SUBJECTS — U.S./1941 – 1991; World/WW-II, the Cold War Era, and Japan;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Courage; Friendship, Human Rights; Peer Pressure;

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility; Caring.

AGE: 9-13; Former television movie appropriate for family viewing; No MPAA Rating;

60 minutes; 1988; Color.

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TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.


Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction and

Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.


Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.


It is 1955. Twenty-five young girls who were horribly burned by the atomic bomb attacks on Japan 10 years earlier are brought to the U.S. for plastic surgery. Betty and Jim Bennett agree to host one of these “Hiroshima Maidens”. Their guest, Miyeko, delights their youngest son, Timmy. The older boy, Johnny (approximately age ten), and his friends pick up on the suspicion of one of the Bennett’s neighbors, an embittered veteran of brutal jungle fighting against the Japanese. Initially, Johnny is suspicious and fearful of the “Jap spy”. Later, he comes to appreciate Miyeko’s humanity. He must chose between the prejudice of his friends and the loving attitude of his family.


Selected Awards:



Featured Actors:

Susan Blakely as Betty Bennett; Tamlyn Tomita as Miyeko (pronounced mee-echo); Stephen Dorff as Johnny Bennett; Richard Masur as Jim Bennett; Christopher Masterson as Timmy Bennett; Kenny Morrison as Ted Latimer; Dennis Haskins as Hal Latimer; Brandon Little as Leo; Brandon Crane as Sam; and Michael Bacall as Pete.



Joan Darling.


This film operates effectively on at least five levels. First, it shows a child of about ten choosing between the prejudice of his peers and the ethics and loving attitude of his family. Second, it shows adults dealing with the still raw wounds of a brutal war. Third, it brings home the human cost of war and the terrible meaning of the terms “collateral damage” and “civilian casualties”. Fourth, it is an introduction to the injuries visited upon innocents in the only nuclear war experienced by mankind.

This is a story of the compassion of an American family and the courage of a young woman who travels half-way across the world for painful surgeries in a land that had been the hated enemy of her country. While other movies about the atomic attacks on Japan can be quite grisly and graphic, this film is gentle. Nevertheless, the human cost of war, particularly the impact on its youngest victims, is underscored by the angry, swollen scars that mar the left side of Miyeko’s body.

The fifth and perhaps the most important level on which this movie works can be shown by following the story of the Hiroshima Maidens as they took the experience of their stay in the U.S. back to their homes in Japan. It is an enduring testament to the transforming and healing power of love. See section on The Lasting Effects of the Maidens’ Stay in the U.S. and Discussion Question #3.


MINOR. The largest problem with this film is that it is obviously a mid-20th-century production and students may consider the production values to be low.


Read the Helpful Background section. It is an amazing story, particularly the section on The Lasting Effects of the Maidens’ Stay in the U.S.. Go over each of the points in the Benefits section of the film and discuss them briefly with your child. You may find that you want to read to your child some of the material quoted in the Helpful Background section.


The Hiroshima Bombing and Its Effects

Hiroshima means “broad island,” a name derived from the city’s position at the mouth of the River Ota. Hiroshima enjoys a view of mountains to the north and a beautiful location on the Inland Sea. The name “Hiroshima” (pronounced with the emphasis on the “o”) now summons up visions of ghastly horror. However, before the war (called by the Japanese “the Great Pacific War”), Hiroshima was known primarily for wonderful oysters, the baroque castle that “jutted over the thatched roofs like the ornament on an ancient helmet,” and the Shinto shrine on the nearby island of Miyajima. (Rodney Barker, The Hiroshima Maidens: A Story of Courage, Compassion, and Survival p. 15)

By 1944, the United States and its allies were carpet-bombing enemy cities with incendiary weapons. These included not only Dresden and Berlin but also Tokyo, where an estimated 100,000 died and many more injured in a single raid. Attempts to avoid “collateral damage” to civilians were all but forgotten. Hiroshima had been an important naval port since the end of the 19th century. During WWII it was the headquarters of the Japanese Army defending southern Japan, and was a major military storage and assembly point. By August 1945, there were between 25,000-50,000 servicemen in the city, as well as munitions and supply depots and thousands of Koreans pressed into slave labor by the Japanese. It contained a massive Mitsubishi factory, a gun factory producing 6,000 rifles a week, and businesses that made parts for kamikaze airplanes. (George Caron, Fire of a Thousand Suns, Web Publishing, 1995 and “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” by Henry L. Stimson, Harper’s Magazine, February, 1947.) Because factories were dispersed in residential areas, the U.S. military had determined that it was impossible to try to destroy Hiroshima as a support base for the Japanese army and navy independently of its civilians.

