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Geography and the Medal of Honor

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Foundational, Geography

One Class Session


Students will:

  • examine the geographical locations of military conflicts for which individuals have been awarded the Medal of Honor
  • label a map identifying continents and countries

Introductory Activity:
Give students a brief background on the number of Medals of Honor that have been awarded in various locations around the world. Use the data sheet from Lesson A5 for reference if needed.

Small Group Activity:
Have students pair up and use the worksheet and a printed map along with an atlas or the internet to locate and label countries where Medal of Honor Recipients’ actions took place.

Based on the map pinpoints, students should answer the questions at the bottom of the worksheet.

If time allows, have each pair select one country or area to research further, and have the pairs briefly present about the geography of their chosen or assigned country/area.

Whole Group Activity:
Discuss the implications of the geographical findings:

In what kind of terrain are wars likely to be staged?

What topography makes a country more or less susceptible to invasion?

What role might geography have played in countries’ decisions to invade others?

Optional class discussion:
Look back at the Data Analysis in Lesson A5. Can you make any correlations between the numbers of Medals awarded and the geography of the areas in which those actions occurred?

Concluding Activity:
Ask students how the Medal of Honor values connect to the experiences of these service members. What might it have been like to fight in a place you had never heard of? If you left a farm in Alabama at the age of 18 and went to fight in the snow in Korea, how would you have felt? What values would you have needed to keep fighting?

The labeled map and accompanying worksheet, class discussion

Worksheet, World maps, colored markers/pens

Extended Activities:

  1. Research the geography in which a Medal of Honor action took place. Use newspaper articles and internet sources to research the terrain, climate, and season, and make a presentation based on the findings.

  2. Instead of using the worksheets, have the students divide up into pairs and then divide the names and profiles of Medal of Honor Recipients among the groups. Each group will report about the area where the Recipients’ actions took place.

  3. Create a classroom wall-sized map of the world. Place a pin in each country where the Medal of Honor was earned.

  4. Define the word “allies” and discuss the various places where the United States has made allies.

  5. Choose a Medal of Honor Recipient, and contrast the geography of his or her hometown with the geography of the area where he or she earned the Medal. What role may geography have played in the fighting, the circumstances of the Medal action, and the hardships and obstacles the troops faced? Write an essay or report to present your findings.

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