Sacrifice, Loss and Honor: A Simulation of the Homefront in World War II

Guiding Question:

What challenges did the families of service members face during and after World War II?


These activities simulate the experiences of the Lane family of Bartholomew County, Indiana. The Lanes are a real family whose oldest son gave his life during World War II. This simulation takes place from late 1944 to early 1948. The students will experience the tragedy of losing a loved one during the U.S. operations in the Rhineland and deal with the repercussions of that tragedy. Students will grapple with choices of how to best honor their fallen family member.


Historical Context

In this lesson, students will simulate the experience of the Lane family of south central Indiana. Two members of the Lane family, Chester and Charles, served during World War II. Their son, Chester, died during operations around the French city of Metz. The Lanes were then faced with the choice of how best to honor their family member. This simulation illustrates to students the tough choices families were forced to make. Often times these choices were made with limited information. By doing this lesson students will understand what it was like to make those decisions and live with the repercussions. The family of Private Chester A. Lane chose to have his remains interred overseas at Lorraine American Cemetery. Approximately 40% of American families that lost a loved one in World War II made that choice. Today, the United States maintains 14 World War II cemeteries overseas.


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

  • Experience the emotions a family felt as their family member left to fight in World War II;
  • Role play the experience of learning about World War II through newspapers and primary accounts; and
  • Interpret how we honor our loved ones and heroes who died in war.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8. Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.10. By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.Civ.1.6-8. Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of citizens, political parties, interest groups, and the media in a variety of governmental and nongovernmental contexts.
D2.His.1.6-8. Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical
D2.His.14.6-8. Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.


Lesson Preparation

Activity One: Meet the Lanes, early summer 1944

  • Print one copy of Meet the Lanes handout for each student.
  • Divide the students into groups of four.
  • Arrange the desks into groups of four.

Activity Two: Private Information, August 1944

  • Print one copy of the Private Information handout for each group.
  • Cut out each person’s information slip.
  • Divide the students into groups of four (use the same groups as in activity one).
  • Arrange the desks into groups of four.

Activity Three: Reading about the War, fall 1944

Activity Four: The Loss of a Loved One, November 1944

Activity Five: What Happened?, June 1945

Activity Six: Honoring the Fallen, spring 1948 to today


Activity One: Meet the Lanes, early summer 1944 (15 minutes)

  • Divide the students into groups of three to four students each.
  • Distribute one copy of the Meet the Lanes handout to each student.
  • Read the following statement: For this lesson you are going to take the role of one of the members of the Lane family of Ogiliville, (O-Goal-Ville) Indiana. Each student in the team will choose one of the four members of the Lane family. You may choose from Marion, Carrie, Albert or Dorothy. Please read about the family and the farm.
    • Give the students about ten minutes to read the paper and choose their roles.
    • Ask the students to report back to the teacher their choice of role in their group.

Activity Two: Private Information, August 1944 (30-45 minutes)

  • Assemble students into the same family groups from activity one.
    • The teacher should read the following statement: It is early summer of 1944. After the D-Day invasion, the Allied forces are spreading out in northern France. Chester is getting ready to go join them. While training with the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Chester breaks his arm and it delays his transport to Europe. Charles is somewhere in the Pacific serving in the Navy. You are not sure where. You recently have returned from visiting Charles. You will receive a piece of paper with what happened during that journey.
    • Hand out the Private Information slips to each person. Give the students a role sheet and say: Now read your information and do not share any facts with your team members.
    • Teacher Tip: The instructions on the handout tells students to decide whether or not to share their information with the rest of the group.
  • Have the students answer the questions for their particular person. Once students answer the questions have them share or not share the information with those in the group as they wish.
  • In their groups, have them role-play the family discussion that comes from these revelations. Remind the students that each of these revelations are the real experiences of a real family.
  • After five to ten minutes of role play, have the students answer the following questions either as a writing assignment or as a class discussion:
    • After these experiences, how do you think your character feels about the war? Is it worth the risk of losing a loved one?

Activity Three: Reading about the War, fall 1944 (30-45 minutes)

  • Assemble students into the same family groups from previous activities.
  • Read the following to the class: It is now fall of 1944. The weather is turning cool. The corn in the surrounding fields has been harvested. Your family has brought in the last of the fresh tomatoes from your victory garden. The Columbus High School Bulldogs are doing well in football this year and may even take the state title. That is overshadowed by what has been happening in the war. The campaign in Europe is going slower than you expected. Even though you hear from Chester and Charles, their letters are not as frequent as you would like. Your only source of information is The Evening Republican newspaper.
  • Distribute one copy to each group of each of the following articles: “Decisive Battle For Reich May Follow Lull in Fight”, “Lt. Sullivan is Prisoner”, “Sgt. Johnson Listed Missing on Reich Front”, and “Ferrenburg is Victim of War in Luxembourg”.
  • Have students read the articles and address the following prompt: Taking the role of your member of the Lane family, create a diary or journal entry where you address the following:
    • What are your thoughts on the war now?
    • How does your character feel the war is going for the United States? For your family?
    • What are your concerns for Chester and Charles?
    • What can you do to alleviate these concerns?
  • Ask the family groups to meet and create a list of feelings for each member.
  • Bring the class together and discuss the feelings of each family member. Be sure to consider the differences between the family members and what this information means for each person.
  • The diary entries can be assessed using the Writing Assessment Rubric.

Activity Four: The Loss of a Loved One, November 1944 (30-45 minutes)

  • Assemble students into the same family groups from previous activities.
  • Read the following to the class: It is now late November 1944. You received a letter from Charles last week. You received a letter from Chester two weeks ago. There is a knock at the door. A postman hands you the following letter.
  • Hand one student in each group the letter from Homer Capehart to Mrs. Carrie Lane. Ask that student to break the news to the family.
  • Ask students to independently create a diary entry for the day that they received the letter.
  • Reconvene family groups and brainstorm questions the family would have had after reading the letter. They should write a list of their questions.
  • Meet as a class and compare questions they created as families.

Activity Five: What Happened?, June 1945 (30-45 minutes)

  • Working with computer access, read the following: After the tragic death of Chester Lane, the war effort pushed ever onward. As part of Patton’s Third Army, Chester’s unit played a role in liberating the city of Metz. Read about the campaign in which Chester perished by going to the World War II Interactive Timeline.
    • Click “Enter”
    • Click “1944”
    • Click “Rhineland Campaign” tab
  • What can you do to alleviate these concerns?
  • Instruct students to read the four slides and watch the video.
  • Once all the students have finished reading. Read the following: Of course the campaign was also covered in The Evening Republican. Read the following article titled, “U.S. Winter Campaign Carries Last War’s Armistice Line.”
  • After reading the article, pair students with a partner who has the same character and create a timeline that shows the progression of the campaign.

Activity Six: Honoring the Fallen, spring 1948 to today (45 minutes)

  • Assemble students into the same family groups from previous activities.
  • Read the following directions to the class: It is now 1948. Your character is four years older. Charles has returned safely from the war. Chester did not. His body, along with those of thousands of other American soldiers, remained in temporary graves in Europe. Many families, including the Lanes, received letters such as these after the war. They also received information on what the families’ options were for the final interment of their loved one.
  • Distribute the letter from Major General Thomas B. Larkin to Mrs. Carrie Lane.
  • Ask the student role-playing Marion to read the letter aloud to the family.
  • After the students have completed reading the letter as a family, read the following: Like many families, the Lanes had many questions. What is happening to their loved one’s remains? In response the U.S. government released the film The Decision.
  • Show part one of The Decision to the class.
  • Read the following: As part of this process the families were given several choices of what to do.
  • Hand out one copy of the excerpt from Disposition of World War II Armed Forces Dead per group.
  • Once the students have read the options, have family groups discuss which option they feel is the best one and explain their reasons. Have each group share with the whole class their decision and reasons for the choice and how each person in the family felt.
  • Read the following: The final decision on this problem ultimately had to be made by the fallen soldier’s next of kin. The Armed Forces had a very set policy as to who was considered to be the next of kin, as explained in the film The Decision.
  • Show part 2 of The Decision to the class.
  • Ask the family groups who would qualify as Chester’s next of kin (answer: his father, Marion).
  • After the students have determined Marion is the next of kin, read the following: Chester’s final resting place was determined by Marion. Carrie, Dorothy and Albert wanted Charles’ remains to be brought home. Marion was concerned that they did not have the money to do so properly. As a result he entrusted the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) with the eternal care of Chester’s remains. Now go to the ABMC’s website and find the burial site for Chester Lane from Indiana.

Assessment Materials

  • To end this simulation, ask students to respond to the final writing prompts as themselves, not their characters from the scenario. The Final Writing Assessment Rubric can be used.
    • Do you feel that Chester’s final resting place is a fitting monument to his sacrifice? If so, why? If not, explain what society should do to honor him and other fallen heroes.
    • What sacrifices did Chester Lane’s family make? How is Chester’s sacrifice different from that of his family? Whose sacrifice is greater and why?
    • As a citizen of the United States, what is your responsibility to honor those who died in a war? How would you support their families?

Methods for Extension

  • Students can search for service members from their home state buried in ABMC cemeteries around the world.
  • Students can track the movement of Chester’s unit on a map and build a timeline.
  • Students can compare and contrast how Chester was memorialized by the ABMC with how soldiers who died in World War II or other wars are memorialized at local monuments or cemeteries.
  • 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 designate a reader per group and have group members read each other's written materials.
  • Students and teachers can read written materials to the class.
  • Teachers can group strong readers with weaker readers so they can share the workload.
  • Teachers can project written materials in front of the class and read them together.
  • Teachers can enlarge newspaper articles for easier viewing or project them on a screen using a projector.
  • If computers are not available for each student, teachers can create stations that the students can use in groups for activities four and five.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources

  • Lesson Video, 2015
    American Battle Monuments Commission