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About this activity


  • Douglas MacArthur asked, "Can war be outlawed from the world?" Wouldn't it be wonderful if that could happen! However, history has taught us that peace is a fragile condition. The study of past wars can help 21st century students not only understand the causes of war, but also give consideration to conditions necessary to maintain lasting peace.
  • Even though World Wars I and II did not take place on American soil, both wars were fought in multiple ways on the American homefront. This activity showcases a sampling of American Memory resources that illustrate homefront contributions during both wars. By studying these primary source historical documents, students can begin to understand how citizens of all ages, families and businesses pitched in to help fight for freedom abroad. They can also consider these actions as possible models for community contributions to peace efforts today.

Using the Activity:

  • Gallery - The Gallery page features ten images that highlight America's efforts on the homefront during World Wars I and II. The images are divided into five categories - Volunteer Work, Civil Defense, Conservation Efforts, Economic Initiatives and Patriotic Support. Use the arrows to scroll through small images across the top of the page. Click on a small image to view an enlarged version and read information on the category. Click on the topics on the right to view additional images on the category.
  • Resources - The Resources page provides links to Library of Congress and other Internet resources. The category links are repeated on the right side of this page. Today's Homefront Efforts links to a sampling of images documenting contemporary American responses to war. Other Library of Congress Resources links to collections, presentations and exhibits within the Library of Congress Web site. Links to Outside Resources provides a sampling of excellent outside links for further study of homefront activities.

Teaching Ideas:

  • Analyze the Documents: Use the gallery images to introduce the concept of document analysis to your students. Documents can be viewed online or printed out for later use. Follow the "observe, think and ask" process. Examine individual documents or several documents related to the same category. Learn more about the document analysis process and download a graphic organizer from the Teachers Page activity, Looking Into Holidays Past Through Primary Resources.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Have students search the American Memory collections for additional images on the homefront topic. Brainstorm a list of terms before beginning the search process. Suggested terms might include war work, civilian defense, mobilization, rationing, Office of War Information or names of individual war or volunteer organizations. Have each student select one image and write a scavenger hunt type question related to the image. Compile the questions and have a class "On the Homefront" competition.
  • Letter Writing - Imagine a world with no cell phones or computers. Communication with loved ones during war times was done primarily through letter writing. Have students write a letter to a "fictional" loved one who away from home during one of the World Wars.
  • Gather Memories - Have students visit the Veteran's History Project and view, read or listen to accounts of wartime service from men and women, civilian and military, representing many ranks, jobs, branches of service, and theaters of war. Conduct interviews with family members or area residents that can share their wartime memories with the class.
  • Poster Competition - Wartime posters played an important role in influencing the American public. Go to the Posters: WPA Posters and search the collection using the term - "world war." Have students look for dominant images or slogans that were used to persuade viewers. Have students create a persuasive poster for today's homefront or for another topic under study.
  • Wartime Cookery - Rationing and home gardening were common practices during both world wars. Search the American Memory collections for recipes and food conservation strategies. Use the terms - "war cookbooks" to get started. Compare the recipes to those used today. What ingredients are different? Do the recipes sound appealing? How have American's eating habits changed over the years? Why have they changed? Have a wartime food demonstration to share recipes and ideas. Search the collections using the term - "wartime food demonstration" - to locate World War II images on this topic.
  • Do With Less Day - Use the poster - Do With Less - as a visual to initiate a class discussion of food or luxury items students would be willing to go without. Eliminating use of which foods or items would help on today's homefront? Have each student choose one item and "give it up" for a day or two. Have them write about their experience.
  • Today's Homefront- Use the images in the Witness and Response: September 11 Acquisitions at the Library of Congress exhibit (use the "Object List" link to find them) to initiate a class discussion about America's homefront response to the Iraq War. What responses are the same as those in earlier wars? What responses are different?