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Roles in wwii

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Assignment for kids to explore different roles in WWII

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Roles in wwii

  1. 1. Roles of U.S. Men and Women in WWII World War II was the largest and most violent armed conflict in the history of mankind. Over time, Americans have grown largely unaware of the political, social, and military implications of a war that, more than any other, united us as a people with a common purpose, pulled us out of the depression and defeated a global enemy. World War II was waged on land, on sea, and in the air over several diverse theaters of operation for several years. Not only was the war fought abroad, but hard work was done at home as well. Americans were called to combine their efforts in what has been called "the mighty endeavor." All citizens played a role in some form or fashion. The following lesson has been created to enhance your appreciation of the American spirit and achievements to overcome great struggle and peril during World War II. Choose one of the following groups that fits how you think you would have contributed to the war effort. Answer the questions that follow. Army NavyArmy Air Force Ghost Army Women in WWIIAfrican Americans in WWII
  2. 2. Army The American soldiers of the Army were a crucial component in the defeat of the Axis powers - and they had to be tough to survive. They sweated through eight abbreviated weeks of basic training, and shipped out to help throw back the tidal wave of Axis aggression in Europe and the Pacific. While the colonels and the generals waved their hands over the maps, the American soldier was down in the mud and the blood and the gore, waving his rifle in the direction of the enemy. During World War II about 16,000,000 personnel served in the U.S. Military. Around 11,200,000 or 70% served in the U.S. Army. There were 5 types of divisions: infantry, mountain, armored, airborne, and cavalry. Armored division of M24 Chaffee Tanks Airborne dropping into enemy territory The average Army soldier served for approximately 33 months. 16 of those months were spent abroad, in combat zones. The average pay for these soldiers was about $71 per month. The uniform of a U.S. soldier was rather plain. They most often came in a standard “OD Green.” Usually there was a patch on his left shoulder that told at a glance what division he served and another on his sleeves gave some indication of his rank. On his head, the American soldier wore a one- pound steel helmet. This was sometimes covered with netting for camouflage purposes. He was armed with the M-1 Garand rifle, carbine, Thompson sub-machinegun or Browning Automatic Rifle. He also relied heavily on the MK II fragmentation hand grenade to keep the enemy at bay or bust open a machinegun bunker. Life as a soldier was not glamourous. There were day marches to gain ground, followed by night marches to mask movement. There were attacks, patrols to be run and sentry posts to guard position. This, of course, was all while bullets are whizzing by your ears and bombs are bursting the ground at your feet. You've got to recover from the shock and fear, force your head up, spot the threat and react to it. That's the way the American soldier would defeat his enemies in World War II. Audie Murphy was one of the greatest war heroes in American history. At the age of 19, Murphy received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour. It was a cold morning in 1945. A battalion of German mechanized infantry that included a half dozen Tiger tanks, was heading towards his company’s position. While alone and outnumbered, it was his duty to hold this position. He sent his men behind him to take defensive, and called the M-10s forward but within minutes, the vehicles had been destroyed by the Germans. Now, it was just Audie against an impossibly large force of German troops. Instead of falling back to safety, Murphy manned a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on one of the burning, disabled M-10s. He radioed in artillery strikes to hit the German position. Shells rained down, taking out the enemy, but it wasn’t enough. From his completely exposed position, Murphy opened fire while artillery continued to pound the area. Before long, the German losses were so great that the Tiger tanks had to retreat because they had lost most of their infantry support. The position held, thanks to Murphy.
