Can You Defeat This WWII Quiz?


By: Gavin Thagard

6 Min Quiz

Image: U.S. National Archives / Army Signal Corps / Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

From the start of the war in 1939 until the Empire of Japan finally surrendered in 1945, the Second World War resulted in the most deaths and global devastation in human history, as it's estimated that over 50 million people were killed in the conflict. Are you an expert on the ins and outs of this deadly war? Here's a quiz where you can find out.

The after effects of World War I, along with the economic depression that hit the world in the 1930s, created the perfect breeding ground for another major conflict to emerge. In fact, the signs of the coming war were present well before the latter half of the '30s. When war finally erupted and countries picked sides, there was no turning back until one side gave an unconditional surrender. Surrender finally came in 1945, as the Allies managed a string of massive victories against the Axis Powers. 

How much do you know about the growing conflict, the war and the aftermath of it all? Can you recall the names of the most important battles and figures from the war? Do you know how WWII changed the way battles are fought? 

When you're ready to test your knowledge on the Second World War, give this quiz a shot and see if you can blow it out of the water.

Tensions were already high by 1939, but the conflict reached the point of no return when Germany first invaded which country?

Even prior to the invasion of Poland, Germany made moves to strengthen its position in Europe and prepare for a coming conflict. These moves included annexing Austria and forming an alliance with Italy and Japan. Great Britain and France watched as the future war machine built itself up.


Adolf Hitler rose to power as the leader of which German political party?

Adolf Hitler rose to power in a devastated Germany that was looking for answers to their economic woes after World War I. Through charisma, antisemitism and promises of rebuilding Germany, Hitler was able to use the internal discord in the country to propel the Nazi Party to the forefront of German politics.


Knowing a war on two fronts could harm their cause, Germany made which agreement with Russia to not attack each other?

In the long run, Germany did not plan on sticking to the Nonaggression Pact made with Russia. However, Germany knew it had to keep Russia on the sidelines at the start of the war, particularly with the invasion of Poland and the decision to conquer France.


What's the name of the military strategy Germany used to quickly take France, forcing an armistice agreement?

Blitzkrieg involved the use of motorized weaponry, such as tanks, to quickly overwhelm the opposition into surrender. The strategy was effective for Germany because they did not have the resources for a drawn-out war.


During the Battle of Britain, the United Kingdom was saved from a full German invasion because of what?

Britain was on the verge of collapse in 1940, as Germany tried to press its position across the English Channel. When discussing the role of the Royal Air Force in defending Britain, Winston Churchill said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."


The United States was launched into WWII after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, sinking how many U.S. battleships?

Japan launched the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 in an attempt to cripple the United States Pacific Fleet before it became involved in the war. The Japanese managed to hit all eight battleships in the harbor, sinking four of them. However, all U.S. carriers were out of the harbor at the time, saving the Pacific Fleet from complete destruction.


Why did Adolf Hitler believe Germany had a right to regain land from Czechoslovakia?

As Adolf Hitler sought to liberate Germans living in Czechoslovakia, Britain sent Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to negotiate a settlement as to not start another European war. Initially, the negotiations appeared to work out, and Chamberlain returned to Britain with the assurance that the German expansion would go no further. That was not the case, of course.


To counter the British naval blockade, which country did Germany invade?

Launched under code name "Operation Weserubung," Germany's invasion of Norway was a strategic move that provided Germany with a coastline to control the North Atlantic. It also set up a buffer between Britain and Sweden, which Germany relied on for supplies of iron ore.


Who led the exiled French government known as Free France?

Serving in World War I, where he was wounded and taken prisoner, Charles de Gaulle had plenty of military experience that prepared him for the Second World War. When France sought an armistice agreement at the start of the war, de Gaulle was one of the main opponents, encouraging his French brethren to fight instead.


What was the main city affected by the Blitz bombing campaign launched by the Germans?

Germany believed that a bombing campaign against Britain's most important city would hurt British morale for the war. Though the initial strikes were successful, Germany eventually had to turn to surprise night bombing, as Britain had effectively countered their attacks during the day.


Germany, Italy and Japan signed which agreement to unite against the Allied forces?

The Tripartite Pact divided the world into two spheres of influence. Japan was given control over Greater East Asia, while Germany and Italy were allowed to take control of Europe.


The German armed forces known as the Wehrmacht consisted of an army known as what?

The Heer was the result of Adolf Hitler's policy of rearmament, which was significantly expanded with the rise of the Nazi Party in 1933. The successful rebuild of the German army was one of the reasons the country was so successful in achieving short, decisive victories early in the war.


Which country did Italy invade to start the Western Desert Campaign?

Though there were skirmishes along the border of Egypt, both Italy and Britain played it safe at the start of the North African Campaign. However, with the surrender of France in 1940, Italy finally felt confident enough to launch an attack against the British in Egypt, though supply problems eventually halted their advancement.


What was the codename for the German invasion of Russia in 1941?

With 3 million soldiers and over 3,000 tanks, the German invasion of Russia hit the Russians by surprise due to the treaty the two countries had signed. The invasion proved costly for both sides, resulting in over 20 million deaths.


Where did Russia achieve its first victory after the German invasion?

Though the Soviet forces in Moscow managed to hold off a German offensive against the city, it was at Stalingrad that the Russians managed to land a decisive defeat against the Germans. The victory came after the Russian winter set in, starving and freezing many of the German invaders.


Nationalism was at an all-time high in Italy under which dictator?

