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World War II

The Second World War was the greatest armed conflict in the history of man in terms of scale, scope, lives engaged and lives lost among many other variables. It began with the rise of nationalist, territorial aggrandizing regimes in both Europe and the Far East. Japan's 1937 invasion of China and Germany's 1939 invasion of Poland initiated the war in those respective regions. Soon, however, the war expanded into many theaters; e.g. Western Europe, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Eastern Europe, China-Burma-India, Southwest Pacific, Middle East, Central Pacific. Nazi Germany and its partners Italy and Japan became known as the Axis Powers, while opposed by the nations of the Allied Powers, including the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, China, the United States, France and dozens of others. Initial Axis success (1937–42) led to most of continental Europe falling under Hitler's sway and much of the western Pacific under Japanese dominion. The Allies began to make use of their superior industrial, economic and manpower might to gradually exert pressure on the Axis on all fronts, beginning markedly in 1943. By the following year, the Allies had gained the strategic advantage but much hard fighting remained to subdue the Axis by May (Germany) and August (Japan) 1945. The ending of the war was accomplished, in part, by the U.S. decision to use the new nuclear weapon against Japan. This was, however, the latest in an ever-increasing use of force against military and civilian targets throughout the war and resulting in millions of civilian lives lost. The war's end saw the emergence of a bi-polar political construct arranged around the United States and the Soviet Union. On the heels of their victory as Allied partners against Axis tyranny, these two superpowers immediately embarked on their own conflict, to be known as the Cold War.

Timeline 1939 - 1945 (Background Information 1931–1945)
Grades 6–12
Characters 30
Number of Timeline Events 259
Duration 2 weeks to 1 semester

$10.00$5.00 / Student

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Sample Timeline Events
(December 7, 1941 to February 19, 1942)

Pearl Harbor Attacked! US Navy in Flames!

(December 7, 1941)

"Japan has launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and has declared war on Britain and the United States. The US president, Franklin D Roosevelt, has mobilised all his forces and is poised to declare war on Japan. Details of the attack in Hawaii are scarce but initial reports say Japanese bombers and torpedo-carrying planes targeted warships, aircraft and military installations in Pearl Harbor, on Oahu, the third largest and chief island of Hawaii. News of the daring raid has shocked members of Congress at a time when Japanese officials in Washington were still negotiating with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull on lifting US sanctions imposed after continuing Japanese aggression against China." ~ BBC Report on 7 December 1941 Respond in character to this event (in an essay of about 150 words), describing how you reacted to this news and what your thoughts and feelings are moving forward from it. After posting this response to your timeline, write an in-character comment on at least two other characters' pages about the event. Finally, comment on at least two additional characters' written responses to this event.

Philippines and Wake Island Invaded!

(December 8, 1941)

Simultaneously with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, forces of the Imperial Japanese Army land on the American outpost of Wake Island in the western Pacific and, after a brief hard fight, capture the island and its garrison completely. At the same time, a very large force assaults the American-Philippine Army on Luzon Island after destroying the American Far East Air Force on the ground.

British Lose Two Battleships to Japanese Aircraft!

(December 10, 1941)

Having sailed around the world from Britain to Singapore, two of Britain's most powerful ships, the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, are sunk by Japanese torpedo and dive bombers off Malaya. Prime Minister Churchill got the news from his chief of the Royal Navy, Admiral Dudley Pound: Pound: Prime Minister, I have to report to you that the Prince of Wales and the Repulse have both been sunk by the Japanese – we think by aircraft. [Admiral] Tom Phillips is drowned. Churchill: Are you sure it's true? Pound: There is no doubt at all. Churchill hangs up. "In all the war," wrote Churchill, "I never received a more direct shock... As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked."

Italy and Germany Declare War on USA!

(December 11, 1941)

Benito Mussolini declares war on the US in the morning and in the afternoon Adolf Hitler follows, stating he must abide by the terms of the Axis agreements and that Germany had pledged her support to Japan and Italy. "After victory has been achieved," said Hitler, "Germany, Italy and Japan will continue in closest co-operation with a view to establishing a new and just order." The US Congress debates and then declares war on both nations in return. The one dissenting vote is from the pacifist Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin (who had also voted against declaring war on Japan).

The Flying Tigers See Their First Action in China!

(December 20, 1941)

Secretly authorized in April 1941 by President Roosevelt, retired Army General Claire Chennault organizes the 1st American Volunteer Group in the service of the Chinese. Three squadrons and 100 pilots, flying tiger-toothed P-40 Warhawks, provide valuable defense of Chinese critical points along the Burma Road, destroy numerous Japanese aircraft, and improve American morale at home in their seven months of service. In this first action, they shoot down 4 of 10 Japanese bombers attacking Kunming, China.

Hong Kong Falls to the Japanese!

(December 25, 1941)

After fighting since December 8th, the British forces in Hong Kong surrender to the Japanese under General Sakai. Over 10,000 prisoners march into captivity. Meanwhile, Allied forces recapture Benghazi in Libya.

