WWII: Detained


Copies of contemporary and 1940’s newspapers, Newspaper Article Planner reproducible, computers with Internet access and research materials


Related episode

Spotlight on an engraved cane from a WWII Japanese internment camp in Arizona.



What can the message on this cane expose about life behind barbed wire in World War II America?



Estimated Time Required

1-2 class periods






Students watch a clip from the episode Japanese Carved Cane, in which they learn about Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. They then create newspapers depicting life in the camps and in typical American communities at the time.


Related Reproducible

Students use this reproducible to develop ideas for their newspaper articles. 


Before Viewing

Provide students with the following prompt to respond to in their notebooks:

Imagine this scenario: Our nation has been attacked by another country in an aggressive and shocking act of war. Several families who immigrated from that country live in our community. How do you think the hostilities between these families' home and adopted countries would affect daily life in the community, for them and for other locals? How do you think their neighbors might treat these families? How do you imagine they might be feeling? What might help them cope?

After a few minutes, invite students to share their ideas, and write key words from their responses on the board. Ask: What historical event(s) in recent history does this scenario remind you of? Discuss the parallels between this scenario and 9/11, then briefly introduce the Japanese internment camps, which were created in 1942 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.



  • What must it have been like for Japanese-Americans – many of them United States citizens – to be relocated and interned out of fear and suspicion?
  • How did they cope with life in internment camps?



After showing the clip from the History Detectives episode Japanese Carved Cane, explain to the class that they will work in small groups to create newspapers that capture life in the United States in the first half of the 1940s.

Assign half of the class to create newspapers reflecting life in a small community of their choice in the Midwest or Western United States, and the other half to create newspapers serving a Japanese internment camp, like the one mentioned at the end of the episode.

Start by assigning five articles that should appear in all of the newspapers:

  • Two news articles, both touching on the war in some way.
  • Two features about cultural life, like the arts.
  • One opinion piece about the war as relates to the community served by the newspaper.

Students can use the Newspaper Article Planner to develop ideas for these articles.

Note that the publications should look like newspapers, with newspaper name plates on the top, headlines for each article, photographs and the like. If students lack background knowledge about newspaper writing, review the various types of newspaper articles and bring in copies of local and/or national newspapers for them to look at.

Then have students conduct research and use what they learned from the History Detectives episode to develop their articles. Their research should include reading real newspaper articles from the 1940s, using archival databases.  


Going Further

When the newspapers are finished, give the entire class time to read all of the finished publications. Then discuss how such newspapers both capture life as it is lived as well as influence readers. How do these newspapers reflect the different experiences of the communities they served?



New York Times Guide to Page 1

New York Times Readers’ Guide
Whispered Silences, by Joan Myers and Gary Okihiro

McRel Standards

United States History

25. Understands the causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs


Historical Understanding

1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

2. Understands the historical perspective


Language Arts

1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.

2. Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing.

3. Uses grammatic and mechanical conventions in written compositions.

4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

10. Understands the characteristics and components of the media