What Do You Know About the United States Army?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: DanielBendjy/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The United States of America had to fight for its independence. Then it fought itself in a bloody civil war, then in two world wars and a number of foreign conflicts thereafter. It's really not surprising that America has one of the largest standing armies in the world. But how much do you know about this fighting force?

There's no shortage of fascinating trivia about the Army. Did you know, for example, that the Army is older than the United States itself? It was first formed to fight the British Army, which, until the Declaration of Independence, protected the 13 colonies. (To be fair, the U.S. Navy can say the same thing). But it's the Army which grew to be the largest branch of the military, and it's hard to overstate its role in American life. Traditionally, enlistment has been a road up and out of poverty for many young people (although not without its risks, death in combat being one of them, at least during wartime). Some choose to be career Army; others have gotten valuable vocational training, sometimes including a GED, from their service. A few have gone from military service to a life of civil service in politics, a few rising as high as the Oval Office. 

We hope you learn a few things of interest from this quiz. But we won't make you drop and give us 20 if you don't. 

What do the Army's paratroopers do?

Paratroopers approach enemy territory in a novel and dangerous way: They parachute in. Paratroopers were important to Operation Overlord, of which D-Day was a part. These units suffered high casualties, with contributing factors including adverse weather, poorly marked drop zones and lack of navigators on the airplanes.


Who commanded the Continental Army?

Washington was an admired military leader, who, of course, went on to be the new nation's first president. Not-so-fun fact: Washington was troubled, for much of his later life, with pain from his bad teeth. We can only wonder how much more effective a leader he would have been without this distraction!


Who is the current Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army?

Oh, how we wish it were Steve "Captain America" Rogers! But the sitting president of the United States is always the commander-in-chief; as of 2019 and the writing of this quiz, that's President Donald Trump.


True or false: Despite the creation of the Air Force, there is still an "aviation" branch of the Army.

The Air Force took over most fixed-wing aircraft from the Army, as well as the general mission of air and space defense. But the Army still actively uses helicopters, which were very important in Vietnam, for example. And few can forget the "Black Hawk Down" disaster in Somalia in the 1990s.


What is the informal name of the United States Military Academy?

The name "West Point" was a geographic designation; the school sits high on the west bank of the Hudson River. That's also the reason behind answer option #3, which is a nickname cadets have given the school.


One of these has not been an Army recruiting slogan. Which is it?

Of the three examples above, "Be All You Can Be" is the oldest, dating from the 1980s. "An Army of One" was meant to attract young millennials, individualistic thinkers who were thought unlikely to enlist based on patriotism alone. We're not sure where the expression "Go big or go home" came from, tbh.


What is the name of the larger agency the Army is part of?

The Department of Defense is part of the federal government, and oversees all seven branches of the military. Sidebar: Yes, there are really seven branches ... can you name all of them? Most people only know five, or even just four (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines).


"Selective Service" is another name for what?

The government, including the Army, has a history of taking something that average people have an easily-understood word for -- "the draft" -- and renaming it with a euphemism. Such was the case with the Selective Service Act of 1917, which re-introduced conscription for the modern age.


What did Army generals Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower have in common?

The class of 1915 was known as "the class the stars fell on" for its large percentage of generals. Both Bradley and Eisenhower distinguished themselves in World War II, but only one went on to be a president.


What kind of soldiers can claim the slogan "______ lead the way!"

The full saying is "Rangers, lead the way!" It comes from an exchange on Omaha Beach on D-Day, where a general asked a major in the 5th Ranger Division who his men were. On hearing the answer, the general said, "Well, Rangers, lead the way!"


What is the name for a clergyman (or woman) in the Army?

"Chaplain" is not, of course, a term specific to the Army; the other branches use this term, too. The Army has an entire "Chaplain Corps," made up of these ordained ministers and their assistants. Famous fictional chaplains include the beloved Father Mulcahy of "M*A*S*H."


What rank do newly-enlisted soldiers hold?

This term is shared by other English-speaking countries, like the UK. "Cadet" is the term for a student in a military academy or one in an ROTC program. Not only does a cadet outrank a private, he or she outranks any enlisted soldier.


What is the "regular" Army?

America has a substantial "regular Army." In addition, there is the Army National Guard, which is a national militia, and the Army Reserve, forces that train one weekend a month and are called up in time of need.


True or false: "Secretary of the Army" is a civilian position.

The Secretary of the Army is appointed by the president (but must be confirmed in a Senate hearing). The Navy has a similar system, and perhaps its most famous Secretary of the Navy was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


Which of these is the lowest rank for a commissioned officer?

Sergeants can be non-commissioned officers, or "NCOs." But lieutenant is the lowest rank for a commissioned officer. Soldiers who successfully complete officer training emerge as second lieutenants.


What is a "warrant officer"?

The name comes from the fact that this soldier was made an officer by a warrant, not a "commission," which is the more typical route (and a little too complicated to explain here). Warrant officers are often ones with highly specialized skills. Don't confuse them with "non-commissioned officers," who earn their status mostly by virtue of seniority.


The standard-issue pistol for most of the 20th century was the ...

