Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Atomic War: Just the Facts

Chet Geering


Students will be able to process a variety of information on the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only the FACTS will be covered in this lesson.


The student analyzes major historical events of the first half of the 20th century.


- WORLD HISTORY THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2001.
- Questions for students (See attached file)
- Pen or pencil
- Dry Erase board
- Dry erase markers
- Access to copy machine


1. Read text Chapter 32 (or appropriate chapter).
2. Make one copy of the questions for each student.


1. Ask students, -What are the only two cities to have suffered a nuclear attack?- (Answer: Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan)
2. Ask students, -During what war did these attacks happen, and who dropped these bombs on the Japanese?- (Answers: World War II, United States)
3. Tell the students that today we only want to deal with the facts. We will discuss whether this was a moral or immoral act in another lesson.
4. Put the answers for the following questions on the board. Make two columns. One for each of the cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki .
5. Ask students, -When was Hiroshima bombed?- (Answer: August 6, 1945 at 8:16 A.M.)
6. Ask students, -When was Nagasaki bombed?- (Answer: August 9, 1945 at 11:02 A.M.)
7. Ask students, -Were these cities military targets?- (Answer: No)
8. Ask students, -Then why did we bomb these two cities?- (Answer: To end the war because the Japanese wouldn't surrender unconditionally, but also because these two cities had suffered relatively light damage from the war, and we wanted to study the effects of the damage caused by the bombs.)
9. Tell the students that the answer above seems cold, but we really didn't know exactly what these bombs would do.
10. Ask students, -What does unconditional surrender mean?- (Answer: To surrender without any say in how the peace will be secured. To place yourself at the mercy of your adversary.)
11. Tell students the explosive power of the bombs was as follows: Hiroshima 12.5 kilotons (12,500 tons of TNT) Nagasaki 22 kilotons (22,000 tons of TNT).
12. Tell students that each bomb was exploded above the ground so that the explosion would do more damage. The Hiroshima bomb exploded at 1,670 feet. The Nagasaki bomb exploded at 1,640 feet.
13. Tell students the population of each of these cities. Hiroshima had 350,000 people and Nagasaki had 280,000.
14. Ask students, -How many people do you think were killed in each city?- Answer: Hiroshima 140,000 and Nagasaki 74,000)
15. Tell students that the numbers given for deaths were compiled by U.S. sources. The Japanese claim that the numbers are much higher.
16. Ask students, -Where did the U.S. flights originate?- (Answer: Tinian Island in the Mariana Island Chain.)
17. Tell students that the name of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb was Enola Gay. The name of the second plane, which dropped its bomb on Nagasaki, was Bock's Car.
18. Tell students that the total number of buildings in Hiroshima was 76,000. In Nagasaki there were 51,000.
19. Ask students, -What percentage of buildings do you think were destroyed in Hiroshima? Nagasaki?- (Answers: Hiroshima 68% and Nagasaki 25 %.)
20. Ask students if they have any questions on these facts. If not, remind them to save their notes because they will be used in another lesson where the class will discuss if the decision to drop the bombs was moral or immoral.
21. Students answer short-answer questions. (See attached file.)
22. Teacher evaluates answers.


1. Students will be assessed by answering a series of short- answer questions on the topics covered in class. (20 points each)
2. The teacher can also informally evaluate the students by monitoring and encouraging their participation in class discussion.

Attached Files

Support Materials     File Extension: pdf

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