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Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:

Lesson 4: The Needs of a Soldier

Background Information for Teachers

World War II was a "modern" conflict in its dependence on technological advances of the 20th century. Unlike World War I which saw whole armies bogged down in static trench warfare, World War II put a premium on mobility with ships, jeeps, tanks, and airplanes moving troops from point to point. Each soldier had to carry not only weaponry for battle, but also nearly everything he needed to live on in the field.

 

Learning Objectives
Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:
  1. Identify some of the materials needed for a soldier's survival in the field.
  2. Discuss the differences between essential and nonessential materials.
  3. Prioritize articles according to survival needs.
Suggested Activity
  1. Each student is a supply officer. Ask them to make a list of the items that a soldier will need to survive in the field of battle.

     

  2. Compile a master list as a class from their individual work.

     

  3. Discuss the cost and the transportation of the items. Will the soldier have to carry this equipment? What special needs does the climate demand?

     

  4. Make an overhead projection sheet or a copy for each student of the document describing officer's field equipment.

     

  5. Remind the students that "dismounted" means that the articles are carried by the soldier, "mounted" means that a vehicle is available.

     

  6. Discuss the weight of the items and the necessity of the items. Allow the students to eliminate equipment they consider to be unnecessary.

     

  7. Divide the list and ask the students to research the approximate cost of some of the items in the present. (Flashlight, compass, blanket, field glasses, raincoat, clothing articles.) This should help the students to understand some of the material costs of war.

     

  8. Ask the students why they think that this list was marked "confidential." What could an enemy force discover about our soldiers, if the equipment lists were not confidential? (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.)
Documents