World War II history comes alive at Maxwell High School  

Maxwell High School sophomores and juniors, along with science teacher Amy Janssen and English teacher Paul Gadbois, came together last Thursday to give a very important history lesson to younger students and the public. 

The Maxwell High School Library came alive with the history and images of World War II – the war that changed the world. 

“I think the Maxwell High School students did a fantastic job on their projects and their presentations,” Janssen said. 

The Maxwell High School’s annual World War II Museum began in former teacher Christa Molchen’s history class in 2016. 

Janssen and Gadbois continued it this year, and spend about six weeks with their students covering both world wars. 

Janssen said the goal of the World War II Museum project is to allow each student to learn about a specific area of their choosing, and then share that research with the rest of the class. 

On April 26, the World War II projects were placed on display for the public and other Maxwell Unified students to view. 

From the Nazi Invasion of Poland in 1939 to D-Day, the students were thorough in covering the people and events that shaped the biggest conflict in history. 

Students exhibited the Manhattan Project, Japanese internment camps in America, and German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, the largest extermination camp built and operated by the Nazis during the war. 

Exhibits also featured famous battles, including the Battle of Iwo Jima, Midway, Kasserine Pass, and the Battle of the Bulge. 

“The Battle of Midway shifted in favor to the U.S.,” Mary Moore, who along with Cynthia Ordonez and Alyssa Kohlar built a display of Sand Island. “The Japanese lost all of their large aircraft carriers involved in the battle. The USS Yorktown was the only US aircraft carrier that got destroyed.” 

Junior Julian Rolon took on “Operation Torch,” the Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa in 1942, and Jose Ashley’s “Battle of Buna,” in 1943, explained the Australian/United States attack on a Japanese beachhead on the northern coast of Papua, during the New Guinea campaign in the Pacific Theatre. 

Students added chrome books, models, maps, timelines, handouts, and other visual aids to perfect their presentations, and some embraced science as their World War II angle, with exhibits on blood transfusions and radioactive material. 

Evelyn Nieves and Jackie Hernandez, sophomores, said transferring blood dates back to the early 19th century, but major advances in medical technology in the 20th century were made during WWII, including the use of blood plasma transfusions to save lives on the battlefield.  

Hernandez said prior to World War II, death was common from transferring blood from one person to another because of disease, or because doctors didn’t know that there were different types of blood. 

“They just transferred it thinking all the blood was the same,” Hernandez said. 

Some students tackled world leaders and notable people. 

Jillian and Rosalyn Wilson’s exhibit was on Anne Frank, a Jewish victim of the Holocaust who gained fame posthumously after the publication of her diary.  

Christopher Ruiz and Guadalupe Sanchez gave their presentation on Hitler, who was responsible for the German invasion of Europe, which led to World War II and the Holocaust. 

“He killed over 6 million people,” Ruiz said. “His alliance was called the Axis of Power and they invaded a lot of countries.” 

Ruiz said a person couldn’t learn about the biggest conflict in world history without first learning about Hitler. 

“He basically started World War II,” he said. 

Lila Barrett, 10, a fourth grader at Maxwell Elementary School, and Kimmi Garrison, 11, a fifth grader, agreed. 

With the museum project at the high school as their first introduction to World War II history, most elementary school students said they got the most from the Hitler exhibit and the Nazi Party’s SS (Schutzstaffel) organization, an exhibit by sophomores Aubrianna Keeler and Melissa Ramirez.

“We learned what they did and why they did it,” Garrison said. 

Barrett said she also liked the Hitler exhibit the best because the students talked a lot about the start of the war and the history. She also enjoyed the World War II Museum because of the artwork and displays. 

“It’s pretty cool,” she said. ■