How Much Do You Know About Australia in WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Baker L (Fg Off), Royal Air Force official photographer

About This Quiz

As the Third Reich and the Empire of the Rising Sun banded with Italy to unleash their plots of world domination, the Allies rose to stop them. First Poland and France fell, and then much of Western Europe. Things were no better in the Pacific Theater. Japan attacked, occupied, and then spread its campaign of death and destruction from nation to nation, island to island, and then came right to Australia’s doorstep. In this battle-hardened quiz, what do you really know the Land Down Under during the Second World War?

Australia was part of the British Empire … but half a world away. When Germany started the European War, Australian troops could do nothing but wait and watch. When the Phoney War finally ended, the Australian Army rushed to the scene and became a critical source of manpower in the Mediterranean and throughout Europe. What do you know about the country’s contributions to the Western Front?

When Japan began its onslaught in earnest, Australia’s fears came true – their own nation might soon be at risk of occupation. It was a thought none of them could bear. Multitudes of Aussies joined the armed services in defense of the Allied cause.

Without Australians in the field, the battles of the Pacific may have turned out very differently. Take this Australia in WWII quiz now!

True or false, did Australia declare war on Germany before the United States?

As part of the British Empire, Australia declared war on Germany along with Britain and its kin -- on September 3, 1939. The U.S. didn't do so until 1941.


Australian soldiers often made up the bulk of Allied forces in which battle area?

As Japan steamrolled through the South West Pacific theater, the Australians took aim. In many cases, Australian soldiers outnumbered every other nation in these critical battles.


How many Australians served in the armed forces during WWII?

Like many Allied nations, Australia threw itself fully into the war. By the time the last bullet was fired, about 1 million Aussies had served in uniform.


How did Japan treat Australia during the war?

Japan attacked Australia repeatedly during the war. It also attacked the Australian mainland -- the first time that the Aussie motherland had ever come under direct fire.


What event caused Australia to declare war on the Empire of Japan?

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor by surprise. The next day, America declared war … and so did its ally Australia.


How did Australian troop levels in Europe change following the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Australia fought in Europe throughout the war. But following the attack on Pearl Harbor, it slowly dropped its troop numbers in Europe to focus its efforts in the South West Pacific.


How did Japan attack Darwin, Australia on February 19, 1942?

On February 19, 1942, Japan sent more than 200 planes to bomb Darwin. The overwhelming attack gave Japan a critical victory.


Why did Japan attack Darwin, Australia?

Japan wanted to invade Java and Timor … and it didn't want the Allies meddling in their business. So they attacked Darwin in the hopes of preventing any Allied interference.


What was Japan's objective when it landed troops at Milne Bay in August 1942?

In August 1942, the Japanese stormed Milne Bay in New Guinea. Their objective? To capture Allied airfields. Their small force of elite troops quickly gained ground.


What happened at the Battle of Milne Bay?

Japan underestimated the size of Allied force at Milne Bay, and found themselves being slaughtered. They beat a hasty retreat within two weeks, giving the Allies one of their first truly decisive victories in the Pacific Theater.


In May 1942, where did Japan attack?

Japan went for the jugular in May and June 1942. Using submarines, it attacked the Australian capital of Sydney, as well as other locations on the mainland.


How did the Japanese attacks on Sydney Harbor affect the capital?

Japanese sub attacks on and around Sydney killed dozens of sailors and sank multiple ships. The damage, however, was mostly psycholoigcal, giving Australian citizens and troops the feeling that the Axis was beating on their front door.


In February 1942, Japan attacked and occupied which area?

In early February 1942, Japan swooped in and occupied Singapore, just a few hours (by plane) from Australia. Paired with the attacks on Darwin, Australia grew very, very anxious.


Which branch of the Australian military was the largest during the war?

The Australian Army was the country's largest armed force during the war. More than 700,000 total troops served in the army.


In which of the following areas did the Australian Army first see battle?

After declaring war in 1939, the army didn't take to the field until 1941. It fought its first battles in North Africa and the Mediterranean.


In March 1942, the Japanese used which means to attack the small town of Broome?

Broome featured important Allied airfields … but it was pretty much undefended. Japanese fighters relentlessly strafed the town, killing nearly 100 people and destroying 22 Allied aircraft.


What was the Australian air force like when war broke out?

When the war in Europe broke out, Australia had fewer than 250 warplanes … and most of them were antiquated. The air force needed a serious boost in order to counter Japanese threats.


What happened during the 1941 battle between HMAS Sydney and German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran?

In 1941, the HMAS Sydney and Kormoran faced off in a rare WWII duel. After a brutal 30-minute fight, both ships were destroyed -- all 645 men aboard the Sydney died. All of the German crew members were killed or captured.


Which side SHOULD have won the battle between the HMAS Sydney and Germany's Kormoran?

The HMAS Sydney was a well-armed cruiser; the Kormaron wasn't really even a war vessel. How and why the Sydney was destroyed has long been a point of contention in Australia.


The Battle of Crete was a ferocious fight that featured many Australian soldiers. Which side won?

Starting in late May 1941, the Axis and Allies fought desperately at the island of Crete. At first, the Allies thought they'd won, but after just a few days, heavy German reinforcements forced the good guys (including 7,000 Aussie troops) into a hasty withdrawal.


How did the Japanese treat Australian POWs at the Battle of Milne Bay?

Japanese troops executed dozens of Australians troops at the Battle of Milne Bay. In fact, they spared no one, and some of the bodies bore signs of torture.


What percentage of Australia's population served during the war?

About one-seventh -- 15% -- of Australia's population served in WWII. About 12% of Americans served.


When were most of Australia's 30,000 POWs captured by the Japanese? In the first ____ of the war.

Japan quickly advanced in 1941, capturing one location after another. In the chaos, the majority of Australia's 30,000 WWIIs POWs were captured in the first seven weeks of the war. Many of them would not be heard from again until the war's end.


How many times did Japan attack the Australian mainland during the war?

By bombs and by bullets, Japan attacked the Australian mainland about 100 times during the war. Most of those attacks were small, but a few were devastating.


How did Australian troops respond to the execution of their comrades by Japanese troops at the Battle of Milne Bay?

Eye for an eye. Blood for blood. After Japanese troops executed Australian troops, the gloves came off … and Aussie troops sometimes took revenge in subsequent battles.


In which part of the war did the Aitape–Wewak campaign take place?

The Aitape–Wewak campaign started near the end of the war and was regarded in some ways as simply putting the final nails in Japan's coffin. But Australian troops suffered greatly and absorbed hundeds killed fighting desperate Japanese soldiers.


Which major problem afflicted many Australian troops during the Aitape–Wewak campaign in 1944-45?

During the Aitape–Wewak campaign, a drug-resistant variant of malaria beset Australian forces. Sickness killed many soldiers and left many others unable to fight.


What percentage of Australian POWs died in Japanese captivity?

Allied troops captured by the Germans had a fairly good chance of surviving the war. Not so in the Pacific Theater. About 36% of Australia POWs died in captivity.


How did Australia's relationship with the U.S. change following the war?

Before WWII, Australia was tight with Britain. After the war, though, Australia aligned many of its interests with the United States instead of the U.K.


How many Australians were killed during the war?

Of the 1 million Australians who served, about 39,000 died. Another 23,000 were wounded, and 30,000 were taken prisoner.


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