How Well Do You Know the Innovations and Inventions of WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer

About This Quiz

The Second World War was unique in that it was an all-encompassing war, one that forced nations to mobilize totally … or potentially find themselves wiped from the face of the Earth. That motivation was sufficient to spark the development of some truly amazing new technologies. Do you think you can master our WWII tech quiz and name the most innovative weapons and products created by war-weary scientists?

Most people know about the Manhattan Project and its ultimate outcome. This gigantic R&D experiment required nearly unbelievable manpower and money, but it was ultimately a success. Do you know what the project yielded?

The Germans started their tech breakthroughs before the war even began, fielding some truly trailblazing weapons and machines. How much do you know about Nazi breakthroughs that threatened to shatter the Allies and their civilian populations?

In response, the Allies, too, created some technologies that altered the landscape of war in countless ways. From aircraft navigation to new bombs, the world quickly became a more advanced — and deadlier — place.

From the trenches to the skies, World War II required all the ingenuity that scientists could muster. Let’s see how much you really understand about the innovations sparked by the Second World War!

What technology did Britain use to great advantage in detecting Axis ships and submarines?

Britain rapidly deployed sonar technologies at sea. Sonar eventually gave the Allies a tremendous advantage in detecting and engaging (or dodging) enemy ships and submarines.


The German Fritz X was a bomb guided by ______.

The Fritz x was a radio-guided bomb, and yes, it really worked. The Germans used one to sink an Italian battleship.


Which drug was mass-produced during the war and helped doctors treat conditions like gangrene?

Penicillin was discovered in 1928, but it hit mass production during WWII. Its infection-fighting properties helped save many lives during the conflict.


The Blind Approach Beacon System developed during the war made it much easier to do what?

The Blind Approach Beacon System (BABS) used radar to help pilots safely land planes in darkness or adverse weather conditions. It made the landing process much safer for crews returning from missions.


In 1943, a Navy engineer named Richard James was working on new spring technologies when he accidentally came up with which incredibly popular toy?

James was trying to improve torsion springs to better cushion expensive ship equipment — he observed that one of his test springs exhibited a unique "walking" motion. The Slinky was born.


Which side introduced night vision technology to the war?

Germany’s engineers were the first to send night vision technology to the battlefield. Snipers were able to use the devices to shoot their targets even in darkness.


Aerosol cans were created in massive numbers during the war, mostly for what purpose?

Aerosol cans were new item in the war, and they were critical to help apply insecticides. In the South Pacific, those insecticides helped protect troops from bugs that spread terrible tropical diseases.


Germany helped to pioneer which type of troop unit?

The Nazis were the first to put paratroopers to widespread use. Hitler eventually lost confidence in these units, but Allied forces took the concept and used it to its full potential.


During the Battle of Britain, Britain developed radar to fend off German bombers, which they could then detect from how far away?

British radar could detect German planes from about 100 miles away. These systems helped British commanders anticipate attacks and concentrate their fighters where they could best protect civilian and military targets.


The German Messerschmitt Me 262 was the world’s first _____.

The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first jet fighter ever to reach operational status. It was fast and it was deadly, claiming at least 500 Allied aircraft during the war.


What was the top speed of the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter?

By WWII standards, the Me 262 was incredibly fast, with a top speed of around 560 MPH. Many Allied combatants could only stare in awe as the Me 262 blazed through the skies.


Which material was critical to WWII-era ropes, parachutes and more?

Nylon became popular during the late ‘30s, especially for women’s stockings. During the war, the American military took over many nylon stockpiles to make ropes, parachutes and other important war items.


How did the B-29 Superfortress improve the high-altitude flying experience for its crews?

The B-29 featured the first pressurized cabin. It meant crews didn’t have to wear oxygen masks, and it created a warmer environment, too.


The V-1 was a primitive type of ______.

Germany developed many cutting-edge weapons during the war, including an early cruise missile called the V-1. The Nazis targeted cities with the weapon in order to terrify civilians.


German V-1 missiles were propelled by which technology?

The V-1 used a type of pulse jet to reach its targets. The first operational pulse jets were built in 1906 by a Russian engineer.


During the war, Axis powers seized many natural resources. Ameripol was an Allied effort to replace natural ______.

The Axis powers grabbed control of many sources of natural rubber, a vital material for war. The Allies managed to create a type of synthetic rubber that they called Ameripol.


How many American plants were built to manufacture synthetic rubber during the war?

The rubber shortage was dire for America, because rubber was a vital part of many war machines. Government officials directed the construction of 50 synthetic rubber plants in WWII, and these factories wound up producing twice as much as the world’s natural rubber supply prior to the conflict.


What was the name of a vital programmable computer that the Allies used to decipher German communications?

The Colossus was a programmable electronic computer that the Allies used to decode many intercepted German messages. Colossus was a serious step forward in computer technology.


What was first German night vision scope called?

The ZG 1229 Vampir was a night vision device that could be paired to STG-44 Sturmgewehr assault rifles. The deadly combination marked a subtle shift in nighttime tactics.


Germany introduced the Arado Ar 234, a bomber, during the war’s latter stages. What was one trait of this bomber?

The Arado Ar 234 was a jet bomber that could hit speeds of nearly 500 MPH, so fast that the Allies couldn’t really intercept it. Fortunately, it was introduced too late to really affect the war’s outcome.


During the war, the Germans used the Wehrmachtskanister. What in the world is a Wehrmachtskanister?

Wehrmachtskanisters were called Jerrycans by the Allies. Jerrycans were a clever update to liquid containers that made carrying and pouring the contents much easier than before.


True or false, did Germany deploy helicopters during WWII?

It’s true, Germany used its Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri helicopter for missions during the war. Most of these primitive machines were used for scouting purposes.


The Flettner Fl 282 was an early German helicopter. How high could it fly?

The Flettner Fl 282 was a primitive helicopter that could fly to altitudes of more than 10,000 feet. A later version had room for two people, one pilot and one spotter.


German officials distributed huge amounts of Pervitin to its troops. Pervitin was an early form of what drug?

Pervitin was an early form of of crystal methamphetamine, which increased alertness and helped numb the terrors of war. Millions of German troops (and Hitler) used it during the conflict.


What was a terrible side effect of Pervitin, a drug that German troops used in large quantities during the war?

As with methamphetamine, Pervitin usage eventually caused agitation, aggression and impaired judgment. Some users even died of heart failure.


The Allies developed the cavity magnetron, which had which effect on radar technology?

The cavity magnetron helped to reduce the size of radar equipment. It was a major development that meant radar gear could be mounted onto individual planes.


After the war, cavity magnetrons helped engineers create which product?

Following the war, cavity magnetrons found their way into one of the 20th century’s iconic products — the microwave oven.


What was the Gee-H?

The Gee-H was a radio navigation system which greatly improved the accuracy of Allied bombing runs. It was also very sophisticated, able to guide up to 80 planes at a time.


The Manhattan Project helped the Allies develop which extraordinary technology?

The Allies dumped many millions of dollars into the Manhattan Project in an effort to make atomic bombs. More than 130,000 people took part in the project, which cost billions of dollars and ultimately led to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Researchers at Eastman Kodak were working to develop a clear plastic gun sight when they accidentally invented ______.

Eastman Kodak researchers were experimenting with a host of chemicals in an effort to make clear plastic gun sights. Instead, they inadvertently made super glue ... but the innovation wasn’t marketed until 1958.


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!