To Fire or Not to Fire - Presidential Simulation

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
One to two class periods
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will analyze the power of the Presidency in the U.S. Using a timeline of events of the Korean War (all events and people will be hidden in pseudonym during simulation), students will determine how the President exercises his authority.

Cooperative Learning using Primary Sources (Simulation)

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Students must learn the constitutional powers of the presidency and understand the President's decision to remove General MacArthur from his command.

Lesson Objectives - the student will

Students will analyze the power of the Presidency in the United States.  Using a timeline of events of the Korean War (all events and people will be hidden in pseudonym during simulation), students will determine how the President exercises his authority and they will determine where those boundaries are bounded.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met


1. Principles expressed in the documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States

3. Principles and processes of governance systems

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

Goals 1.5, 3.5 and 4.1

KANSAS STANDARDS (High School-US History)

Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations, containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

Materials required:

            Korean War timeline-attached with year and names changed-Simulation A

            MacArthur resume- attached with year and names changed-Simulation B

            Primary sources as notated

            Post-simulation-facts of Korean War shared by teacher (or recalled by students if time period has been covered in class)


  5. Microsoft Encarta Online 2006 c 1997-2006, “Douglas MacArthur”
  7. MacArthur’s War , Weintraub, copyright 2000
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

1. Oral history interview with personal secretary to the Ambassador at Large, Vernice Anderson, February 2, 1971

2. Congressional testimony, May 22, 1951, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Omar Bradley

3. Truman handwritten memo of Wake Island meeting with MacArthur, November 25, 1950

4. Message from MacArthur, August 27, 1950 to Secretary of Defense

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Teacher Directions/Background Information:

  • Before doing simulation with students, study the Constitutional powers of the president. 
  • Students may work individually or in pairs. 
  • Share simulation B with students and let them know that this general is going to command the troops involved. 
  • Give students a simulation A and the primary sources. 
  • After the students have made their choice about what to do with the general and discussed the Constitutional reasons for their choice, share actual facts and names of events discussed. 
  • Share and explain the controversy about Presidential powers Truman dealt with over this event.


After examining the timeline, biography and Primary Sources, students will (acting as President of the United States) decide and explain what they would do with the general in the scenario

Important People:

  • President Harry Truman
  • General Douglas MacArthur
  • General Omar Bradley

Suggestions for Additional Activities:

  1. Post simulation-discuss the powers of the U.S. President.  How have they changed, expanded and been limited since the creation of the Constitution?
  2. Students will write a reaction to the actual facts.  They should discuss Presidential authority to remove a general deemed insubordinate.  Also, they should discuss the power of the military and the power of the civilian government in the U.S.

SIMULATION A: (MacArthur’s resume with name changed and date omitted)


Ignatius Martin Best, born on January 26, the son of a former war hero and military governor

Graduated with highest honors from the U.S. Military Academy

Toured the Orient and served as his father’s aide for fourteen years

Aide to U.S. President and U.S. Army Public Relations Officer

Attained the rank of General

Won honors for heroism and leadership

Served as Superintendent of West Point

Held position of Army Chief of Staff for five years-longer than any predecessor

Chief Military Advisor to a foreign government for six years

Recalled to active duty in U.S. military and given command of troops in the nation he served as military advisor

Ordered to withdraw by direct Presidential order

Retook country with military invasion and promoted to General of the Army

Appointed Supreme Commander of the Winning Powers and accepted the surrender of the losing nation

Implemented social, economic and political reforms of the newly liberated nation

Ran for nomination of his party to be their candidate for U.S. President



6/25/Year 1           War breaks out

                              Country A (hereafter known as CA) invades County B (hereafter

                                          known as CB)

6/27                       United Nations security Council (UN) approves aid to CB

6/30                       United States troops enter Country AB War

7/8                         General I.M. Best is named UN commander to Country AB War

7/Year 1                General Best writes speech to be delivered to VFW convention.

                                          The speech contains his war plan.  The U.S. President

                                          and his advisors are not happy with the General’s views

                                          or the publication of war plans.

                                          Read Primary source #4 here.

9/15                       General best lands in CB and begins liberation

10/1                       CA is driven out of CB by general and his troops

10/9                       U.S. President asks general to meet him half way to U.S.

10/10                     General responds with change of location—closer to front

                                          Read Primary source # 1 and #2 here.

10/14                     President meets general at location of general’s choosing

                              President asks general about possible involvement of Country C

                                          (hereafter CC)

                              General assures President CC will not intervene, but also states,

                                          “There is no substitute for victory.”

                                          Read Primary source # 3 here.

11/1                       CC enters war on side of CA

11/19                     General requests permission from President to enter CC and be

                                          allowed usage of between 30 and 50 nuclear weapons.

                              President responds with emphatic, “No.”  President fears such

                                          action might draw a fourth country into the war.  The

                                          President clearly states he wants to wage a “limited war”.

3/7/Year 2             General complains he is prevented from striking at CC

3/14                       General Best announces he believes we should fight for,                      

                                          “unification of Country AB.”

3/24                       U.S. President make effort to negotiate a cease fire between CA

                                          and CB

                              General thwarts effort by calling publicly for attacks on CC            

5/5                         General best’s letter written to U.S. Congressman Joseph Martin

                                          criticizing the Presidential policy on Country AB War is

                                          read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

You are the President of the United States in this situation.  What will you do with this general?  Be prepared to discuss your personal and Constitutional reasons for this action.  Also, ponder the political fallout your actions might create for your party and the general at home in the U.S.

Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

Students graded on participation in the Simulation