Sol/pos/Objective: sol usii. 1 a, b, d, I

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Part Three: Section B

The Enola Gay Controversy

Problem Based Learning

Rocky Run Middle School

SOL USII.1 a, b, d, i

The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis, and responsible citizenship, including the ability to:

a. analyze and interpret primary and secondary source documents to increase

understanding of events and life in the United States history from 1865 to the present;

b. make connections between past and present;

d. interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives;

i. identify the costs and benefits of specific choices made including the consequences,

both intended and unintended, of the decision and how people and nations responded to

positive and negative incentives.
SOL USII.7b: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the major causes and effects of American involvement in World War II (FCPS POS Benchmark 7.1.14)
SOL USII.8a: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the economic, social, and political transformation of the United States and the world between the end of World War II and the present by describing the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after World War II, the emergence of the United States as a superpower, and the establishment of the United Nations. (FCPS POS Benchmark 7.1.15)

Essential Questions:

Why are the Enola Gay and the decision to drop the atomic bomb controversial?

How are the Enola Gay and the United Nations connected in American history?
Objective: Students will collaborate in teams of 4 to advise a politician about the proper course of action to a problem surrounding a controversial event, taking into consideration consequences and reactions to their decision.
Students should:


  • The Enola Gay is the airplane to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945.

  • The Japanese surrendered after a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II.

  • Truman’s decision to drop the bomb was based on the belief that it would save the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and Japanese.

  • Why the United Nations was created.


  • Why the Enola Gay display is controversial.

  • Understand the mission of the United Nations.

  • Why some groups would be more opposed to the Enola Gay display than others.

  • Why the proximity of the Enola Gay to the United Nations building would create opposition.

  • Compromise involved in settling disputes.

Be Able to:

  • Identify the cost-benefit(s), consequence(s) and reaction(s) to decisions and choices surrounding controversial issues.

  • Understand the importance of the Enola Gay and the interest it would spark.

  • Work collaboratively to come to a consensus with an appropriate solution.

  • Communicate advice and solutions to the problem posed.


Problem Engagement:
Warm Up:

Ask the students to respond to the following string of questions.

  • What was your most recent conflict? With whom? How did it end?

  • How does conflict or controversy arise?

  • How does a group of people solve problems when there are multiple interests involved?

  • Does compromise affect stakeholders differently (a stakeholder is a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry).

Tell the students they will be solving a problem in collaborative teams of 4. Let the students know that this lesson is designed to introduce them to topics that will be presented later in the WWII unit and in the aftermath of WWII. The lesson is designed to give students appropriate background knowledge through collaborative research and problem solving.


Inquiry Investigation – Day 1

The students are in the stakeholder role as members of a task force formed by the Mayor of New York City to advise him on a brewing controversy that could spiral into an international relations crisis as well as pose an obstacle to the mayor’s election next year. The Mayor has asked his task force (teams of 4) to read the full-paged advertisement placed in a recent issue of The New York Times (Attachment A). He has asked the teams to decode the nature of the problem and to advise him on what course of action to take in this controversy. The mayor doesn’t have much time and wants an expedient response.

Background to the crisis (do not share with students as they need to decide what exactly the problem is) Mayor Bloomberg is in the middle of a controversy about a static display of the Enola Gay, on loan for a year from the Udvar Hazy Museum, just one block from the United Nations building. This display will draw more tourists to the city, thus bringing in much-needed revenue for New York City (Mayor Bloomberg’s “stake” in this controversy). Members of the United Nations are opposed to the Enola Gay being displayed so closely to its world headquarters building because of its controversial history.
The mayor has formed a task force of advisors, who have been called to City Hall to advise him on the proper course of action. As members of this task force, students will examine the advertisement (Attachment A) which gives limited clues to the problem. An examination of an ad in the New York Times reveals controversy and ire faced by the mayor over the static display of the Enola Gay near the United Nations building. Now that the media is involved, the mayor is concerned that there will be addition public outcry. United Nations is opposed to the display as it conflicts with their peace-keeping charter. The state of current US foreign relations is at stake as is the mayor’s chance for re-election.
The students’ first level of research is to analyze the details of the New York Times advertisement and make a hypothesis regarding the nature of the problem. Students should be given access to laptops or the Media Center to conduct research. Working in their task force groups, the students should brainstorm and define the problem (Attachment B). The teacher should have the task force groups share out what they learned about the problem before giving them the “kicker” (Attachment C).
Important Issues

  • Students will need to be reminded that there is no other location available in NYC for the display.

