Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

The World War I experience of Harry Truman
Ben Creech
US History
Time Frame:
1-2 days
World War I

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will take a letter from Harry Truman to Bess Wallace and compare it to the war material
from their textbook.


As students learn about the War in Europe a primary source document outlining a military action
from a famous veteran will help cement the reality of war for the men who fought and died.

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

Missouri Learning Standards 9-12.WH.5.CC.B: Trace the origins, and relationships among the world
wars, revolutions, and global conflicts of 20th century to determine their impacts on the world today.

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

History Textbook or other secondary reading material

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.

Students will take prior knowledge from a discussion regarding war on the Western Front.
Provide the students with some secondary information regarding the war. Things to cover in the
secondary material should include:
- Central and Allied Power Countries
- Weapons of war (Tank, Poison Gas, etc)
- Elements of Trench Warfare (Types of trenches, how they were designed?)
� After the background material has been taught provide the students the first two letters of Harry S.
Truman to Bess Wallace mentioned above. Depending on the class you may want to read the
letters with the students to help with comprehension.
� As students read the letters have them outline two things:
- References to World War I that Harry S. Truman encountered.
- Vocabulary or phrases the student doesn’t recognize. (Set a goal so each student has at least a
couple to contribute to the conversation).
� Group up students and let them have a conversation with others about what they read and what
they don’t understand. As a group identify the words and phrases not understood from the
members of the groups list. The students should also come up with 3-5 questions to share with
the class.
� Wrap up the activity with a full class discussion over the first two letters from Harry S. Truman. In this
discussion the teacher should discuss the misunderstood vocabulary with the students and also
allow groups to share a question or two for the big group to discuss.
� The teacher should be prepared with some critical thinking questions regarding the letters. The
goal of this activity is to prepare students for an independent case study of another World War I
letter from Harry S. Truman.

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

The assessment to this activity would be to provide them another primary source document that
has similar attributes. Give students the letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess from November 11,
1918. Students should once again identify unfamiliar vocabulary and take the steps to identify
the words.
� The teacher should write DBQ questions to see if students mastered the skill of the lesson. The
questions should focus on the following key ideas mentioned by Truman.
- Armistice
- Marshal Ferdinand Foch
- Liberty Bonds