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History vs Film

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School History, Language Arts, World-War-II

Students will:
• Analyze the influence media has on historical events.
• Compare and contrast Hollywood’s film Pearl Harbor to that of the actual history shared by the Medal of Honor recipient
  portrayed in the film.

Medal of Honor Focus: John Finn, Aviation Ordnance Chief, U.S. Navy, Kanoehe Bay, Hawaii / World War II

Introductory Activity:
Students will share some of their favorite movies. After a few responses are given, the teacher will ask
if anyone likes historical movies or stories that are based on actual events. The teacher will introduce the
film, Pearl Harbor (2001) into the conversation and ask if anyone has seen the movie.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
1st clip: The teacher will show a movie clip from Pearl Harbor (2001). The scene starts with men running
around the base, trying to get to their guns.

2nd: Play clip showing the Master Chief shouting out orders on the airplane hangar field. He is firing at
planes overhead. He gives directions and brings some order to the chaos. Ask the class to guess what
the Master Chief was feeling and going through. Where do you see evidence of the character traits, sacrifice
and commitment? Explain your answer.

Whole Group Activity:
The teacher will suggest that students can find out from someone who does know what the Master Chief was
really going through. Explain that the role of Master Chief in the film, Pearl Harbor, was based on Medal of Honor
recipient, John Finn. Students will view his vignette.

Concluding Activity:
Students will list the similarities and differences between the movie and the actual events. The last question
is for open discussion: "What did John Finn share that you would never have known or understood from just
watching Hollywood’s version?"

Open discussion, comparison/contrast list

Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. NY: Artisan, 2006.

Pearl Harbor. Dir. Michael Bay. Perf. Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett. Touchstone Pictures, 2001.

Timeline generator online:

Extended Activity:
1. Compare the film Tora! Tora! Tora! to the film Pearl Harbor
2. Students will research and create a timeline of events that happened the day Pearl Harbor was bombed
on December 7, 1941.
Quote: "Millions have served in the military and made sacrifices, and most have gone unrecognized." - George E. Wahlen, Navy-World War II

In Their Own Words - John Finn