This pistol was known in the Army as the M1911 (Colt .45s were also widely sold to civilians). It was designed by John Browning and widely used from 1911 until the mid-1980s, when it was replaced by the Beretta 92F.


What is "The Army Goes Rolling Along"?

Sounds kind of laid back and easygoing, doesn't it? It's a lot more stirring when you hear it played by a brass band. Also known as "The Army Song," it was composed in the early 20th century by John Philip Sousa.


True or false: The Army's cavalry division was eliminated after the rise of motor vehicles.

The Army's "Cav" units never shut down ... they just modernized, using motor vehicles and tanks. Fun fact: There *was* a horseback unit in Afghanistan, where it proved the best way to get around on rocky, mountainous terrain. However, this was a Special Forces unit, not cavalry.


What is the name of the Army's football team?

The Army's football team was known for a long time as "the Cadets." This was fitting as they played out of the Army's college, the United States Military Academy. They were informally called "The Black Knights of the Hudson," and eventually, this became the official name.


In the early 20th century, which of these became its own branch of the military, independent of the Army?

Early in the 20th century, fixed-wing aircraft were part of the Army, a sub-unit known as the Army Air Corps or, later, the Army Air Forces. The National Security Act of 1947, signed by President Truman, made the Air Force an independent branch.


One of these presidents paid a man to serve in the Army for him. Who was he?

Believe it or not, it used to be perfectly legal to pay someone to do Army service for you, should you be conscripted. This was the route that Cleveland took, and it raised a few eyebrows at the time. Some people say that the "college deferment" is simply a roundabout way for wealthy or middle-class people to do the same thing today.


What year did West Point first admit female cadets?

Unsurprisingly, the admission of women into what are called the "federal service academies" was caused by a lawsuit. Female cadets suffered ostracization and hazing, but today, they make up about 20 percent of West Point's enrollment and have served as leader of the Cadet Corps.


Which U.S. president volunteered for the Army *after* his time in office?

Of course, it would be Teddy Roosevelt! This adventurer and macho man volunteered to serve in World War I. This was about 10 years after his time in the Oval Office. Fun fact: Theodore Roosevelt Jr., though he had a bad leg, was an inspirational figure who rallied troops at Omaha Beach on D-Day.


Which of these Army generals was also a skilled fencer?

Patton represented the United States at the Olympics in Pentathlon, a combination of five sports that includes fencing. Also on Patton's resume? Designing a sword that was put into use by the Army, called the "Patton saber."


Which of these celebrities did NOT serve in the Army?

Freeman served in the U.S. Air Force in his youth. The other three famous people were all in the Army. Eastwood served in Korea after being drafted; Presley signed up in part to clean up his image with the American public (which wasn't very good among older people and the religious), and Hugh Hefner drew cartoons for a military newspaper.


Approximately how much land does the Army own?

If all the land that the Army owned was consolidated into a single state, it would be larger than Rhode Island, Connecticut, and six other states! The Army requires a lot of land for its bases, which include proving grounds, ordnance ranges and more.


How many presidents have served in the Army?

Thirty-one is the number of U.S. presidents who have served in the military overall. It probably doesn't surprise you that the Army, the largest branch, can claim the greatest number of presidents who came from its ranks.


About how many soldiers are in the "regular Army"?

The enlistment of the regular Army is about 476,000. That's impressive on its own, but when you add in the 343,000 National Guard soldiers and 200,000 reservists, it brings the "consolidated force" to more than 1 million persons. That's a lot!


In its entirety, the Army's numbers are twice the population of which state?

OK, Wyoming *is* America's least-crowded state, with a population of about 570,000 people. Still, this statistic reflects the truly awesome size of the United States Army. That's a lot of people to train, provide uniforms for, et cetera.


What was Col. Sylvanus Thayer best known for?

Thayer wasn't the first superintendent, but he was the one who standardized the school's curriculum and admissions standards; a statue of him stands on the campus. It was Benedict Arnold who sold out West Point, back when it was still an Army fort.


Which of these controversial symbols was once used by an infantry unit?

You might already know that before the Nazi Regime, the swastika was seen by more than one culture as a sign of good luck and protection. The Army's 45th Infantry adopted it as part of their sleeve insignia until World War II, after which the symbol was just not acceptable in anything like polite society.


Which of these was the forerunner of the U.S. Army?

After declaring America's independence, the Founding Fathers created the Continental Army to fight the British Army in the war they knew would ensue. The Continental Army was disbanded after the war, but America's new leaders saw the need for a standing army and created the Legion of the United States, renamed the U.S. Army in 1796.


True or false: The Army has a base in Cuba, a country traditionally hostile to the U.S.

Nope, it's the Marines who run Guantanamo Bay! Did we get you? No matter which branch it belongs to, the idea of a U.S. military base on the land of a Communist nation is just plain strange. It doesn't help that the U.S. tried to assassinate Fidel Castro several times. Awkward!


In which war did the Army first use a submarine?

Many people know about the early submarines used in the Civil War ... but a rudimentary, Jules Verne-ish submersible was also deployed in the Revolutionary War. It was called the Turtle, was operated in part by foot pedals, and did not succeed in sinking a British ship. Back to R&D!


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!