On the eve of World War II, scientists in Germany succeeded in splitting the nucleus of a uranium atom, releasing a huge amount of energy. Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt and warned him that Nazi Germany might be working to develop atomic weapons.
FDR responded by giving his approval for an American program, later code-named the Manhattan Project, to develop the ultimate weapon: the atomic bomb. Harry Truman only learned of the new bomb’s existence when he became president.
The first atomic bomb was exploded in a desert in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. President Truman then warned the Japanese. He told them that unless they surrendered, they could expect a “rain of ruin from the air.”
The Japanese did not reply. So, on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a Japanese city of 365,000 people. Almost 73,000 people died in the attack. Three days later, on August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, a city of 200,000. It killed about 37,500 people. Radiation killed many more. The Japanese formally surrendered on September 2.
The overwhelming destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, and of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later, changed the nature of war forever. Nuclear destruction also led to questions about the ethics of scientists and politicians who chose to use the bomb.
You will research the events surrounding the development and use of the atomic bomb.
You will consider the arguments in favor of and against President Truman’s decision to drop the bomb.
You will write a 5 paragraph essay in which you answer the question, Was It Necessary to Drop the Atomic Bomb to End World War II?
The body paragraphs of your essay should analyze both sides of the debate. However, in the final analysis, you must come down on one side or the other.
We will conduct research in the media center and develop outlines in class.
This essay will be worth 50 points (10 points per paragraph).
During research, you should organize the arguments using a “T” chart for pro and con positions:
Things to consider when drawing your conclusion:
● Morality of using such a weapon
● Death of innocent civilians
● Lives of American soldiers
● Willingness of Japan to surrender
● Dawn of the nuclear age
● Goal of ending the war
●Terms of surrender
● Less devastating alternatives
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