Without a doubt, World War II is one of the most important events of the 20

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Without a doubt, World War II is one of the most important events of the 20th Century. Not only did it have a profound effect on the world at the time it took place, it continues to have effects worldwide today. Many of the policies and relationships we have regarding other countries can be directly traced back to our involvement in World War II. For the men who fought overseas, the war was more than a political event. It helped to define who they would become.

World War II was not the bloodiest war this nation has ever taken part in. It was not the longest war either. It was however, the most popular, and the most famous. It was “good war”, the one in which there was no doubt that we were right to be there fighting, and those we fought against were wrong.

With World War II veterans dying in this country at the rate of one thousand per day, it is important that today’s students learn the important aspects of World War II, and how they have helped to shape the world today. Students need to understand how the United States won World War II, and what came from the victory. Students need to be able to see the relationship between the division of Berlin, and the Cold War. Also, to see how our victory over Japan has led to increased tension between their civilians, and our military, which occupy a base on Okinawa.

All of this can be quite a challenge to a Social Studies teacher. It is my hope that by completing this assignment, I will be able to give other teachers many different ways in which to teach the major themes of World War II. This includes the major people involved, the different nations who took part, the battle sites, and finally, the spoils of victory for the Allies.

There are many possible ways in which to teach this important information, and in the pages to come these ways will be explored. By the end of this assignment, many different types of methods will have been examined, which will lead to effective teaching of World War II to all who use this information.

For the purpose of this assignment, World War II will be broken up into three separate sections. Section one will be “Events leading up to World War II”, section two will be, “U.S. In World War II (1942-1945)”, and finally section three will be, “major results of World War II.”


When asked, the student will be expected to:

Events leading up to World War II

  1. Explain how Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany in the 1930’s.

  2. Give reasons why Pearl Harbor was unprepared for an attack.

  3. Explain the U.S.’s “Lend-Lease policy” towards Great Britain.

  4. Summarize France and Great Britain’s attitudes toward Hitler and his aggressive demands.

  5. Define the different types of governments that existed in Europe just prior to the outbreak of World War II.

The United States in World War II

  1. Explain the difficulty the Allies had in winning battles in the initial months of the North Africa campaign.

  2. List three reasons why the United States helped turn the tide of the war after it entered on the side of the Allies.

  3. Explain the differences between the battles fought by the Allies against the Nazi’s and the Japanese.

  4. List the leaders of all the Allied Nations, and all of the leaders of the Axis Nations.

  5. Explain the United States policy of “Island Hopping”.

  6. List the codenames of the beachheads at Normandy.

  7. List the nations involved in the D-Day invasion, including what military divisions

  8. Explain what the Battle of the Bulge was.

  9. Give reasons did Truman cite as to why he decided to use the Atomic Bomb.

  10. Cite other possible motives might Truman have had.

Major results of World War II

  1. Explain what was decided at the Yalta Conference

  2. List our demands to Japan regarding their unconditional surrender

  3. Know how Germany was divided following the war

  4. Give the reasons why the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two “Superpowers” following the war


This two-week lesson will be divided into the three subsections listed above (Major events leading up to World War II, the United States in World War II, and the Major results of World War II). Three class periods will be used for the first section; five for the second section and two classes will be needed for the final section. Flexibility will be essential to complete the lessons in the time allotted.

Textbook: Appleby, Joyce, Alan Brinkley and James McPherson. The American Journey. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998. Chapters 26 and 27.
Events Leading up to World War II
A. The Great Depression of the 1930’s
With the world facing economic collapse the likes of which may never be seen again, the students will learn how this collapse paved the way for Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party to take control of Germany. To show this point to the students, they will see how Germany was already in economic turmoil due to the effects of the Treaty of Versailles, which required Germany to pay reparations to other nations in World War I. After the Great Depression strikes, Germany falls further and further into economic chaos. It is largely due to this economic turmoil that Adolph Hitler assumes power in Germany.
B.Aiding our European Allies
With Europe at war, and the United States observing a policy of isolationism, President Roosevelt used the Lend-Lease policy to aid our European allies, particularly Great Britain. Through this policy the United States lend weapons and other supplies to Great Britain in exchange for money, which was to be paid later. Many have argued that Great Britain had no intention of giving the weapons back, or paying the U.S. in full after the war was over. This section will give students a better understanding of how President Roosevelt attempted to get the United States involved earlier in the war effort.
C. Surprise Attack on the United States
In this portion of the unit, the students will study the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. Through discussion, lecture and a film, the students will see how the United States was ill prepared for an attack at Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, the students will be able to see the reasons why the attack was so successful and what could have been done to prevent it.


