The Epic WWII Quiz: Part I


By: Nathan Chandler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wikimedia Commons

About This Quiz

From Hitler to Hirohito, World War II was a sweeping conflict that changed the course of human civilization. We've put together a five-part quiz to test your knowledge of this worldwide debacle. How much do you know about WWII? (Part One!)

Following the first World War, Europe settled into an uneasy peace. In 1935, which country shattered the calm before Germany?

World War I ended in 1918, and in 1935, the fascist government of Italy (led by Benito Mussolini) decided to invade Ethiopia. Europe was back at war after less than 20 years of peace.


With its invasion of Ethiopia, Italy basically thumbed its nose at which entity?

Italy was a member of the League of Nations but decided to defy its anti-aggression policies by invading Ethiopia. And if one country could flout the rules, why couldn't everyone else?


In 1936, two fascist countries decided to sign a formal friendship agreement. Which countries were involved?

In 1936, Germany and Italy signed a formal friendship agreement. From then on, said Mussolini, Europe would revolve around the Rome-Berlin Axis, a statement that earned the evil alliance its name -- the Axis.


Just a few weeks later, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which targeted which large country?

In late 1936, Japan and Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which aligned the two countries against the Soviet Union. No bullets had yet been fired, but the battlefield lines were already being drawn.


In July of 1936, what happened in Spain?

In the middle of 1936, Spain plunged into a bloody and sadistic civil war. Europe was slowly but surely unraveling.


In July 1937, more violence explodes when Japan commits what act?

The Japanese, hungry for natural resources necessary to fuel their imperialistic dreams, invade China and wreak devastation across the land. It is the beginning of the war in the Pacific.


Which two countries signed the Pact of Steel?

In 1939, Germany and Italy took their partnership a step further by signing the Pact of Steel, which aligned their nations against France and Britain. Japan, which was more concerned about the Soviet Union, declined to sign.


True or False: Following World War I, Germany was prohibited from having ANY sort of armed forces, whatsoever.

The Treaty of Versailles specified that Germany could have a small military of no more than 100,000 men. When Hitler rose to power, he began building up the military in defiance of the treaty.


As penance for its World War I aggression, Germany was stripped of its military. What else did the country have to do?

The Treaty of Versailles not only humiliated Germany in every possible way, it also required the country to make reparations for the damages it caused throughout Europe. Hitler rose to power by capitalizing on the sense of injustice that the Germans felt regarding the treaty.


True or False: In the late 1930s, American life was so isolated that most Americans were completely unaware of any violence happening in Europe.

Many movie theaters played gruesome newsreels of the violence overseas, and newspapers carried ominous headlines. But many Americans figured that much of this "news" was government propaganda. Plus, these events were happening so far away that few Americans really cared.


In early 1939, Germany decided to occupy which country, before moving on to seize Poland later that year?

Hitler started with baby steps. He first took the Rhineland and then decided to be a bit more ambitious by occupying Czechoslovakia.


In August of 1939, Germany signed a non-aggression agreement with which country?

In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin breathed a sigh of relief. Hitler giggled, knowing full well that he had no intention of honoring the agreement.


In 1939, the Spanish civil war ended. What did the new Spanish government then do?

The Franco government seized power and aligned itself with the fascists. But Spain, shattered by civil war, never joined in the fighting that would eventually tear Europe apart during World War II.


President Roosevelt knew that America might end up at war. When did he begin the process of building up the military?

In 1938, long before Germany invaded Poland, Roosevelt called for America to begin ramping up its military might. It would be years before U.S. commanders felt comfortable committing their inexperienced forces to battle.


Sept. 1, 1939, is a date that will live forever in infamy. What happened on that day?

After years of reinventing his military and gathering immense political capital, Hitler decided that the moment had come. His Nazi forces invaded Poland. It was the beginning of World War II in Europe.


As Germany begins its march across Europe, what did the United States do?

As the Nazis began reaping the first of millions of lives, Americans sat on their hands. The U.S. reaffirmed its neutrality and watched as Europe erupted into flames.


As Germany began its attacks on Poland, what did Canada do?

As America sat on the sidelines, the Canadians immediately declared war on Germany, along with Britain and France.


In late 1939, famed scientist Albert Einstein sent a letter to the United States. What was in the letter?

Einstein learned that the Germans were planning to build an atomic bomb. Horrified, he sent a warning to the United States, which then began its own project to devise nuclear weapons.


How long did it take for the Nazis to conquer Poland?

Polish soldiers put up a hard fight, but the fresh Nazi forces were overwhelmingly powerful. In just a month, Poland was conquered and occupied by Germany.


After defeating the Poland, the Germans immediately attacked the rest of Europe.

Hitler initially wanted to continue the assault on the rest of Europe. Instead, his commanders persuaded him to wait, rest and then attack the following year.


In April 1940, the Germans attacked Denmark and Norway. Which country put up the better fight?

Denmark surrendered almost immediately. Norway fought but collapsed. However, Norwegian resistance fighters gave the Nazis fits for years to come.


The Germans invaded France in early May 1940. How long did it take for France to sign a formal surrender agreement?

After about a month of fighting, France fell. The French signed an armistice with the Nazis and Paris was declared an open city. It was one of the darkest days in the history of democracy.


What was Operation Dynamo?

As the Germans pushed west, they pinned Allied forces against the English Channel, where they faced certain capture or destruction. Operation Dynamo rescued hundreds of thousands of soldiers from defeat using fleets of boats. It became known as the Miracle at Dunkirk.


In July 1940, Germany began an attack on which country?

Hitler had hoped that Britain would surrender, but the English refused to concede. The Nazis begin a furious air campaign that became known as the Battle of Britain.


Which country devised Operation Sea Lion?

Operation Sea Lion was Hitler's plan for attacking Britain by sea. But before this assault could commence, the Nazis had to gain some sort of superiority over Britain's air force.


The Battle of Britain was the first major battle that featured mostly air power.

With the Germans on the east side of the English Channel and the British defending their home turf, the two air forces exchanged months of air assaults. It was the first major battle featuring mostly air combat.


What British technology helped to thwart the Nazi air attacks during the Battle of Britain?

Radar was still a fledgling technology in 1940. The British devised a system that linked radar units in order to coordinate their fighter planes. This network drastically increased their effectiveness against the Luftwaffe, the German air force.


Hitler purposely targeted civilians throughout the Battle of Britain.

Hitler still wanted the British to surrender, so he was adamant that the Luftwaffe avoid civilian casualties. When it became clear that England would not relent, he eventually let the Luftwaffe bomb civilian areas.


In September of 1940, Germany, Italy and Japan signed an agreement that essentially targeted the United States. What was the name of the agreement?

The 1940 Tripartite Pact brought the Axis to full strength. It created an alliance between Japan, Germany, and Italy, mostly to target the United States as a mutual enemy.


The United States initiated conscription before it even entered the war.

In September 1940, America was still officially neutral, but President Roosevelt knew the writing was on the wall. He authorized the military to begin the country's first-ever peacetime draft. Now we'll head off to Part II of our Epic WWII Quiz!


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