Thursday, August 6, 2015

70th Anniversary of Hiroshima: 15 Websites, Books, and Films to Teach Multiple Perspectives


Today marks the 70th anniversary of the United States use of the atomic bomb on Japan. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed at Hiroshima and 75,000 people were killed at Nagasaki by the atomic bomb. While the use of the atomic bomb is one of the most controversial issues in the history classroom and is still widely debated by historians, it is not uncommon for history teachers in the U.S. to teach the event from a one-sided perspective defending the use of the atomic bomb to decisively end the war and save American soldier's lives. This perspective would be aligned with a majority of Americans, as a recent Pew Poll found that 56% of respondents believed that the use of the atomic bomb was justified. Yet, the use of the atomic bomb is much more complex and any teaching of the event demands an examination of multiple perspectives and should include a careful discussion of the human loss of life, the political reasons that influenced the bombs' use, and the growing historical evidence that the bomb may not have been necessary to end the war.

To help teachers, I have compiled a list of 15 websites, books, and films that dive into the historical complexities, as well as present the multiple perspectives of the U.S. decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan.

1. Film and Graphic Novel: Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen)

The 1983 anime film was adapted from a manga series that ran from 1973-1985. Loosely based on Keiji Nakazawa experience as a Hiroshima bombing survivor. The film and manga series tell the story of six year old Gen Nakaoka who survives the bombing, but sees most of his family die in the bombing.

2. Book: Hiroshima

Originally published in The New Yorker magazine, American journalist John Hersey captured the stories of six people who survived the bombing of Hiroshima. It was one of the first publicly reported accounts of the survivors.

3. Article: The Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

An article on teachinghistory.org by Christopher Hamner of George Mason University discusses the controversy of the atomic bombing, how U.S. textbooks portray the event, and primary sources for students to use.

4. Curriculum: Hiroshima: Perspectives on the Atomic Bombing

This curriculum package from the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education includes several activities with primary sources that examine the atomic bombing from multiple perspectives.

5. Website: Atomic Archive: Hiroshima Documents and Photographs

In a National Science Foundation-funded project, this website housing a large collection of digital  texts, eyewitness accounts, photographs, videos, and maps. 

6. Website: Public Radio International: What If Your Hometown Were Hit by the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb?

Public Radio International has created a website to demonstrate the size of the destruction of the atomic bomb transposed on your specific location. This allows teachers to put the damage into perspective.

7: Article: Revisiting Hiroshima The Role of US and Japanese History Textbooks in the Construction of National Memory

A study in Asia Pacific Education Review by Keith Crawford of Edge Hill College (United Kingdom) that compares textbooks in the U.S. and Japan and their portrayal of the atomic bomb.

8. Film: PBS American Experience: Truman (Atomic Bomb Segment)

The PBS American Experience documentary on Truman has a 5 minute clip on the atomic bomb and the decision to use it on Japan.

9. Website: Truman Library Documents

A website cataloging the documents at the Truman Library related to the use of the atomic bomb on Japan.

10. Article: If the Atomic Bomb Had Not Been Used

This 1946 article from The Atlantic defends the use of the atomic bomb.

11. Website: National Security Archive: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II

An extensive collection of primary sources (mostly government documents) related to the atomic bombing of Japan.

12. Article: TIME Magazine: After Hiroshima: Portrait of Survivors and Pictures from the Ruins

In 2014, TIME Magazine presented their photographs (published and unpublished) from their archives related to the bombing survivors and pictures from the ruins.

13. Interview: Tsutomu Yamaguchi

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the only known person to survive both the atomic bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is one of the few English-language interviews with him.

14. Film: Atomic Cafe

Starting with the first atomic bomb test, this documentary uses historical film footage to tell the story of the use of the atomic bomb on Japan and the consequential atomic (and later nuclear) arms race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

15. Website: PBS NewsHour: Five things your class should know on the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing

PBS NewsHour has assembled a quick summary of the 5 things every history class should know about the atomic bomb.