Lesson Plan #3
The 1st Infantry Division-Operation Overlord
Grade and Course: 9th-12th Grade U.S. History
Time Frame: (1 class period)
D-Day has been called the most important battle of World War II. While other battles on the German-Soviet front were larger, longer, and claimed more lives, the successful Anglo-American invasion of France on June 6, 1944 had enormous political consequences. Because the Soviets (with crucial American economic assistance, such as aviation fuel, food, steel, vehicles, etc.) contributed more than any other Allied power to the military defeat of Germany, and because Communists played a prominent role in the underground Resistance movements against Nazi rule, it is fair to say that on D-Day the future of free government was at stake. The Great Depression had seriously damaged faith in free enterprise and democracy, turning many people to put their hope in either communism or fascism/Nazism. If these soldiers had failed, the Soviets would have been able to claim a disproportionate share of the credit for victory (and even though they did anyway during the Cold War, this claim would have been even more credible), and could have posed as liberators. Thus without the Normandy invasion, one totalitarian regime might well have replaced another--not in half of Europe (the East), but in all of it. We can never know, of course. The development of atomic weapons might have changed the result, but then again a failure on June 6 could also have split the Anglo-American-Soviet alliance and given the Nazis renewed hope. But what we do know is that thousands of men fighting far from home gave "the last full measure of devotion" for freedom. Thus this day--and the tough fighting that followed--shaped the postwar world.
In this lesson, the third of a 5-day unit on the First Infantry Division, the instructor will continue explaining the Big Red One and their major battles, namely, Operation Overlord (D-Day). The students will learn the details and effects of this operation. This lesson uses documents, speeches, and photographs of the D-day to let students explore the most important battle in the war.
Why were the challenges so great for the 1st Infantry Division on Omaha Beach?
Could anything have been done to prevent the mishaps on D-Day? How do leaders respond to failed plans?
- Students will be able to read and understand maps (military).
- Students will be able to identify key turning points during the D-Day operation.
- Students will discover and explain the mistakes that were made in the battle.
- Students will explain the concept of "the fog of war"-that battles do not proceed according to plan, and will grasp how soldiers (enlisted men as well as officers) overcame mistakes in execution and heavy enemy resistance.
Starting Activity: Strategy of War
The instructor will ask for volunteers to read their previous day's journal entries to summarize what was talked about the day before.
Like with Lessons 1 and 2, the students will be given a blank outline with questions. Following along with the PowerPoint, the students will answer the questions when randomly called upon.
If the students understand the material and seem under stimulated, this alternative can be followed. During the presentation, have the students formulate one or more additional questions. Have a volunteer read the questions and put them back to the students to come up with answers. The instructor will collect these at the end of class. (NOTE: On slide 10, "Struggling to get ashore", an optional demonstration could be to have a bag filled with objects that, in total, weigh up to 60 pounds. This would show the amount of weight that the soldiers had to carry on their person and also show why many of the men who embarked from their landing craft in water over their head drowned).
Hands on Demonstration
Ike's Letter Transcription-from PowerPointOur landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops
For Class discussion:
|Do a verbal "fill-in-the-blank" with the students for a quick review, ask questions of the class and call on individual students.
|Students will turn in the information sheet that they made during the PowerPoint presentation to the instructor.|
Entry #3-You have learned about the struggles and victories of D-Day. Now write about what you would feel as a member of the Big Red One. Find photos and quotes to paste into your journal. Examine especially the Medal of Honor citations. What would be some of your feelings while waiting on the landing craft before the invasion? How would you handle being shot at and not being able to hide? What explains such bravery?
If the students appear to be getting lost in the miscellaneous facts, slowing down and discussing/explaining each fact in more detail would help.
Materials and Resources
- What role did the Big Red One play on June 6, 1944? What is the nickname given to this day?
- What is significant about the draft letter General Eisenhower wrote on June 5? What does this suggest about his leadership skills? What does his broadcast suggest about his leadership skills? What are the key attributes of leadership displayed in the broadcast and the draft letter?
- What was the name of the beach where the soldiers landed? Trace the First's path from England to France. Why was traffic coordination so vital? Why was this particular beach so much more difficult to take than any other?
- What were the positives and negatives about going ashore in landing craft? How did these affect soldiers? Why were landing craft necessary (why couldn't the soldiers simply land in a port and unload?)
- What were some of the obstacles and problems that the Big Red One came across as they approached shore and landed?
- What were some of the ways in which the original plans for the invasion were not implemented? Why is weather an important factor in warfare? What were the key elements in the Big Red One's improvisations to adjust to changed conditions? If the reality of war always contrasts with the plan in some way, why are plans still prepared?
- Why did the Big Red One suffer a significant percentage of Allied casualties on June 6, 1944?
- What is the significance of the choice between Antwerp and Arnhem? What were the costs and benefits balanced? How did this choice affect the men of the 1st Division?
- Why is June 6, 1944 significant, not only for the Big Red One, but for the future of America's role in the world and for the future of democracy and capitalism? What might have happened if the invasion had failed?
US History 5.2, 5.3
Identify and explain the importance of key events and people involved with the causes, course, and consequences of World War II.
Explain how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources to achieve victory in World War II. (Economics; Civics and Government)
National History Standards, Era 8: 3B
The student understands World War II and how the Allies prevailed. Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters. [Draw upon data in historical maps]
Historical Thinking Standards: 2B, 2G, 4A, 5F
2B-Historical Comprehension-Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage.
2G-Historical Comprehension-Draw upon data in historical maps.
4A-Historical Research Capabilities-Formulate historical questions.
5F- Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making-Evaluate the implementation of a decision.