They Also Served

Social Studies

Through personal interviews, students explore the connections between those who served in the armed forces during wartime and those who remained on the home front.

In advance of this activity, you may want to contact a veterans' organization, senior citizens' club, local historical society, or newspaper for potential contacts and interviewees.

What You Need

  • Audio or video recorder and tapes
  • Reference materials about World War II and/or later conflicts

What to Do

  1. Discuss what sources students would use to learn about World War II (or a later conflict). Explain that one source would be members of their community who either served in the armed forces or did what they could to help though they remained at home. Ask students to think of family and other community members who served in the armed forces during wartime. Explain that those who remained on the home front also participated in wartime efforts by such actions as keeping up the morale of service members, collecting materials that were in short supply, and buying bonds to support the war effort.

  2. Review with students what they know about interviewing techniques, such as researching the subject beforehand, having questions prepared, making appointments with interviewees, recording responses, and acknowledging contributors' contributions (with thank-you notes).

  3. Tell students that their task is to search out older members of the community to learn more about what happened in their state during wartime. With students, draw up a list of questions they might ask about wartime connections between those on the home front and armed forces overseas. Starter topics might include bond drives, scrap collections, the USO, food and gas rationing, and meatless days. Based on the questions, prepare a worksheet that student interviewers can fill in.

    You may find it helpful to model an interview in class, using the student-generated questions.

  4. Have students record their interviews and summarize, in writing, what they learned. Encourage students to consider the best way to share what they learned with their community. Possibilities might include donating the interviews to a local historical society, collecting their summaries in booklet form, and presenting dramatized monologues of the interviews.

Teaching Options

  • A local veterans' organization may have an auxiliary made up of family members. Invite a veteran and a member of the auxiliary to share with the class their memories of wartime connections.

  • Plan a visit with students to a war memorial and learn about local observances that honor veterans. Students may be able to share their research at one of those observances.

  • Share with students a video of a wartime movie that deals with characters both on the home front and on the front lines. Have students compare what they learned from their research and the tenor of the film. Lead students to see that such movies were often intended to keep up the spirits of viewers during a difficult time.

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