Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Analyzing the Decision to Drop the Bomb
Susan Whipple
US History
Time Frame:
1 class period
Atomic Bomb
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • This lesson uses the jigsaw method of cooperative learning to determine how President Truman felt about dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan.

  • Students need to be aware of the reluctance of the United States to use the atomic bomb on Japan and realize the destruction the bombs caused on Japan.

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

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.
  1. Introduction: Students will read the BBC News report and the Yahoo news report and answer the following questions:
  • What is PM Abe’s message?
  • Who is the audience?
  • Why does he mention the Japanese people killed by the atomic bomb?


  1. Next a brainstorm session:


            Ask students to list all the reasons they think the US decided to drop the bomb on Japan


  1. Show the picture of Hiroshima- ask students to record their observations.


  1. The question today is –


 How did those who made the decision to drop the bomb feel about that decision at the time?


  1. Break students into groups of 3-4. Handout the one of the following to each group:
    1. Text of the pamphlet dropped on Japan.
    2. Text of Truman’s letter
    3. Text of General Grove’s report on the aftermath of the Hiroshima Bomb


  1. Have students complete the primary document analysis worksheet.


  1. Each group shares the analysis of their document.


  1. As a class write a one-two paragraph interpretation of how the President felt about dropping the bomb using evidence from all the primary documents viewed in class.


Primary Source Analysis


Directions: Using the primary source document your group has, complete the following work sheet. Be prepared to share with the class a summary of your document and its importance.


  1. What is the document you are looking at (a letter, picture, diary entry, memo, pamphlet, etc.)?


  1. Are there any special markings, letterhead, handwritten notes, stamps or anything else that makes the document unique?




  1. Who is the author?


  1. Who is the intended audience?



  1. What is the purpose of the document?



  1. What is the document telling the intended audience?



  1. Why do you think the author wrote this document?



  1. What is the tone and the mood of the document?


  1. Why is this document important in relation to the event being discussed?




10.  What is your overall impression of the document?




Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • This assignment is assessed by the depth of detail in the Primary Analysis Worksheets and by the ability of students to write a one-two paragraph essay using evidence from the primary sources. This would be a guided practice activity to teach students how to use primary documents. Final assessment would take place on a unit or semester exam.