World War II was the costliest war in history in terms of human lives. More people were killed in this war than in any war before or after it--about 17 million people, including 6 million European Jews.
The war was fought on three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. It pitted Germany, Italy, and Japan against the allied forces led by Great Britain, France, and the United States. The war began with the rise of Nazism in Germany and Fascism in Italy which resulted in Germany invading Poland on September 1, 1939.
Sample some of the following activities to learn more about World War II.
Places To Go People To See Things To Do Teacher Resources Bibliography
The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about World War II.
Visit this famous German battleship. During its time in the oceans, it was the largest and most powerful warship afloat.
From August of 1942 to February of 1943, allied troops fought to recover this island from the Japanese. Read one soldier's account of his time at Guadalcanal.
Travel to the Maginot Line. It was a system of fortifications built along the eastern border of France in the 1930s. It was named after André Maginot, who was French minister of war at the time and directed the construction. The line consisted of defensive forts, anti-tank measures, and lookout posts. It was not completed and had two major holes--along the Belgian border and across a piece of forested land called the Ardennes. Ultimatley, these fortifications did little to help protect France from the advance of German forces.
Virtually travel to Germany and learn about the resistence group called the White Rose.
Take a virtual tour of a German U-boat.
Visit the D-Day Museum and learn about the history of D-Day, see maps and photographs, find a D-Day timeline, read personal histories by the men and women who participated.
Read about Hitler's "facade of hospitality" for the participants and worldwide spectators at the games. Learn about Jesse Owens. He is the best remembered of all the Olympic athletes.
Travel to Pearl Harbor and hear stories from survivors of the bombing, see a map of the area, find a timeline of the events, and more.
Virtually visit the USS Arizona. The bombing of this battleship killed 1,177 men. The bomb that hit it ignited an ammo magazine which caused a hugh explosion. Within about nine minutes, the ship had sunk.
Visit the USS Missouri battleship. It is the place where General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, on 2 September 1945, officially accepted the surrender of Japan, ending World War II.
Visit the USS Utah battleship. It, too was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Like the USS Arizona, the USS Utah has been made into a national shrine to honor the crew members who lost their lives.
Cruise on the USS Washington BB56 Battlship. Find out what happened to their commander, Rear Admiral John Wilcox.
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.
Meet Audie Murphy. He was a country-western songwriter and singer and a Hollywood actor. He was also the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was a soldier in WWII, and when he returned, he wrote a book called To Hell and Back. The popularity of the book launched his acting and singing career, and he eventually starred in the movie, To Hell and Back, based on his book.
These were the heads of the main allied countries who participated in the Yalta Conference in February of 1945. Read some of the original documents pertaining to the conference.
African-American soldiers and civilians fought a two-front battle during World War II. There was the enemy overseas, and also the battle against prejudice at home.
Spend time with General Douglas MacArthur. During WWII, he was commande of U.S. troops in the Pacific. At the end of the war in the Pacific, MacArthur presided over the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay and oversaw Japan's occupation and reconstruction.
Meet Dwight D. Eisenhower. In June, 1942, General Eisenhower was named U.S. commander of the European theater of operations. His recognition as a World War II military commander helped him earn the presidency in 1952.
Meet Tokyo Rose. Her real name was Iva Ikuko Toguri. Find out if she was an enemy or a hero. This site has a streaming RealVideo 5.0 file of the 15 minute segment when she was interviewed on 60 Minutes.
Read the words of Emperor Hirohito of Japan as he addressed the people of Japan in the aftermath of Hiroshima.
In the 1930s, he wrote a popular syndicated column about the lives and hopes of everyday people. He became the most popular of all correspondents, writing about the experiences of enlisted men rather than about battles or the exploits of officers.
Meet German field marshall, Erwin Rommel. His nickname was the "Desert Fox" because of his campaign in northern Africa against mostly British forces. Find out if Rommel remained loyal to Hitler and how his life ended.
All five brothers, named George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert, died (along with 700 of their crewmen) when the USS Juneau was sunk off Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942.
Geet to know General George Marshall. He was one of the main military strategists of WWII. After the war, he served as Secretary of State. Learn about the Marshall Plan that he implemented during his time as Secretary of State.
Meet Rosie the Riveter. Rosie represented the influx of women into the workplace to replace men who had gone to war. "During World War II, an unprecedented number of American women responded to government encouragement to enter the high-paying world of heavy war-production industry. Women who had worked at pink-collar jobs, or in lower-paying women's industrial jobs, flocked to war production work as an opportunity to learn new skills and make higher wages."
Benito Mussolini was the Facist leader of Italy. Facism is a totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life. Italy was suffering from the aftermath of World War I when Mussolini came to power. He restored order through terrorism with armed groups. He ruled Italy from1921 until his death in 1945. Mussolini allied himself and Italy with Germany and Japan during World War II.
Learn about the unique role that the Navajo's played in WWII. About 400 individuals served in the Marine Corps as radiomen. They sent messages in a special code that was based on the Navajo language and which was almost impossible to decipher. (Choctaw Native Americans served in a similar manner as code talkers in WWI).
Learn about America's Ranger and Airborne troops. This site has a poignant photographic history of the war.
Spend time with President Franklin Roosevelt and listen to an audio file of his address to Congress on December 8, 1941 in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
This site is based on the letters that Pvt. Arthur Pranger sent and received over 2 1/2 years in England, Normandy, and most of the European theatre.
