"I had then set up a committee of top men and had asked them to study with great care the implications the new weapons might have for us. It was their recommendation that the bomb be used against the enemy as soon as it could be done. They recommended further that it should be used without specific warning... I had realized, of course, that an atomic bomb explosion would inflict damage and casualties beyond imagination. On the other hand, the scientific advisors of the committee reported... that no technical demonstration they might propose, such as over a deserted island, would be likely to bring the war to an end. It had to be used against an enemy target.
The final decision of where and when to use the atomic bomb was up to me. Let there be no mistake about it. I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never doubted it should be used."
—President Harry S. Truman
From Harry S. Truman. Memoirs. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1955. 419-423.
Document One Question One: Why did President Truman feel that the atomic bomb had to be used against enemy targets?
Secretary of Navy, James Forrestal, wrote on July 24, “the cabinet’s…..final judgment and decision was that the war must be fought with all the vigor and bitterness of which the nation was capable so long as the only alternative was the unconditional surrender.”
Question: What position within the cabinet did he hold? What was his opinion on whether Japan would surrender or continue to fight?
Document Three (This also is shown on video TWO)
From Book page 269 Truman’s radio statement on August 6 announcing use of bomb on Hiroshima:
“We are no prepared to obliterate rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories and their communications. Let there be no mistake, we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. It was to spare the Japanese from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth.”
Document Three Question One: Had Truman tried to peacefully negotiate with Japan, explain. What primary targets was Truman prepared to destroy of Japan’s?
Document Three Question Two: Why did President Truman feel that the atomic bomb had to be used against enemy targets?
These are key dates in the construction of the atomic bomb and the bombing of Nagasaki:
Albert Einstein writes to President Franklin Roosevelt concerning the use of uranium as a new source of energy leading to creation of new, extremely powerful bombs. He also notes that the German government had stopped the sale of all uranium from Czechoslovakian mines. In slow response, Roosevelt forms a special committee to consider the military implications of atomic research.
September 1 — War begins in Europe.
December 6 — Roosevelt authorizes the Manhattan Engineering District for the purpose of creating an atomic bomb. This would later be called the “Manhattan Project.”
December 7 — The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.
June — J. Robert Oppenheimer is appointed director of the Manhattan Project.
December 2 — Enrico Fermi’s experiments lead to the first controlled nuclear chain reaction on a squash court beneath Stagg Field at the University of Chicago.
Oppenheimer and the bomb development team are moved to a secret laboratory located at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
July 16 — The first test of the “gadget,” a plutonium bomb, at Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, just north of Alamogordo, New Mexico.
August 6 — Hiroshima is bombed. At 9:04 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the 8,900-pound atomic weapon named "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, leveling almost 90% of the city.
August 9 — Nagasaki is bombed.
August 14 — Japan announces its surrender followed by a formal surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 2.
The Soviet Union detonates its first atomic device, ending America's nuclear monopoly.
Document Four Question One: Why do you think FDR was slow to respond to Einstein’s informative letter about the use of a uranium bomb?
Document Four Question Two: Who was Oppenheimer (can you remember what role he plays in the Truman administration from previous knowledge)?
Document Four Question Three: What was the “gadget?” Why do you think it was called that? What was the bomb dropped on Hiroshima called? Give your inference as to why those nicknames were used (pulling from previous knowledge)?
Document Four Question Four: Why do you think it took Japan almost five days to announce they were truly surrendering? Why do you think it take almost three weeks for the formal surrender?
United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Japan's Struggle to End the War, July 1, 1946, Harry S. Truman Administration, Elsey Papers.
Look at page 50 of the 59 page document, at the second and third paragraphs.
Document Five Question One: What did the Elsey Papers say was the real reason was the war ended in Japan?
Document Five Question Two: Who was interviewed, according to these two paragraphs, to give evidence whether the Japanese would have surrendered without the use of the bomb?
Document Five Question Three: According to those witnesses, Japan would have surrendered even WITHOUT what three things occurring?
This is a small section of an article in a Japanese paper the day after the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, truly revealing the author’s negative opinion of the lack of the sanctity of the human life in Japan by the US.
"How can a human being with any claim to a sense of moral responsibility deliberately let loose an instrument of destruction which can at one stroke annihilate an appalling segment of mankind? This is not war: this is not even murder; this is pure nihilism. This is a crime against God and humanity which strikes at the very basis of moral existence. What meaning is there in any international law, in any rule of human conduct, in any concept of right and wrong, if the very foundations of morality are to be overthrown as the use of this instrument of total destruction threatens to do?"
Nippon Times (Tokyo), August 10,1945
Document Six Question One: What words does the author pin, revealing his disgust?
