Pacific War Sources and Lessons

Compiled August 2005

So much of what appears in textbooks about the war in the Pacific focuses on U.S. military actions from Pearl Harbor to the surrender of Japan. Many of the websites annotated below deal with the Japanese point of view of the war in the Pacific, offer primary sources, or address issues surrounding the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

General sites

Imperial Japanese Navy Page
A comprehensive site concerning the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Pacific War. Contains articles, data, images, and operational histories of subs, destroyers, aircraft carriers, cruisers, battleships, and auxiliary vessels.

The Pacific War
The Pacific War Historical Society presents an illustrated history of the Pacific War from Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, and addresses Japanese war crimes, 1937-45, and the atomic bombing of Japan.

The Pacific War: A World War II Special Feature
Produced by the War Times Journal, an on-line magazine which covers all periods of military history and military science. Emphasizes eyewitness accounts and personal experiences. Contents: the Pacific War (a general summary of the war); about Pearl Harbor (an overview with illustrations); War Events Timeline for the Pacific and East Asia; and the Pearl Harbor Attacks (animated flash features).


Timeline of Events, WWII in the Pacific
Detailed listing of events from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the birth of the United Nations. Also includes 50 battle images (primarily photographs but also a map and a wartime poster) at

Lesson Plans

The Atomic Bomb modernhist/atomicbomb.html
Offers a background essay, “The Decision to Use the Bomb,” and three primary source documents: “Report of the Interim Committee on Military Use of the Atomic Bomb, May 1945”; “Report of the Franck Committee on the Social and Political Implications of a Demonstration of the Atomic Bomb (For a Non-Combat Demonstration), June 1945”; and “The Potsdam Declaration, June 26, 1945.” Includes student exercises.

Ending the War Against Japan : Science, Morality, and the Atomic Bomb. The Choices Program, Brown University. Fourth edition, March 2005.
This unit of study allows students to examine primary source materials and background information available to U.S. decision-makers in mid-1945 to reconstruct both the scientific odyssey which produced the bomb and the debate within the Truman administration on whether the bomb should have been used against Japan and how.

Impact of War with Asia on Asian Americans
The objectives of this lesson plan are that s tudents will: identify perceptions towards Asians widely held by the American public through the analysis of political cartoons from the 1940's and 1990's; recognize the ramifications of such perceptions on Asians and Asian Americans; and consider the role of the media in influencing perceptions.

Imperial Japan : Expansion and War. &-Layout=Media%20Information%20Record&BiblioID=688&-Search
Four lessons use art and literature to explore the Japanese government's decision to pursue a policy of imperialism, patriotism and the mobilization of the Japanese people behind government policy, non-conformists and dissidents who protested government policy, and the social and cultural scene within Japan at that time.

Japan 's Quest for Power and World War II in Asia modernhist/wwii.html
Presents two essays and discussion questions: “The World at War: 1931-1945”; and “ Japan and the United States at War: Pearl Harbor, 1941.”


Lesson plans based on The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida (Putnam and Grosset Groups, 1996) byrnes-literature/Dent/DENT.HTM
This series of four social studies lesson plans (designed for fifth-grade students) is based on the book The Bracelet, which tells about the sadness a young girl named Emi feels when she learns her family is being sent to a prison camp for Japanese-Americans.

National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson Plan
Getting Involved In War (Grade 6-8). This lesson introduces students to the reasons why the United States became involved in World War II and asks them to consider the reasons Japan decided to attack Pearl Harbor. Includes a detailed interactive map showing the events at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The Pacific Front - The Military Intelligence Service (MIS)
This lesson plan and associated reading addresses the development and actions of the Military Intelligence Service from 1941 to 1945. The 6,000 Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) linguists of the MIS were attached to units deployed at all strategic locations in the Pacific. The lesson is designed for Grade 11 students and offers links to California Standards.

San Francisco Peace Treaty: The Cold War and the Peace Process. 2001. Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education. 137pp. $29.95.
This three-lesson unit provides students with historical knowledge of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the global issues that influenced its signatories in 1951. Through role-play activities, analysis of primary sources, and writing assignments, students develop a solid understanding of the early Cold War era.

World War II: The Pacific
The objectives of this lesson are that students will: research in depth the key events of World War II in the Pacific; and debate whether dropping the nuclear bomb was the best way to end the war. Grade levels for this lesson are 9-12 and the expected duration is one or two class periods.

Primary Sources

The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb. bomb/large/index.php
Part of the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, this site offers documents, photographs, oral histories, and lesson plans about the decision to drop the bomb. It also includes descriptions of chapters from the book Truman and the Bomb: A Documentary History.


Kamikaze Images
The first major section of this web site analyzes American and Japanese views of kamikaze pilots in two separate essays. Each essay's first part analyzes the principal images or perceptions that people currently have about kamikaze pilots. The second part explores the most important sources of these images.

Living Witnesses to the Atomic Bomb: A Japanese Perspective
The information contained in this page was gathered from sites on the web, from real people who experienced the horror of the atomic bombs, and from books that were written from a Japanese perspective.

The Pacific War: Student Interviews and Interpretations
This is a collection of information about the experiences of the Japanese during the Pacific War. Created by students at The Matsushita Center for Electronic Learning (MCEL) at Pacific University.

Teaching with Documents: Documents and Photographs Related to Japanese Relocation During World War II (from the National Archives)
The main page offers background, other resources, and links to 20 primary source documents. Also links to lesson resources: The Documents; Standards Correlations; Teaching Activities; Document Analysis Worksheet; and a link to OurDocuments.Gov.

United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Summary Report (Pacific War)
This 1946 report by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey tells of the results achieved by air power in each of its several roles in the war in the Pacific, including the effects of the atomic bombs.

World War II Resources
This site offers primary source documents regarding all aspects of the war. It dedicates itself to combating "history by sound bites." The primary means of finding documents is to use the “search” feature located near the top of the main page.

Other Aspects

Navajo Code Talkers: World War II Fact Sheet. Prepared by the Navy & Marine Corps WWII Commemorative Committee
The Navajo code talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They served in all six Marine divisions, Marine Raider battalions and Marine parachute units, transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native language -- a code that the Japanese never broke.

The Night Hell Fell from the Sky
An article from Japan Focus on the firebombing of Tokyo late in the war in which an estimated 100,000 people died.

Remembering 'The Good War'. The Atomic Bombing and the Internment of Japanese-Americans in U.S. History Textbooks
Concludes that the textbooks examined reveal a variety of approaches to the two sensitive issues of the atomic decision and internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans, the best of them problematizing the issues, some even strongly criticizing elements of U.S. government policy in ways that invite student reflection on and engagement in ethical and political issues.

Compiled by Roger Sensenbaugh