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In February 1999, a survey was released by Newseum, an Arlington, Virginia-based interactive news museum, which showed that U.S. journalists and historians ranked the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 as the most significant news event of the century. In December 1999, a public survey (36,151 votes were recorded) was released by Newseum and USAWeekend magazine showing that Americans agreed that the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 was the "Story of the Century." In Japan, the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (August 6th) and Nagasaki (August 9th) draw national attention and thousands attend special annual commemorative ceremonies. The anniversaries are covered every year in national and local newspapers as well as on television news channels. Since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many people have debated whether it was "right" or "wrong,""justified" or "unjustified," "necessary" or "unnecessary." However, few people would deny the significance of the events.
This module seeks to have students analyze both U.S. and Japanese perspectives of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Students are asked to draw evidence from activities that introduce these multiple perspectives in order to analyze the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan within its historical context.
This module is recommended as a supplement to textbook coverage of the war in the Pacific and of specifically the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Summary of activities
This curriculum module first engages students in an activity that has students examine U.S. textbook coverage of the atomic bombing; this activity is followed by a class analysis of polls conducted in the United States and Japan regarding the atomic bombing. Eight small-group activities can then be utilized with the class. Teachers may choose to engage students in one or more of these activities. Whole-class activities are offered as well and focus on legacies of the atomic bombing. The following is a brief summary of the small-group and the whole-class activities contained in this module.
Activity #1: Students read, compare, and contrast U.S. and Japanese textbook coverage of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Activity #2: Students read and discuss literary perspectives on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Activity #3: Students compare and contrast a Japanese physician's and a U.S. physician's perspectives. Excerpts from their diaries and memoirs, which they kept following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, are utilized.
Activity #4: Students examine perspectives from American survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Activity #5: Students learn about non-Japanese victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Korean perspectives are presented.
Activity #6: Students examine and discuss excerpts from Japanese and U.S. comic books that focus on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Activity #7: Students analyze U.S. and Japanese poetry on the atomic bombings.
Activity #8: Students analyze U.S. and Japanese commemorative stamps of the atomic bombings.
Whole-Class Activities: Students analyze the legacies of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima today. The focus is on the following topics:
The following reflect goals for the curriculum module as a whole. In this curriculum module, students will: