Featured Primary Sources

World War II

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. In addition, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Sidney Diamond to Estelle Spero, ca. April 1942 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

A soldier’s reasons for enlisting, 1942

Creator: Sidney Diamond Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Be a Cadet Nurse,” United States Public Health Service, 1944. (GLC09520.04)

Cadet Nurse Corps, 1943

Creator: US Public Health Service Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
“Official Civilian Defense Insignia, United States Citizens Defense Corps,” US O

Civilian defense on the home front, 1942

Creator: The Office of Civilian Defense Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Eleanor Roosevelt to Addie Frizielle, May 13, 1944 (GLC09544)

Eleanor Roosevelt’s four basic rights, 1944

Creator: Eleanor Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
US Government Printing Office, “Fuel Fights! SAVE YOUR SHARE,” 1943 (GLC09520.12

Energy conservation during WWII, 1943

Creator: the Government Printing Office Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Grade Levels:
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Curran, January 14, 1942. (Gilder Lehrman Collec

FDR on racial discrimination, 1942

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Arthur B. Spingarn, June 14, 1940 (GLC04477)

FDR urges NAACP support before WWII, 1940

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Chautauqua, NY, August 14, 1936. (Gilder Lehrm

Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, 1936

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels:
Declaration of War against the United States and Britain [in Japanese], December

Japan declares war, 1941

Creator: Hirohito, Emperor of Japan Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Japanese internment broadside, May 3, 1942. (GLC06360)

Japanese internment, 1942

Creator: J. L. DeWitt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Americans All” poster, War Manpower Commission, Washington DC, 1942. (GLC09530)

Preventing labor discrimination during World War II, 1942

Creator: War Manpower Commission Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Victory Order of the Day,” May 8, 1945. (GLC05622.04)

Victory Order of the Day, 1945

Creator: Dwight D. Eisenhower Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels:
“Remember Dec. 7th!” Office of War Information, 1942. (GLC09520.08)

World War II: Commemorating Pearl Harbor, 1941

Creator: Office of War Information Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels:

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

William E. Mitchell to Lester D. Gardner, July 26, 1924 (Gilder Lehrman Collecti

Creating the Air Force, 1924

Creator: William E. Mitchell Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Irving Kaplan, Preliminary statement of the Association of Manhattan District Sc

Physicists predict a nuclear arms race, 1945

Creator: Association of Manhattan District Scientists Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, World History Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+