Can You Pass This Naval Battles Quiz?


By: Gavin Thagard

7 Min Quiz

Image: duncan1890 / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

It's the early morning, and you are bunkered down under the deck of your ship. The sea is settled, and you want to rest well before the attack commences in the afternoon. Suddenly, the alarms sound, and you are notified that a storm is approaching. It's time to man your stations. The attack starts now.

This is the life of a sailor, where a calm morning can turn to chaos in a matter of minutes. It's nothing new, of course. Naval warfare has been a reality of the world since humans could first build ships, and though technology has advanced, the dread of being cast into the deep blue ocean has always been prevalent for those who take part. 

Are you prepared to test your knowledge on some of the most important battles in the history of naval warfare? From ancient Greece and China to the most critical naval battles of World War II, can you answer questions about the various aspects of these battles? This quiz will give you the chance to find out just that.

When you are ready to test your knowledge on the history of naval battles around the world, get started and see if you have the knowledge to join the research department at the Naval Academy!

Which Union ship did the CSS Virginia fight in the first battle between ironclad warships during the Civil War?

The USS Monitor was sent out to confront the CSS Virginia on March 8, 1862 after the Virginia sunk two Union ships, the USS Congress and the USS Cumberland. The two ironclad warships were an even match, with the battle ending in a draw when the Virginia was allowed to escape.


What date did the Pearl Harbor attack occur, a day that will live in infamy?

The attack on Pearl Harbor caught thousands of sailors off guard as they woke up on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Before many of these sailors had even finished their coffee, they were being called to man the eight battleships trapped in the harbor.


Of these battles, which one took the United States from the defensive to the offensive position against Japan in the Pacific campaign during WWII?

The Americans were able to get an early advantage in the Battle of Midway when they intercepted and broke a Japanese code about the attack. Knowing the date and location, the United States was ready when Japan tried to bait them into a trap at the Midway Atoll.


Japan desperately tried to maintain control of which islands during the Battle of the Philippine Sea?

By 1944, Japan watched as the United States' naval power from their numerical and industrial advantages grew while their own power depleted. Knowing they needed a decisive victory to hurt American moral, Japan looked to the Mariana Islands as their final standing ground.


Do you know the name of the French admiral who led ships against the British at the Battle of the Chesapeake during the American Revolution?

With around two dozen ships, Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse landed an upset victory over the Royal Navy at the Battle of Chesapeake. With the battle won, he was able to blockade the eastern coast, forcing Lord Cornwallis to remain in Yorktown until he surrendered to the Continental Army.


The lone major surface engagement of WWI, where was the Battle of Jutland fought?

The North Sea was a critical holding point that the Allies maintained throughout the duration of World War I. The Battle of Jutland was the closest the Germans came to taking the sea, even though they were outnumbered significantly. However, the Germans couldn't gain any headway and were eventually forced to turn back to the German coast.


In a conflict involving the United States and Japan, can you recall the first air-sea battle to ever take place?

In a four-day battle, hundreds of naval aircraft for both the United States and Japan engaged one another over the waters of the Coral Sea. Trying to figure out this new wave of warfare, these pilots often missed their target as they adapted on the fly.


Which country used torpedo bombers against the Italians in the Battle of Taranto, displaying the power of naval aviation in WWII?

By the middle of 1940, Britain's naval power was in question as Italy gained a stronger hold over the Mediterranean. Knowing they needed to land a critical blow against the Italian navy, Britain launched a night attack, while Italian ships were in the harbor at Taranto, using torpedos altered for shallow water.


During the Battle of Ponta Delgada, which islands were the Spanish trying to add to the Iberian Union?

Without a strong navy of their own, Portugal had to hire mercenaries from France to help them defend Azores. The force of mercenaries were wiped out in the battle, allowing Spain to incorporate Portugal into their empire.


The Battle of Savo Island was a major loss for the United States during which campaign in the Pacific?

