The Influential People From WWII Quiz



By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: LifeJourneys/E+/gettyimages

About This Quiz

War is horrible, that's for sure. Not only does it impact the men and women at the forefront of the fight, but also the civilians stuck in between. And there is suffering on both sides, for the losers but also for the victors.

After World War I didn't prove to be the war that would end all wars as politicians promised, trouble began brewing in Europe and the Pacific from the early 1930s as the rise of Nazism and the Japanese expansion paved the way for another global conflict. And this war saw untold misery. In fact, over 60 million people worldwide died at the time. That is close to three percent of the population of the world at that time. Of course, World War II was filled with many influential people on both sides, both Allied and Axis. These ranged from the leaders of their respective countries to military commanders, important civilians, scientists and more.

But could you identify these people who were critical to the war effort for their respective countries? Some are easy, while others are a little more difficult. But plow on, just like the Greatest Generation did, and aim for victory. We know you can do it. Good luck!

A real "British Bulldog," this prime minister was known for his feisty speeches and love of cigars. Can you name him?

Winston Churchill was elected the British Prime Minister in 1940. In his first ever speech as prime minister, Churchill uttered these words, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." This set the tone for his inspirational leadership and dogged determination never to surrender to Germany.


One of the greatest British generals of World War II, he helped defeat the German Afrika Korps in Northern Africa, turning the tide of the war. Who are we talking about?

Bernard Montgomery commanded the British Second Army Corps during the Dunkirk retreat on June 1, 1940. Appointed head of 8th Army in August 1942, he led the Allied forces to their first victory against Germany at the Battle of El Alamein. Montgomery went on to lead the 8th Army at the invasion of Sicily and Italy. He was also the Commander-in-Chief of the 21st Army Group during the D-Day invasion of Normandy.


Can you name the man who was the principle mind behind the atomic bomb?

An American physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer was wartime head of the Los Alamos Laboratory from 1943 to 1945. He headed the scientists working on the "Manhatten Project," the development of the atomic bomb which was used to destroy two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and end the war.


Who was the leader in China during World War II?

After China joined the Allied forces in 1942, the leader of the Chinese Nationalist forces, Chiang Kai-shek, led Chinese troops against the Japanese army. He had other problems as well, with the rise of a communist element under Mao Zedong. The communist movement did help fight the Japanese, however.


Do you know the name of the German Minister of Propaganda during World War II?

Joseph Goebbels was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda whose role included developing anti-Semitic literature and other propaganda media, both against the Jews and the Allies. In April 1945, Hitler arranged his last will with Goebbels and nominated him as the next chancellor of the Third Reich. Just a day after Hitler’s suicide, Goebells followed suit, dying alongside his wife and children after taking cyanide in the Fuhrer's bunker.


Who was Japan's ultimate leader during World War II?

Hirohito was the Japanese Emperor during World War II when Japan formed part of the Axis Powers along with Italy and Germany. Hirohito's contribution to Japanese military decisions during World War II is often debated, but he was never held accountable by the West for any war crimes attributed to Japanese forces.


Name the American general that left the Philippines in defeat but vowed to return in victory. And that he did!

Douglas MacArthur was tasked by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt to help mobilize the Philippine Army in mid-1941. In October 1944, he commanded forces that helped to liberate the Philippines.


Although his country Spain did actively act against Allied forces, they were in support of Germany. Which leader are we referring to?

A dictator, Francisco Franco had come to head Spain after a civil war in the mid-1930s. After receiving support from Germany during that war, Franco sided with the Axis Powers during World War II. Spain was not overly involved in terms of military commitment but Franco did send tens of thousands of volunteer fighters to join the Germans on the Soviet front. He also had troops invading Tangier, Morocco and allowed German submarines to use Spanish harbors.


Which of these below is a Russian general tasked with commanding forces in the taking of Berlin in 1945?

In October 1941, when Germany was threatening the Soviet Union with invasion, Georgy Zhukov was ordered to plan and carry out the defense of Moscow. He was made Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Army in August 1942 and was later involved in the Battle of Stalingrad, which saw the surrender of the German Sixth Army. Along with Aleksandr Vasilevsky, Zhukov successfully coordinated the Battle of Kursk. Zhukov then carried out the Soviet attack on Germany in 1945, which resulted in the capture of Berlin.


After the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, this American leader uttered the words, "December 7th, 1941, a date that will live in infamy". Who was he?

