Essay Topics for World War II

world war II soldiers
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It is very important to focus in on a narrow topic when writing a research paper, but this is a skill that challenges many students.

Sometimes students have difficulty when it comes to picking a narrow topic because they're used to writing about broad time periods or events. But as student progress into higher grades, teachers expect more focused discussion and examination. 

For example, it is common for the instructor to require a paper on a topic as broad as World War II, but you should know that the instructor will expect you to narrow your focus until your thesis is very specific. This is especially true if you are in high school or college.

When you are given a broad subject as a starting point, you should start to narrow your focus by conducting a simple brainstorming session. Start by making a list of words, much like the list of words and phrases that are presented in bold type below. Then begin to explore related questions, like those that follow the words in this list.

The answer to questions like these can become a good starting point of a thesis statement.

You will find that many of the terms below could relate to any topic, like animals, advertising, toys, art, and more.

World War II Topics

  • Advertising - How did food packaging change during the war? How did advertisements change in general?
  • African Americans and rights - What impact did the war years have on the rights of African-Americans?
  • America's entry into the war - How is the timing significant? What factors are not so well known?
  • Animals - How were horses, dogs, birds, other animals used? Did they play a special role?
  • Art - What art movements were inspired by wartime events? Is there one specific work of art that tells a story about the war?
  • Bridges and roads - What transportation-related developments came from wartime or post-war policies?
  • Clandestine operations - Governments went to great lengths to hide the true date, time, and place of their actions.
  • Clothing - How was fashion impacted? How did clothing save lives or hinder movement?
  • Communication - How did radio or other types of communication impact key events?
  • Destruction- Many historic cities and sites were destroyed in the UK (Liverpool, Manchester, London, Coventry) and elsewhere.
  • Domestic violence - Was there an increase or a decrease?
  • Families - Did new family customs develop? What was the impact on children of soldiers?
  • Fashion - Did fashion change significantly?
  • Food preservation - What new preservation and packaging methods occurred during and after the war?
  • Food rationing - How did rationing impact families?
  • Hawaii - How did events impact families or society in general?
  • Hitler - His rise to power was quick. Why?
  • Italy - What special circumstances were in effect?
  • Jet engine technology - What can be traced to WWII needs?
  • "Kilroy was here" - Why was this phrase important to soldiers? 
  • Love letters - What do letters tell us about relationships, families, and friendships? What about gender roles?
  • Motorcycles - What needs lead to the development of folding motorcycles? Why was there widespread use of military motorcycles by the government?
  • Nationalist Socialist Movement in America - What impact has this movement had in society and government since WWII?
  • New products - What products were invented and became a part of popular culture?
  • New words - What new vocabulary words emerged during and after WWII?
  • Nutrition - Were there battles that were lost or won because of the foods available? How did nutrition change at home during the war because of the availability of certain products?
  • Occupations - What new jobs were created and stayed?
  • Penicillin and other medicine - How was penicillin used? What medical developments occurred during and after the war?
  • Political impact - How was your local town impacted politically and socially?
  • POW camps after the war - Some were turned into race tracks after the war!
  • Prisoners of War - What were some long-lasting effects?
  • Propaganda - How did society respond to the war? Do you know why?
  • Radar - What role did radar play, if any?
  • Resistance movements - How did families deal with living in an occupied territory?
  • Rockets - How important was rocket technology?
  • Sacrifices - How did family life change?
  • Ship-building achievements - The achievements were quite remarkable during the war. Why and how did this happen?
  • Spies - Who were the spies? Were they men or women? What side were they on? What happened to spies who were caught?
  • Submarines - Were there enemy submarines on a coast near you?
  • Surviving an attack - How did it feel to jump from a plane that was disabled?
  • Technology - What technology came from the war, and how was it used after the war?
  • The Holocaust - Do you have access to any personal stories?
  • Toys - How did the war impact the toys that were manufactured?
  • Troop logistics - How were troop movements kept secret? What were some challenges of troop logistics?
  • TV technology - When did televisions start to appear in home and what is significant about the timing? What TV shows were inspired by the war, and how realistic were they? How long did World War II affect TV programming?
  • Views on freedom - How was freedom curtailed or expanded?
  • Views on government's role - Where was the government's role expanded? What about governments elsewhere?
  • War crime trials - How were trials conducted? What were political challenges or consequences? Who was or wasn't tried?
  • Weather - Were there battles that were lost or won because of the weather conditions? Were there places where people suffered more because of weather?
  • Winston Churchill - What role did this leader play that interests you most? How did his background prepare him for his role?
  • Women in warfare - What surprises you about women's work in World War II?
  • Women's work at home - How did women's work change at home during the war?