Huntington, L.I., Oct. 20--Henry L. Stimson, former Secretary of War, died here at 4 P. M. today in his home, Highhold, West Hills. He had celebrated his eighty-third birthday on Sept. 21.
Mr. Stimson, who was also a former Secretary of State, had been fairly active almost until the end. He spent most of his birthday on the veranda of the farmhouse home or being wheeled about the garden in an invalid chair to which he had been largely restricted after having undergone an operation on July 20. The operation was to correct a fracture of the femur suffered in a fall in his home a few days earlier.
A member of his family said death resulted from a heart attack. He had been troubled with a heart ailment since he left public office in 1945.
As President Truman's senior adviser on military use of atomic energy, Henry L. Stimson made the deciding recommendation to drop the first atomic bomb, one of the most significant events in the history of mankind.
In addition to this great responsibility, Mr. Stimson assumed heavy burdens as President Hoover's Secretary of State (1929-1933) and again as Secretary of War in the cabinets of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Truman (1940-1945). His unusually long period of public life which established him as an elder statesman in the American scene included an earlier period (1911-1913) as President Taft's Secretary of War, then a relatively minor post.
When he was in his late seventies Mr. Stimson was the civilian administrative head of a victorious army of more than 10,000,000, the largest ever raised by the United States. It was in this post that he was largely responsible for bringing to an abrupt end over Hiroshima and Nagasaki the violence that had frustrated his diplomacy in the Nineteen Thirties when he was President Hoover's Secretary of State. Mr. Stimson later disclosed that he had not hesitated in recommending to the recently sworn in President Truman the first use of the atomic bomb.
"My chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise," Mr. Stimson wrote in the February, 1947, issue of Harper's Magazine. "In the light of the alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us, I believe that no man in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hand a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterward looked his countrymen in the face."
Mr. Stimson was one of a number of men trained as Wall Street lawyers whose public service was challenged by political opponents on the ground that they frequently viewed public affairs through the eyes of the financial community. He entered politics, however, as one of Theodore Roosevelt's "trust-busting" liberals, and throughout his long life in and while out of public office he was scrupulous in keeping apart this law practice and his public position. Throughout his life he displayed an integrity that to his friends sometimes bordered on the painful.
Attracted Elihu Root
It was Mr. Stimson's great good fortune as a young man of solid social background and education at Yale and Harvard to attract the attention of Elihu Root, then near the zenith of his long and influential career as a conservative Republican statesman and lawyer.
Another influence shaped Mr. Stimson's early career. His interest in the outdoor life of Canada and the West--it was the epoch of the student temporarily turned cowboy--drew young Mr. Stimson into the orbit of Theodore Roosevelt--exponent of the vigorous life.
Henry Lewis Stimson was born in New York Sept. 21, 1867. His family he characterized in his memoirs as "sturdy, middle-class people, religious, thrifty, energetic and long-lived" New England stock. Henry Stimson's father had made enough money as a banker in his early career to permit him to enjoy the luxury of studying medicine in Zurich and Paris and establishing a large and extremely unlucrative practice in New York.
Young Henry was sent to Phillips Andover Academy, where, he recalled in later life, the students enjoyed "perfect freedom, tempered by expulsion."
Mr. Stimson entered Yale in 1884 and spent the summer of his freshman year roughing it in the wilds of Canada. He was elected near the end of his junior year to Skull and Bones, oldest of the senior societies. He was graduated in 1888. After two years at Harvard Law School he was admitted to the bar in New York in 1891. By the end of 1905, as a member of Senator Root's law firm, he was making some $20,000 a year, and in January, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, his first public post. The salary was half what he had been making in private practice.
Mr. Stimson began a series of largely successful Government prosecutions for the offense of railroad rebating, an instrument playing an important role in developing the gigantic trusts over which President Theodore Roosevelt was brandishing "the big stick." By July, 1907, $362,000 had been collected in fines for rebating. The New York Central Railroad and the American Sugar Refining Company were among corporations whose rebating partnership was exposed by prosecutions directed by Mr. Stimson.
Candidate for Governor
In 1910 Mr. Stimson had become sufficiently known throughout the state to permit him to become Theodore Roosevelt's hand-picked candidate for the privilege of making a hopeless fight for Governor. Mr. Stimson put up a hard fight and spent so much time preparing his speeches that T. R. said: "Darn it, Henry, a campaign speech is a poster, not an etching." Mr. Stimson was defeated decisively by John A. Dix, the Democratic candidate.
When a vacancy occurred in the post of Secretary of War, President Taft took thought to the political needs of the Republican party in this state and appointed Mr. Stimson, probably on the recommendation of Mr. Root who, as Secretary of War in the Cabinets of McKinley and Roosevelt, had taken the far-reaching step of forming the Army's first General Staff.
