Understanding the colossal impact of World War II has never been more vital.
Take a look at World War II by the numbers:
- 2,043 people were killed in Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Over 100 million soldiers were deployed to fight from over 50 countries around the world.
- 6 million Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust.
- The first nuclear bombs killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.
- Over 2,500 American soldiers died on D-Day.
A war with this kind of impact is something for your kids and teens to learn from and learn about.
Challenge your kids to find other "numbers" that tell the story of WWII—the number of American women who went to work in U.S. factories, the number of pounds of butter each American was rationed, or the number of horses used in the war effort by various countries.
To help your kids learn about WWII, you could:
- Watch WWII documentaries and films, such as Ken Burns' The War. (Suitable for some teens. Always preview).
- Talk to people who fought in WWII or supported the war effort on the Home Front. We are rapidly losing our WWII veterans—what a privilege to be able to hear their stories before it's too late!
- Use maps, a globe and an atlas to learn geography as you and your kids learn where important WWII battles and events took place. (Geography through history!)
- Read WWII historical fiction books for kids. (Always preview).
We've got 40+ free WWII resources on this page, and we have even more on our specialized pages for:
Yes, you can give your kids assignments to read about WWII in a textbook, but you can also use these vibrant lesson plans and first-hand stories, photos and documents. You and the kids can access primary sources, learn about important battles, find out about Japanese-American internment camps, discover Navajo Code Talkers, hear veterans' WWII stories, and more.
- Y—Young (PreK-3rd)
- M—Middle (4th-6th)
- O—Older (7th-12th)
- T—Teacher Resources
General WWII Resources
Crash Course World War II
John Green covers the why and how of World War II in this video from Crash Course World History.
National WWII Museum: Worldwide Casualties
The National WWII Museum of New Orleans offers a wealth of information for learning about World War II. In addition to the casualty statistics listed on this page, you can find articles profiling veterans and service members, lessons and educator resources, and resources for additional research.
WWII Interactive Timeline and Map
This interactive timeline and map from the American Battle Monuments Commission provides an excellent overview of worldwide events leading up to, during, and after World War Two. The timeline includes articles, photos, and videos related to events and tracks Allied- and Axis-controlled areas of the world as the timeline progresses.
Timeline of WWII Events in the Pacific
A detailed timeline of WWII events in the Asia-Pacific region from 1941-1945. From The History Place™.
Naval History and Heritage Command
The Naval History and Heritage Command is an association of Naval museums across the United States that collects documents, artifacts, photos, oral histories, and art from the U.S. Navy. In addition to a large online collection of primary sources, the site hosts a vast amount of historical information, where you can research specific topics, statistics, and notable service member biographies from WWII.
This in-depth WWII overview from History provides a summarized timeline of events leading up to the war, the war in Europe, in the Pacific, and more. It includes photo galleries, videos, and related articles on specific battles, Black servicemembers in WWII, women in the war, WWII propaganda, and tons more.
WWII Library of Congress Primary Sources
The Library of Congress has collected all of its WWII resources into one location, including a collection of interviews following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American internment camp newspapers, military maps, political cartoons, women workers in World War II, and much more.
Google Arts & Culture: Second World War
Google Arts & Culture sites are are collaboration of various museums, universities, and other cultural institutions. The Second World War project contains tons and tons of digital exhibitions on special topics, virtual tours, photos, artifacts, videos, and more.
The Einstein-Szilard Letter 1939
Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt on August 2, 1939. The letter culminated in the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History
The Manhattan Project is an educational website by the United States Department of Energy's Office of History and Heritage Resources that details the U.S. Government research project that produced the first nuclear weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It can be browsed by Events, People, Places, Processes, and Science.
WWII Ration Book Printables
“War ration books were produced by the United States Office of Price Administration in 1942 when United States officially entered the Second World War. Shortages of essential war materials such as rubber, gasoline, and sugar were initially anticipated, but soon rationing grew to include food as well as fuel and sugar.” Pages of Ration Book 1, issued to the public May 4-7, 1942, are available to print from the Department of History at the University of Delaware.
Ducksters WWII for Kids
Ducksters has a WWII page that provides an introduction to world leaders, major events, battles, the Holocaust, Japanese Internment Camps, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more. Also included are a word search and crossword.
WWII Educational Website for Kids
DKFindOut has an interactive, educational WWII page for kids that lets them click and explore different topics using historical photos and stats, while providing an overview of world leaders, Allied and Axis countries, the Holocaust, and other topics.
World War Two and the Holocaust: Learner Guide
This WWII overview from the BBC looks at the causes behind WWII, The Battle of Britain and the Blitz, the British Homefront, the Rise of Hitler, the Holocaust, and other topics. Designed for grades 6-7.
Japanese Americans & The Constitution: Digital Exhibition by the Smithsonian Institute
This digital exhibition from the Smithsonian Institute chronicles the stories and experiences of Japanese Americans following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Included are first-person accounts, historical photos, newspaper clippings, artifacts, and other primary sources for study.
Pearl Harbor & Executive Order 9066: A Lesson on Japanese American Internment During WWII
In these lesson plans from PBS Learning Media, students will learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066, signed just two months later, which authorized the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. The lesson plan includes videos, historical photographs, and other primary sources for analysis.
Teaching Japanese-American Internment with the New York Times
In these lesson plans from the New York Times, students will use original news coverage, photos, video interviews, and other primary sources to “to investigate the forced internment of Japanese-Americans — and track how the government has gradually apologized for some of its actions over the decades.”