Treaty of Versailles Fascism

Communism The Great Depression
Tora, Tora, Tora Lend-Lease Policy

Pearl Harbor Appeasement

Allies Axis Powers

Adolph Hitler Winston Churchill

Franklin Roosevelt Benito Mussolini

Joseph Stalin Third Reich

Nazi Party Admiral Hirohito

The United States in World War II

A. U.S. Enters the War

The United States enters the war by starting out in North Africa, attacking the “soft underbelly” of Europe. Under the command of Great Britain’s General Montgomery, the Allies begin to take control of North Africa after early defeats at the hands of Germany’s Erwin Rommel. The students will be introduced to military leaders on both sides, as well as the reasons why the Allies struggled initially in North Africa and how they overcame these early difficulties.

B. Battles in the Pacific

The United States enters the war and begins fighting on two fronts. They fought the Germans in Africa, and the Japanese in the Pacific. In this section, the students will be introduced to the terms “Island Hopping” and “kamikaze”. Also, the students will see the differences between how the United States fought in the Pacific, versus how they fought in North Africa. They will see the role the U.S. Navy played in the success of the Pacific Theatre.

C. The European Theatre
After moving up through North Africa, the Allies focused their attention on Italy. After making large advances through Italy, it became time for the Allies to enter France. Operation Overlord, or D-Day, took place and firmly established an Allied presence in Europe. The students will study the main events, battle sites, nations involved, and major military figures involved in the D-Day invasion. They will watch a video entitled, “The Atlantic Wall” that will further enhance their understanding of what price the Allies paid in order to land on the European mainland.
D. Germany Begins to Fall
By the start of 1945, Germany begins to realize that it has lost the war. In a last ditch effort to win, Hitler launches a counter offensive in Belgium and France entitled the “Battle of the Bulge”. This offensive completely catches the Allies off guard, and nearly causes them to collapse. However, there are several reasons why this counter offensive launched by Germany was not successful, and the students will learn why that was. The
students will also see how the failure of this last ditch effort helped to result in the fall of Germany
E. The Use of the Atomic Bomb
After the fall of Germany and the end of the European Theatre, the United States focused all of its attention on the Japanese. When it became clear that the Japanese were not seriously considering retiring, the United States began to secretly develop ways to force the Japanese into surrender. In this section, the students will learn about the Manhattan Project, the use of atomic weapons on Japan, whether or not is was necessary to procure the surrender of the Japanese, and finally what other motives Truman might have had in using the Atomic bomb.


Major Battles

North Africa Campaign Iwo Jima

Sicily Guadalcanal

Normandy Battle of the Bulge

Okinawa Nagasaki


Key People

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

General George Patton

General Dwight Eisenhower

General Bernard Montgomery

Key Military Units

US 101st Airborne British 21st Army

US 82nd Airborne British 2nd Army

US 1st Army Canadian 3rd Army

Key Terms

Island Hopping Soft Underbelly

Manhattan Project Operation Overlord

Kamikaze Atlantic Wall

Major Results of World War II

A. The Yalta Conference

The Yalta Conference took place near the end of World War II as it became clear that the Allies were going to win the war. Many things were decided at this conference, one of the most important being how to deal with Germany after the war was over. Also
important at Yalta was the deal struck between Roosevelt and Stalin on conditions for the Soviet Union to enter the war against the Japanese. These decisions, along with a founding conference for the UN, will all be discussed and analyzed by the students.
B. The Surrender of the Japanese
After defeating the Germans and focusing most of its attention on Japan, the United States looked for ways to end the battle in the Pacific. After numerous attempts to achieve unconditional surrender, the United States decided to use the atomic bomb. In this section, the students will analyze what demands the United States made on Japan, as well as what other alternatives were available to the U.S. as opposed to atomic weapons.


Yalta Conference United Nations

Surrender terms fat boy


Events Leading up to World War II

Day One

Find out what students know regarding World War II, especially what they know about the start of the war. Show a PowerPoint presentation on the major factors of the start of World War II, especially the rise of Hitler. Discuss these main points and answer any questions the students have on the subject. Each student will choose one leader of either an Axis or Allie power during World War II and will complete a short one-page report on that leader.

