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Preparation Assignment for Lesson on
Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War


This assignment is due on _____________________. Watch one of the films described below and write a short, one or two page essay answering the question set out below for each movie. Essays will be graded on content, grammar, and punctuation. Responses should be typed.
  • Grave of the Fireflies:     This anime film describes what happens to two Japanese chidren who are orphaned when their city is destroyed in a conventional incendiary bomb attack. Suitable for ages 13 and up.
    Justifications for the fate of Seita and Seitsuko include: (1) it was the fault of the Japanese Imperial Government which started the war and then didn't surrender when it was clear to all reasonable people that the war was lost; (2) Seita and Seitsuko were collateral damage to actions necessary to win the war; and (3) Seita had been working in a steel plant which was a war industry and therefore, in a "total war," in which the civilian economy is harnessed to the arms industry, he was fair game. Do you agree or disagree with each of these justifications? Describe your reasoning.
  • Fat Man and Little Boy:     This movie is the story of the Manhattan Project. The dialogue discusses some of the debates about the use of atomic weapons at the end of WW II. Suitable for ages 13 and up.
  • ESSAY TOPIC: Describe the change in American attitudes toward bombing civilian populations from WW II until the present. How does the willingness to bomb indiscriminately in Japan and Germany compare to what the United States is doing in Iraq?
  • Hiroshima Maiden:     The pain and tragedy of collateral damage are explored by this film. Suitable for ages 9 - 13.
    ESSAY TOPIC: Have you ever seen anyone with very bad scars? What was your reaction? If this movie will change that reaction, describe how your reaction will change and why.
  • Judgment at Nuremburg:     This movie is based on the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Suitable for ages 10 and up.
  • ESSAY TOPIC: What would happen if the Nuremberg principles were applied to the decision to make surprise atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
  • Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb:     In this comedy, a rogue military officer tries to start a nuclear war. Suitable for ages 10 and up.
  • ESSAY TOPIC: During the Cold War there were some people who accepted the inevitability of a nuclear war and tried to plan for it. Many people objected that this type of thinking desensitized leaders making them more likely to start a nuclear war with casualties of 20 - 50 million Americans and as many Russians. What do you think?
  • Fail-Safe:     This film deals with the question of nuclear war begun by accident. Suitable for ages 14 and up.
  • ESSAY TOPIC: Read the excerpt set out below. Do you agree with General Black or with Professor Groeteschele? State your reasoning.
    Professor Groeteschele:   Every minute we wait works against us. Now, Mr. Secretary, now is when must send in a first strike.

    Secretary of Defense Swenson:   We don't go in for sneak attacks. We had that done to us at Pearl Harbor.

    Professor Groeteschele:   And the Japanese were right to do it! From their point of view we were their mortal enemy. As long as we existed we were a deadly threat to them. Their only mistake was that they failed to finish us at the start. And they paid for that mistake at Hiroshima.

    A General:   You're talking about a different kind of war.

    Professor Groeteschele:   Exactly. This time we can finish what we start. And if we act now, right now, our casualties will be minimal.

    General Black:   Do you know what you're saying?

    Professor Groeteschele:   Do you believe that communism is not our mortal enemy?

    General Black:   You're justifying murder.

    Professor Groeteschele:   Yes, to keep from being murdered.

    General Black:   In the name of what? To preserve what? Even if we do survive are we better than what we say they are? What gives us the right to live then? What makes us worth surviving, Groeteschele? That we are ruthless and struck first?

    Professor Groeteschele:   Yes! Those that can survive are the only ones worth surviving!

    General Black:   Fighting for your life isn't the same as murder.

    Professor Groeteschele:   Where do you draw the line once you know what the enemy is? How long would the Nazis have kept it up, General, if every Jew they came after had met them with a gun in his hand! But I learned from them, General Black, oh, I learned!

    General Black:  You learned so well that now there's no difference between you and what you want to kill!

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    Last updated November 24, 2011.



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