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Learn About World War II

World War II killed more people, involved more nations, and cost more money than any other war in history. Altogether, 70 million people served in the armed forces during the war and 17 million combatants died. Civilian deaths were ever greater. At least 19 million Soviet civilians, 10 million Chinese, and 6 million European Jews lost their lives during the war.

World War II was truly a global war. Some 70 nations took part in the conflict, and fighting took place on the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as on the high seas. Entire societies participated, as soldiers, war workers, or victims of occupation and mass murder.

World War II cost the United States a million casualities and nearly 400,000 deaths. In both domestic and foreign affairs, its consequences were far-reaching. It ended the Depression, brought millions of married women into the workforce, initiated sweeping changes in the lives of the nation's minority groups, and dramatically expanded government's presence in American life.

Click to open a succinct overview of the history of World War II.

Pearl Harbor Attack Documents (1941)

Primary sources can help you understand the origins of World War II, the reasons for the success of the Pearl Harbor attack, and the nature of the alliance between Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. You can also learn about the impact of the war on American society, the nature of the air war waged against Germany and Japan, and the decision to use nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagisaki.

To learn more

Handouts and fact sheets:

World War II Handouts and Fact Sheets
The Atomic Bomb

Recommended lesson plan:

The Manhattan Project


Test your knowledge about World War II by taking our World War II Quiz.

Recommended books:

David Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

The literature on World War II is vast. Click here for a useful guide to the major books on the conflict - its causes, history, and consequences.

Recommended film:

Much more than a story of star-crossed lovers, Casablanca metaphorically traces the awakening of an isolationist America to the need to fight Nazi Germany.

View the movie trailer (requires Windows media player):

Ninety million Americans went to the movies every week during World War II. The war dramatically changed the nature of the movies, which were no longer mere entertainment, but a valuable morale-booster, a source of information, and an instrument of public education.

Click to learn more about:

Wartime Hollywood
Hollywood's World War II Combat Films
Hollywood's Treatment of War

learn more film

Recommended Website:

People at War
This exhibit highlights the contributions of the thousands of Americans, both military and civilian, who served their country during World War II.

Hear what leading historians of World War II have to say about the major controversies raised by the war.

Interviews with David M. Kennedy

Interview with William O'Neill


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