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Classroom Material

Army Nurses' Perspective of the War

Wisconsin World War II Stories: The Pacific

Army Nurses | Wisconsin Historical Society
Enlarge Signe Skott Cooper standing outside building.

Signe Skott Scooper

Photography from a scrapbook in the Society's collections.

Grade level: Secondary

Duration: One class period

According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, "more than 59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II." Not only did women serve closer to the battlefront than in previous wars, but their achievements made possible a survival rate of 96 percent of the soldiers treated. Using a variety of resources, students will read diaries and other documents from women who served as nurses during World War II.

The expectations and experiences of nurses, documented in the sources, will help students understand new points of view on the war in Asia-Pacific theater. A writing assignment on the subject completes the study.

This lesson is one of four lessons related to Wisconsin Public Television World War II Stories video series. Depending upon time available, the lessons may be used with the videos, or they can stand alone. Since the subject of the video is World War II Europe, several of the lessons could be used in a World History or European History course as well as in U.S. History. Specifically, these lessons offer greater depth on the topics found in video one, The Struggle, although you will notice some overlap. They should provide students with a smooth transition to deeper study of World War II.


Students will:

  • Formulate historical questions
  • Obtain historical data
  • Interrogate historical data
  • Identify gaps in the available record


When the war in Europe ended in the spring of 1945, Americans were jubilant, but there was also an awareness that our soldiers would not necessarily come home. The war in the Pacific raged on, and victory there was still to come. The third video in the Wisconsin World War II Stories examines the Pacific Theater through the stories of sailors, pilots, medical personnel, and U.S. Marines who served there.

Over the past several decades, high school students have learned a great deal about the European theater of World War II. From the 1950s onward, the popular media created numerous images of the war in Europe. In addition, U.S. history textbooks devote significantly more space to the war in Europe. Most of their coverage of World War II in the Pacific centers on two events: Pearl Harbor and the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Today, students tend to be unfamiliar with the geography of the Pacific, the battles, or the timeline beyond the attack on Pearl Harbor and the conclusion of the war.

As you view the video on the Pacific you will learn that this story is very compelling. In dealing with less well-studied subjects, the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, for example, the video presents a tremendously interesting history. The lessons in this part of Wisconsin World War II Stories span interest areas and levels. They include geography, technology, and human interest studies, and draw upon a wide array of social studies skills. The lesson plans can be combined with partial or whole use of the videotape or online video clips, or the lessons can be used independently. The five videotapes in this series can, with the lesson plans, constitute a complete World War II unit.

Resource Materials


  1. Have students read The Army Nurse Corps booklet as background on army nurses' training and duty found. To save time, or for less able readers, divide the class into two or three groups of 11 students each to "jigsaw" the 11 different sections of the booklet and then report important facts and details to the larger group.

  2. Use the James W. Dunn article, The Ledo Road, and the National Geographic article, Blood, Sweat and Toil Along the Burma Road, to provide students with lecture notes.

  3. Have students read the "Lady Haliburtons" scrapbook diary of the nurses' journey from the United States to the China-Burma-India theater ("CBI") and examine the photographs collected by Wisconsin Army Nurse veteran, Signe Scott Cooper.

  4. Have students answer questions found on the "Around the World: A Nurse's Journey" worksheet. Ask students to use a blank map of the world and their textbooks or other historical atlases for 1943 to chart and label the nurses' journey.

  5. Using what they have learned from the Army Nurses' websites and the pages of Signe Cooper's scrapbook, have each student write a conclusion to "The Lady Haliburtons" diary. This conclusion should include how the nurses spent their final year of war service, 1944-1945.

Teacher Note: Signe Skott Cooper's return to the United States in September 1945 is documented on the schedule she placed in her scrapbook.


National Standards for United States History: Exploring the American Experience

(National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA)

Era 8, Standard 3

The causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs.

Standard 3B

The student understands World War II and how the Allies prevailed.

5-12 Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
7-12 Evaluate the decision to employ nuclear weapons against Japan and assess later controversies over the decision.
5-12 Explain the financial, material, and human costs of the war and analyze its economic consequences for the Allies and the Axis powers.
Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies
Standard A - Geography: People, Places, and Environments
A12.13 Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
Standard B - History: Time, Continuity, and Change
B.12.1 Explain different points of view on the same historical event, using data gathered from various sources, such as letters, journals, diaries, newspapers, government documents, and speeches
B.12.2 Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion
B.12.4 Assess the validity of different interpretations of significant historical events
B.12.5 Gather various types of historical evidence, including visual and quantitative data, to analyze issues of freedom and equality, liberty and order, region and nation, individual and community, law and conscience, diversity and civic duty; form a reasoned conclusion in the light of other possible conclusions; and develop a coherent argument in the light of other possible arguments
B.12.6 Select and analyze various documents that have influenced the legal, political, and constitutional heritage of the United States
B.12.7 Identify major works of art and literature produced in the United States and elsewhere in the world and explain how they reflect the era in which they were created
B.12.9 Select significant changes caused by technology, industrialization, urbanization, and population growth, and analyze the effects of these changes in the United States and the world
Standard C - Political Science and Citizenship: Power, Authority, Governance, and Responsibility
C.12.1 Identify the sources, evaluate the justification, and analyze the implications of certain rights and responsibilities of citizens
C.12.8 Locate, organize, analyze, and use information from various sources to understand an issue of public concern, take a position, and communicate the position


These lesson plans are designed to be used with Wisconsin World War II Stories: Part III: Pacific, a video series created by Wisconsin Public Television and the Wisconsin Historical Society, in association with the Wisconsin Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The lessons in this part of Wisconsin World War II Stories span interest areas and levels. They include geography, technology, and human interest studies, and draw upon a wide array of social studies skills. Information on the series can be found at: Wisconsin World War II Stories Website.

Author: Victoria Zuleger Straughn