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Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein was regarded as the most brilliant physicist of his time As a German Jew he immigrated to the U.S. after the Nazis took away his citizenship and seized his property.

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albert einstein
Albert Einstein
  • Albert Einstein was regarded as the most brilliant physicist of his time
  • As a German Jew he immigrated to the U.S. after the Nazis took away his citizenship and seized his property

Through his connections in the German science community, he had knowledge that Hitler was intrigued with the idea of developing an atomic bomb

  • As a result, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, urging him to develop the bomb first.

After considering what Einstein recommended, Roosevelt was persuaded that if the bomb could be built, the U.S. should be the first nation to build it

  • The development of the Atomic bomb started in May 1942, 6 months after the U.S. entered the war and was code-named The Manhattan Project.
  • Roosevelt hoped to beat the Germans in developing the weapon

The first atomic bomb was exploded in a remote desert in New Mexico

  • Scientists and others who watched from 5 miles away were staggered at its devastating effects
  • It is the most powerful weapon in the U.S. arsenal to date
assignment 1
Assignment 1
  • Read the excerpt from a letter written by Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt in August 1939.
  • One presenter from each group will discuss the following question in front of the class:
    • If you were the president and received this letter, what would you do? What risks would there be in trying to develop such a weapon? In retrospect, why do you think President Roosevelt decided to develop the atomic bomb?

The Manhattan Project was so secret that when Truman took over, he didn’t even know about it.

  • He later said, “I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used. The atomic bomb was no great decision, not any decision you had to worry about.”

Many in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations felt that the prospect of using the bomb was no more inhumane than the massive fire bombing raids that had taken place over Germany and Tokyo.

  • The raid on Tokyo in March of 1945 did more damage and caused more casualties than the atom bomb in Hiroshima

According to the Truman administration, the Japanese could be persuaded to end the war only by shocking and dramatic evidence that resistance was foolish, and that the U.S. had the power to destroy Japan completely.

  • The atom bomb would cause the necessary shock.
  • If not utilized, there was the danger that the Japanese would continue to fight, making necessary a bloody invasion of Japan.
truman administration estimation if the united states invaded japan
Truman Administration Estimation if the United States invaded Japan
  • It was estimated that over 1/2 million U.S. soldiers would have died
  • Even more Japanese would have died
    • 160,000 soldiers had died in 3 monthsat Okinawa
assignment 2
Assignment 2
  • Read the excerpt of a speech Truman gave to Congress after the atomic bomb was dropped.
  • One presenter from each group will discuss the following question in front of the class:
    • Given Truman’s statement, what were the officially stated reasons for dropping the atomic bomb? What were the alternatives to dropping the bomb? What other, unstated reasons might there be for dropping the bomb?

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima

  • 3 days later, the U.S. dropped another on Nagasaki
  • Japan surrendered on August 10, 1945
devastation of atom bomb in hiroshima
Devastation of Atom Bomb (in Hiroshima)

60% of city instantly destroyed

Ground temperature: 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit

(Boiling water temperature is 212 degrees)

  • Wind velocity: 980 mph (hurricane-force)

20,000 tons of TNT

62,000 buildings destroyed


The devastating effects of the atomic bombs on humans were shocking.

    • Of the 320,000 civilians and soldiers in Hiroshima, some 80,000 according to American figures were killed instantly or severely wounded
    • Moreover, many survivors suffered from short- and long-term radiation poisoning

When the bomb on Hiroshima was dropped, the flash heat started fires a mile away.

    • Stone walls, steel doors and asphalt pavement glowed red hot
    • The heat burned the black lettering from books and newspapers and fused clothing to skin
    • More than a mile from the epicenter, men had their caps etched onto their scalps, women with their kimono patterns imprinted on their bodies, and children with their socks burned onto their legs
“We couldn't get our bearings because all the familiar landmarks had disappeared.

And when we ran through the roads between houses still burning on both sides, the scorching heat nearly overwhelmed us.

I didn't see any living creatures or green plants.   We ran and ran through these empty spaces.

Then suddenly I stopped.

Something was coming toward me.   It was a man but he didn't look like a man.   He had no hair, his face was swollen to about twice the normal size, and loose skin hung down from his arms and legs like seaweed.

He was walking towards me and I was so scared I tried to avoid him.

I heard him saying 'Water, water' as he passed me.

