Photo: Charles Levy / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

How Hiroshima And Nagasaki Are Taught Around The World

Voting Rules
Vote up the most interesting insights into how these events are taught in other countries.

The atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, irrevocably changed the world and conflict. The events are often regarded as the closing chapter of World War II

Following the detonation, President Harry Truman announced in an official statement, "It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East." However, how these bombings are viewed in contemporary classrooms can differ greatly, depending on where the history is taught.

Students from around the world have shared how their WWII curriculum covers Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the perspectives are wide-ranging. Some were taught the events were justified because they saved lives, while others were told the bombings were tantamount to terrorism. Vote up the perspectives that give you new insight into this historic era.

Photo: Charles Levy / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

  • Japanese Students Focus On The Lives Lost And The Terror Experienced By Those On The Ground
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From a former Redditor

    I lived in Iwakuni (about 30 km from Hiroshima Ground Zero) and have been to the A-Bomb Dome more times than I can count. There are still a few structures there from the initial blast and they have turned the area into a very nice park.

    In the museum, Japan does take the blame for [going after] the United States, but is VERY much against atomic weapons (understandably so). The heat wave melted the skin off of people, burned out the eyes of those unfortunate to be looking at the blast and caused all sorts of health problems.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit due to their strong military presence and naval ports. The people are generally nice about Americans visiting, however, stay away from Hiroshima during the anniversary.

    From Redditor u/ohanachann:

    In Japan, we never talk about [if they were] needed or not. We don't learn, but now I know it was really complicated when the Potsdam Declaration was showed, and there were some people [who] wanted to reject it and some people wanted to accept it, so it's difficult to judge [whether] other countries education is correct or not. In our education, the important point is knowing the cruelty of wars...

    From Redditor u/Sarasaradish:

    I'm a Japanese high school student. In Japan, we are taught about atomic bombs since [the time] we [are] in elementary school... I learned the horribleness of [them]. On the other hand, I didn't hear the opinion that [they] led to [the] finish [of] the war. I was taught [about] the tragedy in Asian countries caused by Japan and [what] happened to Japanese ordinary people…

    From Redditor u/GoodyFourShoes:

    I taught English in Japanese elementary and junior high for a few years, and they do talk about [these events] in most of the subjects. They have a class called Moral Education where they talk about it, in Social Studies of course, and there were stories in English about it in our English books.

    They have moments of silence on the anniversaries... along with special assemblies at some schools. My impression was that they were just taught how horrific war is, how lots of people got sick, and families were separated. The US was not really vilified in the materials I encountered regarding the bombs, and peace is the emphasis. The memorials/museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are extremely popular for school trips...

    From a Redditor u/DadGamer:

    My wife is Japanese, born and raised in Hiroshima. Her grandparents witnessed [this happen] from two different locations just outside the city as children. She has told me about how they were taught about the bomb in her school in Hiroshima. It seems they have special classes all about [it].

    She says they learn technically how it works, all about the effects of radiation, and about its development. She says they are taught about the decision making process behind the decision to drop it. She says they are taught in great detail about the physical and psychological effects of being directly affected by it.

    They are also taught about the aftermath of the bomb with regards to rebuilding the city... In other words, there are constant reminders of this tragedy that put their city on the map.

    393 votes
  • UK Education Teaches The Bombings Had A Duel Objective: Saving Lives And Showing Off 
    Photo: National Archives at College Park / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/Sonos:

    [United Kingdom] here, two sides:

    • How Truman needed to because what is 200,000 lives [versus] the many more invading the Japanese mainland.


    • Stop Russian expansion into Japan.
    • Show off to the Russians that they had nuclear capability.

    From Redditor u/Saarp:

    [United Kingdom]: Taught as the necessary tragedy needed in order to end WWII. The invasion of mainland Japan would have been so devastating in casualties, the bomb was in some sense the humanitarian option... 

    From Redditor u/alexzinger123:

    England here. During a course we [had]... We covered why [it] was dropped. We were given a few reasons as to why it was done:

    1) Truman wanted to make sure that the money spent... was worth it. Billions of [dollars for] research was [put] into making [it], and when Truman came into power, [Germany] had lost. The war in the east seemed to be dragging on so the sensible reaction was to make sure the investment was worth it.

    2) It was to limit casualties on both sides. Truman knew, despite a land invasion of Japan being completely possible, it would have [taken out] millions of more soldiers on both sides. With the war in Europe over, Truman wanted a swift end to the conflict that brought America into the war.

    3) To intimidate the USSR and keep them from influencing Japan...