Launched under the codename Operation Watchtower, the Guadalcanal Campaign marked the first time the Allies launched an offensive against Japan, as they first focused on the war in Europe. The campaign saw Allied forces landed on several islands throughout the Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Solomon Islands.


Carthage agreed to which peace treaty after losing the Battle of the Aegates that ended the First Punic War?

When Gaius Lutatius Catulus returned to Rome with the terms of the Treaty of Lutatius, the Roman populace was upset with how easy the punishment was for Carthage. Despite the outrage, the terms were only slightly altered when they were represented to the Carthaginians.


Greece was trying to gain its independence from which country, resulting in the Battle of Navarino in the Bay of Navarin?

The Battle of Navarino was fought between the Ottoman Empire and a coalition of European forces from Britain, France, and Russia. Knowing the historical importance of Greece to Europe, these countries wanted to free it from a declining empire that European nations had feared for centuries.


During which part of the Napoleonic Wars did Britain assert its naval power at the Battle of Trafalgar?

Seeking to expand his power across Europe, Napoleon I launched a vicious attack against the Third Coalition, consisting of the Holy Roman Empire, Russia, and Britain. Napoleon would be victorious on the European continent, but Britain maintained power over the sea.


Where did Japan attack Russia, leading both countries into the Russo-Japanese War?

After going through a major period of industrialization at the end of the 19th century, Japan was ready to spread its influence, similar to the European powers, by the time 1904 rolled around. One of their earliest targets was Manchuria, which was held largely by Russia, a country on the brink of civil war.


What was the name of the British battleship sunk during the Battle of the Denmark Strait?

The British battleship HMS Hood lasted only a short time in the Battle of the Denmark Strait before it was struck by a shell from the German battleship Bismarck. The shell hit the magazines on board, causing the ship to explode, where it quickly sunk into the sea.


Who tried to invade Northern Africa, leading to the Battle of Cape Ecnomus?

Roman forces at the Battle of Cape Ecnomus were commanded by two elected consuls, Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus. These two consuls managed to defeat a superior Carthaginian fleet, who were supposed to be much more capable at sea.


Do you know which river hosted the Battle of Island Number Ten during the American Civil War?

Island Number Ten provided Confederate forces a stronghold on the Mississippi River where they could keep Union boats from sailing freely down the river. However, the island only had one supply route, and eventually, Union forces were able to cut off the route, forcing the Confederates to give up the island.


On which lake did the United States defeat Britain during the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812?

The Battle of Plattsburgh was the result of a British attempt to invade the United States from Canada by land and sea. The Americans had to use a smaller force against the British invaders, but the battle turned after British Captain George Downie, who led the naval squadron, was killed in battle.


How many aircraft carriers did the Japanese Imperial Navy lose in the Battle of Leyte Gulf?

With their hopes all but faded, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched their final full-scale sea attack at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The situation had grown so desperate for Japan that they had to use their aircraft for kamikaze attacks against American ships.


After joining with the Spanish, what country did the French hope to capture from Britain in the Caribbean, resulting in the Battle of the Saintes?

Jamaica was one of Britain's most important colonies because of sugar, which significantly benefited the British economy. In fact, the nation was so important that Britain committed a force of 36 ships of the line to the battle, leaving other British territory unguarded.


Fought on the Ionian Sea, the Battle of Actium put the nail in the coffin for the Roman Republic, but who came to power in Rome after the battle was over?

Octavian, later known as Augustus, became the first Emperor of Rome after the fall of the Roman Republic. Though it took a bloody conflict for him to come to power, his reign is typically recognized as a period of peace and stability for the Roman Empire.


Do you remember which Russian fleet was nearly annihilated during the Battle of Tsushima Strait?

By defeating the Baltic Fleet, Japan made a statement that it would be the first non-European power in the world, as expanding their empire went from a possibility to a reality. The conflict also displayed the weakness of the Russian Empire, leading to the Russian Revolution.