DOCUMENTS SEVEN AND EIGHT: Show students the pictures of the leaders of the US, USSR, and Churchill and ask students to make comparisons, looking carefully at the small details.
DOCUMENT NINE: Students will read Truman’s personal diary entry about his meeting with Stalin.
DOCUMENT NINE QUESTION ONE: What was Truman’s opinion on his meeting with Stalin?
DOCUMENT NINE QUESTION TWO: Did Truman tell Stalin about the bomb and why or why not? Why was this important?
DOCUMENT TEN: This is Truman’s Diary entry on July 25, 1945, describing the bomb testing and how it will be used.
DOCUMENT TEN QUESTION ONE: Truman describes “13 lbs. of the explosives” destroyed what? What inference can you make in the message was he trying to convey? What was Truman hoping to only boom in Japan?
DOCUMENT TEN QUESTION TWO: Who did he have come into his office, mid-morning to discuss the “tactical and political” situation? What was Truman’s opinion of that person?
Question: what was truly bothering Truman about the continuing of the war?
Question: what did Truman learn about, called the “Manhattan Project,” and what was his dilemma? What was his decision?
Question: What was the Potsdam Ultimatum?
Question: What did President Truman ask Japan to do after the first bomb was dropped? Did they?
Question: What does the word capitulated mean?
Question: Why did the US drop a second bomb, according to Truman?
Question: What did Truman urge Japanese people to leave and why?
Question: What reasons did Truman give, justifying the use of the bomb (give at least two)?
Question: What were many Japanese soldiers training to become?
Question: Who trained in Japan, to fight against the American?
Question: Who was George Elsey?
Question: What was the purpose/reason for PM Suzuki doing/saying nothing?
Opening Activity – Give students a notecard and ask them to write their opinion right now, without talking to the question on the notecard, then put their name on the card and turn it in. The question on the card is, “Did the US have justification in dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan to end the War in the Pacific?” Please write yes or no AND a brief explanation. We will compare what you wrote when we finish this unit AND see if your opinion has changed OR if you believe the same however, for different reasons.
Activity Two – give out written directions on what your expectations for the students are, along with a rubric. Explain as students read what they will be evaluating, collaborating on, writing, and debating.
Explain to the students they will be working in two groups (I often assign the groups). Each group will first be given a set of documents, photographs, and videos to read, look at, and watch (we have classroom computers so students can view the videos at different times and we do not need to watch all together ALTHOUGH that would also work. The rest of day one will be spent within the groups, reading through and deciding which resources they would like to use.
Opening Activity – I would go over photographs of the after effects of the bomb as an entire class – you could have several which are projected in front of the students as they come in ALONG with pictures of Pearl Harbor. Ask students to quietly observe the photos as they are rotated on the screen and be prepared to discuss briefly how the photos make them feel and why (encourage students to be persuasive in what they reply, aiding their final product – the persuasive essay).
Activity Two – allow students to continue to work in their groups, writing down points to support your point of view, including actual quotes from the sources (you could actually utilize the primary source worksheets on the Truman Library website at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/psource.htm). I have found these are extremely useful in enabling students to research, even in small details.
Activity Three – students should be working on their group persuasive essay/debate notes so they are ready to debate on Day Three.
Homework for Day one and Day two should be to work on their own essay/part in the debate.
Opening Activity – Have the room divided into two sides, chairs facing each other. In the middle of the room will be four chairs facing each other with two chairs behind each. Half of the chairs will be for those with consenting view points and half will be for those with dissenting points of view. Explain to students they will be given five minutes to organize/regroup and the debate will start.
Activity One - My students participate in debating often so they understand the rules of conduct, however, you may want to create some rules to go over with them. This is a way to debate my 8th graders truly like because EVERYONE has a role and EVERYONE must participate. Usually, each team starts out with at least one strong debater in one of their two chairs. One the debate starts and each side gives an opening statement, the floor is open to only the four students to talk, once one of them is ready to tag out they can ask someone to tag them from the 8 chairs (OR one of the students in the 8 chairs can tag one of the inner circle of 4 so they can rotate positions). REMEMBER, only the inner circle of 4 students can talk. This is very active, vocal, and my students love it! As an instructor, I can see who is truly prepared and who isn’t, even my quiet students actively become involved when they hear from the beginning they HAVE to participate. I usually allow the debate to continue for 15 minutes, remembering, if there are more than 16 students you need, to stop and rotate students.
Activity Two – regroup and allow students to offer 4-5 comments over what they learned from each other, merely guiding the conversation. At this point, hand back the notecard from the first day and ask students if anyone’s opinion changed; why or why not? This discussion should take 10-15 minutes.
Homework – ask students to now, rethink their persuasive essay, work on it/finish it and be ready to turn it in the next school day.