The History of D-Day: Operation Overlord for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are cold and sitting in the back of the boat. The sky is cloudy and many airplanes are flying overhead. The water from the chilly ocean is splashing into your boat and as you look ahead you see a beach which you and your team of soldiers must invade. Bombs explode in the water around you. Your boat tries to navigate through spikes and landmines that are guarding the water leading up to the beach. A boat nearby you is sinking from an explosion. “Out of the boat! Out of the boat!” someone shouts. The ramp to the front of the boat goes down and you rush out with the other soldiers. You are very scared, but you know in order to win the war this beach must be taken back! It is D-Day and you are one of the Allied soldiers preparing to take Normandy Beach in France.

For many years Hitler and the German Army controlled France and many other countries in Europe. The main goal of the Allies was to kick Hitler and his army out of France and take the fight to Germany. The Allies were made up of many countries, but the main ones were the United States, England, France, Russia, and Canada. D-Day was one of the most important missions of the war because it would take place on the beaches of France where the Allies would start taking back Europe from Hitler. 

The United States General Eisenhower was made command of the D-Day operation in January 1944. The Allies knew they wanted to attack, but weren’t sure where. And part of the plan was to trick Hitler into believing the attack would be from somewhere else, so he wouldn’t be able to concentrate all of his forces in one place. The Allies used many tricks to go about this such as spies, secret agents, fake tanks, and fake radio messages. They even put one of their best generals, George Patton, in different area to confused Hitler. Over 3,200 reconnaissance missions were used to prepare for D-Day. Reconnaissance means to to spy on the enemy and do research to decide how to act next. The original name of the mission was Operation Overlord, and only later referred to as D-Day.

The plan was to attack the Germans on Normandy Beach. 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes were used during the attack. After the ships brought in the soldiers, the plan was to put them all on amphibious vehicles, move them to the beach, then the soldiers would attack the Germans guarding the beach.

But the morning before they started the attack the Allie’s planes dropped bombs on the Germans guarding the beach. French people living in a town nearby were awoken to the sound of bombs. A French villager lived near a house overlooking the beaches. He said: “I saw light coming from two bombs that exploded at the ridge of the cliff.” The Allies were doing everything they could to make sure the soldiers coming in on the beach would be safe.

The night before the invasion 24,000 soldiers also parachuted out of planes and landed behind the German army to help the troops who would be landing on the beach. These soldiers were called “paratroopers.”

One of the paratroopers was named Bob Nobles. He and his 16-man team flew in a plane across the English Channel. Just after midnight the light inside their plane told them it was time to jump out. They all lined up and one after another jumped out of the back of the plane. He said “By the time my parachute opened, I was on the ground!” He landed in a farmer’s field all by himself and took off his parachute. Then he hurried off on foot until he came across another paratrooper. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” the other paratrooper shouted. “I’m from Indiana! But I forgot the password!” They were supposed to have a password to know who was on their side and who was the enemy. Bob laughed as they looked for the rest of the teammates. But most of the other paratroopers had missed the drop zone, the place they were supposed to land.

These paratrooper missions proved to be very dangerous and a challenge in some cases where the soldiers landed in the wrong place or were captured or shot as soon as they landed. But in other cases the soldiers were able to regroup and take bridges and help the soldiers who would be landing on the beach the next day. 

The original plan was to attack on June 5th, but the weather was very bad, so it was put off until June 6th. In a message to troops before they left, General Eisenhower told them, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory…. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

On June 6th 1944 starting at 6:30 a.m. the amphibious vehicles took the Allied troops from the ships to the beach. Amphibious means something that works in water and on land. These vehicles were designed to float like a boat and drive like a car!

Over 100,000 Allied soldiers attacked the beach at the same time! They were from many different countries like the United States, England, and Canada. The invasion was the largest amphibious landing and assault in history!

For many months the German Army had prepared for an attack on the beach. They had built many defenses armed with machine guns, barbed wire, land mines, so attacking the beach was extremely dangerous. 

One of the soldiers, Colonel Moulton, was on the amphibious landing craft with his soldiers. He told them to fire smoke bombs into the sky so they would be hidden from the enemy machine guns. It helped some, but their landing craft was still smashed up and some of the soldiers died when they hit the beach. Telling his story many years later, he said that the “Germans built concrete strong points in the villages and we landed right in front of one,” which caused much harm to his fellow soldiers.

Another soldier, Harry Timmins, said that when their landing craft came on the beach “the noise was more than you could possibly imagine. There were explosions all around us in the sea and the shells and mortars were kicking up sand all over the beach. A couple of buildings were on fire and the guns on our boat also joined in the barrage and deafened us.”

Many soldiers lost their lives as they came out of the landing vehicles. In some places the water was too high, so sadly they sank with all their heavy gear on. 

Another soldier, Robert Watson remembered that nothing went quite as planned. Everything took longer than expected and his landing craft was taking on a lot of water. “Landing craft were exploding all around me,” he remembered and got very sick in his boat. He remembered someone yelling “Get to the beach!” Then their craft hit a floating mine and they had to climb onto another craft to get the rest of the way to the beach. After he finally got to the beach he said, “I was scared my ammunition wouldn’t work” because it was wet. But he was able to fire shots without any problem and started firing at the enemy. The company of soldiers he started with had 62 soldiers. Only 36 of them were left after the attack. Many of his friends never made it to the beach. 

The beaches were given different codenames. Omaha Beach and Juno Beach had the most casualties. A casualty is when someone is hurt or dies in battle. By the end of the morning over 4,000 soldiers had died during the intense battle! 

By the time the battle was done the Allies had taken the beach and started moving into France. It was one of the most dangerous battles of World War II, but also one of the most important as well. Now that the Allies were in France they had shown the world and Hitler that they were very strong and would be able to win the war. The war continued on for many more days, but because of the sacrifices made on D-Day there was hope for the people of France and people all around the world that the war would come to an end.

Do you know anyone who has served in the military? Take some time to think about their bravery in deciding to serve and what courage it must take to decide to put your life on the line for your country. Think about those who gave their life on D-Day and how many of the freedoms you have exist, because someone else has given up their own time and sometimes even their life. There is a quote that says “Freedom isn’t free.” Freedom is often something that has to be fought for. Because of this, we shouldn’t take our own freedom for granted. Think about what you might do to keep freedom strong wherever you live. This might mean learning more about government and your local leaders. This might mean learning about different laws and voting when you are the right age. It might also mean serving in the military as well. Whatever you do to help, remember that freedom is a wonderful thing that not everyone has; and something we should never take for granted.

Nancy Wake Story for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a soldier flying in a plane high above the ocean. Outside you hear the plane’s propellers turning and strong winds rushing past the windows. It is the middle of the night and down below the ocean is dark and cold. Sitting around you are other soldiers, men and women with dark clothes and large backpacks. They look nervous and you feel nervous too. You check your gun and tighten a parachute which is also on your back. 

The year is 1944 and you are in the middle of World War 2. Nazi Germany has invaded France. France’s allies England and the United States and other countries are working to help France and many other countries be free again. If the battle can be won in France there might be a chance to beat the Nazis and make the world a safe place again. You look around at the other soldiers, but remember you and the others here are no ordinary soldiers. You are part of England’s Special Operations Executive, commandos which are a combination of a soldier and a spy. You have trained many months to be a commando and it’s finally your chance to help the people of France. 

“Everyone ready?” a voice calls from the back of the plane. You look out the window and see that you are above land now. This is France. You and the other soldiers stand up and walk toward the back of the plane. In the front you see one of the most famous commandos — a woman named Nancy Wake. The back doors to the plane open. You watch as Nancy walks to the back of the plane and jumps out into the cold night. Soon you jump out, too, and are are falling down, down toward the ground.  At the right moment you pull your parachute and are yanked up into the sky. You look across the French countryside and float downward until your boots hit the ground and you roll, then hurriedly wrap up your parachute. 

Nancy Wake and the other commandos are running low across a grassy field to the cover of trees. Someone whispers that a German patrol is nearby. You quietly hurry on until you are hidden deep in the woods. Everyone huddles together and pulls out their backpacks. You see that Nancy is safe and are glad to have such a brave woman leading your team. You know with her help you can accomplish your dangerous and very important mission. 

