Only a Military History Expert Is Passing This WWII Quiz


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Historical documents

About This Quiz

When the Empire of the Rising Sun lashed out at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that America’s destiny was war. FDR rallied his countrymen to a cause, citing the “day of infamy” that brought death and destruction to Hawaii. But the United States didn’t stop in the Pacific Theater — it geared up for war in Europe, too. In our World War II quiz, do you think you can top Hirohito and Hitler the same way Roosevelt and his Allies did?

After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles punished Germany for its aggression and outlawed a German military. Hitler’s rise to power defied the treaty, secretly constructing a Third Reich war machine that was unleashed on Poland in 1939. Britain and France could only wring their hands in fear — would they be the next targets on Hitler’s hit list? Do you know how the war in Europe slowly consumed the continent, and how the Axis and Allies developed their strategies as the conflict raged?

Both sides invested heavily in men and machines, hoping to gain the upper hand in battle. Some of those new weapons were outdated even before they found combat, while others caused mayhem and destruction that killed men by the millions. What do you know about the tactics and weapons that left entire cities in ruins?

From MacArthur to Patton, Zhukov to Churchill, the Red Army to the Wehrmacht, World War II was the bloodiest conflict in human history. Lock and load that Tommy gun and hop aboard that Sherman, we’ll see if you can survive Axis and its mechanized murder!

True or false, when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, did the United States immediately declare war?

Britain and France immediately declared war as a result of Germany’s aggression ... but then sat on their hands. The U.S. covered its eyes as best it could until 1941, when it finally plunged into the fray.


Which country helped Germany invade Poland at the beginning of WWII?

When Hitler’s men invaded Poland in 1939, they had their Soviet allies helping them. But by 1941, the entire political dynamic between the Nazis and Soviets changed.


What was "Fat Man"?

The Allies dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, one named named Little Boy and the other, Fat Man. They still stand as the only nuclear devices ever used in combat.


The Battle of Kursk is remembered as one of the biggest _____ battles in history.

In the summer of 1943, the month-long Battle of Kursk turned into one of the biggest tank battles ever. More than 10,000 total tanks were deployed, and Soviets ultimately triumphed over their German enemies.


Trench warfare was common in WWI. Why was it less common in WWII?

Armored vehicles like tanks were specifically designed to surmount the challenges of trenches in WWI, and by WWII, tanks were better than ever. Trenches were still used, but not nearly as much as in WWI.


What famous event happened at Leningrad during the war?

From early September 1941 to January 1944, the Germans laid siege to Leningrad. The Soviets refused to budge, but countless civilians died from starvation and some resorted to cannibalism.


When the Japanese attacked the Philippines at the start of the war, what did U.S. General MacArthur do?

In the face of certain defeat, MacArthur hopped a plane to Australia, but he swore he’d be back. He eventually made good on his word.


What was one of the primary goals of the Japanese during the Pearl Harbor attack?

The Japanese hoped to devastate the American carrier fleet. Because without the carriers, they figured the U.S. would have no choice but to surrender.


Why did Japan fail to completely destroy America’s carrier fleet at Pearl Harbor?

America’s carriers were out at sea when the Japanese surprise attack came. But eight out of nine of America’s Pacific Fleet battleships were in the harbor — and they suffered miserably in the onslaught.


What was a defining characteristic of the German "blitzkrieg"?

The German military became known for its blitzkrieg ("lightning war") attacks, in which it struck quickly and with overwhelming force, using both land and air weapons. It was a terrifying thing for Allied troops to witness.


In a strategy meant to bypass heavily fortified Japanese islands, the Allies resorted to _____.

The Japanese fortified chains of islands in the Pacific. Rather than take all of them one by one, the Allies used "leapfrogging," bypassing the islands that looked like suicide.


Which country used a weapon called the T-34?

Starting in 1940, the Soviets began deployed the T-34, a medium tank that played a huge role in the war. In desperation, the USSR manufactured around 80,000 of these tanks in hopes of stopping the Nazi war machine.


What was the Italian Fiat C.4.42 Falco?

The Italian Fiat C.4.42 Falco was a biplane that found widespread use during WWII. Though outdated, the Germans sometimes sent hundreds on night bombing missions, where the were effective in their deadly purpose.


