Lively Lessons: Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. military bases situated on Pearl Harbor, which is on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. At 7:55 AM, the Japanese launched an air attack that would leave over 2,280 military personnel and sixty-eight civilians dead and over 1,100 people wounded. Nineteen naval vessels were destroyed, including eight battleships.

Japan attacked the United States because negotiations in Washington failed between the two countries. Japan wanted the U.S. to lift economic sanctions and embargoes against them, and the U.S. wanted Japan first to withdraw from China and French Indochina and from their alliance with Germany and Italy. Japan refused, and the U.S. refused to lift sanctions. The attack on Pearl Harbor led to the entry of the U.S. into World War II.


What must have it have felt like to be a resident of Oahu during that time?

In this Lively Lesson, students construct a journal entry for the day before, they day of, and the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Have students create mental images of what those days were like by playing two contrasting sound effects from Discovery Education, such as:

As suggested in SOS: Did You Hear That, ask students to close their eyes and create a mental image for the sound that they hear.  Beginning with City Ambiance with Birds, after they listen to each sound, have them open their eyes and write down all of the things that they heard or experienced in the sound effect, using both adjectives and nouns, and elaborating on what they think those sounds represent.  Then, have them listen to WWII Air Raid Siren, Bombs, Crowd Panic, similarly writing down adjectives and nouns describing the images that came to mind when they heard the sound.

Explain to students that they will be creating journal entries for a student in 1941 for three dates: December 6, 7, and 8 from the point of view of someone their age that lived on Oahu.  More than diaries, their journals should include things like descriptions – sights, sounds, smells – as well as feelings and reactions to the unique happenings of each day.  They can use the words, phrases, and ideas that the sound effects ignited.

Students will also need to research and organize information to inform their journal entries, and they may want to create a graphic timeline to track the events and influences.  Discovery Education has a number of resources to assist students with research about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, World War II, what life was like leading to those events, and what happened after.  Suggested resources that contain many primary source accounts include:

Extend the journal exercise by having students write from the perspective of a mainland resident, or from the point of view of a Japanese American.


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