World War II

History 01:512:242 World War II Fall 2018

Ending the Pacific War: Course Project Instructions

The use of nuclear weapons against Japan remains one of the most controversial aspects of American participation in World War II. The course project is designed to educate you on the options American defense officials considered in trying to compel the Japanese to surrender, and to demonstrate some of the difficulties those officials encountered in choosing one option over the other.

The course project comprises 20 percent of your course grade and has two phases. In the first phase, you will write a 4 – 6 page paper exploring the pros and cons of your option. In the second, you will attempt to convince four of your peers that your option would be preferable to the others in ending the war.

Setup: Picking an Option

Senior officers in the armed forces, civilian officials in the War and Navy Departments, and members of the State Department considered five different options to end the Pacific War. They were an amphibious invasion of Japan; a surface and submarine blockade meant to pressure the Japanese government into surrendering; continuing the conventional strategic bombardment of Japan, to the same end; offering generous terms of surrender to the Japanese government; and the historically chosen option, using nuclear weapons to induce the Japanese surrender.

Although the instructor would prefer you write your paper on an option in which you have an interest, he also recognizes that those writing on nuclear weapons will have an easier time than those writing on other options. Thus the five options will be apportioned according to the following rules:

1. Anyone who wishes to study one of the non-nuclear options may volunteer to do so, provided that less than one-fifth of the class has already volunteered for that option. You may volunteer at any time before October 29.

2. On October 29, the instructor will randomly assign options to all students who have not yet selected an option. At this time, a list of topic assignments will be posted to Sakai.

3. You may trade options with your classmates. The instructor will allow the change after you and your trading partner both confirm it.

4. After the beginning of class on November 19, no changes in options will be allowed.

Part I: The Paper

The paper is meant as an in-depth analysis of your option. It should discuss the benefits and drawbacks of selecting it as the primary method of ending the Pacific War, describe why American policymakers rejected (or, in the case of the atomic bomb, approved) it, and offer your own opinion on whether or not your option was the best choice.

You should begin your research by reading all of J. Samuel Walker’s Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan. You should also consider whether other course readings or the course lectures have addressed general aspects of your option.

Because the use of nuclear weapons was so controversial, the government and people involved in the decision (or their descendants) have released primary source materials. There is also a wide body of research on the final months of the Pacific War. The Harry S Truman Library & Museum ( ) and the National Security Archive ( ) have extensive primary source document collections. You may also want to consider some of the documents posted by the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Research Library ( ; be careful to distinguish between documents generated by the units or participants themselves, and those written by historians after the war). The “Essay on Sources” in the Walker book lists sources you can peruse, or ask Rutgers University Library to acquire for you. The instructor also is somewhat knowledgeable about secondary sources.

The paper itself will be 4 to 6 pages in length. Although the lower limit is firm, the instructor is open to longer papers if you request and can justify a higher page count. The paper will be graded to the same standards as the short papers in this course, with these exceptions:

• The failure to discuss benefits, drawbacks, the historical decision of policymakers, or your own opinion will be penalized in the “Argument and Organization” category. Failing to discuss one of the four will reduce your grade in this category one level. Failing to discuss two or more will reduce it to the “Unsatisfactory” level.

• You must cite at least one primary source (a source created by a participant or eyewitness at any time, or a government agency during the war) and at least three secondary sources (a source written by historians using primary sources).
You may use any of the course materials in writing your paper, but Sledge’s With the Old Breed will not count as a primary source for the purposes of the course project. Similarly, Murray & Millett, Kennedy, Walker, and your lecture notes will not count as secondary sources for the purposes of the course project.
If you fail to cite the appropriate number of sources, you will be penalized in the following manner: the instructor will grade your paper, and then deduct ten points for each source missing.

The paper is due at the beginning of class on December 3. It will comprise 75 percent of your project grade.

Part II: The Committee Meeting

Rather than lecture on December 3, the instructor will divide you into groups. You will pretend to be a member of a committee making a recommendation to President Truman about which option should be used to try and end the Pacific War. Each member of the committee will have ten minutes to discuss the pros and cons of her or his option. You will then spend ten minutes or so discussing amongst yourselves which option to recommend.

The instructor will distribute a form to each committee. One member of the committee should volunteer to be a secretary. The form will have blanks for a quick summary of the pros and cons for each option; the option the committee recommends; and why the committee recommended the option it did. Make sure your secretary has legible handwriting! The instructor will determine the group grade based on the quality of your notes. Each member of the committee will receive the same grade for the meeting (worth 25 percent of your project grade).

To encourage you to be as persuasive as possible in summarizing your options’ pros and cons, the member of the group whose option is chosen will receive two points’ extra credit on his/her course project paper, and a third if the option is chosen unanimously.


If you have questions on any aspect of the course project, or you would like advice or help in writing the paper, please contact the instructor.





















































































































Sample Solution