  3. 3. Army Air Force The United States Army Air Force (AAF) was the forerunner to the military branch known as the United States Air Force. The Army Air Forces were created in June 1941, just prior to WWII, to provide the air arm of the military. The Army Air Force oversaw all air operations during the war. The Army Air Force used a large variety of aircraft in accomplishing its various missions from large scale bombing campaigns, to defense and to support of Army operations on the ground. These courageous fighter pilots, bomber pilots, and air crews fought their way into heavily defended targets deep inside Europe and to the far reaches of the Pacific. These young men and women fought valiantly and many did not return, but they changed the direction of a terrible war, insuring victory and securing the freedom which we enjoy today. The B-17 Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces for precision strategic bombing campaigns in World War II against German industrial and military targets and to a lesser extent in the war in the Pacific. At the United States Army Air Force’s height it had more than 2.4 million people and 80,000 aircraft in service and flew more than 2.3 million missions during WWII. The P-51 Mustang is generally considered to be one of the best and well known fighter planes of WWII. Possessing excellent range and maneuverability, the P-51 operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and also as a ground attack fighter/bomber. Showing its versatility, the Mustang served in nearly every combat zone during WWII. Stories abound of B-17s returning to base with tails having been destroyed, with only a single engine functioning or even with large portions of wings having been damaged by flak. One of the most famous B-17’s was Memphis Belle. The aircraft was one of the first B-17 heavy bombers to complete 25 combat missions with her crew intact. It inspired a Hollywood film in 1993 called Memphis Belle. Richard Bong is the United States' highest-scoring air ace, having shot down at least 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. He was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. The B-29 Superfortress was one of the largest aircraft in service during World War II and a very advanced bomber for its time. It was also the plane to drop the first atomic bomb,
  4. 4. Navy The U.S. Navy quickly became a formidable force after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th , 1941. Following American entry into the war, the U.S. Navy grew tremendously as the United States was faced with a two-front war on the seas. The Navy gained most of its notoriety from the war in the Pacific. The Pacific War was the largest naval conflict in history. Across the huge expanses of the Pacific, the two most powerful navies in the world found themselves locked in a death struggle. Every conceivable type of naval activity was represented: carrier aviation battles, surface engagements, bitterly fought night-fights, the largest amphibious landings of the entire war, and the stealthy, brutal battles waged by and against submarines. By war's end in 1945, the United States Navy was the largest, most dominant navy in the world. The most decorated ship of WWII is the USS Enterprise. It earned 20 battle stars, participating in major battles like Midway, Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal. The ship had a knack for escaping. For example, the Enterprise was at sea on the morning of December 7th , 1941 and was not part of the attack at Pearl Harbor. In fact, the Japanese announced on three different occasions that she had been sunk in battle, earning her the name "The Grey Ghost". The largest, most impressive battleship of WWII was the Japanese Yamato. It was the size of most American aircraft carriers and had an impressive arsenal of weapons as well as remarkable speed. The American ships were outclassed and outgunned. In 1945, the Yamato headed toward Okinawa to prevent American landings on the island. Having broken the Japanese code, the U.S. launched an aerial attack on the Yamato and sank her before she could reach the destination. The Battle of Midway is one of the considered one of the most important battles in history. The U.S. had a small base on the island of Midway and had gotten wind of a Japanese attack. With this knowledge, the U.S. lured the Japanese to attack the island but had their own ships waiting nearby. In the battle, the Americans were able to sink 4 Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser in addition to destroying hundreds of aircraft. The U.S. suffered just minimal losses. This gave the U.S. naval superiority and allowed for the advance towards Japan. Future U.S. President John F. Kennedy served in the Navy in WWII aboard a torpedo boat known as PT-109. One night, it engaged a Japanese battleship. Amidst the battle, the boat was rammed by the battleship and the crew was forced overboard. Kennedy, who was on the swim team at Harvard, took two life jacket straps between his teeth and towed injured crew members to an island 4 miles away. After many hours, they reached the small island. The crew hid from passing Japanese patrols and survived on coconuts for six days before being rescued by Australian scouts.
