RADAR: Innovating Naval Warfare

Guiding Question:

How did the invention and use of RADAR technology alter the defensive and offensive strategies used in the Pacific Theater and impact the complexities of planning and plotting attacks in war?


Using interactive technology from the American Battle Monuments Commission, maps, and primary and secondary source analysis, students will determine how the invention of RADAR impacted the war in the Pacific while plotting an attack on an enemy convoy.


Historical Context

What began as a laboratory experiment developed into a new military technology that would serve as a powerful offensive and defensive weapon for the Allies throughout World War II. RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging) is a system capable of detecting objects using radio waves to determine range, angle, and location. RADAR was utilized throughout the war to locate air, ground, and sea targets. RADAR did not possess a long enough range to be able to detect ships in the vast ocean of the Pacific. LORAN (LOng RAnge Navigation) was created as a solution to this problem, and also made it possible to use it without breaking radio silence. Military personnel, scientists, engineers, fabricators, technicians, and radio operators all played an integral role in building, deploying, and maintaining the use of RADAR systems throughout the Pacific Theater.


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

  • Analyze primary and secondary sources to learn about the role that RADAR played in World War II;
  • Describe the role the invention of RADAR played in the Pacific Theater during World War II;
  • Evaluate the importance of RADAR use for both offensive and defensive efforts at sea and in the air; and
  • Calculate time, distance, and speed while plotting an enemy convoy attack, giving students a better understanding of the complexities of plotting attacks in war, how RADAR works, and the science, math, and technology involved in war.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
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.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.EE.C.8.C Solve real-world and mathematical problems leading to two linear equations in two variables.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.Geo.3.6-8. Use paper based and electronic mapping and graphing techniques to represent and analyze spatial patterns of different environmental and cultural characteristics.
D2.Geo.7.6-8. Explain how changes in transportation and communication technology influence the spatial connections among human settlements and affect the diffusion of ideas and cultural practices.
D2.His.14.6-8. Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.

ISTE Standards for Students
5. Computational Thinker Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions. Students: a. formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions. b. collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making. c. break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving. d. understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

Lesson Preparation

Activity One

Activity Two


Activity One: Understanding the Role of RADAR (60 minutes)

  • Show students the ABMC World War II: A Visual History Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor video and read the excerpt that accompanies the video.
    • Ask the students, What emotions and reactions do you think Americans had following the attack on Pearl Harbor?
  • Show students the "What If?" Radar Operation on the Day of the Pearl Harbor Attack video filmed at the Pacific Aviation Museum.
    • Ask the students, Why was the attack a surprise? If the attack on Pearl Harbor happened today, what technology could be used to warn our military and citizens?
  • Distribute copies of the RADAR Plot from Station Opana, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 1941 for students to analyze.
    • Ask pairs to analyze the document and respond to the following questions:
      • What words/dates stand out to you on this document?
      • What are the numbers throughout the document?
      • Who do you think created this document?
      • Why do you think this document was created? What is the significance of this document?
      • Summarize this document in two or three sentences.
    • Discuss student answers to the questions in a whole class discussion.
      • Teacher Tip: Explain to students that this document is the actual RADAR plot from the detection station at Opana Point in Oahu, Hawaii from the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. This plot was used in a Congressional committee meeting as evidence in the investigation of the attack.
  • Move students into pairs and distribute a copy of A Closer Look at RADAR during World War II Handout and RADAR in World War II Graphic Organizer to each pair.
    • Ask each pair to analyze the various ways the invention of RADAR was used in World War II and complete the graphic organizer.
  • Show students the Conquest of the Night video.
    • Ask students, How did the invention and use of RADAR technology alter the outcome of the war in the Pacific?
    • Teacher Tip: Use this discussion time to review the graphic organizer pairs completed and discuss the propaganda video.
  • Close the lesson by telling students that tomorrow they will have the opportunity to learn the science and math behind RADAR plotting and that they will be working in teams to plot an attack on an enemy convoy.

Activity Two: Attack! (60 minutes)

  • Divide students into teams of three students each. These teams will become their “Plotting Teams.”
  • Give each team one copy of the Major Japanese War Objectives and Planning Opening Attacks Map and one copy of the Major Operations of World War Two in the Pacific Theater Map.
  • Direct each team to analyze the two maps and answer the following questions for both maps on their own sheet of paper. Following think time, lead a class discussion, comparing and contrasting both maps and student answers.
    • What area of the world is this map displaying?
    • What information is the map presenting?
    • From whose perspective is this map being shown?
  • Explain that students will work in their Plotting Teams to plot an attack on an enemy convoy. The teacher will serve as the RADAR, providing the information needed about the distance, time, and speed of the enemy.
  • Provide one copy of the Convoy Attack Team Planning Guide and RADAR Plotting Map Handout to each team.
  • Follow the step-by-step directions in the RADAR Plotting Scenario Teacher’s Guide.
  • Debrief at the conclusion of the class using the following questions:
    • What were some of the problems you encountered while plotting your attack?
    • How did you overcome these problems?
    • What information was most helpful in planning your attack?
    • What path did you choose and what justification/strategic reasoning can you provide for the path you chose?
    • In what ways could RADAR be beneficial on the offensive side of war? The defensive side?
    • How has RADAR evolved over time and what are we able to do with RADAR technology today?
    • What inventions/innovations do you use today that incorporate RADAR technology?

Assessment Materials

Assessment (15 minutes)

  • Pose the following question to students: How did the invention and use of RADAR technology alter the outcome of the war in the Pacific?
  • Instruct students to complete a quick write, answering the question, while citing evidence and examples from their work over the course of the last two days.
  • Quick Write Assessment Rubric can be used to score this assessment.

Methods for Extension


  • Teachers can adapt the project to younger learners or learners with special needs by simplifying the plotting and changing the Maneuverability Board to a basic X, Y axis grid and allowing students to plot basic points.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources