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Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:
World War I Unit

 

Lesson 5: Signing Up for Action and Sustaining Morale

 

Background Information for Teachers

 

Alabama contributed 74,000 draftees to the American forces in World War I, in addition to whole units of the state's National Guard which were federalized soon after war was declared. Among these was the Fourth Alabama which became part of the famed Forty-second "Rainbow Division." Losses in France included 2,401 Alabamians killed in action; another 3,861 of the state's soldiers died from wounds or disease suffered in service.

 

Maintaining support on the home front in the face of such losses prompted extensive propaganda efforts on the part of governmental agencies. Posters lauding the virtues of those who supported the war at home and damning the atrocities of the German "Huns" abroad were everywhere apparent. Community public programs were held to entertain and enlighten and to sell the audiences on "Liberty Bonds," Red Cross volunteerism, and a host of other war effort-related programs.

 

Learning Objectives
  1. Define and identify propaganda.
  2. Create a poster reflecting the concerns of the time period.
  3. Discuss the efforts used to maintain morale on the home front.
  4. Discuss life for soldiers overseas during the war.

 

Suggested Activities
  1. Make copies of the documents for the students.

     

  2. Use the suggested guidelines for analyzing a written document and a photograph at the beginning of this unit of information.

     

  3. Have every student read Document 9, the front page of the Alabama Defense Record from October 15, 1918.

     

    1. What similarities are found among all of the documents and photographs in the front page example?
    2. What do these similarities suggest about the war effort?
    3. In your opinion, how did the public programs impact the public support of the war?

     

  4. Define the term propaganda.

     

    1. Ask the students to identify forms of propaganda in the posters and newspaper advertisements.
    2. Using the "Hun" poster, ask the students to define a hun. Is this propaganda? Is it a racial slur? Ask the students to determine if this poster might offend some Americans. Why might it be offensive to some Americans?

 

Suggested activities for younger students:
  1. Create a poster to encourage the public to support the war effort by:
    1. buying liberty bonds or savings stamps
    2. knitting socks for the soldiers and sailors
    3. volunteering to help the Red Cross
    4. having "meatless" Mondays or "wheat less" Wednesdays
    5. rationing sugar
    6. saving food
    7. participating in a savings bond parade
    8. enlisting to serve in the military

     

  2. Ask the students to list the things that they would include in a "Christmas Care Package" during World War I. Remind the students of the needs of the soldiers as well as the things that would be included at that time period which would not necessarily be included today such as cigarettes.

     

  3. Ask the students to list the things that would be included in a soldier's "comfort kit." These were given to each soldier upon enlistment. (Bibles, sewing kits and stationary were common items. See Lesson 2, Documents 5 and 6 of the Civil War Unit for a list of the effects on the soldiers killed in the Civil War.) Students should be encouraged to search for similarities and differences in the needs and supplies of the soldiers from different time periods.

 

Documents

 

  • Document 1: "Order of Induction into Military Service of the United States." Alabama Diplomas & Certificates Collection, 7N Range A, Section a, Shelf c, Oversize Folder 1, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 2: "Honorable Discharge from the United States Army." George Paul Moses World War I Records, 7N Range A, Section 1, Shelf e, Box 21, Folder 4, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 3: [ca. 1918]. World War I Troops Marching through Downtown Montgomery, 7N Range A, Section 1, Shelf b, Box 16, Folder 8, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 4: Fight or Buy Bonds. n.d. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 5: American Red Cross. Our Boys Need Sox. n.d. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 6: ________. Do Your Bit - Save the Pit. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 7: ________. 10,000,000 Members by Christmas. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 8: Honor Emblem. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 9: "Must Mail Christmas Boxes by November 20" and others. Alabama Defense Record, 15 October 1918, 1. ADAH Public Information Subject File - Alabamians at War, SG 17110, Folder 11, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 10: Beat Back the Hun. n.d. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.