Bombs and Bomber Boys: The Bombing of Britain and the American Friendly Invasion

Guiding Question:

What were the roles of the American service members stationed in Great Britain prior to the Normandy invasion? What impact did the German Vengeance weapons have on the civilian population in Great Britain?


Students will investigate the role of American service members in Great Britain before the Normandy invasion and the impact the V-1 and V-2 vengeance weapons had upon the British civilians at the close of the war. Students will write from the perspective of either a British civilian enduring a bombing raid or an American pilot conducting a raid.


Historical Context

Between 1942 and 1944 over 1.4 million American servicemen were stationed and trained in Great Britain. These servicemen flew bombing missions to continental Europe and trained for the eventual invasion at Normandy. Many American servicemen lost their lives training for the invasion and flying bombing missions over the continent that played a vital role in the eventual Allied victory. American service members had to adjust to living in a country ravaged by war and facing great shortages of food and material goods. Shortly after the Normandy invasion, soldiers and civilians alike faced a new terror: the German Vengeance weapons. V-1 flying bombs, followed quickly by V-2 rockets, began a new wave of destruction and fear among the British people. As the Air War over Europe raged, aircrews operating from bases in England continued to fly missions. Many, like First Lieutenant Homer McClure of the 386th Bomber Group, never returned and are buried or memorialized at Cambridge American Cemetery.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Understand the importance of the large number of Americans in Great Britain prior to the Normandy invasion;
  • Describe the destruction in both life and property caused by bombing raids over Great Britain; and
  • Analyze and describe the impact the “friendly invasion” had on British civilians.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6-8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.1.6-8 Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.
D2.His.3.6-8 Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.
D2.His.15.6-8 Evaluate the relative influence of various causes of events and developments in the past.
D3.3.6-8 Identify evidence that draws information from multiple sources to support claims, noting evidentiary limitations.
D4.3.6-8 Present adaptations of arguments and explanations on topics of interest to others to reach audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary).


  • Teacher computer access
  • Student computer access for alternate activity or virtual post-it note site. Free virtual post-it sites include and
  • Paper or access to a word processing program for writing assignments
  • Coordinate with your librarian to obtain at least one copy of Rose Under Fire (more copies will be needed if students are reading independently).

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Air Raids (45 minutes)

  • Turn out the lights and play the BBC clip of the air raid siren and V-1 Flying Bomb attack.
  • Discuss how it would feel to be a Londoner during an air raid.
    • What would you worry about first?
    • What items would you always keep with you in case you lost your home?
    • How do citizens living in a country at war for years cope with constant bombing?
  • Explore the Americans in Great Britain Interactive on the ABMC website. Have students write two questions they had while reading the information and two interesting facts they learned on sticky notes or a web-based note board to share with the class.

Activity Two: Fallen Heroes (45 minutes)

  • Encourage students to explore ABMC’s World War II Interactive Timeline (enter the timeline, and then click on the 1943, Air Offensive - Europe tab) to learn more about the context of the air war in Europe.
  • Read aloud the account of the American air campaign from Chester Klier on Wednesday, January 26, 1944.
  • Invite students to explore the Fallen Hero narratives and documents for First Lieutenant Homer R. McClure , First Lieutenant Gale B. McGowan, and First Lieutenant William Simmons.
  • Engage in a class discussion:
    • Do Americans remember and recognize the sacrifice of servicemen killed before the Normandy invasion differently than those killed after the June 6, 1944 landings? Why or why not? How can or should they be honored?

Activity Three: The Ethics of Bombing (45 minutes)

  • Read pages 124-129 from Rose Under Fire. This excerpt describes the main character, Rose, an American POW at Ravensbrück, who realizes she is building V-1 Flying Bombs for the Germans and refuses to continue her assigned job.
    • Students can explore the ethics of Allied bombing of German factories where Allied prisoners of war are tasked with creating war material.
    • Students will debate two sides of the argument, one from the perspective of an Allied commander and the other from an Allied POW.

Assessment Materials

  • For this writing assessment, students can choose one of the following prompts:
    • Imagine you are a Londoner living through the bombings. Write a letter to your American cousin describing your daily routine and where you go, what you do during a bombing raid. How have the Americans changed your country? Remember to include historical details.
    • Write three journal entries of a United States pilot stationed in Britain. You are flying bombing missions to France and Holland and also training for the Normandy invasion. What is it like in a different country? How do the American living conditions compare to the British civilians conditions? What do you do in your free time? Why is your mission important?
  • This assignment can be scored using the Final Project Rubric.

Methods for Extension

  • Teachers can use the booklet, A Short Guide to Great Britain, and have students explore the hardships faced by both American servicemen and British citizens during the Friendly Invasion. The pamphlets are available in PDF form online or as a booklet from online bookstores.
  • Students can research the Slapton Sands incident and investigate American non-combat casualties in Britain.
  • Students can research the V-1 and V-2 Vengeance weapons.
  • Students can explore the Imperial War Museum online exhibit on the London Blitz and the Battle of Britain.
  • The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains U.S. military cemeteries overseas. These cemeteries are permanent memorials to the fallen, but it is important that students know the stories of those who rest here. To learn more about the stories of some of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, visit the Understanding Sacrifice Interactive Map.


  • Teachers can use the audiobook excerpt of the fictional accounts by Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire, for English language learners, struggling readers and auditory learners.
  • Teachers can use the ABMC Interactives that include subtitles and audio for accessibility.


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