Can You Name the Most Memorable Events from WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: The Best Film Archives

About This Quiz

These days, Westerners can scarcely imagine fighting a war for the very existence of their countries. But as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” In a war for their very lives, the Axis and Allies confronted each other in countless ways. Do you think you remember the most memorable events of World War II in this battle-hardened quiz?

Even at the very beginning, the Nazis were manipulating events to justify their aggression. On August 31, 1939, German operatives staged the Gleiwitz incident, an “attack” on a German radio station that Hitler used as an excuse to invade Poland. It was a tiny, isolated act that gave rise to years of brutality in Europe.

In December 1941, the Empire of the Rising Sun smashed American battleships in Hawaii and sent Americans into a violent tizzy. This single event brought the United States into the war and shifted the balance of power between the Allies and the Axis. 

In this World War II quiz, we’ll see if you recall other major battles and moments that, in hindsight, became incredibly important to the war’s outcome. Grab your Tommy Gun and see if you can blast this quiz to pieces!

On September 1, 1939, which country invaded Poland, triggering the start of World War II in Europe?

On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s minions savagely invaded Poland and subdued the country within a month. The European theater of the war was underway.


What happened to Winston Churchill on May 10, 1940?

After the ineffectual hand-wringing of Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill was elevated to prime minister, and it was immediately clear that he had no patience for the likes of Hitler and his antics.


At the end of May 1940, the Allies performed a miraculous _____ at Dunkirk.

At the end of May 1940, British and French troops were trapped at the beaches of Dunkirk. But using many small civilian boats, hundreds of thousands of troops were evacuated to England, where they would live to fight again.


Which event prompted America to join the fighting?

On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The war that America tried to avoid was suddenly right there ... in the paradise of Hawaii.


Which amazing event was captured by a photographer at the Battle of Iwo Jima?

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, photographer Joe Rosenthal took an iconic picture of Marines raising an American flag. The photograph rejuvenated U.S. support of the Pacific War.


On June 14, 1940, which city did German troops occupy?

All of democracy shuddered in fear when German troops took Paris in June 1940. If Paris could land under Nazi control, what might become of the rest of the free world?


The Battle of Britain was an important fight that mostly involved _____.

Seeing as how Britain is a heavily fortified island, Hitler used bombers and fighters to attack in the Battle of Britain. It was a major air battle​ and a critical one that the Allies had to win.


In October 1941, German generals threw more than 1 million troops into the attack on which city?

By October 1941, Stalin and Hitler were definitely not BFFs anymore. Hitler ordered 1 million troops for the assault on Moscow — he didn’t just want to capture the capital, he wanted to obliterate it.


On March 11, 1942, what did American General Douglas MacArthur do?

That March day, MacArthur retreated from the Philippines in the face of a blistering Japanese invasion. He swore, though, that someday he’d be back.


Which force lost four aircraft carriers at the 1942 Battle of Midway?

Codebreakers gained valuable insights on Japan’s preparations for the Battle of Midway, and the U.S. sprung a trap. Four Japanese carriers sank into the depths, and suddenly America’s Navy had some breathing room in the Pacific.


What was the Phoney War?

After Germany invaded Poland, France and Britain declared war ... and nothing happened. Then in the spring of 1940, Germany started up the war machine again.


During the war, what happened to President Roosevelt?

The extreme stress of the war (and the Great Depression) took their toll on the president. He died just before the war ended, and Harry Truman replaced him.


Operation Barbarossa marked which major event?

In June 1941, the Germans embarked on Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. In the end, the offensive would kill millions and millions of troops and civilians.


Which weapon made a major impression at the Battle of Kursk?

In the summer of 1943, the Germans and Soviets fought at the Battle of Kursk, which featured many thousands of tanks. The Soviet line held, and then began conducting its own major offensives.


What did the Trinity test do?

On July 16, 1945, the Trinity test in New Mexico detonated the first nuclear weapon in human history. But it would be far from the last.


Beginning in August 1942, a great battle consumed which huge city?

In August 1942, the Germans decided to capture Stalingrad. There was just one problem — the Soviets wouldn’t give it up. Millions of people perished in the fighting that lasted until February ... and the Soviets held on.


One September 3, 1943, which country surrendered to the Allies?

On September 3, 1943, nearly four years to the date of the start of WWII, Germany’s ally, Italy, surrendered. Europe no longer seemed like a lost cause for the Allies.


On June 6, 1944, the Allies used more than ______ ships as part of the D-Day landings at Normandy.

In the biggest amphibious assault ever, the Allies used more than 5,000 ships to land at Normandy. There, the men stared down the Atlantic Wall — and won — and began driving the Germans backward​.


The Blitz was a bombing campaign that targeted civilians in which area?

As the Germans escalated the Battle of Britain, they used the Blitz to bomb cities and industrial areas all over the country. Tens of thousands of civilians died in the attacks but the English calmly carried on.


During the D-Day landings, there were five code-named landing areas. In how many of those areas did the Germans put up fearsome resistance?

Allied feints tricked the Germans, making them think the landings would happen elsewhere. Just one beach, Omaha Beach, became a bloody quagmire for the Allies. There, more than 2,000 men died.


What was a characteristic of the Battle of Monte Cassino?

At the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino, the Germans dug in for a long fight. Both sides pummeled each other with artillery and then flung wave after wave of infantry at the enemy, in scenes reminiscent of WWI.


Which city fell under Allied control on August 25, 1944?

Paris had been under the spell of the Nazis since the spring of 1940. Finally, in August 1944, the Allies took back this beacon of freedom.


Which country initiated a huge (and surprise) offensive in December 1944?

With the Eastern Front lost, Hitler launched a surprise attack on the Western Front in late 1944. It became known as the Battle of the Bulge, and both sides suffered terribly in the miserable cold.


At which battle did Germany suffer its first truly major defeat?

At Stalingrad, the Soviets beat back the Germans and inflicted nearly 800,000 casualties. The defeat forced Nazi leaders to tap into vital reserves from the Western Front.


The 20 July plot was meant to do what?

German officer Claus von Stauffenberg was a leader of the July 20 (1944) plot to assassinate Hitler. A briefcase bomb exploded and narrowly missed killing the Nazi despot, and instead, Stauffenberg was executed. Thousands of people were arrested and many were executed as Hitler lashed out in the wake of the plot.


The deployment of "Little Boy" became a significant event in which country?

On August 6, 1945, the Allies dropped the world’s first atomic bomb used in warfare. Codenamed "Little Boy," it left parts of Hiroshima in ruins.


In the summer of 1944, a major uprising took the Nazis by surprise in which city?

The Warsaw Uprising in 1944 found Polish operatives trying to take back their occupied city from the Germans. They failed, and after two months of fighting, the Germans leveled much of the city in revenge.


On January 27, 1945, which army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp?

That January day, Soviet troops wandered into the horror show of Auschwitz, liberating the survivors. It was the beginning of the end of the Holocaust.


What memorable action did Hitler take on April 30, 1945?

With his mad dreams of global domination down the toilet, Hitler poisoned and then shot himself on April 30, 1945. The Third Reich, along with its lunatic leader, was dead.


What was "VE Day"?

On May 8, 1945, Germany finally surrendered. It was Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, but in the Pacific, ​the Japanese were still fighting to the death.


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