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U.S. Navy Museum Cold War Gallery Lesson Plan
Using Oral Histories to Learn About the Cold War
Developed by Cindy Woolston, Brunswick High School, Brunswick, MO
2012 Naval Historical Foundation STEM-H Teacher Fellowship

  Instructional Goal

Teacher Help
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Listening/Reading Oral Histories:
  1. Become familiar with social science research methods.
  2. Gain a deeper understanding of history through first-hand accounts.
  3. Practice reading, writing, and evaluating information.
  4. Look for biasness in documents and literature.
  5. Appreciate the experiences of sailors, both enlisted and officers.
  6. Relate personal stories to historical content.

The Cold War refers to the post World War II confrontation between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies. From 1945 to 1991 international policies were shaped by intense rivalries between these two groups - noncommunist and communists. This led to military coalitions, weapons development, space race, espionage, and propaganda. It included the "hot" wars of the Cold War: Korea and Vietnam. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

View "The U.S. Navy in the Cold War" for a ten minute summary of the U.S. Navy's role across 5 decades following World War II:

play videoThe U.S. Navy and the Cold War:  This film was produced for the Cold War Gallery, part of the National Museum of the United States Navy. It gives an overview of the U.S. Navy's role in our nation's nearly 50-year conflict with the Soviet Union.


History of the Cold War:  www.history.navy.mil/wars/coldwar-1.htm.

Naval Historical & Heritage Command - Oral History of World War II:  www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq87-3.htm.

Library of Congress - Veterans History Project:  www.loc.gov/vets/.

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Lesson Activity


Activity worksheet: Click Here

  1. Read the background information and view the short video on the U.S. Navy's role in the Cold War.
  2. Review the worksheet below before reading or listening to an oral history of a U.S. military veteran. Complete the first two columns.
  3. Look up an oral history using one of the websites listed above and complete the last column of the worksheet.
  4. Be prepared to share any interesting or pertinent findings with the class and then turn in your completed worksheet to the teacher.


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