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Varying Perspectives on World War II

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In this first unit, students will build background knowledge about Japanese-American relations during World War II. They will consider the causes of both Japanese and American involvement in the war, beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Students will read FDR’s and the Japanese government’s responses to the bombing and will consider conflicting perspectives of the same event.

For the mid-unit assessment, they will collect, prepare, and submit their best evidence revealing conflicting accounts and perspectives on the attack on Pearl Harbor. Students will use this evidence for the end of unit assessment in which they will present the information in a Fishbowl discussion. During this unit, they will begin reading the central text of the module, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. As they read Part 1 of the text in this unit, students will build background knowledge on American Louis Zamperini, as well as begin their study of Hillenbrand’s craft as she weaves a compelling narrative in this piece of literary nonfiction.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How does war and conflict affect individuals and societies? 
  • How do historians/readers reconcile multiple accounts of the same event?
  • How can narrative be used to communicate real events?
  • The war affected both ordinary Japanese-Americans and American prisoners of war in life-changing ways.
  • War and conflict bring important yet divergent experiences to individuals and societies. 

Content Connections

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum:

3. Time, Continuity, and Change

  • Reading, reconstructing, and interpreting events
  • Analyzing causes and consequences of events and development
  • Considering competing interpretations of events

6. Power, Authority, and Governance

  • Origins, uses, and abuses of power
  • Conflict, diplomacy, and war

10. Global Connections and Exchange

  • Past, current, and likely future global connections and interactions
  • Cultural diffusion, the spread of ideas, beliefs, technology, and goods
  • Benefits/consequences of global interdependence (social, political, economic)
  • Tension between national interests and global priorities



Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
One per student
ISBN: ​9780812974492

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
“Riverside’s Miné Okubo,”
by Mary H. Curtin
Splinters-Splinters (blog), 2011
“Miné Okubo,” Voices from the Gaps,
by Chelsie Hanstad, Louann Huebsch, Danny Kantar, and Kathryn Siewert
University of Minnesota, 2004
“The Life of Miné Okubo,” written by Expeditionary Learning for instructional purposes.
by Expeditionary Learning
Expeditionary Learning,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Executive Order No. 9066,” Feb. 19, 1942.
by Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The Fifth Column on the Coast,” The Washington Post, Feb. 12, 1942.
by Walter Lippmann
The Washington Post, 1942
The Report on Japanese on the West Coast of the United States (“the Munson Report”), Oct. 7, 1941.
by Curtis B. Munson
the Munson Report, 1941
“Day of Infamy” speech, delivered Dec. 8, 1941, as found at
by Franklin D. Roosevelt
“War in the Pacific”
by Edison McIntyre
Cobblestone (Vol. 15, Issue 1), 1994
“Fourteen-Part Message”
by Japanese Foreign Ministry


Optional Activities


  • Collaborate with the social studies teacher during this unit, as students build background knowledge about the Pacific theater in World War II.
  • Invite World War II historians or veterans to visit and provide compelling and interesting stories and experiences about the Pacific theater.

Students may study local monuments and the service of community members who were involved in World War II, specifically the Pacific front.

Students may organize a benefit or event to recognize the service and sacrifice of veterans in their community

Consider using the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources as a resource for World War II and Japanese internment.

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