Lesson Plans -- Summer Workshops

World War II DBQ: The Homefront
by: Annette Varcoe, Jeff Rinde, Patrick Clarke, Sue Phelps, and Kathleen Burrell

Historical Context:
American life changed significantly from the end of the Great Depression to the beginning of the Cold War. The experiences of Americans, including social, economic, and political changes were a result of American involvement in World War II

Task:Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, write an essay in which you indentify and discuss one social, one economic, and one political change in American society that occurred as a result of World War II. Include whether the changes were positive or negative.

Examples of war-related changes: The shift from economic depression to a wartime economy; the rationing system; the role of minorities in the military; the internment of Japanese Americans, the evolution of women in the workforce; the Navajo code talkers.

Document 1: Victory Gardens advertisement

Question: What was the advertisement suggesting American consumers do with their products?

Document 2: "All Packed Up and Ready to Go" political cartoon that appeared in the San Francisco News on March 6, 1942.

Question: Why were the Japanese in this political cartoon being taken out of harm's way?

Document 3: Propaganda Poster

Question: What does the cartoonist want working Americans to think about their role in the war effort?

Document 4: 1946 Drawing by Charles White depicting the experiences of African Americans in the post-WWII South.

Questions: Note the connection the drawing makes between the KKK and the police.
What did African Americans hope to gain from participation in tte war effort?
What does the cartoon suggest about the war's actual impact on African Americans?

Document 5: Why Should We March?

Question: World War II is often remembered as a time in which Americans came together to work for a common cause. What does this flyer reveal about the accuracy fo this statement?

Document 6: Excerpt from Adam Jevec, "Semper Fidelis, Code Talkers," Prologue (Winter 2001) 33:4:

It is estimated that between 375 and 420 Navajos served as code talkers. The program was highly classified throughout the war and remained so until 1968. Though they returned home on buses without parades or fanfare and were sworn to secrecy about the existence of the code, the Navajo code talkers are now making their way into popular culture and mainstream American history.

The "Honoring the Code Talkers Act," introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico in April 2000 and signed into law December 21, 2000, called for recognition of the Navajo code talkers. The act authorized the President of the United States to award a gold medal, on behalf of the Congress, to each of the original twenty-nine Navajo code talkers as well as a silver medal to each man who later qualified as a code talker.

Question: How did World War II impact the Navajo code talkers?

Document 7: Poems

Question: What is the focus of these poems?

Document 8: Excerpt from "Tending the Homefront: The Many Roles of Bay Area Women During World War II"

Mothers and children were frequently used as symbols of what the war was being fought to protect, yet they bore the brunt of social upheaval on the home front. Bay Area schoolchildren were enthusiastically enlisted into wartime activities, such as collecting scrap and buying Victory Stamps, but they were also identified as particularly vulnerable victims of wartime social changes. Outcry over "eight-hour orphans" accompanied the remarkable development of Federal-local partnerships to provide daycare for the first time to large numbers of working women. Communities and businesses, like Richmond's Kaiser Shipyards, took advantage of Federal Lanham Act funding to develop groundbreaking childcare programs.

Question: List two impacts of the war on women and children.

Document 9: Propaganda Poster--Women in the War

Question: How does this poster represent a change in the role of women?

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