When Mr. Stimson took office on May 22, 1911, the United States Army consisted of some 4,300 officers and 70,250 enlisted men, most of them distributed among obsolete military posts. Major Gen. Leonard Wood was Chief of Staff when Mr. Stimson became Secretary of War, and with Wood's aid the new Secretary was able to effect a new and more-efficient regrouping of the nation's tiny forces. But the nation was almost completely uninterested in army matters, and Mr. Stimson's post was easily the most unimportant in the Cabinet.
The outbreak of the first World War in 1914 found the United States Army almost completely unprepared, much to Mr. Stimson's regret.
Mr. Stimson had been caught in the middle in the 1912 fight between Theodore Roosevelt and President Taft. One of T. R.'s strongest admirers and indebted to him for earlier political favors, Mr. Stimson nevertheless felt strong personal loyalty toward President Taft, whose conservatism was somewhat more to his liking than Colonel Roosevelt's vigorously liberal attitudes. It was with genuine regret that Mr. Stimson felt obliged to throw his political fortunes in with President Taft. Colonel Roosevelt did not quickly forgive him.
A practical politician since he had been an election district captain in the old Twenty-third Assembly District of New York, Mr. Stimson headed the New York State Republican forces that blocked the tenacious efforts of the state's Democratic party leaders to obtain a greater degree of autonomy for this city in the convention that opened in Albany on April 6, 1915, to draw up a new state Constitution.
Prepared for Army
In the 1916 Presidential campaign Mr. Stimson's candidate was Elihu Root, but when Charles Evans Hughes was nominated he worked hard for the Republican ticket. When the close election resulted in the re-election of President Wilson, Mr. Stimson, who was convinced that the United States would soon be in the war started by Germany in 1914, prepared himself for the Army.
Although he was 49 and had had only a negligible period of National Guard training, Mr. Stimson qualified for an artillery command and saw action in France during a nine-month period of overseas service. He was one of two non-Regulars of twenty-nine officers chosen to command newly formed artillery regiments with the rank of colonel. Mr. Stimson was always proud of his military service and was known to his intimate friends as Colonel Stimson.
Between 1918 and 1926 Mr. Stimson was in private life. In the spring of 1925 he agreed to represent the Government in the dispute between Chile and Peru over the provinces of Tacna and Arica. His part in the decision was minor, but, as a result of his experience, he was sent by President Coolidge as a special envoy to Nicaragua, which was torn by civil war. He succeeded in restoring a general peace within a month after his arrival and brought the disorders to a formal conclusion by the accord of Tipitapa.
In 1927 Mr. Stimson permanently severed his connections with his law firm and prepared to spend the remainder of his days in complete retirement. This was not to be.
In 1926 he had visited the Philippines at the request of his old friend, Governor General Leonard Wood, and had drawn up a plan for Government procedures which it was hoped would assist Wood to re-establish the United States authority, which seemingly, had diminished during the Democratic administration of the islands. Upon the death of General Wood, President Coolidge appointed Mr. Stimson his successor.
Governor General Stimson believed that General Wood had been right in seeking to limit the measure of Government control granted to the Filipinos by the Wilson administration. He put into force measures designed to indicate to the Filipino political leaders that talk of early independence or autonomy was premature. Before Mr. Stimson's vigorous policies had passed the controversial stage--and there was much controversy--President Hoover named him Secretary of State. He took office on March 28, 1929.
The first sixteen months of Mr. Stimson's term as Secretary of State were given up to the well-intentioned but largely futile attempts by the Hoover Administration to advance world peace by seeking international agreements to limit naval armaments. Mr. Stimson headed the United States delegation to the London Naval Conference, which opened Jan. 17, 1930. Limiting agreements were reached among Britain, Japan and the United States, and were ratified by the United States Senate on July 21.
National sentiments were so strong, however, that the agreeing powers--particularly Japan-- found ways of avoiding the features of the accords that were most obnoxious to advocates of large navies.
Efforts by Mr. Stimson and others to advance world peace were soon lost in the distant rumblings of world-wide economic disaster which added to the cynicism and disillusionment that brought on the second World War.
Secretary of State in '31
Mr. Stimson was Secretary of State during the 1931 Manchurian crisis, which with the Ethiopian crisis of 1936 and the Munich appeasement of 1938, constituted the major retreats made by the Western powers before the nationalistic aggression that led to the second World War. President Hoover, who himself had considerable personal knowledge of Far Eastern affairs, had great confidence in Mr. Stimson's judgment in this field and gave him virtually a free hand. The Manchurian storm broke almost without warning.
On Sept. 17, 1931, Mr. Stimson received Katsuji Dubuchi, Japanese Ambassador, and both agreed that tensions in the Far East seemed to be relieved and that Japanese-American relations were much improved. Two days later Japanese troops occupied the Manchurian arsenal city of Mukden and other points in south Manchuria, territory claimed by China.
Secretary Stimson obtained Government approval for his plan to try to check Japan's Manchurian advance by cooperating with the supposedly moderate Baron Kijuro Shidehara, Japan's Foreign Secretary. To this end Mr. Stimson refrained from public criticism of Japan's Manchurian aggression and at the same time conveyed through discreet diplomatic channels indications of keen American interest in Manchurian developments.