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A couple years later her family moved to Australia. There she went to school until the age of 16 when she left home and found a job as a nurse. Working as a nurse, she was able to save some money and with the help of an aunt, was bought a plane ticket to New York City. There she learned how to become a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes stories for the newspaper. To Nancy being a journalist was an adventure. She loved to travel and learn about new people and places. One of the places she visited was Austria. While she was in Austria a powerful leader named Adolf Hitler had become very powerful. Hitler’s country of Germany was nearby Austria. In Austria Hitler’s followers, the Nazis, were hurting people they did not like, such as the Jews. When Nancy saw how horribly the Nazis treated these people, she realized Hitler was very dangerous.

Nancy moved to Paris, France one of her favorite places in the world. She loved the city and the people and eventually married a Frenchman named Henri Edmond Fiocca. While Nancy was living in France, Hitler’s army invaded the country. Hitler wanted to control France, but Nancy did everything to try and stop him. She joined a group called The Resistance. She helped soldiers escape France and sent secret messages to help The Resistance. Nancy was very careful, so for a long time the Nazis didn’t know she was a spy. She was very sneaky and for this reason the Nazis called her “The White Mouse.” Her job was very dangerous, but Nancy knew that fighting against the invaders was the right thing to do, so she did it anyway. The Nazis wanted to catch Nancy so badly that they offered 5 million French dollars to anyone who would turn her in. 

Soon it was too dangerous for Nancy to stay in France, so she snuck out of the country, hiding in the back of a coal truck, just before the Nazis caught her. From France she went to Spain and then to England, which was a country safe from the Nazis. Nancy could have lived a safe life in England far from her enemies, but she knew she needed to keep fighting to keep the world free. In England Nancy joined England’s spy group called the Special Operations Executive. There Nancy trained to be a soldier and a spy, also known as a commando. She learned to shoot a gun, use a radio, and be sneaky, which she was already pretty good at. But Nancy worked very hard and tried to be very cheerful. When other soldiers were sad she made funny jokes and cheered them up. The other soldiers like to be around Nancy. 

Once Nancy and the other soldiers were trained, a plane flew them across the ocean to France where they jumped out and parachuted down to the ground. Many Nazis were in France so they were careful and spent much of the time in hiding. There Nancy and the other soldiers helped The Resistance. They gave them guns and other supplies, blew up bridges, recruited more people to the Resistance. Once they even attacked a Nazi base. Nancy and the other commandos weren’t afraid to complete dangerous missions to help free the people of France.

To keep in touch with England the commandos used radio and special codes. One night the codes were destroyed by the enemy and the next closest radio station was very far away. Many would have given up, but Nancy decided she could ride a bike to the other radio. So she jumped on her bike and rode almost 200 miles. She had to pass many Nazis along the way, so it was a very dangerous journey, but Nancy was brave and believed in her cause. After delivering the message to be sent, Nancy got back on her bike and rode all the way back to her team.

While Nancy and the other commandos were helping The Resistance, the Allied Armies fought Hitler’s army on the battlefield until chasing them out of France. Nancy was excited to see France free again and proud to have been one of many to make it happen. 

After the war Nancy received many medals for her bravery. Later she wrote a book about her life and adventures during the war and called it “The White Mouse.” Nancy moved into a hotel in France where the owners and others helped take care of her, because of all she had done to help their country. Nancy Wake’s bravery inspired many women and men for years to come. 

Like Nancy, you can do things even when you’re not sure how they’ll turn out. Sometimes we only want to do the things we know about — this is called staying inside our comfort zone. But it’s also good for us to get outside of our comfort zone and try new things like Nancy did. We can stand up for what we believe even when it might be scary. If you see someone picking on someone else, you can tell them this is wrong and stand up for them. You might wonder if you can be as brave as Nancy, but remember she was once a child just like you. 

History of the Navy SEALs for Kids

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, the United States military began to train special soldiers who could move about secretly in small teams and complete special missions. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs. 

Any man or woman who wants to become a Navy must first join the Navy. Then they must pass tests to be sure they are ready for BUD/S training. BUD/S Training is a very difficult camp where leaders decide who is ready to be a Navy SEAL. There they run through wet sand with all their clothes on, crawl through deep mud, and carry heavy rubber boats. They do lots of situps and pushups and plenty of running. Most days they get very little sleep and have to swim far out in the ocean, and hold their breath underwater for a very long time. Not only do their bodies have to be strong, but their minds as well. They have to be able to keep going and going even when their body and mind want to give up. People who want to become Navy SEALs spend many years training before they even go to BUD/S Training. Because it is so hard many aren’t able to finish. This doesn’t mean they are weak, it is just a very great challenge to become a Navy SEAL.

At the end of boot camp, SEALs start other training, such as learning how to scuba dive under the water and how to parachute out of very high airplanes. They also learn how to shoot guns and set off bombs. The word SEAL is the words “sea”, “air”, and “land” all together. This means a SEAL needs to be able to move across sea, air and land to accomplish their special missions.

SEAL training can last up to a year, but even when they are done they keep practicing and practicing. A Navy SEAL is never fully done learning and improving.

At the end of their first training, the trainees are given a gold badge that has an eagle on it, which they can pin to their Navy uniform. It is a very exciting day, because they have worked so hard and so long to reach their goal.

Once a Navy SEAL completes their training they are assigned to a team. That team may live anywhere in the world, because their mission may take place anywhere in the world; and they need to be close and ready when they are needed. 

When a mission takes place the Navy SEALs may arrive there by airplane, where they parachute down, or it might be by boat or helicopter or even by submarine if they are scuba swimming to their mission. They wear camouflage clothes depending on where the missions is, since it may be in the desert or the jungle or in a city.

The Navy SEALs have assisted in many wars in the past and are active today in places like the Middle East. Their mission might be to capture an enemy or to rescue someone who has been kidnapped. SEALs are very fast and skilled at what they do and can get in and out of places very fast. During one mission their job was to stop modern day pirates who had captured a big ship and its crew. For another mission they rescued soldiers who had been captured by the enemy.

Often Navy SEALs have to sacrifice their own lives when they go on these dangerous missions. In 2005 during the Afghanistan War, a 4-man team of SEALs landed by helicopter in an enemy area. Their job was to capture a dangerous Taliban leader. The members of this team were Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson. 

While sneaking through enemy territory, the team ran into a boy and his father herding goats. The team decided to let them live and after they let them go, the father alerted the enemy and soon the team was being attacked Marcus from all sides. The SEALs fought for a very long time and tried to survive, but soon only Marcus Luttrell was left alive. 

Marcus was strong and kept fighting and running until he was taken in by a friendly villager who lived nearby. Sometimes it’s not easy to know who is a friend or enemy in war, but this family took care of Marcus until a Navy helicopter came and took him away. After arriving home, Marcus wrote a book about the battle of him and his team and called it “Lone Survivor.” 

Navy SEALs are in many ways ordinary people who want to make a change in the world and serve their country. Their job is never easy, but they practice long and hard to be very good at what they do. 

Spend some time thinking about what you can do to improve yourself like a Navy SEAL. You don’t have to become a Navy SEAL to make yourself strong or become better at something. It might just be playing outside instead of watching TV, or riding your bike, or swimming, or doing something kind for someone else. You can have the spirit of a Navy SEAL, which is to accomplish great things even when they take time, hard work and practice.  

History of Abraham Lincoln for Kids

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky to parents who were very poor at the time. They lived in the middle of the woods in a very small log cabin his father built. The woods were full of wild animals and no one else lived nearby. Every night Abe and his family slept on a hard dirt floor. When Abe was old enough to work he and his father, Thomas, ate a small breakfast, picked up their axes, and ventured off into the thick woods to chop down trees to make the land flat for farming. It was very hard work and they worked all day long. Abe became very strong chopping wood. He also began to grow very tall for his age. He grew so much that his pants became too small and because his parents were poor they couldn’t afford to buy him new ones. Some people thought he looked funny because he was so tall and skinny, but they liked Abe because he was kind and funny. 

In Abe’s town there wasn’t a school, so most days he just worked. For a short time a teacher lived a few miles away so Abraham did learn a little, but just enough to read and write. Once Abe learned to read it became his favorite thing to do. He only had a couple books, but he spent any free time he had reading. When he learned something new he repeated the words over and over until he knew them by memory. He also wrote new words down. This helped him remember the words so he could use them later. 

After Abe and his father cleared the land of trees, they began farming. Most days he’d take a book out to the field and read in between planting. His mother, Nancy, read to him and his sister. She knew learning was very important and taught Abe this from a young age. Abe loved his mother very much.

When Abe was only nine his mother became sick and died. He and his family were very sad. Not long after this, his father left him and his sister for nine months while he went to find a new wife. Can you imagine being left alone for that long? Somehow Abraham survived, finding help from caring neighbors. Eventually, his father returned with their new mother. When Abe saw on the road he ran and hugged her, even though he didn’t know her. He was just happy to have a mother again. 

Sarah turned out to be a very good mother to Abe. She found him new books and was kind to him. Abe’s father Thomas was hard on him. He was also known to be a very good storyteller. This was a talent Abe picked up and was known for later in his life.

Once Abraham was old enough to be on his own, he left home and started working for himself. He knew that by working hard, he could improve his life. He had a job moving goods down the river, then later worked in a store. Once while working in the store, someone paid the wrong amount of money. That night Abe walked very far to return the money. This is where he got his nickname “Honest Abe.” Honesty means telling the truth. 

One day in town Abe went to the courthouse and saw a lawyer arguing a case. A lawyer is someone who understands the law and often helps defends others when they need something. When Abe heard the lawyer speaking, he decided being a lawyer was what he wanted to do. Without going to a big school, Abraham read and studied and repeated words on his own until he knew everything he needed to to become a lawyer. This took lots of time and practice but soon he became very smart and understood the law. He passed all the tests he needed and before long became a lawyer. He traveled from town to town on his horse helping others.

While working as a lawyer, Abe became interested in politics. Politics involves law and government and voting in new leaders. Abe wanted to become a leader so he could shape and change the country for the better. His first job in the state government was the House of Representatives. Later, he was part of the U.S. House of Representatives. There he helped pass laws to build railroads and support banks so the state could grow and improve.

At the same time slavery was a tragic problem in United States. Slavery is when someone is forced to work without any pay. Many Americans had slaves that they treated very poorly and made them work very hard. Abe knew slavery was horrible and was against slavery it spreading to the new states in America. He argued this against another leader named Stephen A. Douglas. These arguments became very intense at times, because Americans were very upset about slavery, either being for it or against it. 

At this time Abe ran for President of the United States. Many Americans in the South were against Abe being president, because they wanted to keep slavery. Also, many Americans thought Abe could never win because he was just a farm boy from the woods who didn’t have very much money or schooling. But Abe cared about helping the country and to everyone’s surprise he won and became the President of the United States! The people who loved Abe were very excited that such a caring man had become  their new president.

But Southerners who wanted to keep slavery were angry and wanted to break off from America. They said they would form a new country where they could keep their slaves. This was called The Civil War, because it was a war between two parts of our country, the North and the South. Soon very dangerous fighting began and many soldiers on both sides died. It was a very sad time for the United States.

Abraham Lincoln wanted more than anything to keep the country together. He believed America was stronger and better as one country. But he was also very sad to see soldiers dying on both sides. Some wanted to quit the fight, but Abe was determined to not give up. He gave the Gettysburg Address and his bold words inspired Americans to follow him. He also worked to create new laws to stop slavery even when it was unpopular to do so. 

Finally, the war came to an end when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the North. It was a time of much celebration for the North. Many lives had been lost, but in the end the country stayed together and the slaves became free. Some leaders may have been harsh to the losing side of the war, but Abraham Lincoln was determined to show kindness and mercy to the South and do all he could to rebuild the broken country.

Not long after the war ended, while Abe was watching a play in Ford’s Theater he was shot by the assassin John Wilkes Booth. The Americans who loved Abe were very sad at this news. They had lost the president who cared for them and saved the country. But having done all he could, Abraham Lincoln has gone down in history as one of the greatest presidents of all time.

Like Abe, no matter where you were born or to whom, you can decide to improve yourself and be a good person. Abe had very little, but he read everything he could and studied and worked until he could make a living for himself. He also decided to help his country by running for different offices in the government. These aren’t easy jobs, but when good people lead they can make a great difference. Like Abe, you can be aware of what is going on in your own communities and in your country. And when you’re old enough you can vote for good leaders and even become one yourself. Just remember, no matter your circumstances, if you make the decision to improve yourself and do good things, you can do it!

The Red Baron For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in the cockpit of an airplane. Its a World War 1-era biplane with an open cockpit and a propeller spinning in front of you, pulling you high above the clouds. You wear a pilot’s helmet and goggles and look left and right to the see your friend’s planes flying nearby you. Below the countryside is green and lush. Above you the sun is shining brightly. You’ve been flying for a while now, searching the area of enemy planes. You check your fuel and altitude, make a small adjustment and then decide to look up. You sun blocks you view and see something dark coming toward you. It’s an enemy plane! You wave you hand and motion to the other pilots. Then you hear the engines of the planes as they shoot down toward you. You bank to the left as a plane races by, nearly hitting you. You watch as it dives down and then curves up, turning toward you. The plane is bright red with black crosses on it. Instantly, you recognize it as the plane of the famous German fighting ace, The Red Baron!

The Red Baron’s real name was Manfred, and he was born May 2nd 1892 in Breslau, Prussia which is now known as the country of Poland. His full name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen! Quite the name, right? The “Freiherr” part of his name means “Free Lord,” which means his family was wealthy and had power in their community, also called aristocrats. Because his family was wealthy, which is another word for “rich”, he had lots of time to do his favorite things like explore the woods around his home, play sports, ride horses, and hunt. He and his brothers learned how to use and take care of guns from a young age. Hunting quickly became one of Manfred’s favorite pastimes. In the woods around their home he and his younger brothers hunted wild boar, elk, birds and deer and Manfred became very good at it. 

He was taught at home until he was 11, when he moved away to a military school in Berlin, Germany, which was common for children his age born into wealthy families. There he became a cadet. At the age of 18, he became a very good horseman and joined a cavalry unit, which is made up of soldiers who ride horses. 

At this time World War I was waging in Europe. This war was fought primarily between Germany and Great Britain and France. But Austria-Hungary, Russia, the United States, Italy, Japan and Austria-Hungary had also taken sides. The battles in France were fought mostly in trenches, which were long holes dug into the ground where each side fired at each other from a distance. It was one of the first major wars in which machines were used such as machine guns, tanks, and airplanes. It was a very tragic war and many lives were lost on both sides.

Manfred was in the army, but because most of the fighting was in trenches his horseman skills weren’t needed, so he spent most of his time running errands. Daily, he watched airplanes taking off and fighting in aerial battles. Only 11 years before World War I, two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, invented one of the first airplanes that could fly for a longer distance. Their first flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wright Brothers and others took what they learned and soon were creating airplanes that could fly very fast and very high. These were the airplanes Mandred saw. He was amazed by them and wanted to be a pilot himself.

Like any new skill, flying took time for Manfred to learn. He first flew with a more experienced pilot and then as an observer, someone who watches out for enemy planes. Over time he learned how to fly on his own. The airplanes during World War I look very different from the planes you are used to seeing today. They used a propeller to give them thrust and had two (or three) sets of wings, above and below each other, to give the planes lift. The pilot’s head stuck out of the top and in battle a machine gun was mounted in front of the pilot.

By 1915, Manfred or Baron Manfred von Richthofen (his full name), was a certified fighter pilot. Through 1916 he flew air missions against his country’s enemy, which was Great Britain, France, and the United States at the time. He joined a group of skilled fighter pilots called the Fighter Squadron. Manfred won his first battle against an enemy fighter plane on September 17, 1916. This is called a “dogfight” and ends when one pilot shoots down another. 

Before long, Manfred was one of the best fighter pilots for Germany, also known as an “ace.” He received many awards for his skill and bravery. His brother Lothar also became a fighter pilot. Lother was known for being more risky and aggressive, but Manfred’s style was to be more careful and direct. One of his best strategies was to fly between his opponent and the sun, so the sun would block their view and they wouldn’t be able to see him coming.

In 1917 Manfred von Richthofen started painting his plane red, so it would be recognized by enemy pilots. His enemies started calling him “The Red Baron.” Baron is the name given to someone in Prussia who is nobility or an aristocrat. The other fighter pilots in The Red Baron’s fellow pilots (including his younger brother) started painting their planes different, bright colors. For this reason others started calling them “The Flying Circus.” During the war, Manfred shot down more than 80 other airplanes, more than any other pilot on both sides during the war. 

During an air battle in July 1917 he was hit and for a few minutes was unable to see. His plane started to spiral downward, but once he regained his vision, he levelled it out and was able to land safely. He was quickly taken to the hospital and had surgery. He returned to flying a few months later, but continued to have headaches and feel sick from the wounds he received. 

Manfred became a fighter pilot because it looked thrilling and exciting. Growing up in military school he had been taught that fighting battles was a good thing and would bring his family honor. He was very good at what he did and believed it was a good thing. But people who knew Manfred also saw that war caused him pain. Whether this was because he lost friends or from harming others we don’t know exactly. But during war he saw and did terrible things and some believe deep down he wasn’t proud of it. 

Manfred often described his experiences as a pilot and once wrote: 

“I am in wretched spirits after every aerial combat. I believe that [the war] is not as the people at home imagine it, with a hurrah and a roar; it is very serious, very grim.”

He also saw that the war was going nowhere and realized that his side was going to lose. It made him wonder if being a fighter pilot was the right thing. But Germany used The Red Baron’s fame and wrote books and articles about him and often said many things that were untrue to keep their people excited about the war. This often happens with both sides during a war and is called propaganda.

On April 21, 1918 The Red Baron was chasing a British plane over the Somme River in France, when the plane of his cousin came under attack. Manfred pulled away to try and help his cousin. When he did this he and his plane were shot and he went down during a battle. He was only 25 at the time and didn’t survive. The news about The Red Baron travelled around the world and he’d go down in history as the most skilled fighter pilot of World War I and one of the most famous aces of all time. Many books and movies have since been made about The Red Baron and his prowess as a fighter pilot.

From this story we learn that war is a common but tragic part of history that takes place when countries don’t find ways to work through their problems but turn to violence instead. The better way is for countries to meet together and come to agreements about how problems can be settled rather than going to war. In some cases, arguments can be made for war, particularly when countries are defending themselves or trying to help another country, but it’s always better if conflicts can be worked out other, more peaceful ways. War at first often seems exciting for the young soldiers and pilots involved, but the things they experience can result in painful feelings, such as the ones The Red Baron felt when he lost close friends in battle.  

Guy Fawkes For Kids

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November!”  This is a famous saying that you may have heard before.  But what does it mean and where did it come from?  Many of us in America have heard of Guy Fawkes and some may even know a little bit about his plot in 1605.  But many of us do not.  In tonight’s episode, we’re going to dive into Guy’s life and learn a bit about what life was like in England in the early 1600s. 

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York, England. He was the second of four children born to Edward Fawkes, a lawyer who worked in the English courts, and his wife, Edith. Guy’s family were normal, wealthy people of their time.  They were members of the Church of England, a Protestant church. But Guy’s mother’s family were Catholics and she had grown up in a Catholic house.

Catholicism and Protestantism are different types of Christianity.  In the 1500s, most of England was Catholic and it usually had to do with who was with the King or Queen and what they wanted people to practice.  King Henry VIII declared that England would become a Protestant nation in the 1500s and after that, the government made efforts to get people to stop being Catholic. 

This is the world that Guy grew up in. He had two younger sisters, Anne and Elizabeth, and they were a happy family.  Unfortunately, when Guy was eight years old his father died. Guy and his sisters were then raised by their mom for a number of years on her own.  Eventually their mom remarried.  The mom’s new husband was a Catholic man and as a result, they started to practice Catholicism again. 

Catholicism in England that had been shut down under Henry VIII and continued to be suppressed by his successor Queen Elizabeth I. During her reign, Catholics could not legally celebrate their religious ceremonies or be married according to their own rites. Rites are religious customs or traditions.  Queen Elizabeth commanded that everyone needed to be Protestant and that they had to attend Protestant services, not Catholic services.  If they did not attend Protestant services, they would be fined.

Because Guy Fawkes lived such a long time ago, not many details of his life are known.  He was said to have a pleasant and cheerful personality and was loyal to his friends.  He was also described as growing to become a “tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard”.  Guy was the only son in his family, so according to laws of the time, he inherited the family’s home and land in Clifton in York. The home was cared for by his mother when Guy was still a child. But once Guy became an adult, it passed to him and he lived in it and cared for it for the first few years that he was an adult.

In October 1591, at the age of 21, Guy Fawkes sold his home and land in Clifton in York. He had decided to become a soldier and went to Europe to fight in a war with Spanish Catholics against non-Catholics. He now felt very strongly about his family’s Catholic faith and wanted to help return Catholicism as the main religion in England and throughout Europe. 

Guy lived in Europe for nearly 10 years and fought as a paid soldier for Spanish during this time.  During this time, he changed his name to “Guido” which is a Spanish version of “Guy”. He fought in many battles and eventually became a captain. 

In 1603, Guy talked to the Spanish royalty and tried to convince them that after everything he had done for them, they should now help support a Catholic rebellion in England.  A rebellion is an uprising of people that fight against the government in order to make a change.  In England, the feelings between Catholics and non-Catholics were becoming worse.  Queen Elizabeth had died and King James I was now the new king.  King James continued Elizabeth’s efforts to shut down Catholicism in England. The Spanish King listened to Guy Fawkes request.  However, he decided not to get involved and did not support his rebellion.  

Guy returned to England at age 33 and continued to be angry about what he saw happening to his religion.  Because Catholics were not allowed to practice their religion opening, many met in secret for ceremonies and talked about ways to make changes so that they could live more freely again. One idea that a small group of priests had was to kidnap the new King of England, King James I. This particular plan failed and the priests who were planning this were captured.

But others started plotting something similar.  In May 1604, a group of five men, including Guy Fawkes, met at a hotel in London.  They talked about what they could do to help make Catholicism the main religion in England. One of the men, Robert Catesby, suggested a plan that they blow up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder.  The Houses of Parliament are a part of government, like Congress in the United States, that make laws.  Eight other men later joined them in the plot, which became known as the “Gunpowder Plot”.  A plot is a plan or a scheme to do something.

The plotters thought that if they blew up Parliament and King James and his son, who would also be there on the opening day, that this would leave only King James’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to be Queen. Then they would convince Princess Elizabeth to bring Catholicism back to England. 

Guy Fawkes was one of these “plotters”.  He started using the name “Guido” again instead of “Guy”.  He also used another alias, or fake name, “John Johnson”. Using this name John Johnson, Guy Fawkes got a job as the caretaker of a cellar located just below the House of Lords (which is a government group similar to the Senate in America). 

The plotters rented a room in a building near Parliament.  It was unused and filthy, so they considered it an ideal hiding place for the gunpowder that they planned to use to be stored. According to Fawkes, 20 barrels of gunpowder were brought in at first, followed by 16 more. Gunpowder is a black powder used in guns and bombs and explodes when it comes in contact with sparks or flames.

With Guy in this job as caretaker beneath Parliament, the plotters started moving gunpowder from their rented room and stockpiling it in the cellar. The group planned that on November 5, 1605, Guy would light a fuse during the opening of a new session of Parliament. He would then escape by boat and make his way across the River Thames in London to safety on the other side. 

As the date got closer, the plotters got ready to execute their plan.  However, a week and half before their plans were to take place, the plotters were stopped.  On October 26, a letter was sent to the police telling them to wait to start Parliament because there was a plan to blow it up.  The letter was anonymous, which means that it is sent without a name so no one knows who it is from.  To this day, no one knows for sure who wrote the letter.  But the police went to the place beneath Parliament around midnight on November 4.  They found Guy Fawkes waiting there with matches in his pocket and 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked next to him. 

Guy Fawkes was arrested.  Soon after, the police found his co-conspirators and arrested them as well, except for four of them, including Catesby, who died in a shootout with English troops. Guy and his co-conspirators were all found guilty of high treason. Treason means a serious crime against your own country. They were all executed shortly after that, in January 1606. 

Following this plot, the government in England made new laws that made life for Catholics even more strict.  They were not allowed to vote in elections, practice law or serve in the military.  These laws actually stayed in place for over 200 years. 

After the plot was revealed, Londoners learned of what had almost happened and were very happy that the plot had been found out and nothing had been blown up.  They began lighting bonfires.  They were happy that their government and King James had not been bombed.  The government declared November 5 as a day of thanksgiving in England.  This is now known as “Guy Fawkes Day” and is celebrated every year in England and other parts of the world now. 

In today’s celebrations, British people treat Guy Fawkes Day as a time to get together with friends and family, set off fireworks, light bonfires and attend parades.  Some even burn puppets of Guy Fawkes. Children traditionally wheel around their puppets of Guy Fawkes from door to door demanding a “penny for the Guy”, which became a custom similar to Halloween trick-or-treating.  

