How Well Do You Know Famous Americans of WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: US Army combat photographer

About This Quiz

The Second World War was the biggest – and deadliest -- war in human history. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States began what it declared to be a fight for its very existence, and Americans everywhere responded to the call for help. Of the millions of people who served, a few rose to incredible fame, garnering headlines and pages in history books around the world. In this battle-hardened quiz, what do you know about famous WWII veterans?

No one would forget the face of General Douglas MacArthur. He was a true war celebrity, always donning sunglasses and chomping on a corncob pipe. He gained infamy and loathing during his escape from the Philippines, and then returned to a hero’s welcome. George C. Scott even won an Oscar for playing him.

There were dozens of other major military men who guided U.S. war machines through the conflict. Those names included Chester Nimitz, George Patton, Henry Arnold, Jacob Devers and more. Without their hard-nosed leadership, the Allies may have never defeated the Axis.

Plenty of privates, ensigns and sergeants found fame, too. Let’s see if you can withstand the blitzkrieg of this massive WWII quiz now! How much do you really know about America’s WWII heroes?

Who was the Supreme Allied Commander for the D-Day invasion in 1944?

He was a five-star general with a reputation for discipline and ferocity. He was Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander for the D-Day invasion.


Who was president of the United States throughout most of WWII?

Franklin D. Roosevelt is probably the most iconic American president of the 20th century. Elected three times, he somehow led the U.S. through most of the Great Depression and WWII.


What job did Ernie Pyle have during WWII?

Ernie Pyle was a famous journalist who wrote from the front lines of the war. He documented people and experiences in a distinctive style that made him a favorite of readers all over the country.


How did businessman Andrew Higgins affect D-Day?

His Higgins boats were his claim to fame. The Higgins boats were used in large numbers during D-Day, depositing tens of thousands of troops on the beaches of Normandy, as the Allies attempted to take control back from Germany.


James Forrestal was a top Navy man who wanted this force to utilize which amazing weapon of the seas?

James Forrestal was a huge proponent of aircraft carriers. He pushed the U.S. to build these massive floating fortresses as centerpieces of war strategy. And his hunches about carriers turned out to be correct.


Courtney Hodges was a WWII general. What was special about him?

Hodges was no silver spoon general. He started out as a private and worked his way up through the ranks, and then became a truly famous WWII general.


Robert Oppenheimer was in charge of which important wartime project?

Robert Oppenheimer was the leader of the Manhattan Project. The project designed, built and tested the world's first nuclear weapons.


What did country music star Gene Autry do during WWII?

Gene Autry was a bona fide celebrity when he enlisted in 1942. He actually served, becoming a flight officer who flew hazardous cargo missions in Asia.


Why was General George Patton severely reprimanded during the war?

Patton was a loose cannon. He slapped two shell-shocked soldiers in full view of other men … and wound up temporarily losing his command. Later, he returned and won vital victories for the Allies.


Curtis LeMay was a general who greatly impacted which part of the war?

LeMay altered bombing tactics to suit the unique characteristics of the Pacific Theater. Noting that Japanese cities used flammable material (like bamboo) for many structures, he switched to incendiary bombs that set entire blocks on fire.


George Marshall had a tremendous impact on which part of the American war effort?

Marshall was called the "organizer of victory" for his efforts in reorganizing and ramping up the U.S. military during the war. Thanks largely to his efforts, the American Army went from mediocre to powerhouse in the span of a few years.


How did first lady Eleanor Roosevelt approach the role of women during WWII?

Roosevelt was a major proponent of women becoming active during the war. She encouraged them to get jobs traditionally reserved for men. And she advocated for desegregation of workplaces, too.


What was Omar Bradley's nickname during WWII?

Omar Bradley was an Army bigwig during WWII, a general who amassed major victories starting in North Africa. "Brad" took over some duties from the disgraced George Patton and continued his run of success in Europe.


Famous musician B.B. King enlisted in the Army but was released. Why?

King did his part by enlisting in the Army. But officials sent him home because he was a capable tractor operator … and those skills were more necessary in America than on the Western Front.


What did author J.D. Salinger do during WWII?

Salinger, famous for writing "The Catcher in the Rye," was drafted and served as a soldier in battle. He later used his linguistic skills to interrogate enemy soldiers.


How did famous journalist Ernie Pyle's war end?

After surviving numerous firefights, Pyle was killed by a sniper on the island of Iejima, during the battle of Okinawa, which occurred near the war's end. Readers everywhere mourned the loss of such a talented storyteller.


Audie Murphy was a famous American who served in which branch during the war?

Murphy falsified his age so that he could join the Army underage. Later, at just 19 years old, he fought off a whole company of Germany troops by himself … and won the Medal of Honor.


Baseball star Yogi Berra was a player in which famous battle?

Berra was part of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy. From a Navy ship, he fired weapons toward Omaha Beach in hopes of helping troops gain a foothold on Europe.


After the war, what did Audie Murphy (a Medal of Honor recipient) do?

Murphy was a war hero turned movie star, one who starred in many westerns. He died in a 1971 plane crash when he was just 46 years old.


President Roosevelt died before the end of WWII. Which man took his place?

When President Roosevelt died, Vice President Truman stepped into office. He was far from a footnote -- he made decisions that changed the course of humanity.


Claire Lee Chennault was the leader of which legendary group?

During the war, Claire Lee Chennault was in charge of leading the Flying Tigers. They were a group of top pilots who volunteered to fight for China's benefit against Japan.


The USSR was a vital U.S. ally during WWII. What did General Patton say about the Soviets?

It created odd tensions in the U.S. political arena. As America worked with the Soviets to defeat Hitler, Patton openly condemned the communists and said that he would love to fight them in combat.


What happened to General Patton almost immediately after the war ended?

In a strange twist of fate, Patton guided the Allies to some world-changing battlefield victories. Then he was injured in a 1945 car crash … and died.


Omar Bradley's men were the first line of resistance at which famous battle?

In December 1944, German troops launched their last major Western Front offensive. Bradley's men bore the weight of the attack and slowed it, making time for reinforcements to arrive and push back the German assault.


Which major decision did President Truman make near the end of the war?

With Japanese soldiers fighting to the death and the possibility of a bloody ground invasion of Japan on the horizon, Truman opted to drop two atomic bombs. Some historians say those attacks may have pushed Japan to finally surrender.


Dwight Eisenhower once said he was "the man who won the war for us." Who was Ike talking about?

Eisenhower said that boat maker Andrew Higgins helped the Allies win the the war. It was the Higgins boat that allowed the Allies to launch the biggest amphibious assault in human history.


Which two amazing events of the war did General Courtney Hodges witness?

Only a small handful of human beings witnessed the surrenders of both Germany and Japan during WWII. Courtney Hodges was one of them.


How did Ernie Pyle's writing benefit front-line combat soldiers?

Pyle's depictions of the horrors of combat made an impact back home. Officials passed legislation that increased combat soldiers' pay by $10 per month.


General Patton compared the Nazi Party in Germany to which other political party?

Near the end of his war, Patton said that the Nazis were basically just like any other political partly, namely the Democrats in the U.S. His disparaging remarks resulted in the end of his command.


Which WWII hero was elected president after the war?

During the war, General Eisenhower became an icon, winning respect from peers and peoples around the world. He easily won the presidency after the conflict ended.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!