The Red Cross on the Front Line

Guiding Question:

What drives a person to volunteer and enter a war zone “to protect life and health” to help the wounded, the injured, and the lonely service member?


Using a variety of primary and secondary sources, students will analyze the role that the Red Cross played in World War II and learn more about the role of a field director. Students will explore how the organization adapted to the challenges posed by the war, the decisions and actions directors made under pressure, and the qualities of an effective field director.


Historical Context

During World War II, the American Red Cross (ARC) served American servicemembers and their families both at home and abroad. Red Cross workers served in U.S. military hospitals, and the organization coordinated blood drives that collected over 13 million pints of blood. They facilitated communication and provided supplies to American prisoners of war. The ARC established clubs to provide troops needed R&R and sent over 300,000 tons of supplies overseas, including 27 million packages for American and Allied POWs. ARC clubmobiles reached men on the front lines, providing donuts and coffee. According to the American Red Cross, 86 workers (including 52 women) lost their lives in military service. After the war, the ARC worked with its international counterparts to help reconnect separated families.


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

  • Understand the many facets of the Red Cross; and
  • Analyze a field director’s duties while in a war zone.

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.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

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.3.6-8. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Introducing the Red Cross (45 minutes)

  • Project the home page of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
  • Instruct a student to type “Allingham” in the “Search ABMC Burials” search bar and select George E. Allingham on the second page.
  • Ask students to identify this:
    • Rank
    • Home state
    • Date of death
    • Burial location
  • Project the Fallen Hero Profile for George E. Allingham and play the video of the eulogy located on the page.
    • Explain that George E. Allingham served as a Field Director for the American Red Cross in Manila during World War II.
  • Divide students into pairs. Ask the pairs to discuss the following anticipatory questions:
    • What is the purpose of the American Red Cross?
    • How does the American Red Cross assist people in the United States?
    • How does the American Red Cross assist people in other countries?
    • How does the American Red Cross assist people during times of war?
    • How does the American Red Cross recruit individuals to serve in a war zone?
  • Discuss any unfamiliar vocabulary from At His Side Fill in the Blank Sheet with students prior to watching the documentary, as they will hear these terms used by the narrator.
  • View the World War II Red Cross film At His Side as a class.
    • Allow students to preview the vocabulary sheet before playing the film.
    • Instruct students to complete the vocabulary sheet while watching the film.
    • Review student responses for accuracy (use the At His Side Fill in the Blank Answer Key).
  • Ask the pairs to discuss the following questions:
    • What are some of the duties of a field director?
    • How trustworthy is this film?
    • What propaganda techniques have been used?
    • List three reasons why the film would have been necessary. Explain each reason, with support from the previous discussion and/or the film.
  • Instruct students to write two questions they have about the job of a Red Cross field director during World War II.
  • Lead a whole class discussion after the film focusing on what the students observed about Red Cross and its affiliation with the United States Armed Forces.

Activity Two: Duties of a Red Cross Field Director (45 minutes)

Assessment Materials

Methods for Extension

  • Students with more interest in the role of the American Red Cross during World War II may research this further by reading At His Side: The Story Of The American Red Cross Overseas In World War II by George Korson.
  • Students may also wish to evaluate how the United States government incorporated propaganda techniques in order to promote the American Red Cross.


  • Teachers can adapt the project to younger learners by asking students to draw the layout of what they think a Club Service facility or Clubmobile would look like. This could also be adapted to English Language Learners in a similar way.
  • Younger learners could also complete a smaller project creating a journal entry of an American Red Cross field director.
  • Teachers can group students in several ways. One grouping strategy would be to have groups of heterogeneous ability work their way through the entire project.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Other Sources