Life in Wyoming in World War II

Area 9:  The U.S. during the Second World War (1940s)
Question:  How did the Second World War produce changes in the U.S. home front?

Lesson Plan Developed By

Grade Level

Content Area(s)
Social Studies

Learning Objective(s)
1. Students learn some about why and when the U.S. entered World War II
2. Students learn how Wyoming citizens contributed to the war effort
3. Students learn about war-related facilities and industries in the state during the war

Click here to see a spreadsheet aligning Wyoming State Social Studies and Common Core Standards for this and other digital toolkits of Wyoming History.

We will update the standards spreadsheet as more lesson plans are developed.

One 45-Minute class period

Materials Required
Resource 1: Summary

Resource 2: Article
"Wyoming and World War II

Resource 3: Visual image analysis tool
National Archives photo analysis page

Resource 4: World War II era poster
"Bonds or Bondage"

Resource 5: World War II era poster
"Back the Attack"

Lesson Plan


The exercise asks students, after reading the summary and the longer article, to describe, analyze and compare two World War II era posters.


Fill out a photo analysis page for each of these World War II era posters: "Bonds or Bondage" and "Back the Attack." Write a short essay of 250-300 words, answering the following questions: What do these posters tell you about life in the U.S. during World War II? Would either or both of the posters influence your behavior if you had lived during the war years? Do you think one poster is better than the other? Use the information you entered on your analysis sheets to explain and support your answers.


Study and discussion questions:

Would you be willing to permanently give up a favorite book or other prized possession because a U.S. soldier overseas would benefit from that book or object? Why or why not?

Since the country needed metal for munitions during the war, should all available metal objects have been scrapped, even those with significant historic or symbolic value?

Who was more important to the war effort: soldiers, or the people who grew food for them and for the nation?

What does “sacrifice” mean to you in the context of the World War II effort?

Resource 1: Topic Summary

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the American naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Within days, the U.S. began mobilizing for war against Japan and, in Europe, against Germany. The federal government needed money to manufacture weapons to pay the soldiers, sailors and marines in the fast-expanding armed services. In addition, the nation needed metal for the weapons, warm, sturdy clothing for servicemen—and more food to feed them all.

Wyoming citizens contributed to the war effort, many people purchasing U.S. war bonds—a form of lending money to the government. Statewide, officials initiated scrap-metal drives, and people donated books to be shipped overseas for American troops. “Victory gardens” were also popular; people could help fill the demand for food by planting vegetables in their back yards or in designated public plots.

Farming and ranching boomed, because the government set annual production goals, higher than before the war. With increased demand, prices rose for meat and crops. At first there was a labor shortage because so many men had volunteered for or been drafted into military service. However, the federal Tydings Amendment permitted essential agricultural workers to obtain draft deferments.

Coal and oil production also grew. In 1940, Wyoming’s oil production was 25.6 million barrels; by 1945 this had increased to 35.4 million. Coal production increased from 5.8 million tons in 1940 to 9.8 million tons in 1945. Refineries were also busy. Cheyenne’s Frontier Refining Company, though it took most of the war years to accomplish it, by April 1944 was producing 100-octane fuel, a high-grade gasoline that increased the range and performance of aircraft.

The federal government considered coastal areas prime military targets and so placed as much domestic war-related activity as far inland as possible. The Casper Army Air base trained bomber crews—a total of approximately 16,000 men—starting in September 1942. That same year, United Airlines moved its existing pilot training school to Cheyenne. An airplane modification center also operated on that site, adding new guns and instruments to B-17 and B-24 bombers.

Two prisoner-of-war camps were located in Wyoming, Camp Douglas and Fort Francis E. Warren. Together, these two camps could house more than 5,500 prisoners. Apparently, all the POWs in Wyoming were Italian or German. Small farmers and some timbering operations in the state used POW labor.

On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt legalized the removal of people of Japanese descent from designated military areas. Thus, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center—an internment camp near Cody, Wyo.—was  established to house Japanese-American citizens whom the government removed from their West Coast homes. One of 10 similar camps elsewhere in America, by 1943 Heart Mountain had almost 11,000 residents, two-thirds American born. By Nov. 10, 1945, the last internee had left Heart Mountain.

Germany surrendered in May 1945, ending the war in Europe. Japan surrendered in August of the same year.

Resource 2: Article

The article "Wyoming and World War II” offers substantial background on the topic for teachers and for students 8th grade and up. The article may be demanding for 6th and 7th graders.

Resource 3: Visual image analysis tool

Resource 4: World War II era poster

Resource 5: World War II era poster