Confidence and Concerns: Allied Advances into Germany

Guiding Question:

As 1944 was winding down and the Allies were pushing to get to Berlin to defeat the Axis, what were the reasons for both confidence and concern?


This lesson asks students to put themselves in the context of late fall/early winter 1944 as advisors to military planners. Students will determine what the Allies could consider their biggest strengths but also their largest concerns as they crafted their strategy to defeat Germany. Students will analyze a variety of primary sources and draft a memo with their strategic recommendations for Allied military planners.


Historical Context

Following Operation Market Garden, Allied forces faced more and more German resistance as they closed in on the German border. As winter 1944 approached there was little doubt that the Allies were winning the war and Germany was struggling to defend itself and reduce its losses, however there was still a significant amount of fighting strength left in the German high command and its forces. This lesson encourages students to consider causes for confidence and concern as the Allies strategized about the final phase of the war in Europe. Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery is the final resting place for many men, like Private First Class Clark B. Allen Jr., who lost their lives fighting in the push into Germany.


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

  • Determine the fighting conditions that existed in western Germany in the early winter of 1944;
  • Analyze a group of primary sources;
  • Assemble a list of strengths and concerns facing the Allied forces in late 1944; and
  • Recommend a strategy for Allied military planners.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.16.9-12 Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.


Lesson Preparation


Confidence and Concern (75 minutes)

  • Introduce the lesson and objectives.
  • Divide students into small groups of three to four students each.
  • Distribute to each student one copy of the Primary Source Packet, the Primary Source Organizer, and the Small Group Discussion Organizer.
  • Direct students to divide up the documents. Some are easier to analyze than others (for example, the photographs might take less time than the excerpts from the Strategic Bombing Survey) so teachers and students should take this into account.
  • Ask each student to read and analyze his or her primary source document(s) and then fill in the corresponding row on the Primary Source Organizer. Students may need teacher assistance with outside knowledge. Refer to the Primary Source Organizer Teacher Key as needed.
  • Direct students to share with the rest of their group.
    • While each group member is sharing, the other members should record the findings in the corresponding row of the Primary Source Organizer.
  • Direct students to look at Small Group Discussion Organizer. As a group, they should fill in this T-chart.
  • Debrief as a whole class. Create a master T-chart on the whiteboard. Students should add to their own T-charts any new information. Refer to the Small Group Discussion Organizer Teacher Key as needed.
  • Direct students to examine the remaining secondary sources and add to the T-chart:
    • Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial Visitors Booklet excerpt
    • World War II Interactive Timeline
    • Teacher Note: Direct students to click on 1944 at the bottom of the timeline, then to look specifically for the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign and the Rhineland Campaign. If there is extra time, students should explore the many resources on this site.

Assessment Materials

  • Distribute the Strategic Memo assignment and rubric.
  • Ask individual students to write a memo as if they were military advisors in early 1944 giving recommendations to the decision makers about how to proceed. In their memos, students must take a stand with a clearly written thesis and defend it using historical evidence.

Methods for Extension

  • Students can do in-class oral presentations (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.) instead of writing a memo.
  • Students can select an additional primary source they would have added to the set in this lesson and explain why they think it would enhance understanding of the reasons for Allied confidence and concern.
  • Teachers can share casualty numbers to students at the U.S. Army Medical Department's The Fight For the Hürtgen Forest.
  • Students can use the ABMC website at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery to learn more about the cemetery and search those buried there.
  • If you do not review the ABMC World War II Interactive Timeline in class, you could assign students to view it at home.
  • 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.


  • The Strategic Bombing Survey is the most difficult primary source to analyze as it is the longest section of text. Be sure to assign it accordingly. You may consider assigning this one primary source as homework in advance of this activity.
  • Teachers can provide a list of defined key terms.
  • Teachers can add guiding questions for analysis of photographs and charts.
  • Teachers can add more information to the photographs and charts (dates, titles, etc.).
  • Teachers can project the entirety of the lesson and guide class discussion while observing the videos, interactives, and primary sources together.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources