Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bombs
Keith Rains
US History
Time Frame:
2 class periods
Atomic Bomb
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Decision to drop the bomb
  • Role Play

  • Students need to read documents and learn to think for themselves.  This topic is never boring to anyone. 
  • Role-playing is active learning.  They will have fun.

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

  • Local standard 2B adopted from common core standards:
  • Creating active and responsible citizens that identify and analyze public problems; deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues; take constructive, collaborative action; reflect on their actions; create and sustain groups; and influence institutions both large and small.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • American Experience: Victory in the Pacific

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

















Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Day One:
  • Students will be given a role from the Decision Center book that was provided by the Truman Library
  • Students will be given documents to help them prepare to meet the expectations of their roles
  • Students will meet and discuss President Truman’s options.
  • The President will come to a conclusion.
  • Other students will serve as Senate Intelligence Committee members and debrief the President
  • I will facilitate.
  • Day Two:
  • Students will form groups of three and discuss the decision and write a bullet point critique of the President’s decision.
  • Each group will write their bullet points on the white board.
  • Groups will be assigned to oppose another group’s critique.
  • Mini-debates will take place in the classroom
  • A class discussion will take place.
  • I will roam the room and answer questions
  • Day Three
  • Students will view the last 30-35 minutes of “Victory in the Pacific”
  • On the white board the following options will be listed and students will begin to decide what is their choice for the best way to end WWII:
  • Drop the Atomic Bomb(s)
  • Warn the Japanese
  • Showcase the power on an uninhibited island
  • Hold firm with Unconditional Surrender
  • Allow the Imperial system to stay
  • Blockade and bomb (conventional)
  • Invade
  • I will get out of the way and allow students to come to their own conclusion.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Students will write a 20-point persuasive essay explaining their decision on how to end WWII.  This essay will be due two days after our last class meeting.  It will be typed and double-spaced.