So I turned around to go to him but he had collapsed, dead. “

“All around me was truly a living hell. The people didn't look like human beings. They were naked, their hair was singed and their skin was peeling off. I saw a person on the ground without a head. People's intestines were spilling out of their bodies. People were dying right in front of me. They were screaming, 'Give me water!' People were jumping into the river."

The Hiroshima blast leveled the city.

    • At Shima Clinic, for example, the stone columns were rammed straight down into the ground. The entire building collapsed and the occupants were vaporized
    • 62,000 out of 90,000 buildings were destroyed
    • All utilities and transportation services were wrecked
controversy after the war
Controversy after the War

Right Decision

Wrong Decision

The Truman administration’s explanation for dropping the bomb was not accepted by everyone

Critics of the decision say Japan was already prepared to negotiate an end to the war, so dropping the bomb was not necessary

Critics note that in the immediate aftermath, Truman stated that it saved “thousands” of lives and through the years, it became “over a million”

They suggest that Japan was already prepared to negotiate an end to the war

They also cite evidence that Japanese diplomats in Europe let it be known that Japan was interested in ended the war.

  • Most in the Truman administration defended his decision.
  • They argued that using the bomb saved American lives and ended the war quickly
  • The Japanese created the situation that led to forcing us to drop the atomic bomb by attacking us at Pearl Harbor
  • The American government estimated that if an invasion of Japan had been necessary to end the war, the fighting would have resulted in over a million casualties.
  • They believed that the ferociousness of the Japanese military could only be subdued by something very dramatic
  • It was learned after the war, that the Japanese Cabinet was greatly divided on the question of surrender.
Right Decision

Wrong Decision

“My own feeling was that in being first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.”

- Said in 1950 by Admiral William Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt

“My chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise…I believe that no man holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face.” - Henry L. Stimson, Truman’s Secretary of War

Right Decision

Wrong Decision

Other critics suggest the bomb could have been exploded on some uninhabited target in full view of the Japanese, so they could see its terrible, devastating effect.

They could have been warned that if they did not surrender the bomb would be used on one of their cities.

It is immoral to drop a radioactive bomb on a civilian population

  • Defenders of the Truman administration say that such a demonstration may not have convinced the Japanese to surrender
    • or worse, the bomb may not have exploded at all and thus made the U.S. appear incompetent and weak.
dropping the second bomb
Dropping the Second Bomb

Right Decision

Wrong Decision

Many criticize the U.S. for so quickly dropping the second bomb on Nagasaki

They argue that there was hardly enough time for the Japanese to evaluate the damage at Hiroshima and decide what to do

  • Japan did not immediately and unconditionally surrender
    • The Japanese wanted to negotiate surrender terms
ulterior motive
Ulterior Motive?
  • Some argue that the U.S. had a compelling ulterior motive for dropping the bombs on Japan.
  • They pointed out that it was hoped that the war with Japan could be ended without the aid of the Soviets, who would then have the right to claim some land in the peace settlement.
  • Truman was already concerned with trying to stop Soviet domination in Eastern Europe.
  • Historian Gar Alperovitz argues, therefore, that the bombs were dropped not so much for their effect on Japan, but for their impact on the Soviet Union.
    • They were used, he argues, primarily to demonstrate the American military strength to the Soviet Union and to dissuade them from aggressive acts in the postwar world.
assignment 3
Assignment 3
  • On presenter from each group will present their argument for the decision about dropping the bomb.
  • There were several options available to Truman to end the war with Japan: 1) intensifying the already heavy bombing of Japanese cities; 2) waiting for the Soviet Union, an ally in defeating Germany, to join the war against Japan; 3) allowing Japan's emperor, Hirohito, to remain on his throne (negotiated terms of surrender); 4) invading Japan; 5) warn Japan (either by dropping bomb in uninhabited area or in written/stated explanation; 6) drop the atomic bomb
  • Using the notes from this PowerPoint as well as the scholarly opposing arguments you will give your opinion about what the United States should have done. You will pick one of the 5 options as the best option and explain why giving 5 pieces of evidence to support your answer and which one of the 5 options is the worst option, again giving 5 pieces of evidence to support your answer.
evaluating the atomic bomb decision
Evaluating the Atomic Bomb Decision
  • This will go in your Homework Packet
  • Write a 1 page evaluation that answers the following question:
    • Did the United States make the appropriate decision by dropping the atomic bombs on Japan? Explain.