In August of 1945, the people of Hiroshima were very much aware that while Osaka, Kobe, and other cities were being incinerated, Hiroshima had remained untouched except by a lone B29 bomber that destroyed some buildings in the business district in April, 1945. There was much speculation about why this was so, with some people contending that the Americans had recognized Hiroshima’s natural beauty and were planning to build their villas there after the war. Others thought that because there were so many Americans related to people in Hiroshima, that it was being spared out of favoritism. The most fanciful explanation was that President Harry Truman’s mother was in Hiroshima, presumably staying in the castle. The reality was that in July, Hiroshima had been set aside as one of four cities to be spared conventional bombing in order to achieve the maximum impact from a new weapon: the atomic bomb. Ironically, it was Hiroshima’s lovely view that made it a particularly good candidate since the Target Committee concluded that the adjacent hills were “likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage.” (Peter Wyden, Day One: Before Hiroshima and After). It was mistakenly thought that there were no American prisoners of war in Hiroshima; in fact, there were at least ten killed from American aircrews. Three other cities were on the list of candidates for an a-bomb attack: Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki.

Though some Japanese knew that their country was losing the war, most were persuaded by the miltary authorities (referred to as the “Supreme Understanding” (Barker, p. 18)) that the Americans were being lured to the home islands to be destroyed. One secondary school student, Hiroko N., remembered after the war:

Time went on and we knew the war was getting more intense. We could bear it because we were sure Japan was winning. Soon it would be over. Our radio broadcasts told us of the glorious victories of our armies and the defeats suffered by the Americans. We heard only good news of Japan. And we believed it…. The history of our country went back more than two thousand years. In all that time Japan had never been invaded. We had been taught that it never could be. Our country was protected by the gods. We were confident we would win this war as we had all others, because we were the country of the gods…. We were sure the gods would send some miracle to protect us from the cruel Americans. (Anne Chisholm, Faces of Hiroshima: A Report by Anne Chisholm, p. 20)

These illusions were shattered when the atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:16 a.m. on August 6, 1945. An earlier weather plane, scouting ahead for the bomb-bearing “Enola Gay”, had caused officials to sound an alarm 45 minutes earlier. When that plane disappeared, an all clear sounded. The people of Hiroshima went back to their regular early morning business routine. By that time in the war, many secondary school children had been assigned to spend much of their school time clearing fire lanes so that if the B29s bombed the city, fires from the wooden houses would not spread so quickly. Younger children, like the character of Miyeko, were on their way to school.

The bomb exploded 1850 feet above the ground and only 800 feet off its target, the Aioi Bridge. According to a 1946 study by the Manhattan Project, 255,000 people were in the city and some 66,000 (25%) died instantly or within the next four months with 69,000 (29%) being injured. Burns accounted for 60% of the injuries and falling debris accounted for 30%. (Note that other estimates are higher both in terms of total population and casualties. For example, tens of thousands of Korean slave laborers in the city were probably not counted. See discussion at How many died at Hiroshima?.) The force of wind rushing from the point of explosion was about 1,000 mph (440 meters per second). People by the thousands were hurled through the air or crushed under their collapsed houses or places of business. Glass from shattered windows filled the air. Propelled by the wind, the shards of glass penetrated deep into the victims’ bodies.

Within the four square miles of the city, 48,000 out of 76,000 buildings were completely demolished. Ninety percent of the city’s doctors and nurses were killed. Therefore, the injured who managed to drag themselves to the hospitals often lay untreated and, because of their horrific burns, unrecognized. Many people had Miyeko’s experience of having the person walking beside them seem to disappear. Indeed, some were so totally vaporized that only their shadows remained on the walls, shadows that can be seen today in the Hiroshima Peace Museum. For more on the destruction of Hiroshima, see Handout #1 of the “Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War” and Hiroshima–August 6th, 1945. CNN has obtained a copy of rare footage made in the immediate aftermath of the attack by the Japanese Education Ministry. It had been confiscated by the American occupation force who feared that such stark evidence of the damage wreaked by the atomic bomb would lead to a worldwide outcry against the weapon and the country that had used it. To view parts of this film, visit this CNN site.