Chapter 26, Section 1 Road to War, pp. 741-744

Day Two

Have overhead prepared regarding the Lend-Lease policy of the United States. Explain the key ways this aided our European Allies during the war. Students will also read aloud their one-page reports assigned the previous day. (50 points)

Day Three

Students will look at the ways Pearl Harbor was ill prepared for an attack. Students will also view a 20-minute section of the movie Tora, Tora, Tora. After

viewing the film, students will develop at least two ways the U.S. could have been better prepared for an attack.

The United States in World War II

Day Four

Students will study a map of the Pacific Ocean and will follow the path of the United States during its Island Hopping campaign against the Japanese. Students will also see the battle sites of the North Africa campaign.

Day Five

Students will study the leaders of the military of the Allied forces, as well as the Axis forces. Students will learn where these forces were stationed, and what affect these leaders had on the war.

Day Six

Students will study both the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. Students will be given an excerpt from the book “Currahee” in order to better understand what the soldiers who fought in these battles went through. Students will also view half of the video entitled “The Atlantic Wall”, which will help them better understand the horrors of D-Day.

Day Seven

The second half of “The Atlantic Wall” will be viewed. Students will then complete a short quiz about the video. (20 points)

Day Eight

In today’s lesson, the students will study the Yalta Conference. They will view the four major items agreed upon at the conference, and will discuss their significance.

Students will also read another unit in the book regarding the use of the atomic bomb against the Japanese. Students will prepare statements detailing their views on the use of the bomb, and will debate their views in the next class period. (30 participation points)
Chapter 26, Section 5 pp. 761-764

Day Nine

This period will be a review period for the students. Students will be given a study guide of key terms and themes to keep in mind for the Unit test. Students will also be given the opportunity to ask questions and clear up any confusion on issues that have been covered in the past two weeks.

Day Ten

Students will take the Unit test today covering the main points from the past two weeks. (100 points)


Unit Test

DIRECTIONS: Matching: Match Each item in column A with the items in Column B.

Write the correct letter in the blanks. (2 points each)

Column A Column B

_______ 1. leader of Germany in the 1930’s A. fascism

_______ 2. dictator of Italy in the 1930’s B. Winston Churchill
_______ 3. form of government in which a dictator and C. Axis Powers

supporters cooperate to seek more power for

their nation at the expense of human rights D. Munich Conference
_______ 4. type of nation in which the lives of the people E. Joseph Stalin

are controlled by the government.

_______ 5. policy of giving in to aggressor nation F. lend lease

demands to avoid war.

_______ 6. conference in 1938 in which British and G. appeasement

French leaders allowed Germany to annex

Part of Czechoslovakia. H. Dwight Eisenhower
_______ 7. dictator of the Soviet Union in the 1930’s I. Adolf Hitler
_______ 8. prime minister of England during the 1930’s J. Benito Mussolini

_______ 9. established the first peace time draft in US

history. K. totalitarian
_______ 10.. alliance formed by Japan, Germany, and

Italy during World War II M. Selective Service Act

Multiple Choice

In the blank provided at the left, write the letter of the

choice that best completes the statement or answers the question. (3 points each)

______ 11. The Americans entered World War II after
A. Germans attacked Poland C. Italians invaded France.

B. Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor D. Germans bombed Great Britain.

______ 12. The attack on Pearl Harbor took place on
A. December 7, 1931 C. December 7, 1951
B. December 7, 1941 D. December 7, 1961
______ 13. Which of the following was not part of the Treaty of Versailles?
A. Germany had to admit complete C. Germany had to pay reparations

Responsibility for World War I

B. Germany had to give up some of D. Germany had to downsize its

Its land Military

_______ 14. The lend lease plan the United States adopted favored which

European nation the most?

A. Great Britain C. France
B. Spain D. Poland

_______ 15. The strategy employed by the United States in the Pacific of moving from

one island to another was known as

A. Island Hopping C. Pacific Theatre

B. Strategic Movement D. Island Warfare

True / False

Place a “T” or an “F” in the blank next to the question, depending on whether or not the statement in “T”rue or “F”alse. (2 points each)
16. ______ Germany failed in the Battle of the Bulge because it’s military advanced quicker than its supplies.
17._______ The Treaty of Versailles helped lead to the rise of Adolph Hitler
18._______ The D-Day battle took place in Germany
19._______ The United States entered the war in 1940.
20._______ The Axis powers were made up of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Short Answer (5 points each)

  1. Briefly explain the differences between the battles fought in the Pacific, and the battles fought in Europe.

  1. How was Germany divided following World War II (which nations took control, and what areas did they control)?

  1. Briefly explain the Lend-Lease policy of the United States

Essay ( 20 points each)

