Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Korean War
John Frazier
US History or World History
Time Frame:
Approximately, one ninety minute class or two forty-five minute classes.
Korean War
Korean War
Primary Source Analysis

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Individual, technology based, and primary resources

This is an individual lesson that begins with an introduction to the Korean War. Students will listen to audio clips of President Truman. Students will answer questions to the clips while they are listening.

  • Korea was the first battleground in the Cold War. Students need to understand the war’s ramifications, including the current political division of the Korean Peninsula. My hope is that students will also gain a greater appreciation of presidential decisions by listening to Mr. Truman explaining some of his tough choices.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Show Me Standards

  • SS 2. continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world
  • SS 6. relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural tradition                                                                                                                                                                      
  • SS 7.  the use of tools of social studies inquiry (recordings)




Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations, containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).


Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary


Benchmark 4: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the World Since 1945.

(A) analyzes the Cold War as the competition between two competing ideologies or world views and its impact on various regions of the world. (e.g., roots in WWII, Mao’s China; the Cold War in Europe; NATO, Warsaw Pact, and the competition for nonaligned nations; collapse of Communism in Europe)

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Notes on the Korean War created by John Frazier

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Recordings of President Truman on this site:  http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/koreanwar/index.php?action=sss

Specific Recordings are:

Recording number: MP 2002, 95  Title: Harry S. Truman discusses how he and General MacArthur fell out over the Chinese entry into the Korean War.

Recording number:  MP 2002, 438.  Title: Harry S. Truman answers questions from soldiers at Fort Leavenworth, mostly about the Korean War.

Technology Required:
  • The teacher will need a single computer with speakers loud enough for the entire class to hear.

Full description of activity or assignment.

The teacher needs to introduce the lesson on the Korean War.  The teacher may lecture using a brief set of notes I have written and attached below. The students will need to take notes during this lecture. The teacher may opt to print information off the website listed below instead of lecturing. The website information will be distributed to the students and they will need to individually take notes from the website. After the students complete their notes, the teacher should lead a discussion on the war so there is a common understanding. 

The website is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/korea_hickey_01.shtml These are the notes on the Korean War. They are meant to be used as a guide.  The teacher should include additional
details they feel are relevant for student understanding.

  1. The Korean War
    1. Japan had occupied Korea since 1945.
    2. After WW II the Russians freed occupied Korea above the 38th parallel and the U.S. freed below it.
    3. Elections were to take place in 1949 and reunite the nation, however, the Soviets prevented this from happening in the north.
    4. Leader of N. Korea: (students fill in name)
    5. Leader of S. Korea:  (students fill in name)
    6. On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded the South.
      1. What did the U.N. do about the North Korean invasion?

                (students fill in information).

  1.  The Soviet Union did not veto the U.N. action.  They were not present because they wanted Communist China recognized as the representative at the Security Council, not Taiwan.
  2. General MacArthur now led the U.S. and 18 other countries to fight in Korea.
  3. Inchon invasion help split the Koreans in half: 

(students fill in information)

  1. Then MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel; the Chinese then warned McArthur to stop. When McArthur neared the Yalu River what happened? 

(students fill in information)

  1. MacArthur wanted to attack China.
  2. MacArthur continued to be disrespectful and insubordinate to Truman.  Truman fired him.
  • After the students have been introduced to the lesson, go to this website: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/koreanwar/index.php?action=sss
  • The teacher will play some of the audio recordings on this website and have students answer the questions below. The questions are listed in order.  The teacher may need to pause the recordings to give students time to answer the questions.  The first audio recording the students will listen to is the 5th soundtrack from the top titled, “Harry S. Truman answers questions from soldiers at Fort Leavenworth, mostly about the Korean War.”  The recording number is MP 2002, 95.  The questions are listed below.   Question number 6 is graded with a higher score.
  1. Why does Truman say the United States did not occupy all of Korea after World War II?
  2. Truman says that atomic weapons were not used in Korea when the Chinese crossed the Yalu River.  Why did Truman insist atomic weapons should not be used?
  3. Truman speaks of the aggression of the 1920’s and 1930’s in these recordings.  Name two of the aggressor nations Truman is referring to.
  4. How does Truman feel about war atrocities and the accountability they should face?
  5. Discuss how Truman believed his experiences as a World War I veteran help guide his decisions as Commander and Chief.
  6. After listening to the recordings of President Truman, name and describe at least two decisions you believe were positive and beneficial. Name and describe at least two decisions you believe were negative and detrimental. Explain your answer. This question is graded with a higher score.
  • The next audio recording is the sixth from the top. The video is titled, “Harry S. Truman discusses how he and General MacArthur fell out over the Chinese entry into the Korean War.” The recording number is MP 2002, 438.  The questions on this video are listed below. Question 11 is graded with a higher score. 
  1. Truman states that McArthur was too busy to come to the         United States.  Where did Truman meet McArthur?  
  2. Some of the “boys” told Truman that McArthur failed to show him respect. Although, Truman did not care that McArthur failed to show him respect, what was the disrespectful action?
  3. Truman was afraid of what future event, if we fought a war in China?

10.  How does Truman describe McArthur’s personality?

11.  How would you have dealt with the McArthur controversy if you were in Truman’s shoes?  This question is graded with a higher score.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

§  In the scoring guide, the teacher should use his or her knowledge about the level of students they teach, matching student achievement with an appropriate score.  §  There are two scoring guides attached.  One is a fast check and one is a longer, more detailed list. The teacher may choose the guide that best fits their class or schedule. Students should receive a copy of the guide that will be used for the assessment before the assignment starts. §  If time allows, as part of the effort and participation grade, a class discussion can be beneficial on questions six and eleven.   Student Name ____________________                  Block ______   Student Notes                                                             1 2 3 4 5 6 Student effort and participation                                1 2 3 4 5 Answering questions 1-5 and 7-10 (1 point each) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Answer questions 6 and 11 (3 points each )          1 2 3 4 5 6                                                                                 Total ____/26             SEE NEXT PAGE FOR MORE DETAILED SCORING GUIDE.                                                 Name ___________________                  Block _____  

Notes Effort and Participation Answering Questions # 1-5 and 7-10 Answering Questions #   6 & 11.
5 or 6 points: notes are clearly written and can be understood.  They cover the main points in the document. 4 or 5 points: Student was focused on assignment and engaged fully the whole time.   7,8, or 9 points: all questions were correctly answered and were clearly understood. 5 or 6 points: creativity and the seriousness of the situation were expressed in the answers.
3 or 4.points:  notes are somewhat confusing and do not cover all the main points   2 or 3 points: Student was focused at least 50% of the time and was not engaged fully in the assignment. 4,5, or 6 points: all questions were answered but many of the descriptions were not clearly written and or some of the answers were incorrect. 3 or 4 points: creativity was average and seriousness was not completely displayed in most of the answers.
2 points:  student  attempted to take notes 1  point:: student attempted assignment. 3 points: all questions were attempted. 2 points: attempted to answer questions # 6 and 11.
Teacher comments: Teacher comments: Teacher comments: Teacher comments:

                                                                        Total _____/26