Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Essential Question: Was Truman's Decision to drop the bomb, to end the War in the Pacific, Justified or Not?
Author:
Nancy Ohmart
Course:
US History
Time Frame:
3-4 class periods
Subjects:
Atomic Bomb
,
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will watch videos, view photographs, read primary documents, and write a consenting or dissenting view through a persuasive essay.  They will then participate in an open debate through a practice called, “Tag you are it.” Cross-curricular participation could occur with the English teacher who will grade their essay and the Speech teacher who will grade their debate participation.

 

  • Introduction:  Over the last 50 years tremendous controversy has arisen over the United States and President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use and drop the bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It is important to remember, that the final, ultimate decision rested solely in the hands of our Commander-in-Chief, President Truman. Both points of conflicting view argue over the necessity of ending the war, just in differing ways, of course, the main difference being the more than 200,000 civilians who died. The documents and videos chosen for this topic are ones describing the arguments for or against the decision to drop the bomb.

Rationale:
  • It is imperative for students to develop their own cognitive understanding through their own reasoning (which can be developed thoroughly through their own research, utilizing primary and secondary sources). By allowing students to research, synthesis and analysis actual sources from an event, such as the US decision to drop the bomb, they can then, on their own, better rationalize the past and apply it to their own present and future. Therefore, students will analysis and evaluate primary documents, videos, excerpts from newspapers and books, and then in groups will create a persuasive essay supporting their point of view, including quotations from the provided sources, AND debate their point of view.

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


  • 7. Knowledge of the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps and documents)

           C. Understanding fact, opinion, bias and points of view in sources - Distinguish between fact and opinion and recognize bias and points of view

           G. Supporting a point of view - Identify, research and defend a point of view/position

 

COMMON CORE STANDARDS FOR GRADE 8:

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

 

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Document 1:

Harry S. Truman. Memoirs. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1955. Pages 419-423.

  • Documents 2 and 3:

Frank, Richard B. “Downfall, the end of the Imperial Japanese Empire.” Penguin Group, New York, NY, 1999. Pages 248, 269.

  • Document 4:

www.getty.edu/education/teachers/timeline

 

  • Video One:

      3 minute video over the Manhattan project

       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojEPy7yIvQc&feature=share_email

  • Video Two:

      This is President Truman video reading his announcement to drop the bomb;     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3Ib4wTq0jY

 

  • Video Three:

      This is video about HST giving ultimatum to Japan: https://www.youtube.om/watch?v=LIOqL86jfg4

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

 

 

 

Full description of activity or assignment.

 

Document 1

"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?

 

Document 2

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?

 

Document 4

These are key dates in the construction of the atomic bomb and the bombing of Nagasaki:

 

1939

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.

 

1941

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.

 

1942

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.

 

1943

Oppenheimer and the bomb development team are moved to a secret laboratory located at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

 

1945

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.

 

1949

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?

 

Document Five

United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Japan's Struggle to End the War, July 1, 1946, Harry S. Truman Administration, Elsey Papers.

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/index.php?pagenumber=50&documentid=68&documentdate=1946-07-01&studycollectionid=abomb&groupid=

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?

 

Document 6

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? 

Video One:

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?

Video Two:

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)?

Video Three:

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?

 

DAY ONE

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.

 

DAY TWO:

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.

 

DAY THREE:

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.  

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

  • Students will be graded in their American History Class in three areas, class participation/research, debate participation, and their written essay. 

Rubric below is for Essay:

CATEGORY

4 - Above Standards

3 - Meets Standards

2 - Approaching Standards

1 - Below Standards

Score

Attention Grabber

The introductory paragraph has a strong hook or attention grabber that is appropriate for the audience. This could be a strong statement, a relevant quotation, statistic, or question addressed to the reader.

The introductory paragraph has a hook or attention grabber, but it is weak, rambling or inappropriate for the audience.

The author has an interesting introductory paragraph but the connection to the topic is not clear.

The introductory paragraph is not interesting AND is not relevant to the topic.