For this section of the test, you should write at least six sentences for each question. You will be graded on both the length of your answer, but more importantly the quality of it.
24. What were some of the things that the US could have done to prevent the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor? (Name at least three)

  1. What were the main agreements made between the Allies at the Yalta Conference in 1945?


Teacher References

Burgett, Donald R. Currahee. New York; Dell Publishing, 2000

Written shortly after World War II and recently republished last year, this book gives a first hand account of the D-Day invasion through the eyes of a 19 year old paratrooper that was there. Donald R. Burgett looks back at the nonstop, nightmarish fighting across body-strewn fields, over enemy-held hedgerows, through blown-out towns and devastated forests. This harrowing you-are-there chronicle captures a baptism by fire of a young Private Burgett, his comrades, and a new air-mobile fighting force that would become a legend of war.

Bliven, Bruce. The Story of D-Day. New York; Random House, 1994

Another book written by a former soldier at D-Day, this book is written in more historical terms then the first two. It tells the overall story of the battle, not just a firsthand account. Looks at the United States, Great Britain, and Canadian involvement in the greatest amphibious assault in the world’s history.

Miller, Donald L. The Story of World War II. New York; Simon and Schuster, 2001.

Over 500 pages of World War II information, including Roosevelt’s secret war, and other little known facts about the war. This book looks at issues in the war that many others do not. This includes Roosevelt and the many decisions he faced, as well as the stress and pressure of the war and how it may have contributed to his death

Van Gelder, Lawrence. Ike: A Soldier’s Story. London; Universal-Tandem Publishing,

An autobiography on the leader of the Allied forces in World War II, as well as our 34th President. This book follows Eisenhower from a small Kansas farm, up through the ranks of the military an on to the White House. Very informative, and very detailed. Also includes many interesting pictures from various points in Eisenhower’s life.

Student References

Burgett, Donald R. Currahee. New York; Dell Publishing, 2000

Written shortly after World War II and recently republished last year, this book gives a first hand account of the D-Day invasion through the eyes of a 19 year old paratrooper that was there. Donald R. Burgett looks back at the nonstop, nightmarish fighting across body-strewn fields, over enemy-held hedgerows, through blown-out towns and devastated forests. This harrowing you-are-there chronicle captures a baptism by fire of a young Private Burgett, his comrades, and a new air-mobile fighting force that would become a legend of war.
Boyle, David. World War II in Photographs. London; Book Creations Service, 1998
An outstanding source for students wanting to learn about World War II. This book contains over 900 pictures from World War II, some never before seen. Many pictures are in color and have been digitally enhanced. A short caption is included with every picture.
Ambrose, Stephen E. Band of Brothers. New York; Simon & Schuster, 2001
This book follows the path of Easy Company, 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne during World War II. From D-Day, to the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of concentration camps, Easy Company was there. While Band of Brothers was recently made into an HBO mini-series, it is unsuitable to show in class, therefore the book will be used instead.
Jenkins, Roy. Churchill: A Biography. New York; Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001
The most recent autobiographies of the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Well-written and easy to follow. Includes pictures, and many important details about the man and the decisions he made to help England through World War II.

Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York; Penguin, 1990.

In this book, each theatre of the war is examined individually. This book covers new insight and detail into some of the most crucial battles of the war. Both the technological aspect of the war, as well as the human spirit is taken into account when studying the many battles.
Stolley, Richard B. Life: World War II in Pictures. London, Bullfinch Press, 2001
World War II in pictures was put together by Life Magazine, using many new and restored pictures. 352 pages of pictures about World War II. Great for supplementary material to a lecture or activity.
.Burgett, Donald R. Seven Roads to Hell: A Screaming Eagle in Bastogne. New York

Dell Publishing.

Written by the same author as Currahee, this book tells the story of what it was like to be in Bastogne, during the winter of 1944. As the Battle of the Bulge approaches, this book does an excellent job of putting you right there in the action. It tells you the feelings and emotions of the soldiers who lived through World War II.
Cowley, Robert. No End Save Victory: Perspectives on World War II. Berkley;

Berkley Publishing, 2002.

This book examines the policies and decisions made during World War II in order to bring about victory. It looks back on the war from 50 years in the future and re-examines the decisions made.
Brokaw, Tom. The Greatest Generation. New York; Random House, 1998.
After almost 15 years and hundreds of letters and interviews, Brokaw wrote The Greatest Generation, a representative cross-section of the stories he came across. However, this collection is more than a mere chronicle of a tumultuous time, it's history made personal by a cast of everyday people transformed by extraordinary circumstances: the first women to break the homemaker mold, minorities suffering countless indignities to boldly fight for their country, infantrymen who went on to become some of the most distinguished leaders in the world, small-town kids who became corporate magnates.
Brokaw, Tom. The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections. New York;

Random House, 1999.

