Letter to Truman Directions

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Letter to Truman
Directions: Your assignment is to write a persuasive letter to President Truman convincing him to act quickly and drop the atomic bomb on Japan or convince him why the bomb should not be used and that he needs to proceed with another course of action to end the war. You will be writing the letter as though you are a member of Truman’s cabinet; therefore, you are very knowledgeable and passionate about the issue.
Remember to use the information from the primary source documents, “A Warning to Japan Urging Surrender,” and “White House Press Release Announcing the Bombing of Hiroshima” as well as the pros and cons below.
Requirements: The letter must be written as a three paragraph essay with an Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Remember to address the letter to President Truman and to sign it. Include at least three reasons/beliefs to support your position.


Pros and Cons: On Dropping the Atomic Bomb
Why the bomb was needed or justified:

  • The Japanese had demonstrated extreme resistance, fighting to almost the last man on Pacific Islands, committing mass suicide on Saipan and unleashing kamikaze attacks on Okinawa. Only the atomic bomb could jolt Japan’s leadership to surrender.

  • With only two bombs ready (and a third on the way by late August 1945) it was too risky to “waste” one in a demonstration over an unpopulated area.

  • An invasion of Japan would have caused casualties on both sides that could easily have exceeded the death toll at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • The two targeted cities would have been firebombed anyway.

  • Immediate use of the bomb convinced the world of its horror and prevented future use when nuclear stockpiles were far larger.

  • The bomb’s use impressed the Soviet Union and halted the war quickly enough that the USSR did not demand joint occupation of Japan.

Why the bomb was not needed, or unjustified:

  • Japan was ready to call it quits anyway. More than 60 of its cities has been destroyed by bombing, the home islands were being blockaded by the American Navy, and the Soviet Union entered the war by attacking Japanese troops in Manchuria.

  • American refusal to modify its “unconditional surrender” demand to allow the Japanese to keep their emperor needlessly prolonged Japanese resistance.

  • A demonstration explosion over Tokyo harbor would have convinced Japan’s leaders to quit without killing many people.

  • Even if Hiroshima was necessary, the U.S. did not give enough time for word to filter out of its devastation before bombing Nagasaki.

  • The bomb was used partly to justify the $2 billion spent on its development.

  • The two cities were of limited military value. Civilians outnumbered troops in Hiroshima 5 to 1.

  • Japanese lives were sacrificed simply for power politics between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

  • Conventional firebombing would have caused as much significant damage without making the U.S. the first nation to use nuclear weapons.

Copyright, 1995, Bill Dietrich, the Seattle Times.

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