Exploring U.S. History Through Soldiers' Stories

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 7 years old.
The Tuskeegee Airmen

From a multi-media history lesson to a modern approach to tinytype portraits, explore tales from history’s battlefield with these PBS LearningMedia videos. These videos tell stories of soldiers and veterans from across the country and through the ages. PBS LearningMedia is the free public media digital library with trusted quality standards aligned resources for teaching and learning. Sign up for a free account to save resources, download videos and build interactive media experiences for the classroom.

Photographer on a Mission | Video | Grades 6-12+
Ed Drew's tintype portraits of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan evoked the timelessness of war. Once he returned to the United States, Drew turned his lens toward an organic garden project that's empowering at-risk youth. Drew takes the best portraits when the students are relaxed. Before every pose, he chats with them, finding common ground and creating a bond that will help him tell their stories. He hopes casting their images within the context of fine art may help dispel negative stereotypes.

Last Days of Vietnam | Videos | Grades 9-12
Experience the moral dilemmas facing both U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon in April 1975 in this video adapted from American Experience: Last Days in Vietnam. Also learn about the decision to evacuate Americans and South Vietnamese from the U.S. embassy and about the experience of a South Vietnamese Army lieutenant who stayed behind. American Experience: Last Days in Vietnam premiers 4/28.

Joan Ganz Cooney Recites the Gettysburg Address | Video | Grades K-12
Watch Joan Ganz Cooney, Elmo, and Murray recite the Gettysburg Address as part of Ken Burns' challenge to all Americans to learn the address. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns, along with numerous partners,  launched a national effort to encourage everyone in America to video record themselves reading or reciting the speech.

The War of 1812 | Lesson Plan | Grades 2-4, 13+
This lesson plan, to be used with the program The War of 1812, gives students background information about the diverse perspectives of those groups involved in the war: Americans, British, Canadian Colonists, and First Nations.


Tuskegee Airmen | Video | Grades 5-10
The Tuskegee Airmen, officially known as the 332nd fighter group, were the first African Americans to fly planes in the U.S. military. Although they faced severe discrimination in the country and mandates of the Jim Crow laws in the south, they volunteered in large numbers to help fight in World War II. This segment of Iowa Public Television's Iowa’s WWII Stories includes historical footage and profiles an Iowa veteran and member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

SEALs in the Vietnam War | Navy SEALs | Grades 6-12
Understand key elements of U.S. strategy and operations during the Vietnam War through the contributions of the U.S. Navy SEALs to this conflict. SEAL teams partnered with the CIA to train their South Vietnamese counterparts and they collaborated with American military scientists on weapons technology. Because they wore camouflage makeup during their missions, the SEAL combat teams in Vietnam were known as “Men with Green Faces.”

Civil War Soldier and Spy | Video | Grades 6-12
It is estimated that between 500 and 1,000 women went into military service during the American Civil War, yet their contributions to major events of that era are often overlooked, misunderstood, misrepresented, or undocumented. Using excerpts from the documentary film Rebel: Loreta Velazquez Civil War Soldier and Spy and the remarkable story of Loreta Velazquez as a guide, students will: consider how factors such as gender and race shape our understanding of history.

WWII Oral History Project | Video Collection | Grades 6-12
GPB’s World War II Veterans Oral History Project presents the story of World War II through the personal accounts of men and women from Georgia whose lives were touched by the war. Through letters, photographs, and full-length video interviews, the project makes the experiences of Georgia’s “greatest generation” available for generations to come.

Military Families | PBS NewsHour | Grades 7-12
There are over 21.2 million veterans living today in the United States. They served the country during the last six wars World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. The video shares the unique perspective of elementary to high school students in military living on a base in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain.

Escalation of the Vietnam War | Video | Grades 9-12+
In this video segment adapted from American Experience, view archival photos, newsreel footage, and interviews to examine the decision-making process that led Lyndon Johnson to order increased United States military involvement in the Vietnam War. With military and political advisers recommending massive American troop involvement over a number of years, and only one adviser urging complete withdrawal, Johnson chose to continue the commitments made by past presidents. This decision reflected Johnson's conviction that history taught the United States never to give in to aggressors.

Voices of Veterans | Video | Grades 12+
Veterans help make history come alive each year at North Warren Regional School District with their Voices of Veterans program in this episode of NJEA’s Classroom Close-up. Students invite veterans into their school to learn about what it means to serve in the military. Teachers and school staff also share their own personal connections with veterans that are particularly close to their hearts. The program and veterans’ stories help students make connections with the information they read about in history books.