Project 8th Grade:
The Trial of the Roosevelt/Truman Adminstration


Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as President of the United States--the most powerful nation on earth--during the time of World War II. His successor, President Harry S. Truman, made the fateful decision to use the Atomic Bomb to end the war and ordered the attacks that would lead to Japan's ultimate surrender. Looking back on the period, questions about this administration's responsiblity for the carnage of this event exist. Was Roosevelt's decision to approve the development of the atomic bomb, despite pleas from such notable scientists as Albert Einstien, irresponsible? Was Truman justified in using this weapon of mass destruction against tens--or hundreds--of thousands of civilians?

These decisions will be made during a mock trial in which the Roosevelt/Truman administration is accused of aiding and abetting the mass murders of Japanese civilians in 1945. Are they guilty or innocent? What were the ultimate outcomes of their actions? Was the participation of either man justified? By combining actual investigative techniques and historical research, a jury will decide.

Nagasaki, the day after the attack


Starting Points

Atomic Bomb: Decision

Harry Truman on Dropping the Atomic Bomb

Atomic Archive

The Charges

The Roosevelt-Truman Administration is hereby charged to be in violation of Article III, sections a, b, and e of United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime Genocide (78 U.N.T.S. 277) on two counts:

1. for its decision to allow the development of the atomic bomb, and

2. for its direct involvement in the use of the Atomic Bomb, causing the mass destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--and the innocent civilians therein--in 1945.


1. After reviewing the two links under "Starting Points" (see above), two groups will be established, for the prosecution and defense, each gathering evidence related to the use of the Atomic Bomb and organizing their research into evidence data sheets.

Each group is sub-divided by elements of evidence that will be gathered, including:

investigation of the "crime scenes" -- Describe Hiroshima and Nagasaki., as well as the environs for each. Include information related to geography, economic activites, populations, strategic importance. Also describe the effects that the bombings had on all of these.

eyewitness testimonies -- Find first-person accounts of the bombings and any relevant primary sources related to the war against Japan. Accounts may be used from either side (U.S. or Japan).

technical material evidence -- What made the atomic bomb different from other weapons? Include a basic overview of the principles of fission and fusion, and the effects of the radiation released by this process.

examination of motive and opportunity -- Were the reasons for developing and using this weapon justified? Explore the curcumstances of the time and legitamacy of the alternatives to having used the bomb.

examination of the suspects' characters -- Were there elements associated with the personalities, backgrounds, or careers of Roosevelt and Truman that contributed to the decisions they made? What are the moral ramifications of their actions? Did they "mean well"?

2. Research is conducted during the 4-5 days of the project. (SEE FULL WEEK'S SCHEDULE)

3. On the final day, a debate following official trial procedures will be conducted and verdicts will be delivered.

Grading Criteria

Students will be evaluated on the basis of their participation during the reseach phase ("planning") and by their performance during the trial ("performance"). The scoring will be done using the rubric for group activities established by the 8th grade history class. Students participating in the project will receive the same 20-point score for both history and science classes.

Trial Teams




investigation of the "crime scenes"

eyewitness testimonies

technical material evidence

examination of motive and opportunity

examination of the suspects

Montana A. / Charlotte C. / Caroline K.

Montana A. / Charlotte C. / Caroline K.

Megan W. / Maria K.

Kathy S. / Jane C.

Molly S. / Shannon B.

Molly N. / Rhiannon V. / Becca S.

Molly N. / Rhiannon V. / Becca S.

Kristen H. / Maura L.

Hannah B. / Christina J.

Justine B. / Leigh K.

Trial Procedure

The U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to a jury trial in a criminal trial; this right, however, may be waived by the defendant. If the trial is to be held before a jury, it is selected and sworn in. A trial jury typically consists of 12 citizens who listen to the facts and present their decision, the verdict. In criminal actions a unanimous vote of the jurors is usually necessary. In a jury trial, the judge rules on points of law and the jury decides questions of fact.

After the jury has been sworn in, the trial will follow this sequence:

(1) opening statement by the prosecution; 2:00
(2) opening statement by the defense; 2:00
(3) presentation of evidence by the prosecution, 20:00
----cross examination by the defense; 10:00
(4) presentation of evidence by the defense, 20:00
----cross examination by the prosecution; 10:00
(5) closing arguments by the defense; 2:00
(6) closing arguments by the prosecution; 2:00
(7) judge's instructions to the jury. 1:00

The judge charges the jury, instructing them regarding the law that relates to the case, and provides guidance in reaching a verdict. The judge prepares the instructions, but prior to the trial each attorney prepares and submits to the judge a set of requested jury instructions. In this way, each attorney can make sure that the judge does not overlook any point that the attorney considers important.

Evidence Data Sheet template (copy & paste, repeat for each piece of evidence):

 PROJECT 8TH GRADE -- Evidence Data Sheet