While the story of Guy Fawkes is a sad and difficult one, there are always things that can be learned from history. What can be learned from Guy Fawkes and the plotters?  He was certainly a man of conviction.  Conviction means confidence and faith.  He wanted to bring a better life for his Catholic people in England.  However, he tried to go about it in a violent way.  The plotters’ plan to blow up parliament was very sad because it involved violence and destruction in order to bring about what they wanted. Violence is not the answer to making the world a better place. Indeed the plot backfired because once it was revealed, it resulted in stricter laws for Catholics, not an easier life like the plotters wanted.  

Sometimes when we hear sad or hard stories in history, it is good to learn from how this story impacted society and the way life is now.  While the story of Guy Fawkes is a sad story, we can see how the plotters plan and the ultimate failure of that plan had major impacts on British culture for years to come. And this is why British people “Remember, remember the fifth of November.”

The History of the Great Wall of China for Kids

Imagine you are walking along a path in the forest.  Around you are beautiful mountains covered with lush green trees.  You see tall bamboo trees and birds in the sky. Nearby is a small mountain village where families are cooking dinner and playing in common areas.  As you walk further along the path towards the mountain range, you suddenly look up and see a gigantic stone wall cutting through the forest. You place your hands on it and look up. It is incredibly high. When you look left and right you see that it stretches in both directions as far as your eye can see.  You are at one of the most famous structures in the world: the Great Wall of China! 

The Great Wall of China was built over 2,000 years ago and runs more than 13,000 miles across northern China.  But why was this wall built?  And how has it lasted so long?

The Great Wall of China was constructed by Emperor Chin Shi Huang in the 3rd century B.C.  Well actually, parts of the wall were built earlier than that and it is doubtful that Emperor Chin did any of the actual construction work himself.  

Emperor Chin united a number of different independent states in China and was the first emperor to unite all of these different communities together as one Chinese country.  This happened around 220 B.C.  Before that, there were many different kingdoms throughout China and different groups of people lived on their own.  The land that the Chinese people lived on was very fertile. Fertile means the land is good for growing lots of food. Over time, the people that lived in the area started to farm and grow crops.  As more people farmed the land, they needed to create systems of order and government to help manage the land and how it was used.  

At this time, Chinese people developed and irrigated fields and grew crops near the Yellow River valley. Farming large areas of land required people to work together and form a government to work the land peacefully.  That is why the Chinese formed one empire and also built walls around them to protect their communities against attacks by the nomads.  Nomads means someone who doesn’t live in one place but moves from place to place. The nomads didn’t farm, but instead moved around and herded animals. They used the food from these animals to survive. They also hunted instead of staying in one place and farming. 

Since the nomads needed to move with the animals, they had a completely different type of society and order. They needed to hunt animals or trade for them.  This led to the nomads trading with the Chinese or in many cases attacking them. 

The nomadic tribes often came into contact with the Chinese farmers.  Sometimes it was friendly and they would trade with each other.  But often, they did not get along.  The nomadic people wanted to use the farmland to hunt and move around, but the farm people wanted more land to farm. This led to battles between the farmers and the nomads.  The farming kingdoms also often fought each other for control of different territories. This is why this period of history in China is known as the “Warring States Period.”

To help avoid attacks, many of the kingdoms built walls to defend themselves.  The walls were made out of rocks and compacted dirt that was tamped very tightly to form the structure.  These walls were shorter versions of the Great Wall of China that was later built.  They stretched between the border of different regions and often included towers, block houses for soldiers and beacons to send smoke signals.

When Emperor Chin became emperor, he wanted to put a stop to the fighting between different farming kingdoms.  He declared that all of these kingdoms were now part of one country called China.  But the nomadic people that lived outside the area didn’t care about this.  They continued to attack the farming areas. 

To help stop these attacks and to continue to unite the new country, the Emperor ordered that the walls between different states be removed and that the shorter walls that existed along the northern border of China be joined together to form one long wall.  Emperor Qin thought that this would also help protect them against attacks from the north where China’s biggest enemy lived — Mongolia. The Mongolians were fierce fighters and very dangerous to the Chinese.

The project of building the Great Wall was a huge task requiring a lot of work.  Emperor Qin ordered his army to work on the wall, so much of it was constructed by soldiers.  But they needed even more workers to get the job done.  So Emperor Qin ordered that prisoners work on the wall as well.  This is called “forced labour,” which is when someone is forced to do a job without getting paid. It was hard work and estimated that around 400,000 workers died while building the wall.  

Conditions were probably very difficult due to the long stretches of mountains and desert where the Wall was built.  Today, there are some areas of the Great Wall where no one lives because the conditions are so difficult and there are some parts where the winters are so cold that no one goes there in the winter.  Can you imagine having to work on building a large wall in those conditions?

Because much of the wall is built with rammed earth, most of the materials that they used to build the wall could be found right where they were building.  However, some additional supplies and workers had to travel a far way to get to the wall. This made construction even more difficult. Sometimes the young men that were forced to build the wall had to haul boats loaded with baggage upstream in rivers in order to bring food to the workers.  The work was so hard that many people tried to escape and sneak away back to the city or to their hometowns.  Many individuals died in the wilderness trying to escape because the conditions were hard to survive and the journey home was so long. 

Eventually, people living in the newly united China started to revolt against the Qin dynasty.  To revolt means to fight against and overthrow.  Emperor Qin was a strict ruler and not everyone agreed with his rules. As Emperor Qin lost the support of the Chinese people over time, there were less and less soldiers that were willing to go out to work on the wall.  They stopped listening to his orders and as a result, the construction of the wall slowed down. 

Later Chinese rulers carried on the construction and eventually the wall was finished.  This included the Han, Sui, Northern, Jin and Ming Dynasties.  Each repaired, rebuilt or expanded the wall.  During the Ming Dynasty, major rebuilding work took place and sections of the wall that were originally built with dirt were replaced with bricks and stone instead.  These new materials helped the wall to last longer in good shape. 

One of the first mentions of a wall built against northern invaders is found in a poem, dated seventh century BC.  It is recorded in the ancient Chinese book of Classic Poetry. 

In 221 BC, when Qin Shi Huang united the Chinese states, the walls were known as “Changcheng” which literally means “long walls”.  The walls were mostly constructed of tamped earth, which some parts built with stones. Where natural barriers, like ravines and rivers worked enough for defence, the walls were erected sparingly.  Often in addition to the wall, defensive systems like garrisons and beacon towers were built inside the wall and watchtowers on the outside at regular intervals. 

Unfortunately the Great Wall never totally prevented invaders from coming into China.  It was a useful way to stop raids.  But at several points throughout its history the Great Wall failed to stop enemies.  This included in 1644 when the Manchu Qing marched through the gates of Shanhai Pass and replaced the Ming dynasty as the new rulers of China.  But the Great Wall came to be seen as a symbol of the ongoing power and strength of the Chinese civilization. 

Eventually the Chinese were forced to move back from the northern part of China when the Mongolian people attacked in the north and conquered and took control of China.  The Mongols were led by Genghis Khan, a famous, violent leader. The Mongols didn’t need the Great Wall as much as the Chinese had in the past, but they assigned soldiers to man the wall in order to protect merchants and travelers travelling along the Silk Road trade routes. 

Eventually the Ming Dynasty took control of the area again.  During the Ming Dynasty, the Ming rules were very strong leaders and Chinese culture grew stronger. They built a lot of additional parts of the Great Wall including bridgets, temples and pagodas.  Pagodas are like western gazebos, or covered areas that people can sit under.

Between the 18th and 20th centuries, the Great Wall became the most common symbol of China for the Western world. Today, the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive building feats in human history. In 1987, UNESCO, an international heritage organization, designated the Great Wall a World Heritage site.  At the time, it was the only man-made structure that could be visible from space!

In modern times, thousands of tourists visit the Great Wall of China.  The most popular part of the wall and the most famous is called Badaling.  It runs 43 miles northwest of Beijing.  Would you like to see the Great Wall of China one day?  If you do, think of all of the people that worked to build and maintain the wall throughout time.  Walking along the Great Wall of China, you will surely be walking along part of history!

