World War II
World War II was fought across four continents and thousands of miles of ocean. The lives of millions of military service members and civilians were affected by the events of this war. The lesson plans and walking tours in this module focus on the diverse experiences and individual stories of those who fought abroad or worked on the homefront during the war.

Lesson Plan: It's Your War, Too

The scope and scale of World War II required unprecedented numbers of personnel on the battlefield, in warfighting industries, and in support capacities. The need to “free a man to fight” opened many opportunities for women to serve in the U.S. military and laid the groundwork for women to have a permanent place in the armed forces. In this lesson, high school students will learn about these expanded roles and then examine the relationship between women’s opportunities in the military and their place in the general workforce.
 

Walking Tours: World War II

These six walking tours share some of the diverse experiences and individual stories of those who fought abroad or worked on the home front during World War II. The main walking tour includes stops across the entire cemetery, while the four cluster tours only include stops in one of the four main sections of the cemetery. The school tour is an abridged version of the main tour.

Recommended Reading: World War II Perspectives

World War II was a people’s war. Mobilization for the war affected the lives of every American.
The collection of firsthand accounts compiled here ― all from individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery ― include stories of love and loss, discrimination and perseverance, and horror and joy. Drawn from oral histories, interviews and personal writings, they provide small slices of the larger story of the United States’ experience in World War II.

 

Lesson Plan: Firsthand History

Students will analyze the purpose of primary sources before being introduced to Eddie Willner, a survivor of the Holocaust who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
They will then listen to a portion of an oral history interview he gave to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). While listening, students will answer questions about the interview and the importance of primary sources. Students do not need to already be familiar with World War II or the Holocaust in order to participate in this lesson.
  • One or two class periods, 90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Telling the Story of World War II

Explore the diverse experiences of individuals buried at ANC: fighter pilots, Black women who served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, Japanese Americans, military wives, and Holocaust survivors.
Students select a perspective, read an article related to that topic, and then watch an oral history interview with an individual who lived through World War II. After completing their own study, students participate in a discussion on the uses of primary and secondary sources. They will discuss how primary and secondary sources on their chosen topic contributed to their understanding of World War II as a whole.
  • Two class periods; 10 minute introduction; at-home examination of sources; 30-40 minute in-class discussion and activity

Lesson Plan: Women on the Homefront

During World War II, women were not allowed to serve in combat roles in the American armed forces. However, the work done by women who served on the American homefront was a vital support to the success of the Allied forces abroad.
In this lesson, students will examine primary sources related to the experiences of two women, both buried at Arlington National Cemetery, who served on the homefront in different ways. While the focus of this lesson is on analyzing primary sources and creative writing, through the lives of the two women highlighted students will also learn about the broader meanings of service and sacrifice during World War II, both in the military and on the homefront.

  • One or two class periods, 90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – Tuskegee Airmen, World War II

The Tuskegee Airmen have long been honored for their skills, valor and distinguished service despite facing segregation and discrimination.
From 1941 to 1946, nearly 1,000 African American military pilots completed their training in Tuskegee, Alabama. More than 350 of them served overseas during World War II; 84 lost their lives. Students learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and explore their significance in historical and cultural context. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout.
  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, World War II

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, popularly known as the “Six Triple Eight,” was a segregated Black unit of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II—.and the only non-medical Black women’s unit to serve overseas.

Students learn about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this military unit in historical and cultural context. One class period, 15-20 minutes total

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – 369th Infantry Regiment

The 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Rattlers” and “Harlem Hellfighters,” had one of the most distinguished records of any unit in the history of the United States Army.
The 369th saw extensive combat in both World War I and World War II. Most of the men in the regiment were African American, although it also included Puerto Ricans. Students learn about the 369th Infantry Regiment and explore its significance in historical and cultural context. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout.
  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total