Teaching With Documents:
Message Drafted by General Eisenhower in Case the D-Day Invasion Failed and Photographs
Taken on D-Day
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 8 -The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
- Standard 3B -Demonstrate understanding of World War II and how the Allies prevailed.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard III.B.2. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding the major responsibilities of the national government for domestic and foreign policy.
- Standard IV.A.2. -Explain how nation-states interact with each other.
- Standard IV.C.2. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions about the effects of significant international political developments on the United States and other nations.
Article I, Section 8, Paragraphs 11 through 16, of the U.S. Constitution grant Congress the power to declare war and provide for and regulate a military force. This lesson addresses the success of such a force on D-Day.
Share this lesson with your history, government, and language arts colleagues.
Brainstorming/ Group Discussion
- Distribute copies of the two photographs to your students. Prompt students to list all of the materials that would have been needed for soldiers to invade the beaches of Normandy by studying the photograph. They might include personal items, such as rifles, socks, or helmets. Some might wish to include the supporting items, such as artillery, planes, or other items that were used once the soldiers got ashore, or landing craft and battleships offshore. Ask students how much effort and planning would therefore be needed to plan a secret invasion such as D-Day.
- Explain to students that it was important for the Allies to be not only materially prepared for D-Day, but also emotionally prepared. Ask students to imagine how General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied forces in Europe, felt the night before the attack. Distribute copies of Document 1 to students. Ask one student to read it aloud as the others follow along. Ask: What type of document is it? What is the date of the document? Who wrote the document? What is the purpose of the document? How does the document make you feel? Does the document surprise you? Lead the class in oral responses to the questions.(Note: The Document Analysis Worksheet is also available.)
- Divide students into small groups and direct them to conduct research using library and Internet resources to find out what strategies were employed on D-Day and what the results of D-Day were. Direct each group to present their findings in either a five-minute news report or a written newspaper article or a map. Discuss with students why D-Day is considered an important turning point in the war.
- Redirect student attention to the first photograph, "Ready
and Waiting for D-Day." Lead a class discussion about why images such
as this one were possibly censored during World War II.
- Redirect student attention to Eisenhower's letter. Lead a class discussion about the qualities and responsibilities of a leader. Ask students to what extent they think circumstances affect levels of responsibility. For example, ask students to consider whether very serious circumstances require a greater sense of responsibility on the part of a leader.
- Assign students to write a 1- or 2-page journal entry from the perspective of a soldier depicted in the second photograph, "Into the Jaws of Death U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire." As the students write, dim the lights in the room and project the photograph using an overhead projector.
- Invite community members who were alive during World War II to your class to discuss D-Day's impact on their lives. Prior to their arrival, instruct each student to write three questions to ask the visitors during the interview session. For example, students might ask visitors to compare their memories with the depictions shown in the featured documents and other accounts students discovered while doing their research for Activity 3. Videotape the session for later viewing. (You may wish to keep a copy, and make other copies for your guests and the local historical society.)
- Assign students to write a research paper on the effects of D-Day on the remainder of World War II in Europe.
The documents included in this project are from the Franklin D. Roosevelt
Presidential Library and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. They are available online through the Online Catalog (OPA) National Archives Identifiers:
The Online Catalog (OPA) replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the online catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the online catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the online catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the online catalog will grow continually.
Additional documents related to United States v. Thomas Cooper are available in the Bill of Rights Teaching Packet available for purchase from the National Archives.
This article was written by David Traill, a teacher at South Fork High School in Stuart, FL.