Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #4

The 1st Infantry Division: Endurance: Autumn and Winter 1944

Webisode 4

Grade and Course: 9th-12th Grade U.S. History
Time Frame: (1 class period)


Optimism ran high after the Normandy invasion, especially when the right flank of the American line broke through in Operation COBRA at St. Lo in late July 1944. But after about six weeks of unbroken and rapid advance, the German resistance hardened as the Allied troops made their way reached the German border and failed to cross the Rhine in an ambitious airborne operation. After a difficult autumn The Big Red One took the lead in cracking the German WestWall and capturing the city Aachen. A difficult battle in awful terrain followed as the Big Red One plunged into the HÅrtgen Forest. Though it appeared that Germany was restricted to the defensive, they had one more surprise: the Ardennes Offensive. This plunged the First Division into winter battle. In this lesson, the fourth of a 5-day unit on the First Infantry Division (The Big Red One), the instructor will describe the Division's rising tide of expectations and difficult test of endurance I winter 1944. This lesson uses documents, speeches, posters, and photographs of the battles and soldiers to help students identify with the plight of the Allies at this point in the war.

Topical Questions

Why was Aachen such an important city to capture for the Allies?

What were some of the issues faced by both Allied and Axis forces during the "Battle of the Bulge"?

Why were American advantages in the HÅrtgen Forest negated?

Lesson Objectives

  1. Students will explore the last three major battles that the Big Red One faced.
  2. Students will examine the historical significance of the last months of the war.
  3. Students will be able to examine the mental state of the soldiers and contrast it with the beginning of the war.
  4. Students will demonstrate through written narrative how they would handle similar situations.

Teaching Procedures

Starting Activity: What is tenacity?

The instructor can show the students images of their choice that reflect this characteristic.

  • Does it only happen in sports?
  • How do you persevere in school?
  • Does it occur at work, home or when you're with friends? What conditions are necessary?

  • What do you feel demonstrates tenacity? Can anyone accomplish it? What about under rough, fatigued conditions? Go back to your journal entries from Day 2. Remember those awful circumstances that soldiers had to endure? Imagine a different set of conditions (snow, freezing cold temps, mud, huge rivers to navigate across) and imagine not having a break for most of a year. That is what the Big Red One had to endure towards the end of the war.

    Powerpoint Presentation

    During the PowerPoint presentation, the students will be given a blank outline with questions (see discussion questions). Following along with the PowerPoint, the students will answer the questions.


    You are a member of the Big Red One (or your brother, father, uncle is). You will keep a journal that documents your encounters. Your journal should include not only your responses to situations that arise, but images, reports from the home front, maps, evidence from the built environment about your experiences.

    Day 4- You saw pictures from the battlefront. Some of these reveal disappointment because the war hasn't been won yet. You and your division were recalled from a brief rest to go to war in a snowstorm. How would you expect an ordinary person to respond? Suck it up and go back to fight with all their might or complain and not do their job effectively?
  • Research Private Eddie Slovik (not a member of the First) and find out what he did, why it stood out, and what makes his name important to this lesson on Endurance. Was Eisenhower's decision correct? What considerations influenced his decision?
  • NOTE: There's a movie called "The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik" that might be helpful for the instructor. Use with caution.
  • These websites are among the least inflammatory available and depict some of the key issues:




    Materials and Resources

  • Notes and PowerPoint
  • Screen and Projector
  • Handouts
  • Pictures for beginning of class
  • Books or journals

  • Discussion Questions

    1. What facilitated the Allies' rapid advance in July-September 1944? What prevented them from exploiting their advantages and winning the war in 1944? What were some of the obstacles they faced that made final defeat of the Nazis so difficult?
    2. Why were supply lines "bottled up" after Normandy?
    3. What does the picture of the troops with the women reveal? Notice the man in the front writing on a notepad. What do you think he's doing? Where do you think these women are from? Why are they so happy to be with the soldiers?
    4. What was difficult about the Rhine River for Allied forces? Why was it an obstacle?
    5. What is the WestWall?
    6. Why was Aachen important to Germany? Why was taking Aachen important to the Allies?
    7. Analyize the picture of the German Colonel Wilck. What does his posture suggest about the circumstances of his capture?
    8. Why was HÅrtgen Forest such a bloody battle for the Big Red One? What made the forest difficult for the troops?
    9. Compare and contrast German and American efforts to overcome infantry shortages in the winter of 1944? Why did these arise? What was done? What was the postwar significance of the decision Eisenhower made?
    10. Why did the Army leaders want to call back the Big Red One to help them with the Battle of the Bulge? Why couldn't the men get a well-deserved break? What made the BRO seem irreplaceable?
    11. What are some lessons that can be learned from "The Battle of the Bulge"?
    12. What is the significance of weather in war? Provide examples from other situations.
    13. What are the limits of human endurance? What does the U.S. Army's experience as a whole and the 1st Infantry Division's in particular suggest about how far people can be pushed in a crisis? What do the stresses and strains of a victorious war suggest about the challenges of fighting a losing war? What were the keys to preserving morale (mail, food, etc.)? Optional: Why was Private Eddie Slovik (28th Division) executed?

    Academic Standards

    US History 5.1, 5.2


    Analyze the causes of World War II in Europe and in the Pacific region and explain the involvement of the United States in World War II.


    Identify and explain the importance of key events and people involved with the causes, course, and consequences of World War II.

    National History Standards, Era 8: 3B, 3C

    3B- Explain the financial, material, and human costs of the war and analyze its economic consequences for the Allies and the Axis powers. [Utilize visual and quantitative data]

    3C- Explain how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources during World War II. [Utilize visual and quantitative data]

    Historical Thinking Standards: 1C, 2F, 5A, 5E

    1C- Chronological Thinking - Establish temporal order in constructing historical narratives of their own.

    2F- Historical Comprehension - Appreciate historical perspectives.

    5A- Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making - Identify issues and problems in the past.

    5E- Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making - Formulate a position or course of action on an issue.