    We were taught VERY little about the actual Japanese reaction, however...

    200 votes
  • Switzerland's Students Connect The End Of WWII To The Start Of The Cold War
    Photo: National Archives at College Park / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/kipmund:

    I was taught in Switzerland, although I am English. Not sure if this is a mainstream view over here or whether there even is one on [these events]. We were taught about them as more of a start to the Cold War, rather than as an end to the Second World War. This was because it was viewed as an American show of nuclear strength to the Soviets in order to act as a deterrent, rather than just an act of aggression against Japan.

    Essentially, the decision to use the bomb is thought to have been more concerned with the USSR than Japan, who, due to gains against the Japanese, were seen as more and more of a threat to US interests. Quite a cynical view, but it makes sense in the historical setting, as it was believed the Japanese were very close to capitulating anyways, in order to prevent a US invasion.

    199 votes
  • In Mexico, Instruction Implies The US Made A Reasonable Decision
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/Zigxy:

    Mexico teaches that the US was reluctant to drop the first bomb, but realized it was a necessary evil to avoid a mainland invasion which would have been costly to both sides. However, the second bomb potentially was unnecessary, but the US still followed through partially to solidify a Japanese surrender, partially for science, and partially to set up presence for the expected clash with the USSR.

    I'd say tone of the presentation of the nuclear bombings usually implies the US was reasonable and moral in their decision.

    From Redditr u/memx:

    Mexican here. It's sadly only briefly mentioned. Most of the war (and everything behind it: who fought, why, when, where the actual battles took place) is only mentioned as "just another war," [without] going into any details.

    If anything, [the focus is on] how Germany was treating the Jews and so the rest of the world wanted to stop them by any means necessary. The atomic bomb(s) are mentioned as a really powerful trump card to end the war…

    170 votes
  • Canadian Students Claim Their WWII Instruction Was Lacking And Didn't Include These Events
    Photo: / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Reddtior u/Anthrex:

    Canadian here. I don't know about the other provinces, but other than the diary of Anne Frank and a book about a guy in the camps [Elie Wiesel], we never talked about WWII in school, and those books were in English class, not history. We spent 3 full years talking about Quebec history...

    From Redditor u/KellyPFrankin

    Canadian here. The fact some, if not all, of the uranium for these bombs came from Ontario is simply not mentioned. Every year a sad, ever-dwindling pilgrimage is made by Japanese survivors to the mine.

    From a Redditor:

    Canadian here as well. Went to high school in Manitoba, nothing of WWII was taught. Not even during my grade 12 Canadian History class. Shameful curriculum. Our country has so much to be proud of for our contributions to the world wars.

    Even stuff that still affects us today, like how the natives were treated and dealt with, was not taught. I had to learn all this myself as an adult. I enjoy history and learning in general, but many people don't, so it's no surprise how so many don't have a clue.

    From Redditor u/Guido125:

    Can confirm - Quebec teaches nothing about WWII. Not surprising considering they didn't want to be involved...

    212 votes
  • Students In The United States Learn The Bombs Were Dropped To Save Lives
    Photo: George R. Caron / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/bcsimms04:

    It was taught as a horrible and bad instance in America... but one that was necessary. If we hadn't dropped the bombs, [the US] would've invaded Japan and hundreds of thousands more Japanese civilians would've passed, and probably a couple hundred thousand more American casualties. It is taught that it was a necessary evil.

    From Redditor u/FlatTire2005:

    I was taught in the US that Japan didn't want to quit (not the whole country, just important enough people). A land invasion of the island was determined to cause more victims on both sides than the nukes would have, so nukes were chosen because they are less expensive in terms of human life on both sides.

    From Redditor u/DankDan:

    USA: Last resort, saved more American and Japanese lives than an invasion of mainland Japan. Best option.

    From a former Redditor:

    I am an American... I was taught in school several things regarding the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

    • First, that the emperor of Japan was seen as a sort of deity by his people.
    • Second, that all of the people of Japan were hell-bent on destroying the Americans, because it was the will of the emperor, and the emperor would bow to no one.
    • Third, that the Japanese were bombing American ships in the Pacific theater, and that an end was needed before the loss of life became unbearable.
    • Fourth, that the Americans weighed the potential for loss of life in continuing a land invasion into the Japanese islands, versus the detonation of an atomic bomb, and viewed the latter as more preferable.
    • Fifth, that after the detonation of the first atomic bomb, the emperor remained resolute and would not surrender, which led to the detonation of the second atomic bomb, leading to the surrender of the Japanese Emperor and the end of that war.
    240 votes