Atomic anniversaries

This week marks the 61st anniversaries of the U.S. dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9).

This is the only event that occasionally causes me to wish for school in early August. Marking the anniversaries in a U.S. history class could be a useful exercise. Texas’ TEKS require students to know a bit about President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, and especially his reasoning behind the decision. To get there in an orderly fashion, and to keep kids captivated by this most interesting part of recent history, I think a class needs to lay the background with the end of the war in Europe (especially D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge) with troops hoping to go home to the U.S. and being diverted to the Pacific, the background of the U.S.’s “island-hopping” strategy, especially the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the carnage that was required to take the islands, and the background of the Manhattan Project, from Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt through the secret cities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico, the Trinity Project at White Sands, the training of the bombers at Wells Wendover, Nevada, and the World War I service of Harry Truman himself. It’s a fascinating history that, the Texas tests show and my classroom experience confirms, students know very little about.

As with the misinformation on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which I reported earlier today, this history of atom bombs informs us of policy choices available and necessary in our current dealings with North Korea, Iran, Ukraine and Russia, among other nations.

Japanese foundations sponsor trips to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for U.S. reporters, and there used to be one for high school teachers, too. It’s a history I lived with for a decade trying to get a compensation bill for downwind victims of fallout from our atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada. I wish more people knew the stories.

5 Responses to Atomic anniversaries

  1. […] August 6th, 2007 America pulled the nuclear trigger first, lest we forget. On August 6, 1945, sixty years ago today, the mushroom cloud under which everyone on earth since that day has lived, first rose. Personally, I think that it is truly the day above all days that lives in infamy, but I know there other opinions and that’s not what I’m here to write about anyway. If you’d like to know more about the specifics, here’s a thorough and interesting link to historical information about this event:       Atomic Anniversaries. […]


  2. barryweber says:

    Great post..I’m linking to it in a little personal commentary about Hiroshima..


  3. […] Please see my post of last year — the links all still work, and they provide significant resources for teachers and students to understand the events. […]


  4. elbogz says:

    During my college years at the University of Wyoming, I had 2 professors that had worked on the Manhattan project. One was in the engineering college and the other was a chemistry professor. It was clear that this experience had a profound effect on both of their lives.

    One professor who was often referred to as “Crazy John” taught Engineering Dynamics. He came into class one day with a suitcase which contained a model of a thermo-nuclear bomb. (hmm, I wonder if I just got your website tagged by the FBI for saying that?) Anyways, he went onto a demonstration of how it would work, and concluded by saying “AND THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD REALLY BE OPPOSED TO NUCLEAR WEAPONS”

    He spent the rest of his life trying to educate people on his beliefs.

    The chemistry professor, was asked about it one day in class and he gave the class a long hard look, and then just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Long Story”

    I suppose I still think about the simplicity of Dr. Hill’s model. Keep in mind you had to have a nuclear power plant to make some of the components, still, it always struck me as why there hasn’t been one yet.


  5. […] Also see this post, Atomic Anniversaries. Explore posts in the same categories: General, History, World War II, Textbooks, Textbook Selection, Atomic Bomb […]


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