Memoir of a Civilian POW James Albert Allen
Memoir of a Civilian POW: Introduction

December 7, 1999, served as the occasion for an oral history experiment on SCORE History Social Science that we hope is the first of many. James Allen is the grandfather of one of SCORE's technical staff. The memories that this World War II civilian POW has to share about his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese offer an opportunity for students today to connect personally to history and to come to realize the depth of sacrifice made by many who came before them.

This is a model of what teachers can do in their own classrooms to guide students in "doing the discipline" of history-social science. Oral history can make events come alive for students in ways that little else can. However, it must be remembered that an oral history shows just one person's perspective on significant events. History is a an interpretation of the composite of all types of records and personal perspectives. The American Memory project of the Library of Congress encourages classes to do this type of research and to explore social history and events through the eyes of ordinary people in their own communities. Please review this site before students participate in this December 7 Commemoration.

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James Albert Allen
Before going online to post your questions, do a preliminary study of the events leading to World War II and the overall course of the War. Start with your textbook. Determine why the U.S. and Japan were enemies, the role the American naval bases in the Pacific served and the general feeling of American toward the Japanese and vice versa.

Discuss in class:

  • Why is WWII important in understanding how the rest of the 20th century unfolded?
  • Why didn't the U.S. government evacuate the civilians from Wake Island after Pearl Harbor was attacked?
  • How did the treatment of prisoners of war compare among the practices of U.S., Japan and Germany?
  • What effect did the taking of prisoners have?
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