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Answer Key for Comprehension Test for
Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties

1.  Name the three countries most responsible for starting WWII.    ANSWER: Japan, Germany, Italy.

2.  Circle the figure that is closest to the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in WWII.
  • 10,000
  • 50,000
  • 100,000
  • 200,000
  • ANSWER: 300,000 -- The approximate number was 292,000.
  • 400,000

3.  Circle the figure that is closest to the total number of U.S. soldiers who died from non-battle related causes in WWII.
  • 10,000
  • 50,000
  • 75,000
  • ANSWER: 100,000 -- The approximate number was 115,000.
  • 200,000
  • 300,000

4.  Name the one other war in American history in which more U.S. soldiers died than in WWII.    ANSWER: The Civil War.

5.  What was the approximate death toll for civilian and military, killed from combat or other causes, in World War II?     ANSWER: 40 - 50 million.

6.  Why did the U.S. rush to build an atomic bomb?    ANSWER: The U.S. was afraid that Germany would develop the atomic bomb first.

7.  What is a firestorm?     ANSWER: A fire of great size and intensity that generates and is fed by strong inrushing winds from all sides. Sometimes the winds have the force of a hurricane.

8.  What was the single most destructive air raid in history?     ANSWER: The U.S. firebombing of Tokyo using conventional weapons, March 9 - 10, 1945.

9.  Why is an atomic bomb called a weapon of mass destruction?     ANSWER: It kills over a large area and it doesn't discriminate between combatant and non-combatant.

10.  Describe two strategies that the U.S. could have used to end WWII without the use of the atomic bomb.    ANSWER: The U.S. could have continued to blockade, continued to apply pressure through conventional bombing and, if necessary invaded. The U.S. could also have attempted negotiations.

11.  Describe two ways that the U.S. considered using the atomic bomb to help end WWII rather than by surprise attacks on Japanese cities. (Describe all four and get extra credit.)     ANSWER: There were four other methods of using the atomic bomb that received consideration. A good answer will describe two of them: (1) targeting rail and communications infrastructure, military installations, and troop concentrations to soften up resistance to the invasion; (2) a demonstration over but not on Japanese territory with international observers present followed by the threat of using bombs on Japan itself; (3) an attack on a purely military target, such as the remnants of the Japanese fleet or a large military base, followed by the threat of using bombs on cities; (4) bombing cities with warning. (Note that the U.S. had only two atomic bombs after the Alamogordo test. Nuclear fuel is difficult to produce. Fuel for another six bombs could be made by November 1, the date set for the invasion. The third atomic bomb was expected to be available later in August.)

12.  What was the Japanese reaction to the Potsdam Proclamation?     ANSWER: A good answer will include two of the following concepts. They saw the generous terms of the Potsdam Proclamation as a sign of weakness. The Japanese government responded to the Potsdam Proclamation by claiming it was simply a rehash of old Allied positions and stated that it would be treated with silent contempt. The Japanese did not seek clarification of the possible opening in the Potsdam Proclamation that would protect the Emperor if the Japanese people wanted to keep him.

13.  Why was it important for the ruling elite in Japan to have the Emperor remain the head of the Japanese government after the war?     ANSWER: The Emperor was the patron of the ruling elite who had led Japan into the war. The elites would need the Emperor's protection from reprisals for leading Japan to start a losing war.

14.  What illegitimate political tactics did the military fanatics use to intimidate the Japanese politicians who wanted to end the war?     ANSWER: Imprisonment and assassination.

15.  By mid-1945 the Japanese had only two important types of military assets. What were they?     ANSWER: In mid-1945 Japanese military assets were limited to: (1) their ability to inflict damage with kamikaze attacks and (2) the vast size of the Japanese Army which had approximately 5,000,000 men under arms in Japan, China, Korea, the Pacific Islands, and Indo-China. Most of these soldiers, like those who died on Okinawa, subscribed to the samurai code of death before surrender.

16.  What was the significance of the Okinawa campaign to the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan?     ANSWER: Any invasion by the U.S. of the Japanese Home Islands would be very costly in terms of U.S. casualties, because the Japanese military could be expected to fight to the death and to enlist civilians in resisting an invasion.

17.  Why did the U.S. want Russia to enter the war against Japan?     ANSWER: This would open another front and put a great deal of pressure on the Japanese military.

18.  What effect did U.S. leaders believe the atomic bombings of Japan would have on the disputes that the U.S. and Great Britain were having with Russia in Europe?     ANSWER: It would counterbalance the numerical advantage of the Red Army.

19.  What did the diehard militarists do after the Emperor and the Japanese government decided to surrender?     ANSWER: They attempted a coup d'etat.

20.  What did the U.S. do about the war crimes charges against Emperor Hirohito and why did it take that action?     ANSWER: The U.S. did not pursue war crimes charges against Hirohito. A good answer to the second part of the question will include at least one of the following two concepts: (1) The Japanese had approximately 5,000,000 men under arms in Japan, China, Korea, the Pacific Islands, and Indo-China. Most of these soldiers, like those who died on Okinawa, subscribed to the samurai code of death before surrender. It would have been very costly in terms of U.S. casualties to disarm all of these soldiers. The only person who could order them all to surrender was the Emperor himself. He gave that order. (2) In addition, the Emperor's cooperation made the American occupation easier and less costly in terms of the number of troops the U.S. had to keep in Japan.

Last updated April 11, 2008.

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