This is the only event that occasionally causes me to wish for school in early August. Marking the anniversaries in a U.S. history class could be a useful exercise. Texas’ TEKS require students to know a bit about President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, and especially his reasoning behind the decision. To get there in an orderly fashion, and to keep kids captivated by this most interesting part of recent history, I think a class needs to lay the background with the end of the war in Europe (especially D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge) with troops hoping to go home to the U.S. and being diverted to the Pacific, the background of the U.S.’s “island-hopping” strategy, especially the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the carnage that was required to take the islands, and the background of the Manhattan Project, from Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt through the secret cities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico, the Trinity Project at White Sands, the training of the bombers at
Wells Wendover, Nevada, and the World War I service of Harry Truman himself. It’s a fascinating history that, the Texas tests show and my classroom experience confirms, students know very little about.
As with the misinformation on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which I reported earlier today, this history of atom bombs informs us of policy choices available and necessary in our current dealings with North Korea, Iran, Ukraine and Russia, among other nations.
Japanese foundations sponsor trips to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for U.S. reporters, and there used to be one for high school teachers, too. It’s a history I lived with for a decade trying to get a compensation bill for downwind victims of fallout from our atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada. I wish more people knew the stories.