The Nazi "Final Solution" was meant to fix which "problem"?

Hitler used his concentration camps to rid Europe of the "Jewish problem," in which millions of people (including non-Jews) were systematically murdered. The Holocaust is one of the blackest stains from a terrible war.


True or false, did the U.S. draw up plans for the invasion of Japan?

Given Japan’s relentless opposition, American commanders were prepared for the worst — that they’d have to invade Japan in order to end the war. It’s certain that such an invasion would have cost countless American lives.


During the war, which side was experimenting with jet aircraft?

Germany and its researchers dumped huge time and energy into new weapons during the Third Reich era. The Germans did develop the world’s first jet aircraft and put it to use, but it was too late to turn the tide of the war.


The Battle of Midway was a major defeat for which force?

At the Battle of Midway, America sought — and found — revenge for Pearl Harbor. They sent four vital Japanese carriers to the bottom of the sea and changed America’s prospects in the Pacific Theater.


True or false, at the beginning of the war, did the U.S. order a massive number of horses for potential combat duty?

It was the biggest order for horses since the Civil War. Even though cavalry forces were outdated, the U.S. saw fit to order 20,000 horses, just in case they might be needed to help with the fight against the Axis. Mounted units saw limited (but important) action in the Pacific theater.


By 1943, the Germans had about 3 million troops on the Eastern Front. How many did the Soviets have?

The Soviets gathered about 5.5 million troops to oppose the Nazi invasion. Given that Germany still had to hold the Western Front, too, their circumstances looked dire.


What was a nickname given to one group of Soviet female pilots during the war?

Desperate for man, er, womanpower, the USSR put females into combat against the Germans. The 588th Night Bomber Regiment was a group of women who flew night bombing sorties on the Eastern Front.


How did Soviet "Night Witches" sneak up on targets they bombed in the night?

The Night Witches were clever. As they approached targets, they cut their engines, glided in silence, and then bombed the Nazis straight to the ever after.


During the war, Higgins Industries produced a vital product. What was it?

An American company named Higgins Industries created the Higgins boat, a landing craft that made amphibious assaults much more effective. These boats were vital in both theaters of the war.


What was the purpose of Britain’s Air Ministry Pigeon Section?

Sure, radio communitions were coming of age in WWII, but the Allies still used pigeons to carry messages all along the front. The Air Ministry Pigeon Section had hundreds of thousands of pigeons at its disposal.


True or false, did Hitler directly make many of the military decisions that would normally go to generals during a war?

Hitler’s God-complex and control-freak nature meant that he took directy control of the military in many situations. Generals who opposed him were often sacked.


True or false, were most German combat units reliant on horses during WWII?

We tend to think of WWII as a high-tech conflict, but Germany was incredibly dependent on horses. As many as eight out of 10 German combat units may have relied on horses ... even to the end of the war.


In 1944, why did the U.S. want to control the Marianas Islands in the Pacific?

The Marianas were incredibly important to U.S. strategy. Using airstrips there, its long-range B-29 bombers would be able to attack the Japanese mainland.


How many T-34 tanks did the Soviets lose during WWII?

It was a good thing they built a lot of them. The Soviets lost many T-34 tanks — about 45,000 — in this single war, the most tanks ever destroyed in an armed conflict.


When it became clear that he would lose the Eastern Front, what did Hitler do?

By the middle of 1944, Hitler knew the Eastern Front was lost. He threw all of his efforts in to one last major attack on the Western Front — the Battle of the Bulge.


What happened to U.S. troops at the start of the Battle of the Bulge?

When German troops mounted one last desperate offensive in December 1944, U.S. troops found themselves surrounded in Bastogne, trying to survive the Nazi onslaught amid terrible winter weather. They bent ... but then held the line in the face of overwhelming odds.


True or false, did Japan definitely surrender solely because the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs?

The atomic attacks were certainly a factor in the Japanese surrender. But days earlier, the Soviets had began attacking Japanese lands — and if Japan hadn’t surrendered, the huge, angry Red Army would have steamrolled the Empire’s army in no time.


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