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the U.S. President when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As America's Commander-in-Chief, he oversaw the U.S. war effort. Roosevelt, along with other Allied leaders, played a massive part in determining the path of the war. He died in office in April 1945 and did not see the end of the war in Europe a month later and in Japan in September.


Can you name the supreme leader of the Soviet Union during World War II?

Although already the leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin appointed himself Supreme Commander in Chief in 1941. He oversaw The Battle of Stalingrad (1942) and the Battle of Kursk (1943) where Soviets defeated German invading forces, helping to turn the tide of the war. As the leader of one of the three leading Allied powers, Stalin participated in talks at Tehran (1943), Yalta (1945) and Potsdam (1945).


A fascist, this man lead Italy during World War II, siding with the Axis powers Germany and Japan. Who are we talking about?

As dictator of Italy, Mussolini declared war on Britain and France on June 10, 1940, and sent troops to fight in East and North Africa, Greece and the Soviet Union. After Mussolini’s popularity began to wane, his government convened a Grand Council of Fascism, and a resolution passed calling for the reinstatement of the monarchy. Mussolini ignored the decision and was subsequently kept under house arrest. Liberated by the Germans, he set up the puppet Italian Social Republic. Italian communists shot Mussolini on April 28, 1945, when he was attempting to escape to Austria.


From the list below, choose the leader of France when Germany invaded in 1940.

At the outbreak of war between France and Germany, de Gaulle was the leader of a tank brigade. In June 1940, the French leader Paul Reynaud appointed de Gaulle Under-Secretary for Defense and War. Shortly afterward, Petain replaced by Reynaud. Petain's government collaborated with the Nazis and in 1940, de Gaulle fled to England. There he headed the Free French resistant movement and returned to Paris in 1944.


Who commanded the American Third Army during the invasion of Normandy, and helped to liberate France?

General Patton was a U.S. Commander who became famous for his part in the Battle of the Bulge as well as his service in Africa and Sicily. He later commanded the Third Army during the invasion of France and helped to liberate the country from German occupation.


From the list below, name the leader of the Yugoslavia resistance during World War II.

Josip Broz Tito was the leader of Yugoslavia's resistance movement during World War II. As supreme commander of Yugoslav partisans (1941-1945), the Allied forces acknowledged his leadership of the resistance movement. By June 1944, he was in contact with the Yugoslav exiled government and in October that year, Tito’s forces fought alongside the Soviets in the liberation of Serbia.


Italian forces invaded Abyssinia in 1935. This man was the leader of that African country. Who is he?

Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie was active in the African independence movement. After the Italian invasion in 1935, he was exiled from Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). He returned from exile in 1941 with assistance from the British. By January 1942, the Italian forces in the country had surrendered to British and local forces.


Are you able to identify the German army officer whose plans formed the basis for the invasion of France in 1940?

Erich von Manstein was the officer responsible for planning Germany’s invasion of France. Later in the war, he was involved in various battles including the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk. He was later tried for war crimes in 1949 and spent some time in jail before rejoining the German army as an advisor in the 1950s.


Perhaps the most famous German general of World War II, identify the man known as the "Desert Fox," please.

Erwin Rommel was a commander of German forces during the invasion of France in 1940 and later became famous for his victories against the Allied troops in North Africa, earning him the nickname of "Desert Fox." Disillusioned with Hitler, Rommel took part in the bomb plot against his leadership. After the bomb plot failed, Rommel was forced to commit suicide.


Secretary to Adolf Hitler from 1943 onwards, rumors suggest that this Nazi official might have fled to South America after the war, although officials believe he died in 1945. Who is he?

Martin Bormann lead the Nazi Party Chancellery (1941) and was also Secretary to the Fuhrer (1943). He was involved in various domestic policies including the Euthanasia Programme, forced labor programs, the plundering of artwork as well as the murder and deportation of Jews. Bormann died in 1945, but some reports suggest he fled to South America.


First named the Japanese Minister of War, who became the Prime Minister of the country in 1941?

From July 1941, Tojo was Japan’s Minister of War. He was then appointed Prime Minister on the 16 October 16, 1941, and ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was made Commander in Chief of the General Staff in February 1944.


From the options below, choose the Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Navy responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Isoroku Yamamoto served as the Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Navy and Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Forces. Under his leadership, the Allied Forces defeated the Japanese at the Battle of Midway on June 5, 1942. Yamamoto died on April 18, 1943, when the transport plane he was flying in was shot down by American fighters in the Pacific theatre.