  • The week before this lesson, students should be learning about the end of WWII in Europe. Students will begin studying the War in the Pacific when this problem is introduced. Students should already be working in groups of 4 so that when the problem is introduced, they are formed and become part of Bloomberg’s task force.

Key Questions to Answer in defining the problem

  • What is the purpose of the advertisement?

  • Who are the people and groups involved?

  • What might the issue be?

  • Why is the display of Enola Gay controversial?

Devising a Plan – Day 2

Student research will show that the Enola Gay is the airplane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Research will also teach the students that most Americans believe that Truman’s decision to drop the bomb saved thousands of lives of US soldiers and Japanese. Further research will show that World War II ended when Japan surrenders after a second atomic bomb. The purpose and role of the United Nations will be learned by the students so that they understand why the world body would be opposed to having the Enola Gay on display so close to its headquarter building. Students should understand that UN representative from Japan would be most opposed to the display. Students will understand Mayor Bloomberg’s stake as the Mayor of New York City. They must consider the cost-benefits of the display Enola Gay as it can bring in revenue for the city. Student should consider public opinion as the mayor is up for re-election next year. The Mayor is looking for one solution that will appease all sides in the controversy.

Important Issues

  • What role does the United States play in the United Nations?

  • While the newspaper ad gives clues, no one knows exactly what the problem is.

  • The mayor of New York has to consider tourism as a way to raise revenue.

  • Newspapers have a significant impact on public opinion, putting pressure on Mayor Bloomberg, and drawing more attention to the controversy.

  • Mayor Bloomberg is also being pressured by action groups for peace.

Kicker: A Message from Senator John McCain

Just when students have gotten to the point where they can identify the gist of the problem, they are presented with the “kicker” (Attachment C). This is friendly letter from Senator McCain, the Republican Presidential candidate. In the letter they will learn that the Udvar Hazy Museum is generous in their willingness to loan the plane for one year. In the message, the Presidential candidate asks Mayor Bloomberg to be mindful of the fact that he fought in the Vietnam War, has seen the casualties of war as a fact of war, and as a result, believes that the Enola Gay should be displayed. He also agrees that the Enola Gay actually saved lives.

Students have to evaluate the pros and cons of the situation in order to advise Mayor Bloomberg on the best course of action to take.
Students will be asked to discuss the possible problem in small groups of four and come up with a problem definition. Students will use the Problem Brainstorm (Attachment B) before beginning research. Problem definition will vary. Teacher will lead a discussion with the students and the class (advisers that make up Bloomberg’s Task Force) should come to a consensus about what the problem is. The problem should center on what action to take regarding the placement of the Enola Gay so close to the UN building and how to come to a solution that would appease the Mayor of New York, and those interested in the fiscal health of NYC, the United Nations, in keeping with its mission, and special interest groups and members of the international community most opposed to the display, and the pressure of public opinion.
Important Issues

  • The kicker is designed to sway the students to create or devise a solution that would allow the Enola Gay to be displayed while appeasing the opposition.

  • All sides of the issue need to be considered.

  • Have task force member assumed roles within the group?

  • Are students considerate of environmental and cultural concerns? Bias?

  • Mayor Bloomberg wants a solution that will appease all sides.

  • John McCain is running for President, and the public is paying close attention to everything he says.

  • The National Air and Space-Udvar Hazy Museum also experienced controversy over the Enola Gay display at their museum.

  • Students should be encouraged to be creative in solving the problem.

Carrying Out the Plan – Day 2 & 3:

Students will have access to laptop computers and the Media Center. The task force advisors prepare information to advise Mayor Bloomberg on the best course of action to take. When they advise Bloomberg in front of other task force groups, they should:

  1. offer concessions

  2. creative solutions

  3. or additions to the Enola Gay display as a way to assuage outside pressures while still getting the exhibit for NYC.

Each group of students will have 5 minutes to present their solution to the mayor in front of the other task force groups. In their solutions, task force advisers will address the sensitivity of the issue while offering creative solution to the problem. Their solution to the problem will contain evidence of thorough research and historical knowledge. They should demonstrate knowledge of the Enola Gay, Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, public opinion, the Udvar Hazy controversy with the airplane, the United Nations, the importance of the tourism to city revenue, and the introduction of nuclear weapons in the world. They should grasp the sensitive nature of the controversy.

After all groups have presented their plan, the task force will work together to come up with a final plan of action for the mayor. The class should complete this together on the Task Force Consensus. (Attachment D).
Important Issues:

  • The teacher should make sure that groups don’t borrow the ideas of other groups and be aware of student-reactions as ideas are presented.

  • The goal of the groups is to advise the Mayor regarding placement of the Enola Gay and to come up with a creative piece to appease opposing parties.

