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Newspaper Publishing - Teacher Information Sheet

Main Focus:

  • To report the events of December 7, 1941, by creating the front page of a newspaper on the day after the attack.

Historical Background

The road to war between Japan and the United States began in the 1930s when differences over China drove the two nations apart. In 1931 Japan conquered Manchuria, which until then had been part of China. In 1937 Japan began a long and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to conquer the rest of China. On 12 December during that year Japanese naval aircraft attacked and sank the river gunboat USS Panay. In 1940, the Japanese government allied their country with Nazi Germany in the Axis Alliance, and, in the following year, occupied all of Indochina.

The United States, which had important political and economic interests in East Asia, was alarmed by these Japanese moves. The U.S. increased military and financial aid to China, embarked on a program of strengthening its military power in the Pacific, and cut off the shipment of oil and other raw materials to Japan.

Because Japan was poor in natural resources, its government viewed these steps, especially the embargo on oil as a threat to the nation's survival. Japan's leaders responded by resolving to seize the resource-rich territories of Southeast Asia, even though that move would certainly result in war with the United States.

The problem with the plan was the danger posed by the U.S. Pacific Fleet which had relocated to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, devised a plan to immobilize the U.S. fleet at the outset of the war with a surprise attack.

The key elements in Yamamoto's plans were meticulous preparation, the achievement of surprise, and the use of aircraft carriers and naval aviation on an unprecedented scale.

The Japanese success was overwhelming, but it was not complete. They failed to damage any American aircraft carriers, which by a stroke of luck, had been absent from the harbor. They neglected to damage the shoreside facilities at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, which played an important role in the Allied victory in World War II. American technological skill raised and repaired all but three of the ships sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor (USS Arizona (BB-39) considered too badly damaged to be salvaged, USS Oklahoma (BB-37) raised and considered too old to be worth repairing, and the obsolete USS Utah (AG-16) considered not worth the effort). Most importantly, the shock and anger caused by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor united a divided nation and was translated into a wholehearted commitment to victory in World War II.


Students should read through several local or national newspapers to see how professional newspapers display and construct their headlines and write their stories. Each individual small group activity provides an exercise (as described below) that direct students in their progress towards completing a newspaper front page. Encourage students to be as creative as possible with their front-page designs. Students should not be limited to the sources that have been included within each activity, but instead be encouraged to find other online sources, such as the Naval History and Heritage's homepage.

Photographs: A Moment in Time

  • Students imagine themselves as newspaper editors responsible for writing captions for each photograph to be published the following day.

Oral Histories and Survivor Accounts

  • Students imagine themselves as newspaper reporters and write a story reporting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Timelines and Action Reports

  • Students summarize Pearl Harbor in a timeline or write a news article using the facts from the action reports.

Helpful Tips and Pointers for students

  • An easy way to approach this project is to combine what they have constructed in each activity into a coherent layout.
  • Be sure to have a "powerful" headline, either through an enlarged font or by the words being used.
  • Caption all photos.
  • Do not try to cram every piece of information about Pearl Harbor into a newstory, but instead be selective.
  • Be sure that the layout of your front page is systematic and easy to understand.



Published: Wed Jan 11 14:20:08 EST 2023