How Much Do You Know About the Warships of WWII?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Photographed by Lt. Barrett Gallagher, USNR.

About This Quiz

The Allies and the Axis scrambled for their very survival during the Second World War. They made tens of thousands of tanks, countless aircraft, and built and sailed hundreds of warships, too. These ships played major roles in both the European and Pacific Theaters, as destroyers, battleships, and aircraft carriers clashed in fights that turned the tide of the war. In this iron-laden quiz, do you really know much about the ships of World War II?

The European Theater was largely a land and air war, featuring the likes of the all-air Battle of Britain and the armor-smashing terrors of the Battle of Kursk or the Battle of the Bulge. But the Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous battle of the war … and it was all at sea. For years, German U-boats sank hundreds of Allied military and merchant ships, making it much harder for them to resupply their lines. What do you know about the ships that roamed the Atlantic in WWII?

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, American and Japanese ships collided in mammoth navy confrontations at scenes like the Battle of Midway. In the end, behemoths like the USS Enterprise, USS Arizona and USS Yorktown would all find their place in the war’s lore.

All hands on deck for this WWII warship quiz! Man the guns and launch the fighters, because the Axis fleet is just over the horizon!

In World War II, which type of ship became the centerpiece of naval warfare?

In WWII, the aircraft carrier found its place in battle. Both the Allies and the Axis used carriers to wield the combined might of sea and air power.


Germany lost its Bismarck to the Allies in 1941. What kind of ship was it?

The Bismarck was one of the biggest battleships that Germany ever built, a massive hulk of metal and weaponry. She was caught in the open sea while heading to port for repairs, and destroyed by Allied ships and planes.


What sort of ship was the "Big E"?

"Big E" was a nickname for the USS Enterprise (CV-6), which served during World War II. The Big E was one of the U.S. Navy's most critical weapons in the Pacific Theater.


Which country deployed Queen Elizabeth-class battleships in WWII?

Britain, of course, built Queen Elizabeth-class battleships for the war. Commissioned during WWI, they also saw a lot of action in the second great war.


What category of ship was the Japanese Yamato?

The Yamato was a Japanese battleship -- the biggest battleship ever built by man. It was armed to the teeth with nine Type 94 (18.1-inch guns), the largest guns ever placed on a ship of war.


The USSR built seven Kirov-class cruisers. How many of them made it through the war?

All seven soviet Kirov-class cruisers survived the war. Only four of the ships engaged in real combat with Germany.


Why was the USS Wasp (CV-7) at first deployed to the Atlantic War instead of the Pacific Theater?

When the war started, the USS Wasp (CV-7) was not America's most advanced carrier, and she was perceived as too vulnerable for the maelstrom of the Pacific. But in the end, that's where she wound up … and a Japanese sub sent her to her death.


What sort of ship was the USS Arizona?

The USS Arizona was a huge battleship that was launched during the First World War. She was on the scene when the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.


What happened to the USS Arizona when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor?

During Japan's surprise attack, a bomb struck weapons aboard the USS Arizona, triggering a cataclysmic explosion. The ship was sunk in the harbor, and nearly 1,200 sailors were killed in the disaster.


Which country deployed a battleship called the Petropavlovsk?

The Soviet Union deployed three big battleships during WWII. The Petropavlovsk was sunk in shallow waters near shore … so the Soviets left her there and used her as a offshore artillery base.


What weapon did WWII-era ships use to attack enemy submarines?

Submarines were stealthy in their underwater lair, but they were not invulnerable. Ships dropped big depth charges, which exploded at preset depths, in an effort to damage or destroy subs.


The USS Yorktown was sunk at which battle?

The Americans won a critical fight at the Battle of Midway. But it was no bloodless affair -- a Japanese submarine destroyed the USS Yorktown, and 141 sailors died with her.


What kind of ship was the USS O'Bannon?

The USS O'Bannon was a capable destroyer in WWII.


What was the most decorated destroyer of the war?

The USS O'Bannon earned more decorations than any other ship in its category. The ship received 17 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation.


Battle stars were awarded for battle participation. How many battle stars did the USS Enterprise earn in WWII?

The USS Enterprise saw more battle action than any other American ship during the war. She earned 20 battle stars … and an eternal place in U.S. military history.


How did the USS Enterprise fare at the vicious Battle of Midway?

The Battle of Midway was a major turning point of the war, and Japan lost all four carriers that it sent into the fray. The USS Enterprise was undamaged in the battle's frenzy.


How big was the Yamato, Japan's huge battleship?

The Yamato was an incredible feat of shipbulding, 863 feet long. That made the Yamato about 60 feet longer than the gigantic Hindenberg zeppelin.


Which of the following WWII-era ships was the largest?

Battleships were still regarded as major weapons during WWII. They were huge floating arsenals, packed with guns and heavy armor … but they were also vulnerable to aircraft launched from carriers.


Of the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers commissioned before WWII, how many survived the conflict?

While WWII sent many American ships (and their sailors) to the bottom of the sea, the USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga, and USS Ranger survived the war.


How many 25-millimeter anti-aircraft guns did Japan's Yamato feature?

The Yamato bristled with weaponry. In addition to her huge 18.1-inch, 6-inch, and 5-inch guns, she had an whopping 162 25 mm anti-aircraft guns. Enemy pilots knew the Yamato was trouble no matter how you approached her.


The Japanese battleship Musashi was sunk at which battle?

In the fall of 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf raged. The Japanese battleship Musashi was hit dozens of times by American bombs and torpedoes, and it finally sank below the waves.


How did U.S. forces heavily damage Japan's carrier named Kaga at the Battle of Midway?

At Midway, American dive bombers found their marks, blasting Kaga with bombs. Japan's officials made the decision to scuttle her before the Americans could capture the precious ship.


The USS Enterprise could carry how many aircraft?

Her warplanes were her lifeblood. The Enterprise could carry about 90 aircraft during battles, extending her attack range by hundreds of miles.


What happened to the Yamato, the biggest battleship ever built?

Japanese leaders send the Yamato on a suicide mission to the Battle of Okinawa, planning to use the ship in a desperate last stand against the Americans. But Allied torpedo bombers sent the Yamato to a watery grave long before she reached Okinawa.


What category of ship was the USS Narwal?

The USS Narwal was a highly decorated submarine -- it earned 15 WWII battle stars. She survived the war and was decommissioned in 1945.


What was one nickname for the USS Enterprise?

Multiple times during the war, Japanese officials publicly announced the sinking of the USS Enterprise … only to find her massive hulk arriving at the scene of yet another battle. She was the "Gray Ghost," back from the dead, time and again.


The USS San Francisco fell into which category of ship?

The USS San Francisco was a New Orleans-class cruiser, and she survived the entire war, earning 17 battle stars along the way. In one brutal battle, both her admiral and captain were killed.


How many aircraft carriers did the USSR deploy during WWII?

The Soviets did not prioritize navy spending during WWII, as they desperately funded their armies to stop the German invasion. They didn't have any carriers in WWII.


The USS Thresher was named after which kind of creature?

The USS Thresher was named after the thresher shark. The big sub ran 14 major war patrols, and engaged in battles, time and again. She earned 15 battle stars in WWII.


During the war, what happened to the HMS Barham, a big British battleship?

The HMS Barham was a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship that fought in the Great War. But in 1941, a German U-boat struck her with a torpedo, and she sunk, taking with her more than 860 crew members.


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