As in all tragedies, it seemed that small things saved or condemned people: lingering over breakfast and thus being outside the epicenter; walking by a wall that provided protection from the blast; wearing light clothing that provided little protection. Miyeko’s scars were all on one side of her body, and this was true of many people. At 900 times hotter than the sun, the flash (the “pika”) burned the part of the body most exposed to it, and many of the terrible scars on the hands of the Hiroshima Maidens and other survivors were because they had held their hands up to shield their eyes from the sun when they looked at the silvery image of the B-29 overhead. Others were injured when the massive shock wave that followed the flash (the “don”) caused their internal organs to liquefy or pulled buildings down on them. The boom that followed the flash was described as “a hundred thunders sounding at once, shaking the earth on its axis.” (Caron, p. 249) The Japanese heard the announcement President Truman made about an atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima but many weeks passed before the citizens of the two ruined cities knew what had hit them. Thus it is that many Japanese, even today, do not speak of an atomic bomb, but a “pika-don” — a flash-boom.

Many of the burn wounds became infected and took many months to heal. Indeed, when Shigeko Niimoto was staying with the Norman Cousins family ten years after the blast, she still had open wounds. Ellen Cousins was ahead of her time in recognizing the importance of nutrition and Shigeko’s sores healed at last. Survivors, called “hibakusha” (pronounced: hi-BACK-sha), literally the “bomb-affected ones”, had access to no such nutrition in post-war Japan, and often the most they had to treat the wounds was motor oil. Even when the wounds healed, the scars became keloids, angry, red scars that looked like hemp rope, and that often itched and burned decades after the war ended. Doctors have concluded that the skin of Asians is particularly susceptible to forming keloids. Rodney Barker, whose family hosted two Hiroshima Maidens in the summer of 1955 and who went on to write a book about these women, said:

Among the thousands who survived that fateful August morning, the thinly clad, young schoolgirls were the unluckiest. In a fraction of a second their lives took a tragic turn. Many had witnessed the atomic flash with their faces lifted, and the intense heat charred exposed flesh and left scars that wrenched their facial features into grotesquely symbolic expressions. One could not smile because the contractions tugged her lips over her teeth into a permanent snarl. Another had her right eyelid seared away; unprotected, the eye watered steadily as though possessed with grief of its very own. (Barker, p. 55)

The social cost of these terrible scars was also painful. The Japanese people believed in reincarnation, and the assumption was that if bad things happened to you, it was retribution for evil deeds by you or your ancestors in a former life. No pity was to be extended to those who suffered, rather they were expected to endure all with stoicism and without complaint. Those who told other Japanese of their atomic sufferings were often thought to be trying to get inappropriate attention and were shunned. Sometimes people did worse than lower their eyes and hurry by. Miyeko complained of children yelling “pika-don” (flash-boom) at her when she went outside, and certainly, these victims tended to hide themselves away. One of the Hiroshima Maidens, Hiroko Tasaka, remembered snickers from neighborhood children. She later confided that only one person ever said anything to her: “If I looked like you, I could not bear to go on living.” In order to shield herself and others, Hiroko took to wearing a mask whenever she went out, but when she took it off to have a doctor examine her, he gasped and said: “It’s unfortunate you didn’t die.” (Barker, pp. 32-33) Likewise, Hiroshima Maiden Shigeko Niimoto overheard boys joking about her: “Looks just like a damn monkey, doesn’t she?” and another: “I wouldn’t have her for my wife if they gave me a million yen.” (Barker, p. 41) Because it was wrongly believed that people exposed to the atomic attack would give birth to deformed babies, hibakusha were considered unmarriageable. Even today, traditional matchmakers avoid the second generation of survivors, ignorantly believing their blood to be somehow tainted. Beyond that, hibakusha felt survivor shame. In a culture in which shame played a large part, the hibakusha were particularly afflicted. One survivor, Yoko Ota, spoke of the “shame of living,” of being “bothered by the fact that I was still alive.” She told American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton: “I was sorry for the people who died because I was living.” Lifton interpreted this to mean the survivor was “bound by an unconscious perception of organic social balance which makes him feel that his survival was made possible by others’ death: If they had not died, he would have had to; if he had not survived, someone else would have.” (Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima p. 56.)

Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, Norman Cousins, and the Hiroshima Maidens Project

In Hiroshima during the years right after the war, there was one man who felt pity for these young girls so terribly scarred that they would only go out at night, so isolated they did not imagine that anyone else was as disfigured as they. This was the Methodist Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. Reverend Tanimoto had gone back to Hiroshima before the war, and after the bombing he formed a little group for those he called the “Keloid Girls” and others called the “A-Bomb Maidens” so they could act as a support group for each other. Reverend Tanimoto managed to arrange some plastic surgery for some of the girls, but it was unsuccessful and extremely painful. He recognized that in order for the girls to have a chance at real healing, he had to get them to the United States. The man who could make that happen was Norman Cousins.

Cousins was the editor of the Saturday Review, a popular weekly magazine that was published from 1952 to 1982. On the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he had written an editorial (later a book) entitled “Modern Man is Obsolete” in which he argued that the atomic bomb was not simply another weapon, it was the midwife to an entirely new age. He felt that “… a blanket of obsolescence had been thrown over human history … because there was now no mechanism by which human beings could provide for a reasonably secure future.” The Quest for Peace, Conversations with Norman Cousins, Harry Kreisler, Interviewer.

Because Cousins was an activist and a humanitarian, he had begun a program of “moral adoption” where American families would “adopt” one of the children orphaned by the bomb and provide resources for food, clothing, shelter, and education. He worked together with Reverend Tainimoto and in 1954, Cousins came to Hiroshima to present Tainimoto with a check for this program. The minister arranged for Norman and Ellen Cousins to come to a meeting of the young women. The couple was instantly persuaded that as many as possible should be brought to the United States for surgery, and with the enormous energies of Norman Cousins behind it, the “Hiroshima Maiden” project began. Forty-three young women presented themselves as candidates for plastic surgery and twenty-five were selected. There was a ten-year age difference between the oldest and the youngest, and a vast difference in what had been their status and education before the war. However, with the exception of some women who just never got along, it became something like a collection of sisters who dressed up in the navy dresses that had been given them for the trip, and went to New York City in May of 1955.

Though Cousins had been working on the project for months, many of the details had yet to be worked out, including exactly where the Maidens would be housed. Cousins was a Unitarian and largely secular, but he had tremendous respect for the Society of Friends (the Quakers), and their steadfast refusal to fight in war. Cousins asked the Quaker Meeting Houses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, if they would be responsible for hosting the girls. A number of them accepted and undertook to provide surrogate families for the Hiroshima Maidens assigned to them. (The movie departs from this historical fact by making the father of the family a veteran of WWII.) Though there were some cultural misunderstandings and some language confusion (most of the girls did not speak English at all when they arrived) the experience was, for both the host families and the Hiroshima Maidens, one of love and joy. The Maidens learned that not all men in the United States were cowboys, and were astonished from the very moment they flew over San Francisco at how undamaged the United States was by the war. Rodney Barker writes:

Landing in upper-middle-class homes, the Maidens were dazzled by the latest in automatic amenities. And while they marveled over the way music and movies could be brought into the living room at the touch of a button, they were naturally just as curious about the work and time- saving devices that allowed the American housewife to do her chores in a fraction of the time it took a Japanese wife to complete the routines of housekeeping…. Everywhere they turned, a shining gadget beckoned– an electric stove, a toaster, a Mixmaster, ‘the fridge,’ a freezer, a dishwasher, a garbage disposal–and they exulted in the testing of one after another. (Barker, p. 110)

Host families had been most concerned about the language difficulties and the food, fearing that the Maidens would want to eat only rice every day. For the most part, that turned out not to be the case, but there were some miscommunications because of Japanese manners and American expectations:

It was just that no one wanted to insult her hostess, so no one said anything (if they were dissatisfied). In one household, a Maiden did express a preference but was apparently ignored; the incident so upset her that she was convinced her hostess must still think of her as an enemy. “Why do you feel that way?” (chaperone) Helen Yokoyama asked when the girl called her on the phone to complain. “Because every morning she serves me eggs, and I can’t stand the sight of eggs on an empty stomach. They look like two big yellow eyes staring up at me out of a slimy white face. And I keep telling her I don’t like them, but she serves them anyway.” Later that day Helen telephoned the hostess to hear her side of the story and learned that the root of the misunderstanding was the Oriental custom of using the affirmative case as a polite way of saying no. The woman said of course she noticed that the girl was not finishing her breakfast, but every time she asked her, “Don’t you like eggs?” the answer was always “Yes.” (Barker, p. 112)

The Lasting Effects of the Maidens’ Stay in the U.S.