The Battle of Minorca was the first sea battle during what European conflict?

Britain's Royal Navy proved ineffective during the first sea battle of the Seven Years' War, resulting in the loss of Minorca. British Admiral John Byng, who failed to relieve the island of French forces, was executed for having lost the battle.


The Han Dynasty in China fell apart after which major naval battle?

As the Han dynasty came to an end, warlords across South China were looking to expand their own territory by helping the Hans complete their fall. Two of these warlords, Liu Bei and Sun Quan, united to defeat the northern warlord Cao Cao at the Battle of the Red Cliffs, ending the Hans ability to control the Yangtze River.


Which famous Greek queen commanded several ships for the Persians during the Battle of Salamis?

After the death of her husband, Artemisia came to power as queen over a region of Caria while she waited for her son, Pisindelis, to come of age. Though she had to provide ships and soldiers for the Persian army, she herself decided to join in the fight, even though queens weren't required to lead their soldiers into battle.


Fought on China's largest lake, during which major conflict did the Battle of Lake Poyang occur?

Viewed as a foreign occupant, the Yuan dynasty was never fully accepted by the people of China after taking over the country near the end of the 13th century. Recognized by the red turbans they wore, rebels finally overthrew their foreign occupants during the Red Turban Rebellion.


The Japanese fought ferociously to recapture what airfield during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal?

Knowing their forces at sea were diminishing quickly, Japan turned to constructing airfields, such as Henderson Field, on the islands between the United States and Australia. The United States knew if they could capture these islands, then supply routes in the Pacific would open up with little Japanese resistance.


Do you know which league was established by Pope Pius V to confront the expanding Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto?

A decisive victory for the Holy League, the Battle of Lepanto halted the Ottoman expansion into a vulnerable and divided Europe. The Ottomans eventually recovered, but they never regained the naval supremacy that they held before.


Which French ship served as the flagship during the disastrous fight against the British at the Battle of the Nile?

Under the command of by Francois-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers, Orient led 13 ships of the line against a similar force held by the British. The French ships were quickly surrounded by the British, and within a few hours, Orient's magazines exploded, killing its captain and winning the battle for the British.


In which foreign country's waters did the Battle of the Downs take place between the Dutch and the Spanish?

The Battle of the Downs was fought so close to the English coast that three castles were able to watch on as the battle commenced. Unable to send a naval unit out to force the battle elsewhere, Britain showed just how much their naval supremacy had declined since the reign of Elizabeth I.


Failing to hold off the Japanese, who was the losing commander in the Battle of the Java Sea?

Communication errors proved to be costly for the Allied forces during the seven-hour Battle of the Java Sea. The battle did little to halt the Japanese advancement into Java, delaying it by only a day.


Food shortages across France resulted in which naval battle against the British?

The Reign of Terror left France decimated due to food shortages and a violent murder spree by the First French Republic. To relieve the situation in France, they orchestrated a deal with the United States to provide food and supplies, but Britain had other plans, as they sought to find and destroy the transport ships.


Trying to survive the Mongol invasion, which naval battle finally brought an end to the Song Dynasty?

To protect their court and emperor as the hope of defeating the Yuans on land faded, the remaining Song forces gathered ships, using them to travel from place to place as they evaded the Yuan navy. However, the Yuans eventually caught up, and the Song ships bound themselves together with chains for one final stand against their attackers.


How many German warships did the British sink during the Battle of the Falkland Islands during WWI?

Prior to the Battle of Falkland, the German navy sunk two British cruisers off the coast of Chile in South America. Britain, wanting to avenge one of their only naval loses in a century, hunted down the German ships, resulting in a fight near the Falkland Islands.


Where were the Japanese attempting to transport troops when they were annihilated in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea?

As Japan advanced troops to Lae, the United States sent bombers to destroy the Japanese transports and destroyers. Japan tried to send their own fighter planes to defend the ships, but most of them were shot down during the battle.


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