The Greatest Generation Speaks expands his thesis that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those tough and courageous men and women for ensuring the freedoms and comforts that Americans enjoy today. Their stories, culled from letters, interviews, and personal histories of the Greatest Generation and their family members, are anecdotal but extremely powerful, showing how men and women were sustained by simple ideals of patriotism, family, and fair play.

Media References

(Videocassettes )

Tora, Tora, Tora

Arguably the finest movie ever created regarding the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Using Japanese and United States military documents to create a historically accurate portrayal of the battle. Made even more realistic by filming parts of the movie in Japan and using actually Japanese actors. Rated G so can be shown in all secondary history classes. 1970.

The Atlantic Wall

Documentary about the Atlantic Wall created by the Germans in the early parts of 1944 in order to prevent an Allied Invasion on the European mainland. Complete with actual footage as well as computerized diagrams of the types of obstacles on the beach. Also contains interviews with veterans who fought in the D-Day invasion, as well as actually battle footage from June 6, 1944. 1999.

Sworn to Secrecy: Tools of Deception

Narrated by Charlton Heston, this documentary looks at the many different types of covert operations and spies used in the events of World War II in order to gain an edge. The documentary looks at all nations involved, particularly Germany and the United States.

USS Arizona

Often considered the greatest relic from the World War II time period and Pearl Harbor, and one of the most visited memorials in the United States, the USS Arizona has been a part of this nations history for over 50 years. However, there is now some evidence that it has no become an environmental hazard. This video offers insight into what is being done to save the USS Arizona.

The Third Reich

This documentary takes a close look at the Third Reich. It starts at the at the entrance of Hitler into the German political system and goes all the way through until the end of the Third Reich, following the defeat of Germany in World War II.


Great Blunders of World War II

This DVD set looks at some of the more obvious mistakes made by all sides during World War II. Mistakes are examined and the consequences are shown. Over two hours of information on two separate DVD discs.

The War in Europe

Another two-disc set that looks at the war in Europe. The set concentrates only on the European battles, including the D-Day invasion and The Battle of the Bulge.


History Channel: Kiss in Times Square

This puzzle is actually a picture of the most famous photo of the end of the war. The sailor and a young woman embraced in a kiss that signaled the end of the war in Europe.

(World War II Collectibles)

These are a set of World War II collectible coins that contain the images of several different important aspects of the War. These include the historic battles of Pearl Harbor, Normandy and Iwo Jima.


Pulling for Victory”

Of Course I Can”
Defense Bond Stamps”
These posters were created during the World War era in order to build moral for the nation and to help the war effort. Students will be able to see some of the ways that citizens supported the war and how citizens had to sacrifice for the war by seeing the posters.

(Audio CD’s)

World War II – The Pacific

From Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Prisoner of War camps, these CD’s tell the story of the battles and struggles of the Pacific theatre.

The Greatest Generation

This is the audio version of Tom Brokaw’s best selling book. Includes interviews and audio from veterans who were there, as well as family members who lost loved ones in the “Great War.”


Operation Overlord

Overhead map of the D-Day invasion routes traveled by the Allied forces. Clearly shows the planned routes of all the military groups that participated in the invasion. Also shows where the rendezvous points were, as well as where the different groups ended up at the end of the day after miss-drops and faulty communication. Full color diagrams and explanations.

Pacific Naval Battles

This overhead map shows the major naval battles in the Pacific. It also shows what naval ships the United States used, where they were involved in battles, and where they were sunk.

Pearl Harbor Map

This map is not an overhead, but is actually a color map that shows the directions that the Japanese took in order to attack Pearl Harbor. This map also shows where our forces were, including our aircraft carrier groups. Students will be able to follow the Japanese fleet from their start off the coast of Japan.

(Interactive Websites)

Battle of the Atlantic


This website allows students to study the different types of ships involved in the battle for the Atlantic, as well as where the major battle sites were.

(Photographs / Slides)
There are many photographs that the students will view from the US Army and the US Navy that show the horrors of the war. These photos are both in black and white and in color.
There will also be a set of photographs (slides) that show candid shots of both the soldiers, and the leaders. These will include photos of Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt and Turman.

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