The Song of War: Poetry from the Pacific Theater

Guiding Question:

How does war poetry express and communicate the experiences of service members?


Using poems as primary sources, interactive technology from the American Battle Monuments Commission, and photography from Manila American Cemetery, San Francisco National Cemetery, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, and Corregidor Island, students will analyze poems in their historical context and produce Found Poetry.


Historical Context

In late 1942, U.S. Marines took part in the Solomon Islands Campaign in the Pacific, also known as Guadalcanal. This was the beginning of the land offensive against Japan, and after almost one year of fighting, the Allies came away with their first major offensive victory. The U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Navy fought a virtually unknown enemy at great risk and cost. The victory at Guadalcanal provided an airfield for aviation support and laid the foundation for the continuing counteroffensive in the Pacific. Following the battle, Guadalcanal served as an airfield and staging base for Allied forces in the region.


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

  • Identify common themes or ideas in war poetry;
  • Predict and analyze how poetry differs from other forms of journalism during World War II; and
  • Create a found poem focused on a theme identified in the poetry.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3 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.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
D2.His.6.9-12. Analyze the ways in which the perspectives of those writing history shaped the history that they produced.


Lesson Preparation

  • Make one copy of the poem “In Flight” for each student.
  • Divide each class into five groups.
  • Choose one poem for each group. Make enough copies for groups throughout the day.
    • Teacher Tip: Read the poems ahead of time and choose poems at an appropriate level of difficulty for your students.
  • Make two copies of T4 SCOUT Handout for each student.
  • Make one copy of the Found Poetry Instructions and Rubric for each student.
  • Make one set of Photographs for Found Poetry for each group of five or six students.
  • Set up classroom technology and test all online resources before class.


Activity One: Historical Context (30 minutes)

  • Brainstorm
    • Make a T-chart on the board (or have students make one in their notes) and ask students to brainstorm the characteristics of war poetry versus other non-fiction genres that could be produced during a war (newspapers, diaries, non-fiction history, etc).
    • Urge students to consider tone, imagery, audience, author’s purpose. Ask them, Why would an author choose a particular genre?
    • Write down all ideas from students. This is a “brain dump” and should be interactive.
  • Project the World War II: A Visual History. Interactive. Click “enter,” then “1942,” then “Guadalcanal.”
    • Watch the clip and have students turn and talk with partners about two observations from the clip.
    • Read aloud the summary of the Guadalcanal Campaign.
    • Ask the students, What was the importance of this island? What conditions would make fighting difficult?
      • Teacher Tip: Stress the importance of the airfield on Guadalcanal and note countries involved in this battle and the length of the campaign.
  • Project a copy of the T4 SCOUT Handout on the board.
  • Distribute a copy of the poem, “In Flight” for each student and a blank T4 Scout Handout to each student.
  • Model the analysis of the poem “In Flight” using the T4 SCOUT analysis of poetry. This is best done on an overhead and as a think aloud. To model:
    • Read through poem once aloud.
    • Model annotation of the poem to students.
    • Note important details and literary devices.
    • Focus on theme and connect into common themes of war poetry.
    • Ask students to follow along with the teacher, filling out the T4 SCOUT Handout.
    • Teacher Tip: A T4 SCOUT Answer Key for the poem “In Flight” is provided to assist you.

Activity Two: War Poetry Analysis (30 minutes)

  • Divide the class into five groups.
  • Give each group a copy of a Hell Hawks poem and a T4 SCOUT Handout. You can assign a poem to each group or allow student groups to select a poem.
  • Ask each student group to complete the T4 SCOUT Handout for the poem they have been assigned. They can complete on regular paper or on a large sheet of chart paper if desired.
  • Share (verbally or through a gallery walk) their poems and analysis with the class.

Assessment Materials

Methods for Extension

  • Teachers can assign a piece of nonfiction reading about World War II. After reading the nonfiction piece, students can use a T4 SCOUT Handout to compare their poem with the nonfiction piece. Students can write an essay comparing and contrasting the differences between the nonfiction selection and the poetry.
  • Students with more interest in the Hell Hawks and Doc Livingood can visit the website
  • Teachers can enhance students’ interest in literature and journalism in World War II by exploring the related lesson plans on
  • History and Journalism: Examining the Events of World War II Through a Journalistic Lens
  • Words of War


  • Students can complete the assessment as a group.
  • Teachers can assign poems on basis of reading level.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources