How Much Do You Know About the Bombs and Missiles of WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Council on Foreign Relations

About This Quiz

In August 1945, after years of research, construction – and political calculations – the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Empire of Japan. The bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, laying waste two to cities and killing scores of civilians. But these weapons were just two powerful codas capping four years of explosions that leveled targets all over Earth. In this firestorm of a quiz, what do you really know about the bombs and missiles of the Second World War?

By the time the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, many countries had already been stockpiling all sorts of weapons for a war they knew was virtually inevitable. They manufactured tens of thousands of “dumb” bombs for carpet-bombing missions that left entire cities in ruins. They made countless incendiary bombs that were made to set structures on fire. And in the case of the U.S., they built doomsday weapons – nukes – that struck fear into people the world over, including the Americans themselves. What do you know about the types of bombs that were used in the European and Pacific Theaters in WWII?

Missile technology zoomed to new heights as engineers scrambled to develop newfangled guidance and propulsion systems. Whether they were air-to-ground, air-to-air, or surface-to-air missiles, all of these munitions became much more sophisticated in a very short time during the war. Some relied on solid fuel propellants and pulse jets, others used more basic systems. All of them were deadly. How much do you know about the missiles of this conflict?

Both frontline troops and civilians suffered the effects of WWII bomb and missile attacks, and the weapons turned the tide of many battles. Let’s see if you can withstand the blast of this WWII weapons quiz!

What was the name of the project that yielded the atomic bombs used during World War II?

When it became clear that the Axis was a threat to the entire world, the Allies initiated the Manhattan Project, which required immense research and cash. After years of testing, the U.S. dropped two nukes on Japan in 1945, drastically altering the balance of the war.


Britain used some huge conventional bombs in WWII, some of which were known as _____ bombs.

It's not just a defunct movie rental chain -- so-called Blockbuster bombs were some of the biggest conventional munitions dropped by Britain's air force in WWII.


Which country used Fu-Go Balloon Bombs?

Because prevailing winds travel from west to east, Japan lofted large Fu-Go Balloon Bombs and let the breezes carry these weapons to America's West Coast. Hundreds of the balloons made it to the U.S., and one caused fatalities … because numbskull people started dragging it through the woods.


Which of the following was NOT the name of an atomic bomb used during WWII?

There was no Skinny Woman bomb. The U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 -- one was named Little Boy, the other was Fat Man.


Germany dropped Butterfly Bombs, which were what style of bomb?

Germany's Butterfly Bombs were little cluster bombs that, when dropped from a plane, opened and looked a bit like butterflies. These were some of the first cluster bombs ever used in combat, and they were very effective at killing and maiming troops.


How were Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka missiles guided to their targets?

It was a really exciting one-way ticket to retirement for war-weary Japanese pilots. The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka missiles were basically simple planes outfitted with warheads … and guided to their targets by suicide pilots.


Near the end of WWII, Britain used _____ bombs to penetrate deep, heavily-reinforced targets.

Also called seismic bombs, Allied earthquake bombs were huge bombs designed to penetrate the ground, burrowing deep below the surface before they detonated. In this manner, earthquake bombs were able to destroy bunkers and other structures with thick walls protected by soil.


Which country used many of the SC250 bombs in WWII?

The SC250 was a bomb used often by Germany during the war. At 250 kilograms, it was small enough for most Luftwaffe bombers to carry but powerful enough to cause significant damage. Many of these weapons were dropped directly on civilian areas in London.


Britain's 4,000-pound "cookie" bombs could destroy about how big of an area?

The 4,000-pound cookies were not nearly as delicious or fattening as the name implies. These bombs could essentially level an entire acre thanks to their large loads and high velocity.


The V-1 flying bomb was the Vergeltungswaffe, or ______.

The Third Reich developed the Vergeltungswaffe, or Vengeance Weapon 1, as a way to terrorize Britons, including civilians. The V-1 was essentially one of the first cruise missiles in history.


What was the purpose of Germany's Fritz X?

The Fritz X was the world's precision-guided missile, and Germany created it specifically to destroy Allied ships. In 1942, the Gerrmans used two of these missiles to sink a huge Italian battleship.


Britain's Blockbuster bombs were also known as what?

Hey, Nazis, dunk these in your milk! Blockbuster bombs were also called cookies. They weren't tasty, but they were packed with high explosives that definitely crumbled in spectacular fashion.


Germany's V-1 flying bombs were noted for which ominous trait?

The V-1 flying bombs used pulsejets for propulsion, and these engines created a loud buzzing sound. Terrified Allied troops and civilians called V-1s "buzz bombs" or doodlebugs.


Why was it impossible for Allied leaders to determine how many people were killed by the Little Boy atomic bomb?

No one will ever know how many people died after Little Boy struck Hiroshima. That's because many victims were simply burned away to nothingness in bomb's immense firestorm.


The United States developed the Azon bomb, which was guided by which technology?

The Azon was a radio-guided smart bomb, with controllable rudders that made it extremely accurate. The control system's battery life was just three minutes … but on a 1,000-pound bomb, that's about all the time you need.


What is Amatol?

Made in large batches during both World Wars, Amatol is a high explosive that found its way into countless bombs. Its chemistry relies heavily on TNT and ammonium nitrate.


The Soviets used the RS-82, which was what?

The RS-82 was a common unguided Soviet missile fired from planes. They were terribly inaccurate, and only a tiny percentage struck their intended targets in combat.


How big was the Grand Slam bomb used by Britain?

Britain used the 22,000-pound Grand Slam against high-value targets in WWII. Only a few dozen of these monstrous bombs saw action during the conflict.


Germany intended its Ruhrstahl X-4 missile to strike which targets?

The Ruhrstahl X-4 was a small air-to-air missile meant to blast Allied bombers out of the skies. It was guided by wires instead of radio to prevent jamming.


Why were Royal Air Force bombers the only Allied aircraft to drop 4,000-pound cookie bombs during WWII?

Britain's 4,000-pound cookie bombs were so big that only RAF planes had bomb bays big enough to drop them. These bombs were valued for their devastating blast effect, which rendered buildings vulnerable to subsequent incendiary devices.


True or false, did Germany's V-1 flying bombs cause any significant casualties during the war?

Germany launched thousands of V-1s, particulary at metro areas in Britain, and these innovative flying bombs were indeed fairly effective. The weapons destroyed countless structures and killed tens of thousands of people.


Little Boy was so powerful that it would have taken ______ B-29 bombers carrying conventional explosives to achieve the same effect.

No wonder the world found atomic bombs so terrifying. It would've taken 220 B-29 bombers loaded with a raft of conventional weapons to conjure the destruction that Little Boy caused in Hiroshima.


What sort of weapon did America's Project Gorgon develop during the war?

The U.S. used Project Gorgon to develop a variety of missiles. The project started in 1943 and yielded some wild technologies, many of which didn't make it to warzones.


What was amazing about Germany's V-2?

The V-2 was the world's first guided ballistic missile. The V-2s were the first human-built objects ever to leave the constraints of Earth into space.


What was the Interstate TDR?

The Interstate TDR was an assault drone -- an unmanned aerial assault weapon. The big drones were typically controlled by operators aboard other planes. Only about 200 were built by the U.S. during the war.


Which country used the FAB-5000 bomb during WWII?

The FAB-5000 bomb was a staple of the USSR's air force in WWII. As the name implies, it was a 5,000-kilogram (11,000 pounds) behemoth that saw service from 1943 until the war's end.


How did operators know which way to steer the Azon guided bomb?

Each Azon smart bomb was equipped with a flare that created a smoke trail. Operators simply observed the smoke trail and used the radio controller to adjust the bomb's path accordingly.


After the war, what did the U.S. do with the plans for Little Boy, the first atomic bomb ever used in war?

In a true sign of how apocalyptic and weird WWII really was, after the war, Little Boy's researchers merely threw the plans for the bomb into the garbage bin. The thinking was that with the end of the huge war, no one would ever need a nuke again.


What was special about the U.S.'s Pelican bomb?

The Pelican was a radar-guided bomb created by the U.S. It was very accurate … but it was so heavy that the program was canceled before the bombs reached active use.


Germany's Uranprojekt was a failed project that was meant to create what sort of weapon?

The Third Reich's Uranprojekt, or Uranium Club, was meant to research and build a nuclear weapon. Fortunately, the Nazis failed to produce an atomic bomb, because if they'd managed to succeed, there's no telling what Hitler might have done.


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