The Henry L. Stimson Center, a private research institute in Washington, DC, advocates what it says is Stimson's "practical, non-partisan approach"[25] to international relations. The Benjamin Franklin-class ballistic missile submarine USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655) and a street in Houston have been named for him.

Stimson is also commemorated by the New York City Bar Association, where he served as President from 1937 to 1939, with the Henry L. Stimson Medal. The medal is awarded annually to outstanding Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.

In popular culture[]

Stimson has been portrayed in nearly a dozen movies and television shows about World War II and its aftermath, including Truman (1995), Truman at Potsdam (1995), Fat Man and Little Boy (1989), Day One (1989), War and Remembrance (1988), Race for the Bomb (1987), Churchill and the Generals (1981),Oppenheimer (1980), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), and The Beginning or the End (1947).[26]


  1. Sean L. Malloy (2008). Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan. Cornell University Press. pp. 14–15. 
  2. see Malloy, Ch. 1, "The Education of Henry L. Stimson"
  3. Conant, Jennet (2002). Tuxedo Park. Simon & Schuster. p. 24. ISBN 0-684-87287-0. 
  4. David F. Schmitz, Henry L. Stimson: the first wise man (2001) pp 39-41
  5. Richard N. Current, "How Stimson Meant to 'Maneuver' the Japanese," Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jun., 1953), pp. 67-74 in JSTOR
  6. Kieth Eiler, Mobilizing America: Robert P. Patterson and the War Effort (Cornell U.P. 1997)
  7. Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made: Acheson, Bohlen, Harriman, Kennan, Lovett, and McCloy (1986)
  8. Atkinson, Rick, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944, New York: Henry Holt & Co., ISBN 978-0-8050-8861-8 (2007), p. 147.
  9. Carlo D'Este, Patton: A Genius For War, New York: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-016455-7 (1995), p. 536
  10. D'Este, Patton: A Genius For War, p. 543
  11. Morgenthau-Plan
  12. Arnold A. Offner, "Research on American-German Relations: A Critical View" in Joseph McVeigh and Frank Trommler, eds. America and the Germans: An Assessment of a Three-Hundred-Year History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990) v2 p. 176; see also Michael R. Beschloss, The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945 (2002)
  13. Sean Malloy, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan The Manhattan Project, Department of Energy at]
  14. Dec. 22, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
  15. See Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1995)
  16. for "revisionists" who reject use of the bomb, see Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (1996) and Barton J. Bernstein, "Seizing the Contested Terrain of Early Nuclear History: Stimson, Conant, and Their Allies Explain the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," Diplomatic History 17 (Winter 1993): 35-72
  17. Henry L. Stimson, On Active Services in Peace and War (1948) p. 636
  18. Michael Kort, The Columbia guide to Hiroshima and the bomb (2007) p. 179
  19. See Bonnett, John. "Jekyll and Hyde: Henry L. Stimson, Mentalite, and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb on Japan." War in History 1997 4(2): 174-212. Issn: 0968-3445 Fulltext: Ebsco
  20. McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (1988)
  21. Robert P. Newman, "Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson" The New England Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 5-32 in JSTOR
  22. "The Diaries of Henry Lewis Stimson in the Yale University Library"
  23. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (October 21, 1950). "Henry L. Stimson, 83, Dies on LI, Served Nation in Four Cabinets". Newsday. p. 2. 
  24.[unreliable source]
  25. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£. "About Stimson | The Stimson Center | Pragmatic Steps for Global Security". Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  26. IMDb Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£. "Henry L. Stimson (character)". Retrieved 17 April 2012. 

Further reading[]

  • Bonnett, John. "Jekyll and Hyde: Henry L. Stimson, Mentalite, and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb on Japan." War in History 1997 4(2): 174-212. Issn: 0968-3445 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Gerber, Larry G. "Stimson, Henry Lewis";; American National Biography Online February 2000.
  • Gerber, Larry G. The Limits of Liberalism: Josephus Daniels, Henry Stimson, Bernard Baruch, Donald Richberg, Felix Frankfurter and the Development of the Modern American Political Economy (1983).
  • Hodgson, Godfrey. The Colonel: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson, 1867-1950 (1990). popular biography
  • Malloy, Sean L. Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (2008)
  • Morison, Elting E. Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson (1960), scholarly biography
  • Newman, Robert P. "Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson" The New England Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 5–32 in JSTOR
  • Schmitz, David F. Henry L. Stimson: The First Wise Man (2000)

Primary sources[]

  • Stimson, Henry and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War. (1948) (memoirs)

External links[]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Evans Hughes
Republican Nominee for Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Job Hedges
Political offices
Preceded by
Jacob M. Dickinson
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: William Howard Taft

Succeeded by
Lindley M. Garrison
Preceded by
Eugene Allen Gilmore
Governor-General of the Philippines
1927 – 1929
Succeeded by
Eugene Allen Gilmore
Preceded by
Frank B. Kellogg
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Herbert Hoover

1929 – 1933
Succeeded by
Cordell Hull
Preceded by
Harry H. Woodring
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman

Succeeded by
Robert P. Patterson
All or a portion of this article consists of text from Wikipedia, and is therefore Creative Commons Licensed under GFDL.
The original article can be found at Henry L. Stimson and the edit history here.