Benito Mussolini spent his younger years working as a journalist, where he promoted socialist ideas that often sought to incite violence. He eventually split from the Socialist Party and started his own newspaper, where he continued to promote the overthrow of the Italian government.


Which U.S. general served as the supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe?

A major contributor to the Allied victory in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the most popular men in America when the war came to an end in 1945. Though Eisenhower opposed the presidency, he was eventually talked into running because of the demand for his leadership across the country.


D-Day was one of the largest amphibious invasions, but where did it take place?

On June 6, 1944, over 150,000 soldiers from America, Britain and Canada landed on the beaches of Normandy. The Germans had the beaches heavily fortified, but they did not know where the landing would take place, forcing German units to remain stationed elsewhere.


Operation Uranus was launched by which country to encircle the German Sixth Army?

When the German Sixth Army finally surrendered to the Russians, the bloody fighting and starvation had taken its toll, but around 90,000 German soldiers were still alive. However, of those captured, only 5,000 would make it out of the Russian prison camps alive.


Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin met where to discuss the plan to defeat Germany in 1943?

The Tehran Conference gave the three great leaders of the United States, Britain and Russia the first opportunity to meet and discuss how to address both the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific. They decided that the war in Europe should be handled first, then they could focus their efforts on the Empire of Japan.


During which battle did Germany launch its final major offensive campaign against the Allies?

In his final attempt to re-secure Europe, Adolf Hitler aimed to split the Allied army by using a surprise blitzkrieg. The initial assault was successful, but General George Patton managed to move the Third Army to Bastogne, where they staved off the German attack.


Where did the Allies land troops during Operation Torch?

By the end of 1942, the Soviets were being hammered hard by the German advancement into their country. In an effort to relieve their new ally, the other Allied nations landed troops in North Africa to divert German forces away from the Eastern Front.


Despite the surrender of Italy, which Italian city was still held by the Germans until it was liberated in June of 1944?

Italian rebels overthrew and arrested Benito Mussolini in 1943, but the Germans still held onto Northern Italy, with a particularly strong hold over Rome. When Allied forces finally took back Rome, the people of the city rushed out onto the streets to praise their liberators.


The United States managed to counter a Japanese surprise attack where in the Pacific that turned the tide of the Pacific Campaign?

After Japan failed to crush U.S. fleet carriers in the Pacific during the attack on Pearl Harbor, they devised a plan to draw them out into open waters and launch an ambush attack. Breaking the Japanese code signaling this attack, the United States was properly prepared and sunk four Japanese fleet carriers, decimating the Imperial Japanese Navy.


Japan captured which British colony in February of 1942 to complete the Malayan Campaign?

Following a two-month campaign to capture the Malayan Peninsula, the Empire of Japan finally set their eyes on Singapore, securing a victory in about 15 days. The British defeat and the surrender of around 80,000 troops was one of the most devastating losses in British history.


German General Dietrich von Choltitz defied Adolf Hitler by refusing to destroy which European city?

Paris was under the control of Nazi Germany for more than four years when it was finally liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division assisted by the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. Initially, there were plans to delay the liberation of the city, but General Charles de Gaulle demanded the plan be put forth or he would order the attack himself.


Do you know the name of the battle where aircraft carriers engaged one another for the first time without either ship seeing the other?

The Battle of the Coral Sea proved that aircraft carriers would be the future of warfare, as they became the most dominant force at sea. However, during the battle, both sides missed opportunities to land critical blows against their opponent, as they were just figuring out how an air-sea battle worked.


Who became President of the United States after the death of Franklin Roosevelt?

President Harry Truman became a critical figure in the post-war era after the defeat of Germany and Japan. He was particularly instrumental in developing the U.S. policy to contain communism, even leading the country into the Korean War in 1950.


Multiple Allied forces were rushing to reach Berlin, but who got there first?

Joseph Stalin pitted two of his military commanders, Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev, against one another as they advanced to capture Berlin. The goal here was to capture Berlin as quickly as possible so other Allied nations, especially the United States, could not claim the victory.


What was the name of the defensive line set up by the Germans to defend the western border of the country?

Made up of heavy fortifications, the Siegfried Line ran for more than 390 miles from Kleve in the north to Weil am Rhein in the south. The fortifications consisted of thick bunkers containing machine guns and tank traps made of concrete walls, mines and barbed wire.


Adolf Hitler held out in Berlin as the Allies advanced, but what finally happened to him?

Adolf Hitler held out in an underground bunker as the assault on Berlin commenced. As the city above him along with its people crumbled, Hitler took a cyanide capsule, then shot himself with a pistol.


After which battle was the photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of six marines raising the U.S. flag on top of a mountain?

As the war in the Pacific was coming to an end, the United States sought to capture Iwo Jima because of the three airfields located on the island. Since the island was so close to Japan, they hoped to use these airfields to launch an invasion of the Japanese mainland.


The first atomic bomb used against an enemy was dropped on which Japanese city, inflecting severe devastation?

The devastation initially caused by dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was significant, killing over 100,000 soldiers and civilians. However, the effects from the radiation after the bomb was dropped were just as devastating, causing tens of thousands of deaths in the months to come.


Escalating tensions that would define the second half of the 20th century, East Berlin was awarded to which European power at the end of WWII?

The division of Berlin was viewed as the division between democracy and communism that would come to define the Cold War era. Both the United States and the USSR became the two most dominant world powers during this time.


Which U.S. general was given control of Japan during the occupation when the war ended?

Overseeing Allied forces in the Pacific, Douglas MacArthur was given the honor of accepting Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945. When the war ended, he helped rebuild the Japanese economy and establish a new constitution in the country.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!