Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb

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McKenna: World History

Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb

Short Essay Assignment
Name: _________________________________________ Total Points: 30 points

Vice-President Harry S. Truman became president of the United States after President

Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April, 1945. Shortly after becoming president, Truman was faced with one of the most difficult decisions of his life: whether or not he should use the newly invented atomic bomb against Japan in an effort to save American lives and end World War II.
Scientists told President Truman that approximately 20,000 Japanese would die and many homes and factories would be destroyed if he used the atomic bomb. In reality the first atomic bomb killed 80,000 - 100,000 people and destroyed five square miles in Hiroshima. Three days later, the second atomic bomb killed 40,000 people in Nagasaki. Thousand more died later as a result of injuries and from exposure to radiation.

Was the atomic bomb a necessary evil? Use the chart below to analyze the pros and cons. Then, in a short essay (3 paragraphs), explain what you would have decided and why. Specifically, answer this question: If you had been the President of the United States during WWII, what would you have decided and why?

Option 1: Use the atomic bomb

Option 2: Don’t use the atomic bomb


It would probably end the war with Japan and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers.

Thousands of innocent Japanese civilians would not be killed.


It would mean the death of thousands of innocent civilians. It would do extensive damage to the city of Hiroshima.

The American military would have to invade Japan. About 500,000 American soldiers would probably die in this attack. Even more Japanese civilians and soldiers would also die.


Seattle Times staff reporter

†Historians are still divided over whether it was necessary to drop the atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II. Here is a summary of arguments on both sides:

Why the bomb was needed or justified:

  • The Japanese had demonstrated near-fanatical resistance, fighting to almost the last man on Pacific islands, committing mass suicide on Saipan and unleashing kamikaze attacks at Okinawa. Fire bombing had killed 100,000 in Tokyo with no discernible political effect. Only the atomic bomb could jolt Japan's leadership to surrender.

  • With only two bombs ready (and a third on the way by late August 1945) it was too risky to "waste" one in a demonstration over an unpopulated area.

  • An invasion of Japan would have caused casualties on both sides that could easily have exceeded the toll at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • The two targeted cities would have been firebombed anyway.

  • Immediate use of the bomb convinced the world of its horror and prevented future use when nuclear stockpiles were far larger.

  • The bomb's use impressed the Soviet Union and halted the war quickly enough that the USSR did not demand joint occupation of Japan.

Why the bomb was not needed, or unjustified:

  • Japan was ready to call it quits anyway. More than 60 of its cities had been destroyed by conventional bombing, the home islands were being blockaded by the American Navy, and the Soviet Union entered the war by attacking Japanese troops in Manchuria.

  • American refusal to modify its "unconditional surrender" demand to allow the Japanese to keep their emperor needlessly prolonged Japan's resistance.

  • A demonstration explosion over Tokyo harbor would have convinced Japan's leaders to quit without killing many people.

  • Even if Hiroshima was necessary, the U.S. did not give enough time for word to filter out of its devastation before bombing Nagasaki.

  • The bomb was used partly to justify the $2 billion spent on its development.

  • The two cities were of limited military value. Civilians outnumbered troops in Hiroshima five or six to one.

  • Japanese lives were sacrificed simply for power politics between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

  • Conventional firebombing would have caused as much significant damage without making the U.S. the first nation to use nuclear weapons.

GRADING RUBRIC: Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb Short Essay

Grading Criteria


(8-10 points)


(5-7 points)


(2-4 points)

Unacceptable (0-1 points)


Fully answers the question and provides substantial supporting details for decision

Answers questions and provides some supporting details for decision

Answers question with little to no supporting details for decision

Does not answer question and does not provide supporting details


Essay is very clearly organized into paragraphs; information flows in a logical sequence; transition words are used effectively; introduction and conclusion are strong

Essay is generally organized into paragraphs; appropriate transition words are used; appropriate introduction and conclusion are provided

Organization of essay is often unclear; transition words are not appropriately used; introduction and/or conclusion is minimal or inappropriate

Organization of essay is mostly unclear; transition words are not used; introduction or conclusion is missing


Flawless spelling, punctuation, and grammar

Some minor spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistakes that do not affect the reader’s ability to understand the author’s purpose

Careless spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistakes that somewhat affect the reader’s ability to understand the author’s purpose

Significant spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistakes that seriously affect the reader’s ability to understand the author’s purpose

______________ / 30 total points

*This is just a sample outline. You can use this template or create your own outline. I highly recommend you jotting down some notes before you begin writing your essay.
*Don’t forget to see me for extra help if you are having trouble. You can find me in Trailer 11 during 3rd, 6th, and 7th periods or in A373 during 4th and 5th periods. If you would like to work after school, please see me to schedule a time/place.
Paragraph #1: Introduction
The atomic bomb is (in your own words, describe what it is, what it could be used for, why it is dangerous, etc.)________________________________________________
In 1945, United States President, Harry S. Truman, had to decide whether to use the newly created atomic bombs against Japan in an effort to end World War II. Had I been the President of the United States at that time, I would have decided _________________
because _________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________ (this should simply be a statement of why you would make that decision).

Paragraph #2: Body (Supporting Details/Evidence)
This paragraph should repeat WHAT decision you would make and WHY, providing supporting evidence to make your argument. Explain why your decision would be the best alternative for ending World War II. Be sure to use complete sentences and support your decision with evidence from class discussions, the class textbook, and the articles.
Paragraph #3: Conclusion
Conclude your essay with summary remarks.

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