  5. 5. African Americans in WWII Millions of Americans fought in the military during World War II, including nearly one million African-Americans. African-American soldiers played a significant role in World War II. Despite the numbers, they faced racial discrimination: prior to the war the military maintained a racially segregated force. In studies by the military, blacks were often classified as unfit for combat and were not allowed on the front lines. They were mostly given support duties, and were not allowed in units with white soldiers. That changed in 1941, when pressure from African-American civil rights leaders convinced the government to set up all-black combat units, as experiments. They were designed to see if African-American soldiers could perform military tasks on the same level as white soldiers. While facing widespread racial discrimination that made it difficult for black soldiers, they proved themselves time and time again. Their efforts not only paved the way towards fully integrating the military and the civil rights movement, it made them heroes and legends. The Tuskegee Airmen were part of the integration experiment. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of black pilots ever trained by the Army Air Force. They flew many missions protecting American bombers from German fighter planes. They had a lot to prove and did so in the most impressive way. In 200 missions, they never lost a bomber to enemy fire. Dorie Miller joined the Navy in 1939. He served aboard the USS West Virginia as the ship’s cook. On the morning of December 7th , 1941, Miller awoke to do his usual chores. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese attack started. He was ordered to help carry injured crew to safety. He even tried to carry the injured captain to safety but the captain refused to leave his post. He would later die. Next, Miller was told to help load the big, .50 caliber guns. Despite having no training in operating the big guns, he bravely jumped into action firing into the air at dive-bombing Japanese planes. It was reported that Miller shot down 4 Japanese fighter planes. For his distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard of his personal safety during the attack, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, the 3rd highest award attainable. While not as common, African American women also served. Black women made up about 10% of nurses. Although African Americans supported their government during WWII, they were not silent about racial practices in America. It was almost impossible to ignore the irony of a segregated military fighting the world’s greatest racists, the Nazis. During the global conflict, African American leaders and organizations established the “Double V” campaign, calling for victory against the enemy overseas and victory against racism at home. The major objective of the campaign was to encourage blacks to support the war effort but to also fight for civil rights. This new black consciousness and the defiant rejection of unjustifiable racism planted important seeds for the post-War civil rights movement.
  6. 6. Ghost Army The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II. The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the U.S Army: to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. Ghost soldiers were encouraged to use their brains and talent to mislead, deceive and befuddle the German Army. Many were recruited from art schools, advertising agencies and other venues that encouraged creative thinking. In civilian life, ghost soldiers had been artists, architects, actors, set designers and engineers. From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a "traveling road show" utilizing inflatable tanks, sound trucks, fake radio transmissions and pretense. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Their mission was kept secret until 1996, and elements of it still remain classified. The visual deception of the Ghost Army was equipped with inflatable tanks, cannons, jeeps, trucks, and airplanes. They would camouflage perfectly so that enemy air reconnaissance could see them. They could create dummy airfields, troop camps (complete with fake laundry hanging out on clotheslines), caravans, artillery and tank formations in just a few hours. Many of the men in this unit were artists, recruited from art schools. Several of these soldier-artists went on to have a major impact on art in the post-war U.S. The sonic deception of the Ghost Army recorded sounds of armored and infantry units onto a series of sound effects records that they brought to Europe. For each deception, sounds could be “mixed” to match the scenario they wanted the enemy to believe. This program was recorded on state-of-the- art wire recorders (the predecessor to the tape recorder), and then played back with powerful amplifiers and speakers mounted on halftracks. The sounds they played could be heard 15 miles away. The radio deception of the Ghost Army or "Spoof radio", as it was called, created phony traffic nets, impersonating the radio operators from real units. They were educated in the art of mimicking a departing operator’s method of sending Morse Code so that the enemy would never detect that the real unit and its radio operator were long gone.
  7. 7. Women in WWII During World War II, women served their country, both at home and abroad. For many women, World War II brought not only sacrifices, but also new jobs, new skills, and new opportunities. Widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. However, the U. S. government and industry had to expand dramatically to meet wartime needs. It was women made it possible. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. In addition to factory work and other home front jobs, some 350,000 women joined the Armed Services. Women were nurses, but also served in the Army, Army Air Force, Navy and Marines! America's “secret weapon” was the women who voluntarily mobilized to meet every challenge. Women joined the nurse corps and the armed forces so that more men could be sent into combat. Women leaders helped determine the outcome of the war and the peace that followed. Women were encouraged to enter professions. “Government Girls" came to Washington D.C. to help run the rapidly expanding federal government and participate behind the lines in the war effort. Women were needed to fill many traditionally male jobs and roles during the war and various advertisements were used to encourage women to take on these jobs and roles. In the community, women raised money for war bonds, collected blood, rolled bandages, aided in civil defense, tended Victory Gardens, and hosted troops. In the home, women recycled scarce materials, dealt with the strains of rationing, raised their children, and mourned the war dead. U.S factories retooled for war production. New facilities greatly expanded industrial output— and women were a significant part of the labor force. Women kept the country running by filling traditionally male jobs. In 1942, the U.S. was faced with a severe shortage of pilots, and leaders gambled on an experimental program to help fill the void: train women to fly military aircraft so male pilots could be released for combat duty overseas. Women tested new aircraft, transported planes to military bases and even practiced combat maneuvers!

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