Learn about Sid Martindale's experiences in the war. "He survived the heat of El Alamein, the beaches of Sicily and the mud of Italy while some of his close friends did not make it back."
Meet the Tuskegee Airmen. There were a highly decorated African-American air squadron.
Meet some of the women of WWII and learn about the roles they played. This project was written by students in Rhode Island who interviewed their grandmothers, friends, and other relatives in the community.
Meet Therese Bonney, Toni Frissell, Marvin Breckinridge Patterson, Clare Boothe Luce, Janet Flanner, Esther Bubley, Dorothea Lange, and May Craig. They assumed active roles in the news media during the war, breaking ground for future jobs for women.
Meet men and women who served in WWII and read their personal stories. The site also has accounts of women who dealt with the hardships of life on the home front while their husbands were gone.
Learn about Little Boy which was the code name for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Learn about Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. He headed the naval fighting forces in the Pacific throughout World War II.
On August 6th and 9th, 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by the first atomic bombs used in warfare. From this site, find documents on the decision to use the atomic bomb that have been reproduced here in full-text form.
U.S. and Filipino troops were regrouping in Bataan when they were captured by Japanese troops. To transfer these prisoners to a prison camp near Cabanatuan, the Japanese put them through the infamous death march where they were forced to walk about 100 miles over 5 to 12 days without food or water.
Learn about this daring battle where allied troops were backed up to the coast of France in the town of Dunkirk. An armada of ships from England picked up the soldiers and brought them across the English Channel to safety. Ships of all kinds were used, ranging from Royal Navy ships to fishing boats. The Royal Air Force provided cover, protecting the troops from German planes. Over 300,000 soldiers were saved from the oncoming German army.
Find out about the largest land battle of World War II. More than a million men participated in this battle including 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans, and 55,000 British. The battle lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 28, 1945. At the conclusion of the battle the casualties were 19,000 Americans killed, 200 British killed, and 100,000 Germans killed, wounded or captured.
Scroll through the lists of ships that were damaged in World War II.
Listen to audio files of President Franklin Roosevelt's official declarations of war.
Learn about the efforts made by both the allies and axis forces to keep their secrets secret.
This site encourages family members to find out about and record the stories of relatives who were in World War II.
Propaganda refers to a manipulation of public opinion. Look at the posters and adverstisements that the U.S. government used. Would the "tone" of some of these posters work today?
Learn about the military history of the German Armed Forces and European Axis Allies from 1919-1945.
General Eisenhower claimed that the Higgins boat helped end the war. Without these specially designed landing craft, the allied forces could not have landed on an open beach such as at Normandy, and the whole strategy of the war would have been different.
See a timeline of WWII with photos and text. This site has an additional section specifically about the war in the Pacific.
A collection of source documents and official U.S. military histories related to the Second World War. Order of Battle information for U.S. Army, U.S. Army Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps units in World War II. Official history series from the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries.
Through letters, diaries, manuscripts, photographs, newspaper clippings, uniforms, ration coupons, maps, etc., learn about the men and women who served in World War II and about the civilians who helped on the home front.
Read the living histories of the men and women who participated in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
Learn about some of the key figures in World War II and find a timeline of the events.
Find out about the fate of Poland, one of the earliest countries to be overtaken and occupied by German forces.
Look at posters that the American government used as part of its campaign to gain public support for the war.
Find out about the two main fighting aircraft of the European theatre in WWII--the British Spitfires and the German Messerschmitt Bf.109s.
The merchant Marine refers to the ships and personnel that act as floating warehouses for good and supplies. During wartime, the merchant Marine plays a vital role in transporting troops and war materials and equipment around the world.
This site is the official site of the USS Indianapolis Survivor's Organization. It is dedicated to all of the members of the crew.
Read about some of the major battles of the war in both the European and Pacific theatres.
View dozens of photographs from World War II.
Use this day-by-day, month-by-month calendar to learn about America's involvement in World War II. It begins with Novemer of 1941.
Over 150,000 American women served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army.
Use this interactive timeline to click on a date and find WWII events as well as other things that were happening in the United States during a particular year.
- Black, Wallace B. Blitzkrieg. New York: Crestwood House; Toronto : Collier Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, c1991.
- Colman, Penny. Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II. New York: Crown Publishers, c1995.
- Cross, Robin. Victims of War. New York: Thomson Learning, 1993.
- Devaney, John. America Triumphs, 1945. New York: Walker, 1995.
- Dolan, Edward F. America in World War II, 1945. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, c1994.
- Grant, Neil. Heroes of World War II. Austin, Tex.: Steck-Vaughn, 1990, c1989.
- Krull, Kathleen. V is for Victory: America Remembers World War II. New York: Knopf, c1995.
- O'Connor, Barbara. The Soldiers' Voice: The Story of Ernie Pyle. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, c1996.
- Oleksy, Walter G. Military Leaders of World War II. New York, NY: Facts on File, c1994.
- Pietrusza, David. The Invasion of Normandy. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, c1996.
- Ross, Stewart. World Leaders. New York: Thomson Learning, 1993.
- Sherrow, Victoria. Hiroshima. New York: New Discovery Books; Toronto : Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, c1994.
- Stein, R. Conrad. D-Day. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1993.
- Taylor, Mike. Battles of World War Two. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughters, c1998.
- Whitman, Sylvia. Uncle Sam Wants You!: Military Men and Women of World War II. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co., c1993.
- Zeinert, Karen. Those Incredible Women of World War II. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, c1994