WWII Veteran Stories
Live Interviews and Q&A with Veteran Pilots
OGTA (Old Guys and Their Airplanes) Debriefs are interviews with decorated combat veterans conducted live and allowing the audience a chance for Q&A with the veteran. Aviation artist, writer and filmmaker John Mollison conducts the interviews, which are recorded and posted on the linked page of The Distinguished Flying Cross Society. A total of 8 interviews are planned.
WWII Veteran Stories
The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
The American Soldier in World War II
The American Soldier in World War II is an interactive, digital project from Virginia Tech that collects, archives, and publishes the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of US service members. You can explore content by topic, search a database of servicemember surveys, find a WWII glossary of army acronyms and slang, and find a large collection of customizable lesson plans on topics like Axis and Allied powers, combat, medical and mental health care, race, gender, and more.
Black Americans in WWII
The Tuskegee Airman were Black fighter pilots who fought during World War II against the Germans. Racism in the United States required these men to serve together in an all Black unit. The Tuskegee Airman website offers history resource links, biographies, and more.
World War II: The African American Experience
“World War II: The African American Experience begins to document the experiences of African American World War II veterans through audio recorded interviews. . . .The collection includes donated materials that provide information about families, churches, organizations and businesses, especially during the 20th century.” From the University of Kansas.
African American Women in the Military during WWII
“American women have participated in defense of this nation in both war and peacetime. Their contributions, however, have gone largely unrecognized and unrewarded. While women in the United States Armed Forces share a history of discrimination based on gender, Black women have faced both race and gender discrimination. Initially barred from official military status, Black women persistently pursued their right to serve.” These grade 9-12 lesson plans from the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum have students analyze primary sources and investigate the contributions of Black women to World War Two efforts.
Women in WWII
During WWII, women signed up to fly with the US military. The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) test-piloted aircraft, ferried planes, and logged 60 million miles in the air.
Women Veteran’s Historical Project: WWII
The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project documents the contributions of women in the military and related service organizations and includes a wide range of source material including photographs, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, oral histories, military patches and insignia, uniforms, and posters, as well as published works. From the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
The Unbreakable Code: Navajo Code Talkers
Students discover the role Navajos played in World War II in these lesson plans from Arizona State University. Students study historical aspects of reservation life, read maps to gain understanding, and apply geography to an historical event. Grade 3.
Mission Possible: Decoding WWII Navajo Marine Code
In this lesson from Arizona State University, students discover how the Navajo language and people played a significant role in the U.S. strategy to win World War II. Grade 7.
Island Hopping: The Story of Ned Begay Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
In this lesson from Arizona State University, students study the Navajo contribution to the United States during World War II while following the story of the Ned Begay as he starts out at a boarding school and later becomes a U.S. Marine who learns the Navajo Code. Students will learn how Ned's background and culture helped him survive and become successful in his education and his experience as a Marine. Grade 5.
Native Words, Native Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers Interactive
Native Words, Native Warriors is a digital exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian that looks at the lives and military achievements of the Navajo Code Talkers of World Wars I and II. Click through the various exhibition sections to find related teaching and learning materials.
Aleutian World War II National Historic Area
The Aleutian World War II National Historic Area and Visitor Center in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, preserves the historic Fort Schwatka on Mount Ballyhoo. US Servicemen fought the Japanese here. At the same time, the local Unangan people were sent away from the area to internment camps a thousand miles away.
Minidoka National Monument
A National Historic Site that commemorates the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. The website offers historical information about the relocation center for those who cannot visit in person.
Manzanar National Historic Site
In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II. The website offers historical information about the park for those who cannot visit in person.
Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park
The Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, preserves and interprets the stories and places of our nation's home front response to World War II.
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
On July 17, 1944, an explosion in the San Francisco East Bay area killed 320 men as ships were being loaded with ammunition for the Pacific. It was WWII's worst home front disaster. Reservations are required to visit this location. The website offers historical information about the park for those who cannot visit in person.
The Mettle Behind the Merit Educator's Kit
Steve Pisanos was an ace WWII pilot and the subject of a documentary sponsored by The Distinguished Flying Cross Society. Educators can download a four-part kit that includes a ten-page PDF using the The Mettle Behind the Merit documentary as a launching point to challenge students to deﬁne their own dream of success and realize it through intelligent work and positive behavior, a supplementary photo PDF, a PDF of all ﬁve of Steve Pisanos’ DFC certiﬁcates represented as they were written and awarded by the United States Army Air Force and United States Air Force, and a download of worksheet pages with discussion questions. For a small fee to cover shipping, groups can order a cut-out card of the Spitfire that Pisanos flew (20 or 40 qty.).
National WWII Museum Lessons Plans
The National WWII Museum has a large collection of primary-source-based lessons and activities covering a range of WWII topics, including War in Europe, War in the Pacific, The Home Front, Real World Science, and Liberation & Legacy.
The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945): Lessons
The National Archives has a large collection of WWII primary-source-based lessons and activities on Pearl Harbor, propaganda, Japanese-American internment, enlistment of Navajo Indians, and more.
WWII Primary Sources and Activities
A large collection of WWII primary sources and teaching activities from DocsTeach that have students analyze Pearl Harbor dispatches, political cartoons, FDR's Infamy Speech, the Einstein-Szilard Letter, and more.
EDSitement WWII Lesson Plans
EDSitement, from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has a large collection of K-12 World War II lesson plans on Japanese-American internment camps, jazz and World War II, war in the Pacific, neutrality, the Holocaust, and more.
North American Battleground of World War II
These lesson plans from the National Parks Service look at the Battle of Midway that took place June 4-7, 1942, in the Midway and Aleutian islands. For grades 5-12.