Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Ending the War in Japan: Evaluating the options available to Truman
Author:
Mark Adams
Course:
US History
Time Frame:
1-2 class periods
Subjects:
Atomic Bomb
,
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Using the primary sources provided, students will work in groups to evaluate four options available to President Truman to end the war in Japan and to end the Second World War.

Rationale:

To have students engage in deliberative thinking and fully examine various options available to Truman. Rather than a black/white; yes/no on dropping the atomic bomb, students will examine four options in depth

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


KS Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies (adopted April 2013):

  • Standard 1, Benchmark 2: The student will analyze the context under which choices are made and draw conclusions about the motivations and goals of the decision-makers.
  • Standard 3, Benchmark 1: The student will recognize and evaluate significant beliefs, contributions, and ideas of the many diverse peoples and groups and their impact on individuals, communities, states, and nations.

 

Best Practices & Literacy Expectations:

  • The use of primary sources - Interpret a variety of primary sources in traditional and digital formats provides the opportunity for students to recognize the discipline’s subjective nature, directly touch the lives of people in the past, and develop high level analytical skills.
  • Higher order thinking - Grappling with content knowledge beyond remembering and understanding, to applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
  • Literacy within the Social Studies - Reading, comprehending, analyzing, and interpreting complex texts and media from various social studies disciplines.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.

 

 

In groups have students consider together the four options available to Truman. Have them write down on the worksheet the advantages and drawbacks of each option – even if they don’t agree with it. Have them consider all advantages and disadvantages

 

Prompt more responses with questions such as “what would the rest of the world think about this option”? “what would the Japanese think of this option”? and “what would the American public think about this option”?

 

Ensure students give equal weight to each of the four options

 

Have each group report back on their completed worksheet.

 

Assignment:

 

Have students individually write a position paper as if they were president. Which of the four options would they have chosen and why? Students must use both secondary and primary sources to back up their argument

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

For the individual paper use this template scoring rubric http://uncw.edu/cas/documents/Elaboratedcompetencies3.pdf

 

Teacher can assign points to each category as they see fit

 

Other points can be assigned for participation in the group discussion.

 

 

 

President Truman had four options: 

  1. Continue conventional bombing of Japanese cities
  2. Land invasion of Japan
  3. Demonstrate the bomb on an unpopulated island
  4. Drop the bomb on an inhabited Japanese city

Continue conventional bombing

Land Invasion of Japan

Demonstrate bomb on an unpopulated island

Drop the bomb on an inhabited Japanese city

Advantages

Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed chart (teacher can add more answers, these are just a starting point)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue conventional bombing

Land Invasion of Japan

Demonstrate bomb on an unpopulated island

Drop the bomb on an inhabited Japanese city

Advantages

Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

Safe approach

War would carry on

Eventual surrender by mid-1946 if all went well

War would carry on

Might cause Japan to surrender

Japanese move US POWS into area

Save US lives

Huge loss of Japanese lives

Possibility of a negotiated peace

More casualties (80,000 killed in Tokyo attack in one day)

Not as many casualties as Atomic Bomb

More casualties on both sides

Radiation (largely not understood at time)

Might not work – dependent on parachute and timer

End war quickly

Radiation (largely not understood at time)

More humane approach

Worry of stalemate

Radiation (largely not understood at time)

Worry of stalemate

 

At the time only two A-bombs existed

Japanese surrender likely

US lose moral high ground

 

American public opinion turning against war

 

American public opinion turning against war

 

Still unlikely to surrender

Revenge for Pearl Harbor

Seen as aggressor

 

No chance of surrender

 

Build-up of Japanese defenses was larger than thought

 

Threat to bomber crews

 

 

 

 

 

Secret intelligence revealed large Japanese defenses

 

Who would witness and how reliable would their testimony be?