First Liberty Ship Off the Line

(December 30, 1941)

In what is being described as a triumph of American industrialism and patriotism, the first cargo "Liberty Ship," the SS Patrick Henry was launched in September and completed for sea duty today. Eventually, US shipyards will produce 2,710 Liberty Ships to support Allied forces in Europe and the Pacific theaters. This is the largest number of vessels of a single-ship design ever produced.

Albert Camus Publishes Existential Works!


French author and Resistance fighter Albert Camus publishes two of his most well-known novels in 1942 -- "The Myth of Sisyphus" and "The Stranger" that explore his sense of absurdism in life. Other famed literary works of these years include Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in 1940 and "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand in 1943.

Arcadia Conference Adjourns

(January 14, 1942)

Since late December, top-ranking military and political leaders from the USA and Britain meet in Washington D.C. The outcome from these meetings are 1) Allies agree to adopt a 'Europe First' strategy, focusing the majority of their forces on defeating Germany/Italy before Japan; 2) Plans to invade North Africa are established; and 3) The Combined Chiefs of Staff are established and based in Washington to make final approval of military decisions.

Nazi "Final Solution!"

(January 20, 1942)

Today in Berlin, Nazi leaders attend the Wannsee Conference and establish what they are calling the "Final Solution," in which millions of Jews throughout Nazi-controlled Europe are to be rounded up, relocated to concentration camps, and murdered. Respond in character to this event (in an essay of about 150 words, describing how you reacted to this news and what your thoughts and feelings are moving forward from it. After posting this response to your timeline, write an in-character comment on at least two other characters' pages about the event. Finally, comment on at least two additional characters' written responses to this event.

American Troops Land in Northern Ireland!

(January 26, 1942)

The first American troops arrive in Northern Ireland to reinforce the Allies in Europe.

British Lose Singapore!

(February 15, 1942)

General Tomoyuki Yamashita (to be known as the 'Tiger of Malaya') forces the surrender of 80,000 British-led troops in Singapore, having already captured an additional 50,000 in the campaign down the Malay peninsula to the city. This is the largest surrender of British troops in history.

Concentration Camps Open in America!

(February 19, 1942)

“A Jap’s a Jap. . . I don't want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty... It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.” ~ Lieutenant General John DeWitt, Commander of US forces in the western US, testifying to Congress On this day President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, establishing exclusion zones for anyone the military deemed a threat. The three west coast states are made totally exclusionary and 110,000 Japanese-Americans, along with 11,000 German-Americans and 4,000 Italian-Americans, are removed to concentration camps (called ‘relocation centers’ by the Government) in western states for the duration of the war. The interned Americans lose their homes, possessions, jobs and contact with the world and the America they love. The racism that propels Jim Crow laws against African-Americans in the Southern states is now shown a national-level face in this assault on Japanese-American liberty. What does the treatment of Japanese-Americans and African-Americans say about America in 1941-45? How far have we come to embody Jefferson’s 1776 words “All Men are created Equal;” how far do we have to go? Respond in character to this event (in an essay of about 150 words, describing how you reacted to this news and what your thoughts and feelings are moving forward from it. After posting this response to your timeline, write an in-character comment on at least two other characters' pages about the event. Finally, comment on at least two additional characters' written responses to this event.

Unit Personas

1. Alan Goodrich Kirk 16. Douglas MacArthur
2. Alan Turing 17. Dwight Eisenhower
3. Anne Frank 18. Eleanor Roosevelt
4. Arthur Harris 19. Erwin Rommel
5. Audie Murphy 20. Franklin Roosevelt
6. Benito Mussolini 21. General Yamashita
7. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr 22. George Marshall
8. Bernard Montgomery 23. George S. Patton
9. Bob Hope 24. Hideki Tōjō
10. Charles de Gaulle 25. Joseph Stalin
11. Chester Nimitz 26. Josip Broz Tito
12. Chiang kai-Shek 27. Marshal Zhukov
13. Cordell Hull 28. Pope Pius XII
14. Curtis LeMay 29. Sophie Scholl
15. Daniel Inouye 30. Winston Churchill

Each Discourse unit provides an interactive, social media platform and accompanying curriculum to create a collaborative and entertaining educational experience.

Each unit includes the following:

  • Unit overview
  • 30-40 characters for students to role-play
  • Timeline Events that not only focus on the relevant events of the unit in study, but also encompass the cultural and broader events of the time period, thus providing context for the unit
  • Breaking News events with original source documents
  • Profile information about each character (teacher only)
  • Page for students to determine their relationships to each other character in the unit (auto-graded)
  • Period-relevant items for students to Like or Dislike based on their character (auto-graded)
  • Opportunity for students to create events and send private messages while role-playing their character
  • Advertisements appropriate for the time period; some include original video or music
  • Grading matrix for the role-playing (auto-completed as applicable)
  • A game-like trophy system that awards student progress
  • Teacher product instructions
  • Student use instructions
  • Teachers have access to the Discourse unit and students’ work for one year after the initial set-up date.
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