HM - Feb. 2017 - Strehl
Online Educators' Toolbox Helps Students
Connect to the Past through the Words and Images of Soldiers
United States Army Heritage and Education Center
On the morning of December 7th, 1941, a groggy Soldier sat at the front desk in the headquarters building of the 25th Infantry Division headquarters. The headquarters building, nestled in the warm, tropical epicenter of the U.S. Army’s forces in the Hawaiian Islands, was only a couple of miles from the airfield which serviced the Army Air Corps’ fighter aircraft. At 8 AM, the phone in front of the dozing Soldier rang suddenly, interrupting the first minutes of his shift on guard duty. On the other end of the line, an agitated voice rang out. The voice belonged to Colonel Burgess, asking about the recent explosions at Wheeler Field. Within seconds, two more colonels and a major called with similarly frantic requests for information. The chaos associated with the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor and Wheeler Field was well under way.
Deep in the U.S. Army’s historical archives, located at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, among the rolling fields of the Cumberland Valley, the phone log depicting that horrific day lives in a folder, available to scholars, educators, and researchers forever. The log, recording the initial confused calls on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, reports the mobilization of troops to defend against the Japanese onslaught, individual bombs hitting targets, and the general chaos in the headquarters building. The words of Soldiers intimately involved in the actions on that fateful day are perfectly preserved and digitized, allowing educators access to utilize them in countless ways. A history class can compare and contrast the phone log to 911 emergency logs from New York City on September 11th, 2001, leading to a discussion about chaotic situations and what happens to communication between people during times of stress. Additionally, the log contains reports of Japanese parachute troops and an amphibious invasion, two events that did not happen, making the document perfect for a lesson on the nature of primary source documents. The phone log is only one of over 16 million historical documents in the U.S. Army’s collection, and almost every single document is available to teachers for use in their classrooms; many documents are also digitized and online.
The U.S. Army’s historical and archival materials are part of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC). The USAHEC’s mission is to collect and preserve the Army’s history and to make that history available to the Army and the American public. Coupled with that mission, the USAHEC has also worked to increase outreach to K-12 and university level educators to better illustrate the wealth of Army history available to them. The USAHEC collections are rich and diverse, with primary source holdings ranging from individual Soldier's stories, to items such as the technological designs for early prototype tanks, and the plans of operation for the D-Day Invasion. The battlefield-aspect of the Army's history is important, but the USAHEC’s other materials are just as useful in the classroom. The history of medicine, technology, leadership, integration, and hundreds of other topics and themes are available to educators to enrich their classrooms.
The USAHEC’s collections are easily accessible by teachers anywhere in the world. The USAHEC has a convenient online “toolbox” created specifically to target teachers’ classroom needs for primary historical materials. Simply browse to www.usahec.org and click on the “Educator’s Toolbox” link, and open over 250 years of history. The toolbox contains pre-made lesson plans and classroom activators including images and primary source documents packaged for easy download. The lesson plans cover the daily life of a Soldier in the trenches of World War I, photograph analyses during the Korean War, and numerous other topics. Each plan is designed so a teacher can easily modify the lesson to fit their class needs, or simply take the primary sources and use them to bolster your own lesson plan. Additionally, the toolbox contains standalone primary source documents ripe for analysis by your class, including memoirs from Soldiers fighting at Little Big Horn to research papers on whether or not African Americans were capable of serving in the military in 1928.
Coupled with our on-line resources, the USAHEC has developed an education team to directly support individual teachers. If you need help finding historical material for your classroom, whether they be scientific, technological, sociological, or anthropological in nature and they relate to the U.S. Army, the USAHEC research assistance staff can help you. The USAHEC team has also partnered with the National Council for History Education to help broaden the awareness of teachers nationwide about the U.S. Army’s historical resources. The USAHEC facility will host the NCHE and the Library of Congress for a colloquium targeting technology in military history in July of 2017. During the event, the USAHEC will sponsor workshops and tours highlighting primary sources covering all aspects of technological innovation that the U.S. Army has spearheaded over the past two centuries. From eye surgery to the physics of artillery, and from treating PTSD to building tanks, the history of Army technology will be at the forefront.
Those few pages of cold, one- and two-line phone log entries from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, relating one of the darkest days in U.S. history, are in stark contrast to the letter of Lieutenant Colonel H. H. Blackwell who wrote a letter home describing the attack from his vantage point at Fort Shafter in Honolulu. His letter was so precise and graphic that the military censors returned the letter to him to be rewritten before he could tell his wife what had happened. If you think that your students can better connect to the past through the words and images of the Soldiers who served this nation, then contact the USAHEC’s education team for more information. Or, to talk to one of our research librarians/historians, please visit www.usahec.org and navigate to the Educator’s Toolbox. From there, use the contact email link to email our team directly.
Photo 1: After the bombing of Hawaii by the Japanese, Dec. 7, 1941. Shot of Burned plane - northeast of #3 hangars, 10:30 a.m. Wheeler Field, T.H. (Signal Corps Photo #3-1)
Photo 2: An unexploded bomb which fell from a Japanese plane which was brought down by fire from U.S. guns on Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. Measurements: 12in x 43in. (Signal Corps Photo)