Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #5

The 1st Infantry Division: Victory and Retrospective

Webisode 5

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


The tough winter of 1944-45 was followed by a March 1945 breakthrough across the Rhine, and meeting up with the Soviets in late April. The Germans surrendered in early May. Victory!-in Europe. V-E Day was celebrated throughout the world. V-J Day would follow in September.

In this lesson, the fifth of a 5-day unit on the First Infantry Division (The Big Red One), the instructor will have pictures, graphs, and documents to help describe the mood in early 1945 and the final push to victory. This lesson will focus on the victory achieved by the Big Red One and look back on how they overcame huge obstacles to obtain a battlefield record second to none in the U.S. Army.

Topical Questions

Why is V-E Day so important if the war wasn't over for the U.S.? What was the general attitude in the beginning of 1945?

What's happening on the home front early in 1945?

Lesson Objectives

  1. Students will examine primary documents.
  2. Students will discover and examine a Big Red One veteran.
  3. Students will study images and be able to verbalize their message.

Teaching Procedures

Starting Activity: What benefit do cartoons have?

The instructor will show the students a cartoon image.


  • The war is over! The vintage cartoon above shows a jubilant GI doing a victory jig while adding a defeated Tojo (left) to his collection of deposed Axis dictators (Hitler and Mussolini have already been collected and dangle at the end of a rope in his right hand).
  • What does this cartoon represent? What's going on in the picture? Does this picture represent V-E Day? Why or why not?

  • Discuss President Truman's V-E Day Speech to the Public.[Delivered from the Radio Room at the White House at 9 a.m.]

    THIS IS a solemn but a glorious hour. I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe.

    For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity.

    Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartache which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors-neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty.

    We can repay the debt which we owe to our God, to our dead and to our children only by work--by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is--work, work, and more work.

    We must work to finish the war. Our victory is but half-won. The West is free, but the East is still in bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese. When the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally, then only will our fighting job be done.

    We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world--to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work--by understanding and working with our allies in peace as we have in war.

    The job ahead is no less important, no less urgent, no less difficult than the task which now happily is done.

    I call upon every American to stick to his post until the last battle is won. Until that day, let no man abandon his post or slacken his efforts. And now, I want to read to you my formal proclamation of this occasion:

    "A Proclamation--The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God's help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The western world has been freed of the evil forces which for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of free-born men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our Armies of Liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will the oppressors could never enslave.

    "Much remains to be done. The victory won in the West must now be won in the East. The whole world must be cleansed of the evil from which half the world has been freed. United, the peace-loving nations have demonstrated in the West that their arms are stronger by far than the might of the dictators or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak.

    What are the key themes in this address? Why is the tone subdued? What are some examples of the terrible cost that BRO veterans, other Americans, and other peoples have paid to rid the world of Nazi tyranny? Why are there so many references to religious themes?

    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 5-You've been through the war in Europe. (Look at the picture of the remaining men in the 18th Infantry Regiment who had fought all the way through from 1942-1945, recall how many men are in a regiment, and consider the losses in killed and wounded). You have ended your tour of duty in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia and-eventually (there are not enough ships to send everyone immediately)-are being sent home. How do you feel? What's going on at home? How do you feel when you get home?
  • Using pictures, music, documents, etc, write in your journal about your experience of looking back over the war. You've lost friends, brothers, husbands, cousins. How does this make you feel? What was the most important thing that happened to you during your time overseas fighting the Axis powers?
  • Materials and Resources

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

  • Discussion Questions

    1. What is V-E Day? Why doesn't this end the war for the United States?
    2. What was the significance of African-American infantry units joining the 1st in March 1945?
    3. Postwar: What challenges now face the United States in Europe? After V-E Day, what was the Big Red One's task? Why was this important?
    4. Why were so few original members of the 18th Infantry Regiment still in the unit at the end of the war? What would their reaction have been to that realization?
    5. What were the Nuremberg Trials? What were they intended to do? Did they accomplish that?
    6. What was Auschwitz? What happened there? Why does that matter today? Have we ended genocide? Why or why not?
    7. Why is it important to look back at men like Pete Piekos, Eddie Ireland, Charles Shay, Ed Raymond, Clyde Sportsman, Bud Spencer and what purpose does it serve to your generation? What obstacles prevent the transmission of memories?
    8. Describe what you know about the Vietnam War and compare that to the men who fought in the Big Red One. Is there a difference in stories and memories? If so, what? Why?
    9. What are the key themes of Truman's speech? What is missing?

    Academic Standards

    US History 5.8, 5.9, 6.1


    Investigate Hitler's "final solution" policy and the Allies' responses to the Holocaust.


    Use a variety of information sources, including primary documents and oral histories, to identify and analyze perspectives on issues related to World War II. (Individuals, Society, and Culture)


    Identify and explain the importance of key events, people, and groups related to the causes, conditions, and consequences of the Cold War. (Discussed with Truman's speech)

    National History Standards, Era 8: 3B

    3B- Describe military experiences.

    Historical Thinking Standards: 2A, 2F, 5A

    2A-Historical Comprehension - Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative and assess its credibility.

    2F-Historical Comprehension- Appreciate historical perspectives

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