Mr. Stimson expounded the doctrine by non-recognition of conquests by aggression, which was adopted without dissent by the League of Nations Assembly on March 11.
Japanese aggression spread, in spite of the diplomacy of the Hoover administration, and Mr. Stimson was forced to adopt a firmer tone. He sought to enlist Britain and other interested European powers in a joint stand against Japan, and he was surprised and disappointed when all found reasons for declining to back the publicly taken American position. The last remnant of China's authority in Manchuria disappeared on Jan. 3, 1932, when the Japanese occupied Chinchow.
At that time it was widely believed that United States diplomacy had received one of the sharpest setbacks in American history. A large part of the American press, opposed to Mr. Hoover's administration, was furious at the spectacle of apparent American impotence in the Far East. The Secretary of State was widely referred to as "Wrong Horse Harry" Stimson. Subsequent event convinced many diplomats, however, that Japan had been so determined upon a course of aggression that nothing short of war would have checked her course, and the United States was in no way prepared for such a war.
Secretary Stimson made a trip to Europe in 1933 to learn at first hand the problems and personalities involved in the darkening international scene. In a conversation with the German statesman, Heinrich Bruening, at Geneva, Mr. Stimson said that "the situation in the world seemed to me like the unfolding of a great Greek tragedy, where we could see the march of events and know what ought to be done, but seemed to be powerless to prevent its marching to its grim conclusion."
Although Secretary Stimson admired President Hoover and of course supported him in the 1932 campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt, he also had profound respect for Governor Roosevelt. An embarrassing situation was created when President Hoover asked Secretary Stimson to make a speech in New York State attacking Governor Roosevelt as an administrator. Mr. Stimson flatly declined to do, although he expressed his willingness to make speeches supporting Mr. Hoover's policies.
After serving as a liaison man between President Hoover and President-elect Roosevelt between election and inauguration days, Mr. Stimson retired to private life, but was not forgotten by President Roosevelt.
The beginning of the second World War in 1939 found the War Department split by a feud between Secretary of War Harry H. Woodring and Assistant Secretary Louis Johnson. In a typically Rooseveltian stroke of political daring, the President decided to invite Mr. Stimson to accept the War post which the harassed Secretary Woodring finally vacated. It was formally offered in a telephone call from President Roosevelt on June 19, 1940. At the same time another Republican, Frank Knox of Chicago, was invited to become Secretary of the Navy, and accepted.
Mr. Stimson was 73 years old when he accepted the colossal task of carrying forward his country's preparation for taking part in a war from which it was almost certain that it could not keep free. He was remembered for the failure of his Manchurian policy, and his advanced years caused it to be said openly in Washington that he would collapse under the strain.
With an energy that would have been astonishing in a man twenty years younger, Secretary Stimson grappled with the task of making the ground and army air forces ready for almost certain war service. When he had been Secretary of War in 1911, there had been almost endless time to prepare for war, but no money. Now there was almost inexhaustible money and no time.
United States Attacked by Japan
The Japanese attacked us on Dec. 7, 1941, and then and later, Mr. Stimson became involved in the controversy over who was to blame for the fact that the American land and sea forces were surprised at Pearl Harbor. Secretary Stimson maintained that Lieut. Gen. Walter Short, commanding in Hawaii, had been adequately warned before the attack. Another and very tenacious school of thought held that the warning had not been sufficiently explicit.
As the European war developed, Secretary Stimson became convinced that victory lay in a direct invasion from England. He threw his weight against Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who favored diversions via the Mediterranean through Central Europe. Those who agreed with Mr. Stimson had their way, but not until the disagreement had become so keen that Mr. Stimson suggested in exasperation that the United States abandon Europe as the main conflict theatre and concentrate on the Pacific war.
In the fall of 1941 President Roosevelt named Secretary Stimson to a committee to advise on nuclear fission policy, and from May 1, 1943, until he resigned as Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson was the President's senior adviser on the military employment of atomic energy.
A group known as the Interim Committee had been formed, and on June 1, 1945, it advised that the atomic bomb be used against Japan. In this connection Mr. Stimson later wrote:
"The committee's function was, of course, entirely advisory. The ultimate responsibility for the recommendation to the President rested upon me, and I have no desire to veil it. The conclusions of the committee were similar to my own, although I reached mine independently."
Secretary Stimson selected four targets, two of which were subjected to the atomic bomb attack--Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later. Both attacks caused great loss of life among civilians as well as among members of the Japanese armed forces and also vast property damage.
When the armies that he had helped to raise were victorious in Europe and Japan in the greatest conflict of all time, Mr. Stimson resigned as Secretary of War on Sept. 21, 1945, and retired to Highhold, his Long Island estate, which he had occupied since 1903.
"That marriage has now lasted over fifty-four years, during which she has ever been my devoted companion, and the greatest happiness of my life."
Mr. and Mrs. Stimson had no children.