Quiz

  1. When was the Great Wall of China built? Over 2,000 years ago. 
  2. How long does the wall run? More than 13,000 miles across northern China
  3. Why was this wall built?  To unify the new Chinese state and keep out northern invaders.
  4. Which emperor ordered the unified construction of the northern wall? Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the 3rd century B.C.  
  5. What is the difference between farmers and nomadic people?  Farmers stay largely in one place and grow their food; Nomadic people hunt animals and move with them as they move.
  6. Who was the biggest threat to the new Chinese kingdom when it was unified?  The Mongolian people to the north.
  7. What was the Great Wall originally made of? Rammed earth and stones.
  8. Who was the leader of the Mongolian people when they attacked and conquered China?  Genghis Khan
  9. Can the Great Wall be seen from space? Yes!
  10. What is the most famous stretch of the Great Wall that runs northwest of Beijing called? Badaling

Activities

  1. Print a map of Asia and color the area of China in red. Color the area of Mongolia north of China purple.   
  2. On your map, draw a line where you think the Great Wall of China runs.  Now look up a picture on the internet.  See how close you were with your guess. 
  3. Draw a picture of the Great Wall close up.  Include a watch tower or a pagoda.  What else could you add to help fortify, or strengthen, your defence of the wall?
  4. Tea – Legend has it that around 2737 B.C., a Chinese ruler was sitting in his garden.  He had a pot of drinking water at his elbow.  A leaf fell from a nearby tree and drifted into the pot of water.  This inspired the creation of tea!  Tea is a very popular drink in China. Together with an adult, make a pot of tea for your family.  You will need boiling water, tea leaves, a teapot and strainer.  Try some different flavors of tea.  What is your favorite?  Why do you think tea helped keep Chinese people and other tea drinkers healthy throughout history? [answer: boiling water is good for hygiene, killing bacteria]
  5. Food – In ancient China, people ate rice, soybeans, cucumbers, pork and chicken.  Look up a recipe for a stir-fry using some of these ingredients.  Together with a parent, try cooking a traditional Chinese meal for your family.

The History of the Spanish Armada and Queen Elizabeth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a farmer living in England long ago. Your family is poor, but you all work hard to make sure you have enough food to eat everyday. Everyone is outside and working on the farm. Your dog is running around and playing. The land around you is green and beautiful. The ocean is nearby and the air is salty with its smell. Suddenly your dog begins to bark. You look up. He is running toward the ocean and barking. In the distance you see the white sails of a very big ship. You drop your tools and follow everyone to the water. More ships appear through the fog. Now there are dozens of ships and soon hundreds of ships. It’s the largest armada of ships you have ever seen and their sails have the red cross of Spain. Because it’s Spain, the enemy of England, you know this can’t be good! The Spanish Armada has come ready for an invasion.

In the 1800s Spain was one of the most powerful countries in the world. It was called “the empire on which the sun never sets,” because Spain had conquered and controlled many places across the globe including the Americas and the Caribbean. The Spanish Empire was one of the first world empires. It was ruled by King Phillip the 2nd, who wasn’t afraid to use his large navy of ships and his army to make Spain more powerful. But by the 1850s other countries in Europe were beginning to challenge Spain’s world power. One of those countries was England. England was a small island, but was beginning to strengthen its own navy and grow in power. It was led by Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry the 8th. She was a strong queen who wasn’t afraid to go up against King Phillip, even though in many ways Spain was bigger and stronger. Queen Elizabeth wanted to beat Spain, but couldn’t take them head on, because they’d lose in a traditional battle, so instead she worked with privateers to attack Spanish ships. “Privateers” were similar to pirates, but they usually had the permission of someone powerful like a king or queen. A daring sailor named Sir Francis Drake became Queen Elizabeth’s favorite privateer. 

Sir Francis Drake was born in Plymouth, England in 1596. At a young age he started working with his relatives, the Hawkins Family, who were merchants, which means they shipped and traded goods by boat. During one of the voyages to San Juan their ships were attacked by Spain and Drake barely made it back to England alive. To get revenge, Drake began finding ways to get back at Spain by plundering its ships and attacking their settlements around the world — places like the Carribean, where Spain owned land and kept its money. 

Sir Francis Drake was very adventurous and was determined to sail his ships all the way around the world. Ferdindand Megallan had done it first in 1519, but Drake believed he could do it again. With the help of Queen Elizabeth Drake set off with 5 ships and 200 sailors. From the start the journey did not go well. Many sailors died and they had to scuttle some of the ships, which means sink them and leave them behind. Some of his sailors also mutineed, which means they wanted to be in control of the voyage instead of him. 

When Drake and his sailors reached South America, they took advantage of the situation to get back at Spain. They attacked Spanish settlements and ships and filled their ships with bars of gold and silver, pearls, Spanish silver coins and precious stones. But as they continued on they encountered more problems while crossing the Pacific Ocean. Drake and his sailors didn’t know if they would survive, but they kept going, against all odds, and after 2 years of sailing around the world returned to England with only 1 ship remaining and 56 sailors! In England Queen Elizabeth congratulated Drake for completing the voyage and made him a knight.

King Phillip of Spain was angry at Queen Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake for attacking his settlements and ships. He was also upset because they were helping the Netherlands in his war with them. For this reason King Phillip decided to put them in their place by sending an armada of his ships to attack England. An armada is a large group (or fleet of warships). Once the armada landed its troops they would invade England, take control, and remove Queen Elizabeth from power. On May 28th 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail for England. The armada was HUGE! with 130 warships, 8,000 sailors and 13,000 soldiers. It took two full days for all of the ships to leave port.

Fortunately for the English, storms and other bad weather slowed the ships from attacking and some had to turn back to Spain. But by July the huge armada of Spanish ships could be seen off the coast of England. You can imagine what the people of England thought when they saw this armada coming to invade their country! 

But England wasn’t going down without a fight! When the armada arrived the English ships were armed and ready for battle. Sir Francis Drake was captain of his ship called The Revenge. The English had more ships, but they were smaller with less firepower. In many ways it looked like they would lose to the bigger and more powerful Spain. The first cannon fired! Explosions thundered across the water. Black smoke and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. Sailors loaded the cannons with gunpowder and shoved a cannonball in the front. Then they aimed at the enemy ship and fired! To Spain’s surprise the English ships were smaller, but much faster! 

They dodged around the huge Spanish galleons and took shots at them from all sides. The Spanish cannons couldn’t keep up with them. Spain’s tactic would be to get as close as they could, throw hooks onto the other ship, pull them close, and climb aboard and fight hand-to-hand. But the English knew they couldn’t win that battle, so they kept their distance and fired from afar. The English cannons shot much further, so they were able to hit the Spanish ships from far away.

During one battle two Spanish ships accidentally crashed into each other, so they were unusable. All of the sailors climbed onto another ship and left these ships behind. Drake noticed the abandoned ships, so that night he turned off all his lanterns on his ship and sailed past the enemy ships through the darkness. Then he snuck onto the abandoned ships and took all of the extra gunpowder and guns to be used in the next day’s battle.

The battle continued through the following days. Ships on each side fired their cannon. Sailors reloaded the cannons, waited for their captains word, and fired. More explosions and black smoke. Ships were damaged on both sides, but the English kept fighting. From the ocean they could see their island home they loved and would not back down. Soon their allies the Dutch joined in and fired their cannons at the Spanish armada, too.

After one day’s battle, the Spanish took a rest for the night and anchored their ships closely together. This gave Sir Francis Drake and the other captains an idea. They picked out eight of their ships and filled them with pitch, brimstone, gunpowder and tar. This made them very flammable. Then they lit the ships on fire and sailed them directly at the Spanish ships. When the Spanish saw the flaming ships sailing toward them they panicked and quickly got to work moving their own. Fortunately for the Spanish, none of their own ships were burned, but it did break their formation giving the English an advantage. 

The next day was a long and dangerous battle. Throughout the day the English had the advantage with their small, quick ships which fired from long range and badly damaged the Spanish ships. During the battle, many sailors were lost on both sides. 

A broadside is when a ship pulls alongside another ship and opens fire. The English did this all day long until the Spanish ships were badly damaged and couldn’t fight back. The Spanish knew they were beat and by the end of the day finally retreated. This famous battle became known as the Battle of Gravelines and went down in history as the day that the powerful Spanish Armada was defeated. No longer would Spain rule the seas and the world with its powerful navy. 

After the battle was over, Queen Elizabeth dressed in armor and rode out to congratulate the sailors for their victory. She told them that the strength of England lie in its people, and that they would never bow down to an invading enemy. Instead they would take up arms and fight for their freedoms. 

