Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Ages 9+ Total time: 45 minutes WWII
In July 1945, the Allies' leaders were conferring in Potsdam, wrapping up the Atlantic theater of WWII that has ended 2 months earlier. While the leaders of Britain and the Soviet Union were able to put the war behind them, the American president was still handling a seemingly-endless war against Japan. On the first day of the conference, President Truman was called aside to receive a secret message: THE BABIES WERE BORN SUCCESSFULLY. This was code for the success of a nuclear explosion experiment. This was big news! The US now owned a doomsday device, and had achieved it ahead of everyone else.
A week later, a decision had already been reached to use the bomb against Japan. Three targets were selected, two in the Japanese city of Hiroshima and the third in Nagasaki.
On August 6 pilot Paul Tibbets boarded his plane Enola Gay and set course for Hiroshima. He reached his mark at 08:15 am, and released a bomb that exploded 1500 feet above the city. The destruction was vast. 100,000 lives were wiped out in the blink of an eye. The death toll would almost double over the next few days as a result of injuries, and many more followed in the weeks and years to come.
To this day, we lack the words to describe the catastrophe that took place, and the shock that gripped Japan, that fateful morning.
Moments after the bomb went off, rumors began spreading about an air raid in Hiroshima. However, there was something eerie and odd about these reports. First of all, the radars around Hiroshima that morning did not see a nearby fleet. Who could have raided the city without being seeing? A second peculiarity was that this 'raid' did not cause the regular commotion and hustle. No sirens, ambulances, or response teams were heard on radio channels. Not only was Hiroshima not asking for help, it was actually impossible to reach anyone from the Hiroshima area. The minutes went by, and nobody was able to obtain any information. The Hiroshima military base did not respond to phone calls nor to radio communication. Something was wrong, in an unworldly way; no one, of any rank and at any post, was responding. Eventually, a pilot was sent to fly above the city, scout the area, and gather information to explain this radio silence. When he returned, words failed him. He shook, and gripped by deep shock was only able to utter that 'entire areas look as if a city had never exited there’. Was this guy crazy? The officers in command didn’t know what to make of this eyewitness. It took hours before Japan started to grasp the magnitude of what had hit them.
The confectionary we're making in this class has a famous Hiroshima version, in which the little cake is maple-leaf shaped. In that version, the outer dough is made of buckwheat and rice. The filling is bean paste, similar to the simplified version introduced here.
2.5 Tbsp sugar
1.5 Tbsp water
0.25 tsp baking powder
0.5 cup all-purpose flour
0.5 cup cooked adzuki beans
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
Whisked egg for brushing
1. Heat oven to 350F.
2. Dissolve 2.5 Tbsp sugar in 1.5 Tbsp water.
3. Add baking powder and stir.
4. Add in flour. Stir and knead very lightly, until a ball of dough is formed.
5. Prepare filling by hand-mashing beans and kneading powdered sugar into the mash.
6. Form filling-balls, using around 1 Tbsp of filling for each.
7. Pinch out 1/6 of the dough, roll into a ball, and flatten into a disc.
8. Envelope each filling ball inside a dough-disc.
9. Brush with egg and bake for 20 min.
While it bakes
Have a philosophical discussion about ethics. When trying to justify the bombing, US brought up a utilitarian argument: it was necessary to shock Japan into surrender, since (and this is probably right) far more lives would have been lost if the war would had continued. But does this justification provide moral grounds for the destructive act?
While the Manju are baking, challenge students with the Trolley Problem. In an article from 1967 philosopher Philippa Foot asked us to consider two scenarios:
Rescue I: You are driving a trolley, and you realize you are about to hit and kill five people who are standing on the track. You can divert the trolley to the side, but if you do that, you will hit and kill one person that is on the other track, what is the right thing to do?
Rescue II: You are a doctor treating five patients. They can all make a full recovery if they alle receive organ transplants. Do you support killing one person and utilizing their organs in order to save these five lives?
Most of us will say it's permissible to kill the one person to save the five in the first scenario, but it is wrong in the circumstances of the second. Discuss why this is so (it's surprisingly difficult to answer). Where does using nuclear weapons fall? Is it closer to Rescue I or Rescue II?