"...down below [the mushroom cloud] the thing reminded me more of a boiling pot of tar than any other description I can give. It was black and boiling underneath with a steam haze on top of it....We had seen the city when we went in, and there was nothing to see when we came back. It was covered by this boiling, black-looking mass."
-Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the Enola Gay, describing what he saw after releasing the bomb over Hiroshima
The history and ethics of the development of the atomic bomb is one of the most significant issues in our modern world. The atomic bomb has changed the way nations relate to each other and the way in which war is waged. In this lesson, students will explore selected web sites regarding the Manhattan Project, Truman's decision to drop the bomb, Fat Man and Little Boy, the Enola Gay, and the aftermath in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Students will encounter differing perspectives, both historical and current, in order to answer the question, "If you were President of the United States during World War II, what would you have done?" They will also answer the question, "What should we do in the future to prevent this from happening again?" Students will post their decisions in a Student Forum and will have the opportunity to respond to one another.
Was the bombing of Dresden justified?
In February 1945, the last year of World War 2, Britain sent 300 Lancaster bombers to attack the crowded German city of Dresden. This attack was not the precision bombing of specific military targets. It was deliberate bombing of a whole area. The bombs destroyed city buildings and started tremendous fires.
Before long, eleven square miles of Dresden were consumed by a firestorm. The vacuum caused by the rapid rise of hot air created tornadoes that tossed furniture, trees and debris into the air. People were caught in fires as hot as 1000 °C. The city was devastated. No one knows how many thousands died.
The German armies were in retreat at this time and the war was nearly over. Some historians have argued that this attack was not justifiable on military grounds, that it was nothing more than a slaughter of civilians. But others say it helped to shorten the war in Europe.
Ultimate responsibility for this attack lay with the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Was the bombing of Dresden a justifiable act during wartime? How closely was Winston Churchill involved in the decision to attack the city? Does this cast a shadow upon Churchill's reputation as the heroic icon of twentieth century British history?