The Story of the Sources

This lesson utilizes the primary sources behind one actual soldier’s journey from his small world in Pennsylvania to his death
in France. The lesson also includes a live-action short film to correspond with the soldier’s journey.

Guiding Questions

  • How does war affect the one who is leaving his/her family?
  • How does it affect those left behind?

Learning Outcomes

The student will be able to:

  • Navigate the American Battle Monuments Commission website.
  • Research individuals using online primary and secondary source documents.
  • Create a profile of a soldier buried at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery.


  • Give students, either in groups or individually, the eight primary sources pertaining to Private Ralph E. Weiler, out of order.
  • Have students examine the sources and answer the following
    questions for each:
    • What type of primary source is this?
    • To whom is the source pertaining?
    • When was the source created?
    • Have students place the eight sources in chronological order.
  • Discuss the proper chronological order as a class using the
    slide show.
    • Picture of Hanover, Pa – R.E.W.’s Hometown
    • 1900 Census
    • 1910 Census
    • 1917 Draft Card
    • Camp Lee, Virginia – World War I Training Camp
    • Picture of Private R.E.W. in uniform.
    • Picture of American Soldiers in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive
    • Tombstone for Ralph – photo taken in July 2014
  • Watch the short film “Out of Isolation,” which is historical fiction based around, among others, the sources the sources
    examined by the students.
  • Following the film, have students answer the following questions.
    • How would you feel if you were the young man leaving his sister and family to head off to war?
    • How would you feel if you were the sister, and you had to say farewell to your brother?
    • Lead the students in discussion about their reaction to the film.


Assess students on their chronology activity, oral and written reflections, and class discussion.


There is a version of the short film in French. This could be used as a cross-curricular activity. If you look carefully, the documents do not match the tombstone. The video at left tells the story of how this was changed. Students could create period postcards and write to their actual brother/sister/mother/father.

Materials Needed

Projector and computer for showing the short film “Out of Isolation”
“Out of Isolation” short film
Primary Sources
Story of the Sources Slideshow