Who lead the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain?

During the Battle of Britain, Hugh Dowding was the Air Officer Commanding of RAF Fighter Command. His leadership, along with his courageous pilots, stopped the German airforce that was hell-bent on destroying British air bases that would have paved the way for Germany's invasion of Britain. He was controversially replaced to the end of 1940.


Who of these men commanded the American Pacific fleet during World War II?

U.S. Navy Fleet admiral, Chester Nimitz was the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet for most of World War II. He was ultimately responsible for all Allied forces in the Pacific Theatre during the war, including land, air and sea. Nimitz was a huge promoter of the use of submarine warfare against enemy shipping.


Name the man who was the German Minister of Armaments and Hitler's personal architect.

Albert Speer was not only an architect to Adolf Hitler but also the German Minister of Armaments from 1942 to 1945. It was Speer that instituted the use of foreign slave labor to help industrial production output during the conflict.


This U.S. leader gave the green light for the use of the atomic bomb on Japan. Who was he?

After Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Harry S. Truman succeeded him as the President of the United States. Although the war in Europe was won by May 1945, because of Japan’s refused to meet any terms of surrender Truman gave the green light for the use of the atomic bomb against the country. Two bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945.


Which British leader believed that appeasing Adolf Hitler and Germany would not lead to a World War?

Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of Britain who tried to appease Hitler in the build-up to World War II. He famously came from meeting Hitler in Munich in 1938, declaring "peace in our time." Hitler's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, left Chamberlain with no other course of action than to declare war on Germany. Winston Churchill soon replaced Chamberlain as British Prime Minister.


Can you identify the Supreme Allied Commander during the D-Day invasion?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was Supreme Allied Commander at the D-Day Invasion. As a five-star U.S. Army General, he was in charge of liberating the German-occupied areas of Europe (1944-1945), which led to the end of World War II and the surrender of Germany forces.


This German commander led the German Sixth Army in their failed attempt to capture the Russian city of Stalingrad. Who is he?

German Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus led the Sixth Army at the Battle of Stalingrad and became famous for ignoring Hitler’s order not to surrender. The Soviet forces captured Paulus and many of his men.


Do you know the name of the man in charge of British Bomber Command from 1942 till 1945?

As the head of the Royal Air Force Operation Bomber Command from 1942, Harris was in charge of coordinating and carrying out the bombing of Germany. Harris was a proponent of area bombardment of German cities, which left many of them razed to the ground. This included the firebombing of Dresden.


Who commanded the German air force and was close to Hitler during World War II?

During World War II, Hermann Göring was the Commander of the German Air Force, known as the Luftwaffe. An ace pilot in World War I himself, Göring thought his air force invincible, declaring that never would an Allied plane fly over Berlin. By 1943, however, daylight and night bombing raids were taking place daily thanks to the U.S. Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force. Göring committed suicide in 1946 while standing trial in Nuremberg.


Listed below is the German leader of the S.S. Can you pick him out?

Heinrich Himmler was responsible for the organization of the German SS or Schutzstaffel. The organization started as Adolf Hitler's bodyguard before becoming a feared band of Nazi loyalists. Himmel was also responsible for the organization of the concentration camps to carry out the "Final Solution," the extermination of the Jews.


Which German general led a plot against Hitler and launched a failed assassination attempt?

Claus von Stauffenberg was a German officer who was active in instigating the bomb plot on Hitler’s life in July 1944. The attack eventually failed and he was executed shortly after.


Despite his political differences with the government of China, this communist leader helped to fight the Japanese army in China during World War II.

In 1943, during the height of World War II, Mao Zedong became the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. The communists and nationalists instigated a temporary ceasefire to fight the Japanese, but once the war was over, hostilities began once again.


Which of these men was a Nazi leader that parachuted into Britain in 1941 looking to sign a peace deal?

Rudolf Hess served as Hitler’s deputy and as high-ranking party leader, he was loyal to Hitler in the early years. In the spring of 1941, he wanted to instigate peace talks with Britain. Hess took an airplane, flew to Britain and parachuted into Scotland. Churchill’s government responded by taking Hess prisoner. To this day, no one knows if Hess acted along. He died in captivity in 1987.


Who led the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II?

Henry Arnold was the commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Force during the war controlling operations in both Europe and the Pacific. Taught how to fly by the Wright brothers, he was one of the first ever military aviators.


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