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What I Did 

During the War: 

From Grandpa's or Grandma's Scrapbook: 

A World War II WebQuest

Joyce ValenzaLen Arlen, and Chris Shelly

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Resources











Some images from the National Archives and Records Administration; others from the Kasman family archive. 


"At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific.  They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled. . .They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest.  They succeeded on every front.  They won the war; they saved the world.  They came home to joyous and short-lived celebrations and immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted."

"They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America--men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement, and courage gave us the world we have today."

 Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation


The scene: You are now approaching your eighties.  You've lived through the very period your favorite grandchild is now studying in history.  At a family dinner, you begin chatting about World War II.  It's clear that the events and mood of the period are very remote to your grandchild. 

To give him or her a richer picture of life back then, you go down to the basement (or up to the attic) and pull out and dust off the wartime scrapbook, in which so many of your critical memories are stored.  What's in the book? Who were you back then?  What facts and feelings would be most important for you to share to enable your grandchild to better understand life during this period?  


The Task:

Your assignment is to create an authentic looking scrapbook to share with your grandchild and to present the scrapbook and its contained memories to the class in the voice of the grandmother or grandfather, a person who lived through the Second World War.

As you develop your scrapbook, consider the essential questions:

  • How has this individual impacted history?
  • How can we better understand history through the experiences of this individual?

You may choose to look at your own character or the important people of the day and place. You may choose any of the following persona or invent one of your own:

In the fray: On sea, by land, in the air, in the camps.

On the home front.
Choose a theater of war, a branch of the military, and a particular period of two years.  You may be a male or female soldier, nurse, prisoner of war (POW), officer, aide to or under the command of a general, in a specific concentration camp liberator, etc.  You may be with either the Allied or Axis forces. For the World History class, make sure you choose a non-American persona.
  • The Pacific (You should include such events as Pearl Harbor, Battle of Midway, island hopping and reclaiming islands by the US, Japanese imperialism in China, etc., Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  post-war occupation of Japan, Guadalcanal, Battle of Coral Sea)
  • Western Europe (You should include such events as the siege of Stalingrad, Battle of the Bulge, German invasion of the Soviet Union, German blitzkrieg of Poland, German occupation of France, annexing of the Sudetenland, Battle of Britain, Dunkirk, D-Day, post-war occupation of Germany, Yalta Conference, British appeasement policy under Chamberlain, life as an SS Officer, life as an ordinary citizen in any European country)
  • North Africa (You should include events relating to both the US and British campaigns.)
  • Italy (You should include events relating to both the US and British campaigns, from Sicily north. Italian campaign in Ethiopia.)
  • Prisoner of War in any theater, Bataan Death March
  • United States (working on a base or in a POW Camp)
  • A WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)
  • A WAAC (WAC) (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps)
  • A WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilot)
  • A kamikaze pilot

or (for World History)

  • A Jew in Europe. Pick a place and a period of time between 1939 and 1945 (Lodz Ghetto, Warsaw, Austria, the Netherlands)
  • A Jew aboard the St. Louis
  • Concentration camp guard (Auschwitz, Dachau, Birkenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen)
  • Aiding the Resistance in France, England, Russia, Poland
  • A spy in Europe
  • Aboard a German U-Boat in the Atlantic
  • A member of Hitler Youth
  • A "righteous gentile" (Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg, etc.)
  • An aide to a government official  (Churchill, Mussolini, Hirohito, Hitler, Stalin, de Gaulle, etc.)
  • An aide to a high-ranking officer (Albert Speer, Goering, Rommel, Montgomery, Yamamoto, Zhukov, etc.)
  • An air raid shelter warden in Britain
  • An English child evacuated from London to the country 
Choose a persona and identify a two year period for one of these characters:
  • A soldier's sweetheart following him in a specific theater of war through his letters and the news media
  • A Japanese-American about to be "relocated"
  • A German prisoner of war (POW) in the United States
  • Navajo code reader
  • A Rosie-the-Riveter type female worker
  • A scientist (or other worker) at Los Alamos
  • A teen whose older brother has been drafted
  • Air raid warden
  • USO entertainer or volunteer

For more choices, visit Library Databases:  ABC-Clio (select Individuals and World War II)

Important:  Get your choice approved by your teacher! 

Specify who you are, where you are, what you are doing, and the years you will cover! 

For instance, "I plan to investigate the life of a sailor on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific from 1942-1944."


The Process

Make sure your scrapbook appears authentic (of the period!) and includes the following:

  • A description or timeline of the major events of the two years you are following
  • At least ten authentic and relevant historic photographs
  • At least five actual news clippings.
  • At least three personal letters you create based on historical fact
  • At least two documents relevant to your experience during the period (speech, legislation, poster, etc.)
  • At least five artifacts with explanations.  These might include: images of your weapon(s), drawings, political cartoons, an invitation, medals, images, mock ups of draft notices, representations of clothing, badges, posters, currency, your ship, your tank, your factory, your buddies, etc. 
  • Every item in your scrapbook should be dated and annotated with at least a paragraph explaining its importance.
  • Your Works Consulted and/or Works Cited pages should appear in the back of your scrapbook. MLA format or form from the library.

Checkpoint 1: Make sure you complete this form by the required date!

Though your stories should be historically accurate, feel free to embellish and to be creative!

During your presentation:

  • Speak as if you were describing your experience to your teenage grandchild.
  • Offer detailed explanations of the contents of your scrapbook for the two years covered.
  • Engage your audience with good stories and solid presentation skills!



Use our databases, including:

  • ABC-Clio Social Studies Databases
  • Discovering Collection
  • Worldbook Online

Remember, though the Web is a rich source of information on World War II we have a fine collection of books in the stacks and in the reference area. Please check the electonic card catalog for more resources or browse around 940.5.

Some useful links:

Directory Searches

Major Sites





You have been engaged in exploring history through the perspective of a "player" in a period of modern history that dramatically shaped your life today.

History is essentially the story of people and all people have perspectives. Perspective is the place where you stand relative to what you are viewing. By analyzing multiple interests and values, we develop a richer understanding how people really lived and of the great issues of our past.

How we view our history may well determine how we perceive and act in the present.

"The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this."

John Stuart Mill


In loving memory of my father, Martin Kasman, who served his country in the Pacific, and for whom duty and family meant everything. JKV

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