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US Involvement in World War II

Context for this Lesson


Topic: US Involvement in World War II
Purpose: Why did the United States ultimately enter World War II?  What are the ethical questions involved in a country entering a war?
Prior knowledge:

  • Blackboard and chalk
  • Headlines from this morning involving war 
  • Headlines from fake country 
  • Tape
  • Scarf to get into role
  • Handouts to help students get into role (Name, age, occupational background)
  • Copies of late 1930s-early 1940s newspaper articles.

Current Headlines

On the chalkboard will be several headlines from the morning news involving wars throughout the world.  This morning the headlines listed here were plastered all over the news. (Use current events of the day teaching the lesson)

  • Government debt concerns weigh on European markets
  • US Military rushes bomb dogs to Iraq
  • India offers to resume stalled talks with Pakistan
  • Israel warns Syria it would lose future war
  • 32 suspected militants killed in Afghanistan
  • Canada looking at ways to create, maintain jobs
  • 3 American troops killed in Pakistani terrorist attack

Vote With Your Feet

Students will start at one side of the room.  This will represent “Strongly Agree.”  They will then move to the other side. This will represent “Strongly Disagree.”  The facilitator will make the following statements, allowing the students to move based on how much they agree or disagree:

  • “I would stand up to someone who was bullying a small child.”
  • “I would fight back if someone hit me.”
  • “I would keep quiet if people in my neighborhood were disappearing.”
  • “I would fight back if someone stole money from me.”
  • “I would support going to war to protect a weaker nation that was invaded.”
  • “I would support going to war if the lives of my family or friends were threatened.”
  • “I would defend someone who had different beliefs than me if they were being persecuted.”

Activity Reflection:

  • Which questions had the strongest yeses or strongest nos? For each question ask- Where did people stand on…? 
  • Which questions seemed to divide people the most?  What were some of your concerns about each issue?
  • Will address these questions later after next section

Transition: You have all shared some great ideas about why people choose to go to war. In order to delve deeper into this topic today, we are going to become members of a country similar to the United States.  
Share info about topic:  What shall we call our country? Write response on board.  Here are some of the headlines from the news this morning here in [country]. Place the following headlines on the board:

  • Unemployment at an all-time high
  • Worst economic crisis of in the history of the nation
  • Automakers prepare to shut down factories due to low sales, layoffs imminent 
  • Farlandia invades fourth country in 13 months
  • East Ocle attacks islands 1000 miles off coast
  • Dictators consolidate power, take over news media
  • Mac users disappearing in Farlandia and neighboring countries by the thousands

What are some of the challenges facing our country? Here in [country], the leaders cannot enter the country into war without 51 out of 100 of the representatives supporting it.  The representatives that lead the country must vote along with how the people in their district decide.  [In class, we have spent the last few weeks talking about the Great Depression in the United States and the effect it had on the country in the 1930s.  We most recently started to review similar struggles in other countries at the same time and how they responded, especially Germany].  Invite students to become part of a country with a representative government structure similar to the United States that has been grappling with some of the questions addressed in "Vote with your Feet."  Much like the US before World War II, their country is suffering through a depression along with other countries throughout the world.  On the opposite side of their world, two countries, Farlandia and East Ocle, with powerful dictators have started attacking their neighbors.  There have been rumors that one of them is specifically targeting anyone who prefers Macs to PCs.   

Meeting to decide if we should go to war (teacher in role)

Teacher in role: I want to thank all of you for coming today. I’m Bridgid, Representative Kelm’s aid. He is preparing for tonight’s meeting with the other representatives and asked me to meet with you. I know that some of you are very concerned about what you’ve been hearing in the news. Farlandia has taken over the countries to the north and south and looking towards the east.  Last week East Ocle invaded their neighbors to the south and several islands moving in our direction.  This may be the last chance we have to take the offensive and help out those who have been attacked. The automakers in Smithville have approached our representatives and can turn the failing auto factories into munitions factories to provide weapons to fight this war.  In order to move forward, we need your support behind representative Kelm. Please let me know any questions you have and I will try to answer them as best I can.  Please let me know your name and what your background is.  I’ll try to take notes to take back for anything I can’t answer.    
Possible Side-Coaching:

  • The war will provide jobs for those out of work
  • Automakers can convert factories to manufacture weapons within a month
  • The war will take away many of our young men
  • Someone’s parent grew up in Farlandia
  • Someone prefers Macs

Phone call comes in saying an airport by the most popular resort in our country has been attacked.  East Ocle is the suspected attacker.

Transition:  I know that this is a very important issue for all of you and I appreciate your candor in expressing your concerns and support for our efforts. I need to report back to our representative before their meeting, so before I go, I would like to take a vote. Would those of you who vote yes please raise your hand? No?  Thank you so much for your time.  We should know soon how the other representatives have voted.  Stop the drama and step out of role.



  • What were some of the concerns expressed about going to war?
  • What were some of the arguments for going to war?


  • How would going to war impact the people of this country?  How would not going to war?


  • When has the United States struggled with these same questions?  How has our country responded?
Extensions/Applications : 

1. Image Work: The students will create images of the following:

  • Causes of war 
  • Victims of war
  • Those that benefit from war
  • Freedom
  • Victory
  • Defeat

2. Press Conference/Hotseating: The students will prepare a press release as representatives letting the people in their district know that they have either voted to go to war or not go to war and why they have made that decision.  They must be prepared to ask questions from the press.  Students will take turns being the representative while the other students will be members of the press.