  • Be prepared for a variety of responses as some students might offer placing a memorial or monument to the victims of the atomic bomb and other groups may oppose the display altogether.

  • If the mayor chooses to move forward with the Enola Gay exhibit, there may be a group of students who will not want to go along with the consensus. If this occurs, allow that group of students to research and write a minority report, but the Mayor is looking for one solution.

  • The final solution can be one groups plan or a combination of task force ideas (and compiled on Attachment D)



Students will reflect on the problem solving process. The teacher should ask:

  • What concessions were made by New York City that would appease the UN and the protestors in the US?

  • Which side gained the most in Mayor Bloomberg’s final plan?

  • Did it favor one side more than the other?

  • Why did Mayor Bloomberg choose this plan?

  • What was learned about solving disputes?

The teacher should discuss information that was misinterpreted or omitted to ensure that students receive the important content regarding the Enola Gay and the first use of atomic weapons on civilian targets, Truman’s decision to drop the bomb and the introduction of the Nuclear Age, as well as the formation of the United Nations after World War II and its role in the world. This could be done during discussion of the Mayor’s Plan (Attachment D)

Remind the students that this lesson has covered topics that we will study with the end of war in the Pacific and the aftermath of World War II.


Tomorrow: (How does it connect to the next lesson learned)

Begin the study of War in the Pacific: island hopping, the development of the atomic bomb, and the Japanese surrender. This exercise will enable future student-led discussion of topics, as the students will have sufficient background knowledge gained from solving this problem.

The New York Times May 1, 2008
An Open Letter To His Excellency,

Michael Bloomberg,

Mayor and Tin Man?

We agree with you and all people who love your city that increased revenue can make necessary improvements to the quality of city life. However, considering the legacy of the Enola Gay and the proximity to which it will stand just a block from The Headquarters of The World Organization, we question not only your judgment, but your heart. You say there’s no other location in the city to place it; we ask, “Prosperity at what cost?????”

The United Nations The Peaceniks

Citizens Against Enola _____________________________

(your name here)

What is the Problem?

Key People/Terms

What we need to know:

What Might be Going On?

May 2, 2008

Michael Bloomberg


City Hall

New York City, NY

Dear Mike: 

Just a note in light of your recent troubles with the UN and those liberal groups. Saw the Times ad yesterday, and wanted to offer some friendly advice: you can’t please everyone. You were rising through the ranks of Wall Street as I was doing my time in Vietnam. Let me tell you, I have seen the casualties of war. Losing civilians is a more unpleasant side of war, but a fact of war.

The Enola Gay serves as a reminder of the unpleasantness of war. Let it be a reminder! And let us not forget that it actually saved lives! Hopefully, you have a crack team of advisers to iron out this situation with an amiable solution.

By the way, I was surprised and delighted by the museum’s generosity in loaning your city this exhibit for one year. Does Udvar Hazy have her all packed up yet?

John McCain, Arizona Senator

Grand Canyon Way • Phoenix, AZ • 78910


Mayor Bloomberg’s Decision Regarding the Enola Gay Display

Problem Solving Rubric Enola Gay


D – 1

C – 2

B – 3

A – 4


Understanding the Problem
Attachment B

Problem Brainstorm

Lacks understanding of the problem – is unable to move on without a complete explanation and restatement from the instructor.

The problem is restated in the group’s own words with few key concepts or terms defined and identified. The group has questions for the instructor

The problem is restated in the group’s own words and is missing a few minor historical details.

The group thoroughly understands the nature of the problem in their own words and is ready to devise a solution.

Devising the Plan
Researching and Gathering Information

Brainstormed only one strategy, required assistance to evaluate the strategy or is missing key steps to solving the problem. Very little research to gain historical understanding.

Brainstormed a few strategies but needs assistance to formulate a strategy or a set of complete steps to solve the problem OR strategy and/or steps are inconsistent or incomplete. Limited research to understand multiple views.

Brainstormed a few strategies, decided on one strategy that would be most effective OR brainstormed a few strategies and decided on a set of steps that were incomplete or inconsistent. Consistent research to gain understanding.

Brainstormed many strategies, decided on one strategy that would be most effective OR brainstormed many strategies decided on a set of steps that would resolve the problem thoroughly. Research conducted to show clear understanding of all topics

Carrying out

the Plan

Advice to the mayor to solve the given problem without working through details or attending to different views OR solved a different problem than given.

Advice to the mayor to solved the given problem without working through any details or offering concessions.

Advice to the mayor solved given problem appropriately with some details covered.

Advice to the mayor solved given problem appropriately with all details thoroughly covered.

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