England won because of its faster, lighter ships and its long range cannons. Their ship engineers, called shipwrights, continued to design faster ships and better cannons. Over time they became the most powerful navy in the world and like Spain before, became a world-wde empire known as the British Empire. 

History of Albert Einstein for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine a short man with gray and white hair that sticks up off his head and grows in all directions. He has a big mustache and wears a coat that is rumpled, pants that are short, and socks that don’t match. But he has a kind smile on his face and deep, thoughtful eyes. This is what Albert Einstein looked like. And it might be easy to judge him by his funny appearance, but Einstein is one of the most famous scientists of all time. And many of his big ideas changed the world! But where did Albert Einstein come from? What was his childhood like? What was his life like? Listen closely, because it all starts in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879 when Albert was born.

Albert was quiet and very shy as a child. It took him longer to say his first words than most kids. His parents thought this meant there was something wrong with him. They took him to the doctor, but the doctor said everything was just fine. As a child, Albert liked to play by himself. He played with blocks and built towers of cards. He was very curious and often sat and just day-dreamed. His parents thought this meant he had some kind of problem, but really he just liked to sit and think and dream and make things on his own. 

Albert also liked the play the violin. Often he and his mother played together. Albert’s mind was always imagining and wondering about the world around him. He went to school, but wasn’t learning the things that interested him, so he started searching for answers on his own. He read and found many of his answers in books and by asking others. His parents began to see how curious and bright he was and appreciate his talents, even though he was quiet and shy. 

In high school, Albert struggled in school. Kids had to sit perfectly still, wear uniforms, and march in line. If they asked questions they were punished. His teachers told his parents he’d never do anything useful in life because he was so disobedient by asking questions and speaking out of turn. These years were very frustrating for Albert, because he was curious and wanted to learn. Math was one of his favorite subjects. His parents found a book about geometry, the study of shapes, and he taught it to himself. 

Eventually, Albert was told to leave his school, because he refused to stop asking questions and wouldn’t blindly obey his teachers. He moved with his family to Italy and there spent his time hiking in the mountains and learning on his own. He read about great scientists and astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo who had great ideas. But because their ideas were different than what was believed, they were treated poorly. Albert understood these scientists because he felt he was being treated the same way. In Italy, he wrote his first scientific paper, but it received very little attention because he was young and no one thought someone his age would have great ideas. In Italy, he decided to move to Zurich Switzerland to study physics.

There he loved the Swiss people and his new college. He was able to ask tough questions and talk about them with his classmates. There he met a woman named Mileva who was also a big thinker. They enjoyed their time together and were later married. 

In Switzerland, Albert started working at the patent office. When someone comes up with an idea for a new invention, they draw up the plans and get a patent — which means no one else can take their idea. Albert’s job was to read about all of the new inventions and approve them. He enjoyed this job and was able to work so fast that he could take off early and spend time hiking and thinking. These were some of Albert’s happiest years of his life. So many marvelous ideas came to him at this time. He started writing scientific papers about his ideas and published five of them. These included big ideas about space travel and electricity. Albert was known for wearing the same wrinkled clothes every day and didn’t comb his hair, so it stuck up all over the place. He liked to spend time deep in thought rather than taking care of himself. People began to know him for his big ideas and recognized him for his funny appearance.

As Albert became more popular, he finally got his dream job — teaching physics for the university. Now he was able to spend all of his time thinking and teaching his students. The students loved their quirky professor. He was able to take difficult ideas and explain them in a simple way.

One of his big ideas was called The Theory of Relativity. This idea was that all things move at different speeds except for light. Think about how as a car passes it’s moving at a different speed as it drives by. But if you’re inside the car it doesn’t appear to be moving at all. So speed is “relative” to where you are. Another example is that the Earth is flying around the sun and spinning at incredible speeds, but because you’re standing on the Earth it doesn’t appear to be moving at all.

 Another of Einstein’s big idea was that not only are the planets moving around the Sun, but the Sun is moving through the galaxy as well, it just doesn’t appear to move because our planet is moving around it.

Some funny things about Albert is that even though he was a scientific genius he was often absent-minded, which means he forgot simple things. For example, often when he went out he forgot his keys, lost his bags, and forgot to eat. He was so focused on what went on in his wonderful brain that he often didn’t consider what was going on around him. He found simpler ways to live his life, so he could focus all his energy on thinking. For example, he wore the same clothes every day and only buttoned his top button because it took less time and energy. He often wore socks that didn’t match, his clothes were rumpled and his hair stuck all over the place. But his fans loved it and people all over the world talked about this brilliant, quirky genius.

Albert’s next job took him back to Germany, but over the years he and his wife were growing apart. He was so busy being a professor and speaking around the world that he didn’t give Mileva and his children the time they needed. Mileva decided not to move him and they divorced. Albert admitted he was not always a good father and chose writing his papers and teaching over his family responsibilities. 

While Albert was living in Germany, World War I started. He was sad to see soldiers marching down the street because he knew what war did to people. He refused to support the war and the leaders of Germany were upset at him. He could have gone to jail, but he stood up for his beliefs anyway. When World War I ended Albert was very happy.

In Germany, Albert met a woman named Elsa. They grew close and she spent her time taking care of him, making sure he ate and shaved and didn’t lose his keys. They were married. Albert loved Elsa and she loved him. 

By this time, Albert was so popular it made his life difficult. You might think being popular is a great thing, but for people who are very famous, you can’t walk anywhere without people talking to you or wanting a picture or asking for your autograph. Albert loved being alone, so this was very hard for him. He was offered a lot of money to speak and do other things, but he refused. For him, his research and his ideas were more important than money or fame.

Sadly, new problems began in Germany. Albert Einstein was Jewish, which is a race and religion. Many Jews who lived in Germany wrote to Albert and asked him to defend them because they were being treated badly. Their shops were taken from them and they were often beaten up by non-Jews. The Nazis, who had taken control of Germany, falsely blamed all their problems on the Jewish people. They burned their books and many Jews started leaving Germany. Albert spoke out against the Nazis and refused to leave even though his life was at risk. Hitler, the powerful leader of the Nazis, said Albert was a spy and eventually Albert realized it was too dangerous for him to stay. He and Elsa moved to the United States and became a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. 

Albert’s years at Princeton were hard. He was sad to see what was happening to Jews in Germany. Then sadly Elsa died. Albert often kept to himself and played his violin. He also didn’t have as many big ideas as when he was younger.

One of Albert’s most famous ideas was an equation, E = MC2. It basically said that all things are energy. Even the hard walls around you, your body, mass are energy, too, but just in a different form. He also had the idea that if an atom could be broken it would cause a HUGE explosion, called a nuclear explosion. He worried that the Nazis might create a nuclear bomb and use it against the United States and her Allies. Even though he hated the idea that such a weapon would ever be used, he wrote President Roosevelt and told him that the United States must create the bomb first. Eventually, the United States did create an atomic bomb and used it against its enemy Japan. For the rest of his life, Albert wondered whether he should have ever shared his ideas about a nuclear bomb. But he also thought the consequence of the Nazis making it first would be even worse. 

After World War II ended, Einstein spent many years speaking out against atomic bombs. The United States and Russia had made thousands of them and it made the world a very dangerous place. Fortunately, after World War II nuclear bombs were never used. 

Albert Einstein spent the last years of his life growing old while living in Princeton, New Jersey. His hair was now white and grew widely in all directions. He was still a quirky and funny sight to see with his rumpled, mismatched clothes. He continued to play his violin and go on walks around his home. He often stopped to help people in need or invite them into his home. He was a very gentle, kind person who had changed the world with his ideas but didn’t care about money or being famous. He just wanted the world to be a peaceful place. On April 17, 1955 Einstein passed away while thinking through a problem and writing equations on a piece of paper. To his last day, he was a thinker! 

Spend a moment thinking about what it was like to be Albert. When he was young he loved to go on walks and observe the world around him. He saw everything through the eyes of wonder and curiosity. The world to him was an exciting, mysterious place. He loved to understand how it worked and dream about how the parts he didn’t understand might work. His imagination led to some of his amazing ideas. You can wonder, too. Remember in the times when you might be bored, it’s ok to be bored. Say it out loud “it’s ok to bored!” When you’re bored, you can take a deep breath and look closely at the world around you. It’s the perfect chance to see things with new eyes. 

Even though Einstein became very famous, he didn’t care about having lots of money and expensive things. He wanted the world to be fair and peaceful. He also wasn’t perfect. No one really is. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Einstein wasn’t a very good father, but he ended up helping the world in many other ways. 

