Debating the Decision to
Drop the Atomic Bomb
A group debate activity.
Essential Questions
Unit Focus:
When should
the United
States go to
war?
Unit Focus:
What is
required to
achieve
victory in
war?
Unit Focus:
How did
America
become a
superpower?
Activity
Focus: Should
the United
States use the
atomic bomb
to end World
War II?
Unit Focus:
What is the
proper role of
the government
in people’s lives?
Unit Focus: Did
America’s
involvement in
World War II and
the Cold War move
it closer or further
away from its
founding ideals?
GOAL
Can you explain 3
claims for your
viewpoint about
the atomic bomb?
Directions
1.
2.
3.
4.
Go over the debate topics.
Break into groups.
Assign debate topic and point of view.
Research the topic and fill in their
debate organizer.
5. Create an introductory paragraph that
presents a debate thesis and
introduces three claims.
Topics to Debate
 Should the United States build an
atomic bomb?
 Should the United States drop an
atomic bomb on Japan?
 Should the United States drop a second
bomb on Japan?
 Did the United States make the correct
decision about dropping the bomb?
Debate Preparation
1. Class is broken into 2 groups.

Pro and anti bomb.
2. Students are assigned a topic to represent.
1.
2.
3.
4.
Should the United States build an atomic bomb?
Should the United States drop an atomic bomb on Japan?
Should the United States drop a second bomb on Japan?
Did the United States make the correct decision about
dropping the bomb?
3. Read and highlight/underline the handout.
4. In your notebook, write notes about your topic using
information from the textbook and handout.
5. Fill out the debate organizer using the textbook, the
handout, and extend your research into other sources.
6. Look at rubric to see how the debate is scored.
Debate Steps






First Speaker, Proposition Team 2 minutes
First Speaker, Opposition Team 2 minutes
Second Speaker, Proposition Team 2 minutes
Second Speaker, Opposition Team 2 minutes
Rebuttal Speaker, Opposition Team 1 minute
Rebuttal Speaker, Proposition Team 1 minute
Opposition Rebuttal
 Summary speech for your team.
 Focus on the 2-4 critical claims your
team made.
 Do not start new arguments.
Proposition Rebuttal
 Summarize the entire debate.
 Answer the critical claims brought up
in the Opposition Rebuttal.
 Do not start new arguments.
Debate Terms
 Claim- The argument you are making.
 Counterclaim- The argument your opponent is
making or the point you are trying to disprove.
 Point of information- A request by a member
of one team to a person who is speaking to
give some of her time to the other team to
make a comment or ask a question about her
speech.
 Heckling- An interruption of a speaker during
her presentation.
Points of Information





Also known as POI (pronounced “P-O-I”)
May be accepted or rejected
May not last longer than 15 seconds
Accept only 1 point at a time
Person making a POI may not
 Interrupt the speaker’s answer to the point
 Make a two-part question
 Ask a follow-up question
Heckle
 Encouraged heckling
 Applaud teammates and opponents after
their speeches
 Done by:
 Pounding on a desktop with an open palm
 Slapping one’s hand 3-4 times
 When to:
 Supporting a partner’s particularly clever or
winning argument
 May add a shout of “Hear! Hear!” to the
pounding
 Disagree with an opponent
 Shout “Shame!” but do not pound on the table
Heckle
 Illegal heckling
 Disrupting the debate in any other manner
than those listed on the slide above
 May result in losing points for your debate
even if you are not currently debating.
President
Harry
Truman
 Only recently
learned the
existence of the
atomic bomb
program
Japanese
conduct
 Has been brutal
throughout the war.
 slaughtered civilians,
 bombed cities,
 tortured prisoners-often
working them to death.
 May have caused more
deaths during the war
than the Nazis
 May have killed over 17
million people.
 Sneak attack on Pearl
Harbor
Battles against the Japanese
 Resulted in
horrendous casualties
on both sides:
 Iwo Jima
 22,000 Japanese
soldiers
 only about 1000
survived
 Okinawa
 100,000 Japanese
soldiers
 along with about
150,000 civilians
 only 7000 surrendered;
Military situation
 War has drastically
weakened Japan
 Japanese navy
essentially been
destroyed.
 Bombing destroyed
many cities,
railroads, and
factories.
Operation Olympic
 Invasion plan of
Japanese homeland
 Scheduled for November
1st..
 Some advise to
blockade the islands and
continue bombing until
surrender.
 U.S. bombs Japanese
cities on a regular basis
 almost every major
Japanese city hit.
 firebombing of Tokyo in
March killed over 100,000
people.
U.S. intercepted messages
between Japan and Russia
 Show Japanese want to
surrender with
conditions
 U.S. pursued a policy to
surrender
unconditionally.
 Russians have promised
the U.S. that they will
attack Japan on August
15th.
Japan’s Supreme War Council
 Decision-making body,
 Hopes to achieve one last major victory before it
negotiating seriously with the U.S.
 Ketsugo - military plan
 use remaining strength to defend their islands and inflict
heavy casualties
 Think U.S. will have to agree to give better surrender terms
Stalin favors
unconditional
surrender
 Wants to crush Japan
completely.
 Expects the victorious
nations to partition and
oversee Japan
 Include a Russian zone
of occupation
 Similar to Germany
American public opinion
 Favors continually
bombing Japan
 90% of Americans want
Japan's unconditional
surrender
 One-third of Americans
favor executing the
emperor
 Almost all other
Americans want him
removed from power
after the war
Atomic bomb
 Successful test on an
atomic bomb in the
New Mexico desert.
 A single atomic bomb
can destroy a whole
city
Potsdam Declaration
 July 26th, Truman issued the Postdam
Declaration
 U.S. threatened the Japanese with utter
destruction.
 Japanese could not return their emperor.
Interim Committee
 Recommendation
 Bomb should be
used against Japan
as soon as possible
 against a war plant
surrounded by
workers' homes,
 without prior
warning.
Other options
 Some military leaders predict 175,000
American casualties if the U.S. invades Kyushu
 Two other military strategies available:
 blockade has become extremely effective:
 Japan can import almost nothing
 bombing campaign has weakened Japan.
 report on the effectiveness of conventional bombing
 concentrate all of its bombing on railroads, bridges,
and ferries,
 Starvation will become widespread throughout the
country
Truman takes advice of
Interim Committee
 Use of the atomic bomb against
a military target,
 factory surrounded by workers'
houses.
 U.S. planes dropped the bomb
on the city of Hiroshima on
August 6th, killing about
100,000 people.
 The Japanese government did not
respond.
 Russians are about to declare war
and attack Japanese forces in
Manchuria.
The U.S. military plans
second atomic bomb on
another Japanese city.
 Truman did not
interfere with plans for
the second bombing
 U.S. planes dropped
the bomb on Nagasaki
on August 9th.
 President Truman
ordered the military
not to use atomic
bombs without his
specific authorization.
Fighting ends
 August 14th
 September 2nd the U.S. accepted the
formal surrender of Japan.
 Historical perspectives on Truman's
decision: Truman's decision to drop the
atomic bombs on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki remains controversial.