World War II ended when Japan surrendered following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The use of the (at the time) only two nuclear weapons in existence not only ended World War II, it accelerated America and the world into a new reality – that of the diplomatic, economic, military, and cultural division of the Cold War. In addition, the war helped encourage social changes at home that proved to have profound effects upon the nation.
Lesson Objectives: Students should be able to explain how the outcomes of World War II led to both the Cold War and domestic social changes.
- Copies of excerpts from President Truman’s diaries that run from President Roosevelt’s death to the Japanese surrender. Can be found here: https://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/library/correspondence/truman-harry/corr_diary_truman.htm
- A computer projector
- Enough copies of Executive Order #9981 – Truman’s desegregation of the military, for the entire class. Can be found here:
1. Remind students that they will have a vocabulary quiz tomorrow on the list garnered from this unit.
2. Use Truman’s diaries as a timeline to follow the events that led up to the dropping of the atomic bomb. Discuss the issues mentioned – creation of spheres of influence, his opinion of Stalin, the moral dilemma surrounding the use of the bomb…
3. Discuss the physical effects of the bomb and some of the statistics, which can be found here: https://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/MED/med_chp10.shtml. At your discretion, you may also choose to show images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, either using a projector or by making copies.
4. Either provide students with copies of the following page or put relevant statistics on the board: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-Lease#US_deliveries_to_USSR. Discuss the benefit that the USSR had accrued through the Lend-Lease program. Mention the massive devastation suffered in the Soviet Union as a result of the German invasion. Then explain that the moment that Japan surrendered, Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets stopped completely. Ask how you would expect the Soviets to respond to the cessation of aid.
5. Show the map of Europe following World War II. Describe how both the Americans and British in the west and the Soviets in the east consolidated their holds on power. Map can be found here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cold_war_europe_military_alliances_map.png. Put the terms “Cold War” and “Iron Curtain” in your vocabulary lists.
6. Use your projector to show an image of Rosie the Riveter. Images can be found here: https://wellthatwasdifferent.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/rosie-the-riveter-poster-s.jpg. Remind students how many women took factory jobs during the war. Ask them what they think happened when millions of men left the armed forces and returned home.
7. Finally, have students read Truman’s order desegregating the military. While this took place after the war, it was done in recognition of the fact that African-American leaders had agreed to not allow civil rights efforts (such as a march on Washington DC) to disrupt the war effort during the war. This executive order presages the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
- Photo in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
This post is part of the series: America’s Involvement in WWII
- America's Involvement in WWII: Moving Away from Inclusionism
- American Entry Into World War II
- Diplomacy and Combat in World War II
- The Home Front in World War II
- The End of World War II and the Aftermath