If you want to learn more about Albert Einstein we shared our favorite videos and books on our website, BedtimeHistoryStories.com. Be sure to check it out.

History of Athens and Sparta for Kids

Greek Parthenon

Close your eyes and imagine you’re walking down an ancient, stone road. In the distance, you hear music and the voices of people gathering and singing songs. You join the crowd along the road and slowly walk up a very tall hill. At the top of the hill is a magnificent white building supported by gigantic marble pillars. People are streaming into the building as they clap their hands, sing and celebrate. Inside the temple, you gaze up at an enormous statue of Athena, the greek god who protects your city. You place a wreath of flowers and food at her feet as an offering. Others around you do the same. Today is Panathenia, the festival celebrating Athena’s birthday. It’s the most important holiday of the year in the city of Athens.

Tonight we’re going to learn about Athens and Sparta, two of the earliest civilizations in Western History. Athens and Sparta were located in what is now known as Greece in Europe on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Around 2,500 years ago Greece had over 1,000 city-states. A city-state was like a very small country. Athens and Sparta were two of the most powerful. At the time the Persian Empire controlled Greece and many of the city-states. But the Greek city-states wanted to be free of Persian rule, so they went to war and eventually beat the Persians during the Battle of Marathon. After the Greco-Persian War Athens and Sparta grew in number of people and in wealth.

Even though they lived nearby each other, the people of Athens and Sparta couldn’t be more different. The people of Athens were known for their love of wisdom and subjects such as philosophy, history, science, and art. The word philosophy is a Greek word that means “love of wisdom.” The earliest and most famous philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were Greek. They spent their days studying the world around them and reflecting on their own thoughts. One of Socrates most famous quotes was an “unexamined life is not worth living,” which means we should focus on trying to understand our own thoughts and motivations and trying to make sense of the world around us. Inscribed on the Temple of Delphi were the words: “know thyself.” As we come to understand our own minds and intentions, we can improve ourselves and likewise the world around us. The philosopher Aristotle was known for studying nature and making observations about it. He was fascinated by the world around him. 

During its Golden Age Athens formed one of the first democratic governments, which means large groups of people made decisions for their city-state rather than a single ruler. This style of government was ahead of its time and later influenced the democratic governments we enjoy today, ruled by the people instead of a king. One of their leaders was named Pericles. Pericles was a talented speaker who loved wisdom and was known for thinking rationally, which means making decisions based on truth rather than strong emotions. The people loved Pericles and he led them to make good decisions for Athens. Most children were able to attend school and taxes were used to make the city a better place. The Athenians built beautiful temples to the Greek gods. The Parthenon was the most famous temple whose ruins can still be seen today on Acropolis Hill. Inside the Parthenon, they built sculptures of the goddess Athena and Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. 

The Athenians wrote stories about their gods, which became known as Greek Mythology. Each of the gods had personalities and behaved like humans. Sometimes they were angry, sometimes they were happy, and even threw parties. In the stories, the gods fought wars and often used humans to do the fighting for them. The Athenians used their gods to explain acts of nature like hurricanes and the crash of thunder. The stories often also included moral stories to teach how people should behave. Some of the other well-known gods were Poseidon, god of the sea, Hera, goddess of marriage and family, and Ares, god of war. 

The theater was also very popular in Athens. The people loved to gather and watch plays and listen to songs and music. Some of the great playwrights of the time were Sophocles, Euripedes, Aeschylus (ES-kul-us), and Aristophane. 

The Athenians loved art and wisdom, but to protect themselves and secure their freedoms, they also built a powerful navy. A navy was important because Greece was located on the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by islands and other coastal city-states, which often attacked each other. Athen’s navy was made up of triremes (tri-remes), huge wooden warships that carried 170 rowers manning 3 banks of oars. The ships were 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. At one point Athens had over 400 warships and 80,000 sailors that protected their coasts. All young men joined the military when they were 18.

Athens wasn’t the only powerful city-state in Greece at the time. Sparta was another very powerful city-state, but they couldn’t be more different than their neighbors. The Spartans were ruled by two kings and a small group of leaders who controlled the people by force. They prized military strength above all else. They were all about being strong and dangerous — a true warrior society. At the age of 7, Spartans joined a military school called the Agoge (ah-go-gey), that trained to be tough and fierce. They went everywhere barefoot, so their feet could be strong. They ate bland food and wore uncomfortable clothes to toughen them. They learned how to wrestle and fight as soldiers. They were taught self-control and to be courageous in the face of danger. All Spartans were expected to devote their lives to their city-state above all their personal wants and needs.

Sparta was made up of three groups: the Spartans, who were full citizens and full-time soldiers, the Helots, who were slaves to the Spartans, and the Perioeci (peer-ee-oh-see), skilled craftsmen who built things such as homes and weapons of war.

Spartan soldiers were called hoplites. In battle, they wore bronze helmets, breastplates, and red cloaks. They carried large round shields, and a spear or sword. They were truly fierce warriors and were known for their tight fighting formation called a phalanx. In a phalanx, hoplites stood close together with their shields overlapping to form a single wall of armor. Then they attacked together as one body. 

One of the most famous Spartans was King Leonidas, who led his army against the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae. According to Greek historians, when Leonidas saw they were losing he sent most of his troops home, but stayed with 300 soldiers to fight a much larger army of Persians for three days. Leonidas and the other Spartans fought bravely, but the Persians found a way around them and eventually won. Even though Leonidas and his army lost, they would forever be remembered for their courage to continue fighting even when they were outnumbered.  

Spartan women were known for being strong-minded and independent. They were also expected to be fit and physically strong. They received some education and competed in games such as javelin throwing and wrestling. They also enjoyed dancing and singing and were able to own their own property, which wasn’t common in other parts of Greece.

Sadly, Sparta and Athens didn’t get along. As they grew more powerful, Athens tried to control the other city-states like Sparta, who wouldn’t stand for it. In 431 B.C. Sparta and its allies attacked Athens in what became known as The Peloponnesian War. Athens had a strong navy, but Sparta was stronger on land and besieged Athens. A siege is when one army surrounds the city of its enemy. During the siege a plague also hit Athens and many of its people didn’t survive, making the city even weaker. Surprisingly, Athens survived the siege, but the war went on another 15 years. Athens tried to use its navy to beat Sparta, but in 405 B.C. the Spartan general Lysander and his armies finally beat Athen’s navy and besieged the city once again. This time they conquered. Athens had to surrender and join the new Spartan Empire. 

Eventually Sparta faced its own problems, like the revolt of its slave class who didn’t want to be ruled anymore. By around 300 B.C. the more powerful empire of Alexander the Great conquered Greece and the Sparta, too. 

Even though Athens lost the war against Sparta, their ideas about philosophy and history and science and art spread throughout Greece and beyond. Later the Roman Empire admired Greek thought and culture and it’s beautiful sculptures were admired through the ages. During the Renaissance Greek culture was rediscovered by the Italians and once again the philosophy of Socrates and Plato was read. In fact, you can read their writings today and they have formed the foundation of modern philosophy.

Tonight think about the values of each of these amazing groups of people. Neither were perfect, but you can take what is best about them and apply it to your own life. The Athenians loved the mind and wisdom. What does it mean to you to “know yourself”? Spend some time thinking about your own thoughts and why you do things or maybe why you were upset about something the other day. As you come to know yourself first, you can better manage yourself, and in turn help those around you.

Also think about Aristotle and how curious he was about the world around him. He studied every living thing he saw: the sky, the trees, the birds and other animals. He made observations about them and continued learning and sharing his ideas with others. 

The Greeks loved beauty and found ways to express it through their sculptures. You could do the same by drawing beautiful things around you.

The Spartans were dangerous and aggressive, but we can take their values of courage, strength and apply them to ourselves. Spartan children didn’t always get what they wanted, this taught them to have self-control. Sometimes when we get everything we want, we don’t appreciate things as much. They also found ways to strengthen their bodies by running and swimming and doing sports. It’s important to keep your own body strong and healthy. Think of ways you can be physically fit like a Spartan.

Spartans also had courage and continued to fight even when they were outnumbered. The struggles you face may not always be physical, it may just be a problem you’re trying to solve or something you’re trying to be better at, but you can continue trying and persevering even when it seems like you can’t win.

May you have the mind and heart of an Athenian and the strength and courage of a Spartan!