 

Position Statement

The position statement provides a clear, strong statement of the author's position on the topic.

The position statement provides a clear statement of the author's position on the topic.

A position statement is present, but does not make the author's position clear.

There is no position statement.

 

Focus or Thesis Statement

The thesis statement names the topic of the essay and outlines the main points to be discussed.

The thesis statement names the topic of the essay.

The thesis statement outlines some or all of the main points to be discussed but does not name the topic.

The thesis statement does not name the topic AND does not preview what will be discussed.

 

Support for Position

Includes 3 or more pieces of evidence (facts, statistics, examples, real-life experiences) that support the position statement. The writer anticipates the reader's concerns, biases or arguments and has provided at least 1 counter-argument.

Includes 3 or more pieces of evidence (facts, statistics, examples, real-life experiences) that support the position statement.

Includes 2 pieces of evidence (facts, statistics, examples, real-life experiences) that support the position statement.

Includes 1 or fewer pieces of evidence (facts, statistics, examples, real-life experiences).

 

Evidence and Examples

All of the evidence and examples are specific, relevant and explanations are given that show how each piece of evidence supports the author's position.

Most of the evidence and examples are specific, relevant and explanations are given that show how each piece of evidence supports the author's position.

At least one of the pieces of evidence and examples is relevant and has an explanation that shows how that piece of evidence supports the author's position.

Evidence and examples are NOT relevant AND/OR are not explained.

 

Closing paragraph

The conclusion is strong and leaves the reader solidly understanding the writer's position. Effective restatement of the position statement begins the closing paragraph.

The conclusion is recognizable. The author's position is restated within the first two sentences of the closing paragraph.

The author's position is restated within the closing paragraph, but not near the beginning.

There is no conclusion - the paper just ends.

 

Sentence Structure

All sentences are well-constructed with varied structure.

Most sentences are well-constructed and there is some varied sentence structure in the essay.

Most sentences are well constructed, but there is no variation is structure.

Most sentences are not well-constructed or varied.

 

Grammar & Spelling

Author makes no errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Author makes 1-2 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Author makes 3-4 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Author makes more than 4 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

 

Capitalization & Punctuation

Author makes no errors in capitalization or punctuation, so the essay is exceptionally easy to read.

Author makes 1-2 errors in capitalization or punctuation, but the essay is still easy to read.

Author makes a few errors in capitalization and/or punctuation that catch the reader's attention and interrupt the flow.

Author makes several errors in capitalization and/or punctuation that catch the reader's attention and interrupt the flow.

 

 

  • Rubric below is for the Debate

CATEGORY

4

3

2

1

Respect for Other Team

All statements, body language, and responses were respectful and were in appropriate language.

Statements and responses were respectful and used appropriate language, but once or twice body language was not.

Most statements and responses were respectful and in appropriate language, but there was one sarcastic remark.

Statements, responses and/or body language were consistently not respectful.

Information

All information presented in the debate was clear, accurate and thorough.

Most information presented in the debate was clear, accurate and thorough.

Most information presented in the debate was clear and accurate, but was not usually thorough.

Information had several inaccuracies OR was usually not clear.

Use of Facts/Statistics

Every major point was well supported with several relevant facts, statistics and/or examples.

Every major point was adequately supported with relevant facts, statistics and/or examples.

Every major point was supported with facts, statistics and/or examples, but the relevance of some was questionable.

Every point was not supported.

Understanding of Topic

The team clearly understood the topic in-depth and presented their information forcefully and convincingly.

The team clearly understood the topic in-depth and presented their information with ease.

The team seemed to understand the main points of the topic and presented those with ease.

The team did not show an adequate understanding of the topic.

Rebuttal

All counter-arguments were accurate, relevant and strong.

Most counter-arguments were accurate, relevant, and strong.

Most counter-arguments were accurate and relevant, but several were weak.

Counter-arguments were not accurate and/or relevant

Participation

Students participated fully without needing teacher intervention

Students participated fully with little teacher intervention.

Students participated to a degree with teacher intervention needed often.

Students participated very little.