Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Impact of Atomic Bomb Test on New Mexico
Juan Armijo
US History
Time Frame:
1 to 2 class periods
Atomic Bomb
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will review primary source documents, secondary resources and related news articles and current events relating to the events and impact of the test of the atomic bomb at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on July 16, 1945.  Students will then discuss in groups of 4 to 5 the essential question presented. As an alternative students can review and discuss the materials and then write a short free response to the essential question.


Essential Question:

Does the federal government bear responsibility for the health and social impact of the atomic bomb test on New Mexicans?

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

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence.


New Mexico 9-12 Social Studies Benchmark 1-B #5-c
Analyze the role of the United States in World War II, to include: major turning points in the war.

New Mexico 9-12 Social Studies Benchmark 1-A #3 and #4
3. Analyze the role and impact of New Mexico and New Mexicans in World War II (e.g., Navajo code talkers, New Mexico national guard, internment camps, Manhattan project, Bataan death march); 4. Analyze the impact of the arts, sciences and technology of New Mexico since World War II (e.g., artists, cultural artifacts, nuclear weapons, the arms race, technological advances, scientific developments, high-tech industries, federal laboratories)

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


(Albuquerque Journal,  April 3, 2015) news article on planned protest at Trinity Site by the Tularosa Basin Downwinders.


(KRQE, April 4, 2015) report and historical video clip on planned protests at the semi-annual public opening of Trinity Site by the US Army at White Sands Missile Range.


(KOB, March 30, 2015) report on the studies relating to cancer and contamination of residents in New Mexico during the testing of the Atomic Bomb.


(Vimeo, July 2, 2015) video produced by Tularosa Downwinders claiming that the atomic test site is still causing cancer in New Mexico.


(United States Senate, July 30, 2015) statement by US Senator Tom Udall D-New Mexico calling for a study and compensation for victims of atomic testing.


(CBS News, July 16, 1945) news report detailing the health impact seventy years later of the atomic bomb test in New Mexico.


(WSJ, September 15, 2014) article reporting on U.S. studying for the first time the health and cancer fallout from the atomic bomb test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945.

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

July 18, 1945 Memorandum to the Secretary of War  Henry Stimson from Major General Henry Groves describing in detail the atomic bomb test in New Mexico.

Source:  Truman Presidential Library Digital Archives
Leslie. R. Groves to Henry Stimson, July 18, 1945. Research Material, Lamont Papers.



April 24, 1945 Memorandum to President Truman from Secretary of War Henry Stimson relating to the Manhattan Project.

Source: Truman Presidential Library Digital Archives
Henry Stimson to Harry S. Truman, April 24, 1945. Confidential File, Truman Papers.



July 30, 1945 Draft Statement on the Atomic Bomb by President Truman.

Source: Truman Presidential Library Digital Archives
Draft statement on the dropping of the bomb, July 30, 1945. President's Secretary's File, Truman Papers.

Full description of activity or assignment.

The primary focus of this lesson should be to answer the essential question.  Students guided by the teacher will review the primary documents relating to the atomic bomb test and the relevant articles relating to issues today relating to the atomic bomb test.  Students will develop a position as to whether or not the federal government is responsible for health costs and damages to those impacted by the atomic bomb test in New Mexico or if the effects are put of one’s duty and sacrifice during wartime.  In particular primary sources emphasize that there was no impact on those researching, developing and present during testing of the atomic bomb.

After reviewing and discussing supporting materials the teacher can decided if students will discuss the essential question in small groups or as individuals in a written free-response format.

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

A teacher-developed rubric should be used depending on what method of student learning and instruction is used.  Rubric should keep in mind answering the essential question and citing either in discussion or writing the information found in primary and secondary sources on either a point or check mark completion system.