The Henry Lewis Stimson diaries, spanning the years 1909-45, cover a long public career and offer scholars an invaluable historical source. Stimson began keeping the diaries in 1909 when he was forty-two years old. Characteristically, he made a conscious decision at that time to keep a full record of his public life, and the diary was maintained down to his last day in public office on September 21, 1945. Although the diaries are full of strongly expressed views on people, issues, and events, many statements are veiled or guarded, and revelations of the private man are few and inadvertent. As a political document, however, and as a political testament, the diaries stand as a significant personal account of the career of an American statesman of the first rank.
The diaries are most detailed during those years that Stimson held public office, as secretary of war under President William Howard Taft (1911-1913), colonel of field artillery with the American Expeditionary Force in France (1917-1918), special envoy to President Calvin Coolidge to Nicaragua (1927), governor general of the Philippine Islands (1928-1929), secretary of state under President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933), and secretary of war under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (1940-1945). During the last two periods, Stimson made almost daily entries and frequently placed supporting documentation with the account. His method of work at that time was to bring home each night selected papers which were used for reference purposes while he dictated his entry for that day into a dictaphone machine. His dictation was usually transcribed the next morning by his secretary and ordinarily amounted to not less than two pages or more than five pages for each day. Although this method produced a fuller account than is to be found in the diary for other years, his account of daily happenings often seems incomplete and haphazard. Many topics received careful attention, but others, equally significant, were mentioned only briefly or ignored. For the non-cabinet years, the coverage is even more general and casual.
Stimson kept his diaries in his office during the Roosevelt years, referring to them occasionally. After his retirement in September, 1945, he took them to his home, Highhold, in Huntington, Long Island. The hand-written marginal notes appearing throughout the diaries were for the most part written by Stimson himself, probably during the preparation of On Active Service in Peace and War. This account of Stimson’s public career, on which he collaborated with McGeorge Bundy, was published in 1947. In 1948, he named Yale University Library as the depository for his diaries as well as for his massive collection of papers. The diary volumes were actually brought to Yale in 1956. With the exception of a few handwritten volumes, the fifty-two volumes of diaries are in typescript, each containing an average of about 180 pages secured in a spring binder.
In 1971, Manuscripts and Archives of Yale University Library, with the permission of the Stimson Literary Trust, undertook to index the diaries and to film them for publication. In preparing them for filming, each volume was separately paginated, the page number appearing in the upper right hand corner. When filmed, the fifty-two volumes filled nine reels, each reel containing approximately 1,200 frames. The frames are numbered consecutively to the end of each reel. The index prepared for each reel was filmed at the beginning of that reel. The diaries were filmed in the IB format at a 12 1/2:1 reduction ratio.
The indices to Reels 1-9 have been filmed on Reel 10. It should be noted that this reel contains the nine separate indices, one for each reel, and not a single consolidated index.
The index which appears at the beginning of each reel was made from the original diary transcript and is designed to help readers locate proper names, important place names, dates, and significant topics throughout the volumes copied on that reel. There is, however, no cumulative index to all the reels. Whenever certain conditions, legislation, or events are best known by popular name, they are listed under those names in the index, even though Stimson did not use them in the diaries. An example of this type of entry is Night of the Long Knives. Subject entries for such topics as the Spanish Civil War and Neutrality also provide access to Stimson’s view on these issues. Beginning with Reel 4 in 1931, it became clear that certain key people are mentioned in the diaries so many times that it would be impractical to indicate each such mention individually by page number. In such cases, from volume 19 to the end, an inclusive designation for the number of times mentioned has been used.
During the period of World War II there are special entries under War Production and Labor, and these subjects may also be approached through the key figures associated with them: Sidney Hillman, William S. Knudsen, Lewis B. Hershey and Clarence A. Dykstra. Since important military and civilian advisors during the war period are included in nearly each daily entry, they are best traced in connection with their appropriate subject: e.g. Chief of Staff, Selective Service, Scientists and scientific warfare, and War plans and strategy. Among those included in this category are John J. McCloy, Harvey Bundy, Robert A. Lovett, Franklin Knox, George C. Marshall, and Harry Hopkins.,
When discussing war plans Stimson did not always refer to an operation by its assigned code name. To be consistent, however, the indexers have used the code name even where Stimson did not. Generally, discussions of war plans may be found under the generic heading War Plans or under the geographic area to which the plan pertains. In a very few instances, oblique references to the formulation of strategy are listed in the index although little substantive material will be found in the diary. This has been done when other sources indicate that strategic planning took place at that time. The internment of West Coast Japanese, which also raised questions about other nationalities, can be traced in the index under the headings Aliens in the U.S., and Japanese-Americans, evacuation and internment of. Problems of wartime security are covered in the index for Reel 7 under such headings as: Army, U.S.: courts martial and military justice, and Security and censorship.
Diary volume numbers are designated in Roman numerals, with page numbers following in Arabic. The date of the entry is in parentheses. During most of his years in the State and War Departments, Stimson meticulously dated his daily diary entries. Occasionally, however, he wrote retrospective entries, and in the diary these always bear the date on which the entry was written, not the date of the event. Although the retrospective date is often quite obvious from the text, the date used in the index, is, in almost every case, the date on which it was written, not the retrospective date.
In cases where Stimson uses only surnames, the indexers have endeavored to identify the fierst names, and although this was not always possible, the use of titles instead of names was avoided. The only abbreviations used are the initials for Theodore Roosevelt (TR), Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), and Stimson himself (HLS). The United States (US) is abbreviated in subentries, as are state names.
The papers copied on the microfilm edition of the Henry Lewis Stimson Diaries are the property of the Yale University Library. This edition has been issued by the Yale University Library primarily for the purpose of making these valuable materials more easily accessible to scholars. Researchers who make use of the microfilm edition must conform to the “fair use” principles and the literary property right laws that govern the research use of all original manuscript materials. This means that unauthorized publication or photographic reproduction of any material in the microfilm edition is expressly forbidden.
The Stimson diaries contain a small number of documents not written by Henry Lewis Stimson, but sent by others to him. Users of the microfilm are reminded that under the common law doctrine governing literary property rights, the right to publish a personal letter or a manuscript belongs to the writer or his heirs, unless they have specifically divested themselves of this right. This right is independent of and separate from the ownership of the letter or manuscript itself. This means that the Yale University Library, although it is the owner of the Stimson diaries, is not able to authorize the publication of all of the materials they contain.
All persons wishing to publish any part or excerpt from the microfilmed materials should request authorization from the Associate Librarian for Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut 06520.
In citing the microfilm edition the researcher should credit Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, as custodian of the original papers. The following is a suggested form for citations: Henry Lewis Stimson Diaries, XV, 20 (microfilm edition, reel 3), Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut.