Major Turning Points of World War II
For this activity, students will create a spider web map that reflects the research of a major turning point during 1942-1945. A turning point is a decision, action, or change that greatly impacts the direction or outcome of a situation. Once students have researched a turning point from the war, they should create a three panel storyboard that responds to the following questions:
- What was the event?
- What was the outcome of the event?
- How did this event change the course of history?
Possible World War II Turning Points
- The Battle of Stalingrad
- The Battle of Kursk
- Operation Mincemeat
- The Battle of Midway
- The Manhattan Project
- The use of the Atomic Bomb on Japan
- Failed assassination attempts on Hitler
Example Turning Point: The Battle of Kursk
What was the Battle of Kursk?
The Battle of Kursk proved to be one of the bloodiest battles in human history. Combined, the total battle featured over 2,000,000 soldiers and an unprecedented 6,000 tanks. The staggering amount of tanks used in this battle had never been seen in combat up until this point in World History.
What was the Outcome of the Battle of Kursk?
Despite the massive Russian casualties, the battle was a decisive victory for the Russians. Thanks to the more mobile Russian T-34 tanks, the German army suffered a catastrophic loss both physically and mentally following the battle. This would be the last major German offensive of the Eastern Front in World War II.
How did the Battle of Kursk Change the Course of History?
Although it is difficult to predict theoretical outcomes of historical events, one could argue that if the Germans had won this battle, they very well could have won the war. A Russian loss would have surrendered the oil-rich Caucasus to the Germans. With an added level of fuel, the German army could have possibly won World War II.
For this extension activity, students will create an additional component to their storyboard that theorizes what they believe could have happened if their event occurred differently. For example, a student may argue that the war may have had a drastically different outcome if Hitler never invaded Russia, if Truman never dropped the Atomic Bomb, or Alan Turing did not “crack” the German Enigma machine. Students should share with their classmates their theories and have their peers share with them how credible they believe their theories were.