Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Atomic Bomb
Joshua Scott
American History
Time Frame:
One class period.
Atomic Bomb
Fire Bombing
World War II

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

The lesson will be a cooperative learning exercise.  I will start the class with an exercise of point/counterpoint of whether or not President Truman should have dropped the atomic bomb.  Then I will lecture on why dropping the bomb was the only decision for the President.


I believe students are often not presented this story from this point of view.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Use of tools of Social Science inquiry-

Grade Level expectation – USH.2A.D(4).USHIS

Evolution of US policy during the two world wars


2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions



Benchmark 2: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Great Depression through World War II in United States history (1930-1945).

8. (A) examines the entry of the United States into the nuclear age (e.g., Manhattan Project, Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs, opposition to nuclear weapons).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

James Bradley’s Flyboys

 -description of firebombing gel pg. 268

-description of bombing Tokyo pg. 270

-Yoshiko Hashimoto’s story pg. 271

-Truman and the bomb pg. 294

-Why Hiroshima pg. 296

-How much more firebombing was called for pg. 298

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Statement by the President Announcing the Use of bomb at Hiroshima.


Technology Required:

No technology required.

Full description of activity or assignment.


  1. Fire Bombing
    1. Who devised the plan and why?
    2. Description of Firebombing gel
    3. Fire bombing of Tokyo

                                                              i.      Story of Yoshiko Hashimoto (from Flyboys pg. 271 survivor of firebombing)

                                                            ii.      Description of the bombing of Tokyo March 9, 10.

                                                          iii.      Statistics of devastation


  1. The determination of the Japanese
    1. Spirit Warriors

                                                              i.      Gaizan

                                                            ii.      Kamikaze

                                                          iii.      Shinmin

  1. Projected number of assault force

                                                              i.      “If we are prepared to sacrifice 20 million Japanese lives in kamikaze effort, victory will be ours.” – Admiral Takijiro Onishi, quoted in Hell in the Pacific.

  1. Projected number of casualties

                                                              i.      American

                                                            ii.      Japanese

  1. Length of attack


  1. Truman’s dilemma
    1. General Macarthur’s estimate of invasion losses
    2. General Curtis LeMay’s  plans for more firebombing
    3. Decision of Hiroshima as target
    4. Truman’s reasoning for dropping the bomb

                                                              i.      “We have used it.  We have used it to shorten the agony of young Americans”  - HST

                                                            ii.      Statement by the President Announcing the Use of bomb at Hiroshima August 6, 1945 – http://trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=100&st=atomic&st1=bomb (students will analyze the speech to Congress)

  1. Japanese survivor’s account of the decision to drop the bomb
  2. Class discussion




Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Students will write a half page description of their thoughts on the President using the A-bomb.  Then they must predict what effect the use of this weapon will have on our allies and enemies in the world.