While the twenty-five girls combined had hundreds of surgeries and there were some remarkable improvements in mobility, many of the scars remained, leading some critics in Japan to insist that the project had been a failure. More than anything, however, the change in the Hiroshima Maidens was one of spirit and attitude. Rodney Barker in his book The Hiroshima Maidens: A Story of Courage, Compassion, and Survival describes this phenomenon:

Many of these girls were estranged from their own parents, for whom they had become financial burdens. Some had been kept out of sight by parents who subscribed to the belief that malformation or any gross irregularity was due to some unknown wrong committed by an ancestor and that this child had been chosen to bear the punishment for the family sins. Consequently, the world had been one vast unfriendly place for them, and they had lived with a sense of loneliness and insecurity that seemed to grow cumulatively with the years. Now, however, they were accepted with affection as an integral part of the homestead. (Barker, p. 126)

The girls were curious why these “Friends” and the other Americans they met had been so generous to a people who were so recently at war with them. Historically, philanthropy was an alien cultural and philosophical concept in Japan. A traditional reluctance to get involved in the troubles of others, plus the absence of the “Good Samaritan” ethic in Japanese religion, generally explained why there were so few philanthropic foundations or programs in Japan. While the Japanese had a strong sense of obligation in certain situations, such as to the Emperor and family, they were largely lacking in feelings of altruism. “But they take me into their homes and treat me as though I belonged to their family. It is not their duty to do this. It is not their duty to give me expensive medical treatment. Why do they want to do all this?” asked one girl.

“Suppose,” said Helen Yokoyama (a Japanese-American who helped the Maidens adjust to their stay in the U.S.), “that some people have a philosophy of life which enables them to regard all human beings as belonging to a single family. Even though they might not know each other, even though they might live thousands of miles apart, they might still believe in their closeness to one another and in their obligations to one another. The same love that members of a family feel for one another can be felt by these people for all others, especially for those who are terribly in need of help. Is this not possible?” — “You mean these people are helping me because they love me?” — “I believe they do.”

It was the healing power of this love that transfigured the Hiroshima Maidens and changed their lives more than any surgery. “Being loved had re-established their own capacity for loving.” (Barker, pp. 130-131)

The success of the Hiroshima Maiden program lay in the human relationships that began and that continued long after the women had gone back to Japan. This was supremely fitting for a program headed by Norman Cousins, for he believed in the personal as much as the political. “That, for me, is what history consists of. One makes an impact on history in terms of example, not pronunciamentos. I was trying to create relationships, and I thought the relationships would spread and endure. If there was anything to this, the power of the example would find its meaning.” (Barker, p. 98)

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1. See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

No suggested Answers.


2. What was World War II and why did the U.S. fight Japan in that war?

Suggested Response:

World War II was fought from 1939 to 1945. Major battles were fought in extensive areas of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Naval engagements occurred in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. There were two major contenders. The Axis powers, consisting primarily of Germany, Japan and Italy, started the war. The Allied powers (later the United Nations), primarily the U.S., Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. (Russia), France, and China, resisted German, Japanese and Italian aggression. The Allies counter-attacked, eventually conquering the Axis countries. In Europe, the war was in many ways a continuation of the disputes left unsettled by World War I. 40,000,000 – 50,000,000 deaths incurred in World War II. It was the costliest and bloodiest war in history. Its aftermath left the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. as the two superpowers contending for dominance. WWII greatly reduced the role of Europe and Japan on the world stage.


3. [This question is for students who have read the Helpful Background Section of this Learning Guide or Rodney Barker’s book The Hiroshima Maidens: A Story of Courage, Compassion, and Survival] Rodney Barker, like the character of Johnny in the movie, was a young boy whose parents hosted a Hiroshima Maiden. He grew up to be a journalist and wrote a book about the Hiroshima Maidens. He researched what their lives were like in Japan before they came to the U.S., what happened to them while they were in the U.S., and how their stay in the U.S. affected them once they had returned home to Japan. What did Mr. Barker find was the most important benefit that the Hiroshima Maidens received from their stay in the U.S.?

Suggested Response:

Based upon his research and his interviews with the Hiroshima Maidens years after they had returned to Japan, Mr. Barker found that the love that the Hiroshima Maidens received from their host families in the U.S. had re-established their own capacity for loving.



1. Why was it a courageous thing for Miyeko to come to the U.S. for surgery?

Suggested Response:

Only ten years before, the U.S. was the hated enemy of her country. It was the U.S. that exploded the bomb that injured her. The culture in the U.S. was different than anything she had ever known. She had to trust strange doctors. She had to travel halfway across the world at a time when that was seldom done.


