Lesson Plan

Remembering Pearl Harbor: The USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 8 Standard 3A: The student understands the international background of World War II.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

What impact does war have on nations?


1. To describe the destruction at Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the USS Arizona, and the consequent loss of life;
2. To explain the important role of the USS Arizona as part of the Pacific Fleet;
3. To explain the significance of the USS Arizona Memorial and other war memorials;
4. To determine the impact of World War II on their own community.


Time Period: 20th century American history
Topics: This lesson could be used in American history units on World War II or in courses dealing more generally with war and conflict. Students will better understand the logistics of the Japanese attack, the Arizona's destruction, and the significance of the Memorial to the people of the United States.


Today the battle-scarred, submerged remains of the battleship USS Arizona rest on the silt of Pearl Harbor, just as they settled on December 7, 1941. The ship was one of many casualties from the deadly attack by the Japanese on a quiet Sunday that President Franklin Roosevelt called "a date which will live in infamy." The Arizona's burning bridge and listing mast and superstructure were photographed in the aftermath of the Japanese attack, and news of her sinking was emblazoned on the front page of newspapers across the land. The photograph symbolized the destruction of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the start of a war that was to take many thousands of American lives. Indelibly impressed into the national memory, the image could be recalled by most Americans when they heard the battle cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor."

More than a million people visit the USS Arizona Memorial each year. They file quietly through the building and toss flower wreaths and leis into the water. They watch the iridescent slick of oil that still leaks, a drop at a time, from ruptured bunkers after more than 50 years at the bottom of the sea, and they read the names of the dead carved in marble on the Memorial's walls.

Lesson Hook/Preview

The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II. The attack had significant and far-reaching political effects on the United States, changing the minds of many who had been philosophically opposed to war or who had taken a passive stance towards the war in Europe. The increasing diplomatic confrontations and economic sanctions against Japan by the United States and others, compounded by Japan's undeclared war in China and the weakening of European control in Asian colonies, precipitated the war in the Pacific. The Japanese felt that the time was opportune to conquer British, American, French, Chinese, and Dutch territories in Southeast Asia. This belief pushed militaristic factions in Japan to provoke war with the United States. Fearing that the United States Pacific Fleet would pose a formidable obstacle to Japanese conquest of Southeast Asia, Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, visualized a bold attack on the Pacific Fleet while it lay at anchor at Pearl Harbor. Such a surprise strategical attack, bold and daring in its execution, would, he believed, secure the Pacific.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.



Additional Resources

USS Arizona Memorial
The Memorial is one of the 378 units of the National Park Service. The park's web pages describe the history of the memorial and the events of December 7; it also provides a full Pearl Harbor casualty list and a list of the survivors on the Arizona.

Maritime Heritage Program
The National Park Service's Maritime Heritage Program works to advance awareness and understanding of the role of maritime affairs in the history of the United States by helping to interpret and preserve our maritime heritage. The program's web pages include information on National Park Service maritime parks, historic ships, lighthouses, and lifesaving stations.

Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms
This National Register of Historic Places online travel itineraries provide information on more than 100 historic places listed in the National Register associated with history of aviation. Numerous sites featured on the itinerary are associated with military aviation, including the USS Arizona Memorial. Also included are essays on the Idea of Flight, the Wright Brothers, Aviation Pioneers, Modern Aviation, Air Power, and Space.

University of Arizona's USS Arizona Exhibit
This website presents papers, photographs, and memorabilia of the USS Arizona held by the University of Arizona Library Special Collections. It also includes a history of the Arizona and links to other Internet resources about the ship and the attack at Pearl Harbor.

The Arizona Revisited: Divers explore the legacy of Pearl Harbor
A member of the National Park Service's Submerged Cultural Resources Unit describes diving in the wreckage of the Arizona and other ships damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His article also includes drawings of the Arizona in its present resting place.

Pacific Historic Parks: Pearl Harbor Commemorative
For those interested in learning more about how the memorial was created, the Pacific Historic Parks website provides in-depth information on this effort to preserve this significant event in our nation's history.

National Archives (NARA)
The Archives has placed on its web site many items about Pearl Harbor. Find them by visiting the NARA search engine. Use search terms such as Pearl Harbor, World War II, USS Arizona, and other terms from the lesson to access a variety of primary sources on the subject. The Archives' Digital Classroom offers materials such as the first typed draft of FDR's war address, links to later drafts, and additional suggestions for teaching activities.

Congressional Hearings
Read the Congressional hearings that followed the attack

Contact Information

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Last updated: April 14, 2023