2. What is the most courageous thing you have ever done or you have ever seen anyone do? Why did it take courage?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct response to this question.



3. How did Miyeko and Johnny become friends?

Suggested Response:

There were a couple of incidents in the movie in which Miyeko helped Johnny out of problem situations. Then they began to talk and he found out that she was a person, just like his family and his friends.


4. Have you ever had a friend who had terrible scars on their body? What was it like or, if you haven’t had a friend like that, what do you think it would be like?

Suggested Response:

It would be like having any other friend.



5. What are human rights and how does the concept of human rights affect your analysis of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945?

Suggested Response:

Human rights are the rights possessed by every human being, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They are spelled out in more detail in documents such as the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, The Declaration of the Rights of Man, adopted during the French Revolution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The human rights of the children, women and other non-combatants killed or injured by the bombing were violated. The question is whether there was an adequate justification for the bombing that would excuse those violations. To explore these issues, see Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War.


6. Were Miyeko’s human rights violated by the bombing of Hiroshima?

Suggested Response:

Yes. The next question is whether there was a justification for the bombing that would excuse the violation of her rights. To explore these issues, see Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War.



7. How does peer pressure work to lead kids to make decisions that are harmful to themselves or to others? You can see this operating in Johnny’s group of friends.

Suggested Response:

When children are young, before age 11, the most important and powerful people in their lives are their parents. But in their early to mid-teens, the normal development of children requires that they start to break away from their complete reliance on their parents and establish their own personalities. The world that is not under the control of their parents is the world of their friends, their peers. Everyone at all ages wants to be liked by the other people that they come into contact with, but the desire to be liked is especially strong when it is combined with the important psychological need to establish one’s own life separate and apart from the control of parents. In addition, many children in the early to middle teenage years have not yet learned to be kind or to avoid actions that might hurt themselves or others. They tease and ridicule. They take risks they shouldn’t take. Much of this behavior comes from a misplaced need to establish their own identity by dominating or hurting others or by doing crazy things. What a child needs to do in these early to middle teenage years is to learn who he or she truly is, not just a clone of their parents and not just a member of the gang, but his own person who lives according to his own values. In this story, Johnny began that process by realizing that his family’s value of love and caring was a value that was important to him.


8. Have you ever been torn between what your friends wanted you to do and what you knew was right? What did you do?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct response to this question. Good responses will include a recognition of the process of how children mature described in the preceding paragraph. It’s always good to quote a passage from Anne Frank’s diary: “I understand more and more how true Daddy’s words were when he said, ‘All children must look after their own upbringing.’ Parents can only give good advice or put them on right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Entry for July 15, 1944, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl translated from the Dutch by B.M. Mooyarart-Doubleday Anne Frank, isolated in the “Secret Annex” didn’t have an opportunity to deal with the demands of peer pressure.


9. Do you think that your friends will ever ask you to do something that your parents will not approve of? What do you intend to do if that ever occurs? Why?

Suggested Response:

See response to the preceding question.


10. Have your friends ever asked you to do something that your parents would not approve of? What did you do? Why did you make the decision that you made? Would you make the same decision now? Why?

Suggested Response:

See suggested response to preceding questions.


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.



(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)


1. In the context of the current war in Iraq, who should patriotic U.S. citizens go out of their way to help, by either giving money to charities or helping directly?

Suggested Response:

Injured Iraqis, injured U.S. soldiers, the families of U.S. soldiers deprived of their loved ones either temporarily or permanently. Basically, everyone injured or deprived by the war. Citizens of the coalition countries that participated in the invasion (primarily the U.S. and the U.K.) have an obligation to help injured Iraqis because their countries took it upon themselves to invade Iraq. Even citizens of those countries who didn’t support the decision to go to war bear this obligation because the decision to go to war was made by their legal representatives (President and Congress, Parliament). In modern democratic countries, the decision to go to war is made by the elected representatives of the majority. All members of the society benefit from life in the society. (Some more than others.) Since those who are against the war are members of society, once the decision is lawfully made by the elected representatives of the majority, those opposed to the war cannot undermine the war effort. They can, and in fact should, still dissent from the decision, if that is what they believe. Because they live in a democracy, this dissent should be public. However, as citizens of the country who benefit from the life that the country provides, they carry the obligations of citizens. One of those obligations is to do something for injured Iraqis, injured soldiers, and the families of soldiers who must live without their parents, children, spouses. This obligation is based both on the pillar of caring and on the pillar of responsibility.


2. Did the family in the movie have a responsibility to take Miyeko in and help her? This obviously was a matter of caring. Why was it a matter of responsibility as well?

Suggested Response:

Everyone has a responsibility to help care for the wounded in a war if their country waged the war, even defensively, because they receive the benefits of membership in the society that waged the war. This is true even if they opposed the war or the action that caused the injury. See response to the preceding question.



(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)


3. See Question #3 in the Discussion Question section.


4. Have you ever seen anyone who had terrible scars on their body? How did it make you feel? What, if anything, did you do?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct response to this question.


5. How would you feel if your family took in a child who was injured in Iraq and needed surgery in the U.S.?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct response to this question.


1. See Assignments, Projects, and Activities for Use With Any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


2. Have members of the class research and write an essay on efforts by the U.S. after WWII to help the German, Japanese and Italian civilians injured and dispossessed by the war. Compare what was done for them with what was done for the Allies who were devastated by the war.


Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.”) CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.


See Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War for books suitable for students in middle school and high school.


Books on Hiroshima For Grades Four and Five

Hiroshima No Pika (The Flash of Hiroshima) by Toshi Maruki. This is the story of what happened to 7-year-old Mii and her parents when Hiroshima was bombed. The delicate watercolor illustrations contrast strongly with the horrors described.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Barbara Silberdick Feinberg. This book, part of the excellent “Cornerstones of Freedom” Series, is the best place for students to begin their reading. Beginning with the dropping of the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, the author follows the subject through the surrender and then into the decades following, noting the continued health and psychological impact of the bombs upon survivors, and the effort to commemorate the events in a Peace Park erected in both cities.

My Hiroshima, by Junko Morimoto. Ms. Morimoto was a high school student when the atomic bomb dropped, and in this book, she shows the world, through her artwork, her city before and after the attack. School Library Journal says: “This nonfiction title in picture-book format is a frank, powerful story in which both text and illustration work together without sentimentality or sensationalism to show the horror of war.”

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr. This is the famous story that Miyeko tells the Bennett family as she folds cranes. It is the story of the little girl from Hiroshima who is the star of her school’s track team until the effects of radiation cause her to have leukemia. Remembering a Japanese legend that if a sick person folds a thousand cranes, the gods will restore health, Sadako, begins making cranes. She dies before folding a thousand, but not before becoming the symbol of the price children have paid for war in the modern era. For teacher guides to this book, visit The Web English Teacher.

Shin’s Tricycle, by Tatsuharu Kodama. Kodama is himself a survivor of Hiroshima and has written a powerful tale of a father whose 3-year-old son Shin is riding his tricycle when the bomb drops. When the child dies, the family buries the body with the tricycle. Forty years later, digging up the remains to transfer to a cemetery, the family finds the tricycle and puts it on display in the Hiroshima Peace Museum. Publisher’s Weekly says of this book: “The author doesn’t cushion the horror in his tale, and certain passages–of burn victims screaming for water yet dying when they drank it; of Shin’s father finding the ‘little bones’ of his deceased daughters are harsh fare for young readers.”


Books specifically on the Hiroshima Maidens

Hiroshima, a Novella, by Laurence Yep. Written by a two-time Newbery Honor Book award author, this slender book for young readers tells the story of 12-year-old Sachi who is the only survivor among her classmates. Not only does Sachi have to deal with the pain of her injuries, she is called a “monkey” by other children and avoided by even adults, who “think that the survivors may be weird in some way.” Sachi meets Norman Cousins and becomes one of the “Hiroshima Maidens”, and after several operations, she regains the use of an arm and some facial muscles, enabling her “to smile at the world once again.”

Faces of Hiroshima: A Report by Anne Chisholm. Though this valuable book is out of print, it can be found occasionally on the web and in many university libraries. Anne Chisholm interviewed many of the people involved in the Hiroshima Maiden project, both the women and the doctors as well as family members who had hosted the girls during their months in the United States. Almost half of the book deals with the period 1945-1953, that is, the immediate aftermath of the bomb and the years before the bomb victims were able to get intensive medical attention, plastic surgery, and public support in Japan and the United States. It is a very fair and objective “report” on the topic.

The Hiroshima Maidens: A Story of Courage, Compassion, and Survival by Rodney Barker. Rodney Barker was a 9-year-old boy when his family hosted two of the Hiroshima Maidens, and thirty years later, he went to Japan to meet with the women who had participated in the project. While many of the women had remained silent for decades about their experience, Barker’s connection to the project made them willing to speak openly and candidly to him. This is a well-written, personal, and poignant account of the Hiroshima Maidens, and fortunately is not difficult to find.


For websites relating to the Manhattan Project, see Learning Guide to “Fat Man and Little Boy“. For links to more websites relating to the atomic bomb attacks on Japan, see Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War.

  • Voice of Hibakusha; This site is maintained by the Hiroshima Peace and Culture Foundation and has links to the “testimony” of fourteen survivors as well as those who endured the atomic flash while on a streetcar. Of all the survivor websites, this is the most thorough.
  • The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Manhattan Engineer Department; Project Gutenberg has preserved the more than 50 page report by the engineers who created the atomic bomb on the impact of the bomb on the two Japanese cities. The dry and disciplined prose makes the events described seem even more harrowing, and it has several tables on mortality rates as well as a fascinating diagram of the “Probable Position of Rising Cloud At Intervals After Explosion.”
  • The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; This extensive site describes the building of the bombs and the selection of the targets, as well as providing excellent summaries of the damage caused by the atomic explosions through blast injuries, burning, and shock waves as well as the longer term impact of radiation. The appendix contains Father Siemes’ eyewitness account.
  • Democracy Now! Commemorates the 58th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing: An Interview with Hiroshima Survivor Shigeko Sasamori on Wednesday, August 6, 2004; Shigeko was 13 at the time of the bombing and was one of the “Hiroshima Maidens” brought to New York City for plastic and reconstructive surgery. She so bonded with Norman and Ellen Cousins, the American couple who began the project, that she was informally “adopted” by the family and is considered their fifth daughter. Her liveliness and passion are evident in this talk, as well as her conviction that there should be “no more Hiroshima”. (Note that the commentator begins this interview with a highly personalized attack on President Harry Truman, comparing him to President George W. Bush who he claims “lied about weapons of mass destruction” while Truman lied about Hiroshima being an important military site. If you want to avoid this diatribe, begin at 7:55, the when Shigeko begins to talk.)
  • Hiroshima: A Survivor’s Story; This site was developed by Scholastic books and tells the story of Francis Mitsuo Tomosawa, age 15 when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Divided into five chapters, it gives detail on his birth in Hawaii, wartime Japan, his experiences on August 6, 1945, and his immigration back to America. This is a terrific site and easy to navigate.
  • Hiroshima: Survivors; This site from the Thousand Crane Club gives several short survivor stories with pictures.
  • Hiroshima: Was it Necessary? This website provides a series of links to articles, a bibliography, other websites, and excerpts from diaries and papers relating to the atomic bombing of Japan.
  • Hiroshima/Nagasaki in Nuclearfiles.org; This site is a project of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation so it naturally has a very strong anti-nuclear stance. It contains a chronology of the decision to drop the bomb, recordings of events leading up to and following the nuclear explosions, responses to the attacks, accounts by some of the 30,000 Korean prisoners in both cities when they were bombed, and a pro-peace statement by Senator Mark Hatfield.
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki; A very good brief introduction to the atomic attacks from about.com;
  • Hiroshima and What We Can Learn Today; This is an interview of Koko Kondo who was an eight month old baby in the arms of her mother on August 6, 1945. She is the daughter of the Christian minister Tanimoto Kiyoshi, one of the six people described in John Hersey’s book Hiroshima. Reverend Tanimoto was instrumental in organizing young women survivors and introducing them to Norman Cousins. Koko describes her desire to escape from Hiroshima and the Christian faith and her ultimate return to the church and to the peace movement. The most poignant part of the interview describes her shame when as a little girl she was examined naked by doctors interested in studying the effects of radiation on the body. She was so traumatized by this that she told no one about it for twenty-five years.
  • Kids Web Japan; This delightful website has a “Hello Kitty” look and links to information on travel, the Japanese language, customs, and a cookbook.


In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

  • The Hiroshima Maidens: A Story of Courage, Compassion, and Survival by Rodney Barker (New York: Viking Press, 1985, p. 15,
  • Fire of a Thousand Suns, by George Caron, Web Publishing, 1995),
  • Day One: Before Hiroshima and After, by Peter Wyden, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984.,
  • Faces of Hiroshima: A Report by Anne Chisholm, by Anne Chisholm, London: Jonathan Cape, 1985,
  • Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, by Robert Jay Lifton, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

This Learning Guide was last updated on November 24, 2011.

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TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.


Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction and

Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.


Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

Search Lesson Plans for Movies

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