What Do You Know About the Most Famous American Combat Units of WWII?

By: John Miller
Image: United States Marine Corps via Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

It’s a common misconception that the American Civil War featured more combat deaths than any other United States war. In reality, most of the poor souls in the North vs. South conflict died from diseases. World War II, with 420,000 combat deaths, is far and away the bloodiest fight in American history. In beating back the imperialistic designs of the Third Reich and the Empire of the Rising Sun, U.S. combat units were battered but unbowed. What do you really know about this nation’s WWII famous fighting units?

There are so many famous men from the Second World War that it’s difficult to name them all in any brief recounting. But there is no doubt that the 82nd Airborne sent Germans scurrying in terror all over Europe. The 82nd, which uses the motto “Death From Above,” parachuted into some of the most dangerous places of the European Theater, sometimes begin shot right out of the skies by troops on the ground. Do you know which battles the “All American Division” helped to shape?

From the Army to the Navy to the Marines, American warriors fought and died all over the globe in hopes of defeating Hitler’s cronies and Hirohito’s minions. Dodge the howitzers of this famous American combat unit quiz now!

Forget about the muck. "Merrill's Marauders" were renowned for which skill?

"Merrill's Marauders" were the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), and the men displayed incredible valor during the jungle battles of the Pacific War. They undertook some of the most dangerous missions imaginable.

Which combat unit earned the ultimate battlefield glory at the Battle of the Bulge?

In late December 1944, Hitler's men launched their last major offensive at the Battle of the Bulge. While many Allied troops fled, the 101st Airborne held fast in the face of all odds.

It was all about timing. What's one of the most notable facts about the 82nd Airborne?

The 82nd Airborne was the very first airborne division activated during WWII. It had about 8,000 men.

What crazy acts of bravery did "Merrill's Marauders" undertake during the Pacific War?

"Merrill's Marauders" were among the most daring U.S. troops in the Pacific. They often fought behind enemy lines and against numerically superior forces.

"The Purple Heart Battalion" was mostly made up of what men?

"The Purple Heart Battalion," officially the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, is the most decorated combat unit in American history. It was made up of Japanese-American men … the same people who were condemened to American internment camps during the war.

What was the purpose of the famous "Filthy Thirteen"?

The Filthy Thirteen was the 1st Demolition Section, part of the 101st Airborne. The men were tasked with blowing up targets behind enemy lines.

What was particularly notable about the Buffalo Soldiers?

Unbelievably, the U.S. maintained a no-blacks-in-combat policy until 1944. That's when the famous Buffalo Soldiers -- an all-black unit -- strode gallantly onto the European continent.

What role did the 101st Airborne play during the very initial part of the D-Day invasion?

In the early hours of D-Day, the 101st Airborne parachuted behind enemy lines. Their mission? To secure various waypoints and then meet up with invading ground forces.

The 10th Mountain Division is what sort of unit?

The 10th Mountain Division is a light infantry division renowned for its fighting capability on high and rugged terrain. Notably, the unit fought some terrible battles in the high mountains of Italy.

The 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry (36th Infantry Division) is more famously known as what?

In October 1944, the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry (36th Infantry Division) was trapped by German forces in a mountainous area. Completely cut off from reinforcements, they were ominously called "The Lost Battalion."

Which group -- at great cost -- finally relieved the Lost Battalion in late 1944?

The Lost Battalion was hopelessly trapped by the Germans. But the 442nd Regimental Combat Team plunged forward, suffering incredibly casualties along the way. It's how they became known as the "Purple Heart Battalion."

The Ranger Assault Group was created just for which major event?

In early 1944, the Ranger Assault Group was formed. Its mission? To provide serious punch for the beach landings of D-Day. Many of them scaled cliffs on the beaches to battle the Germans.

The Siege of Bastogne added greatly to the lore and fame of which unit?

The Siege of Bastogne was part of the Battle of the Bulge. It's where the 101st Airborne was trapped for days as fierce winter weather bore down on them.

"Hell on Wheels" was a divison led by which famous commander?

While watching the 2nd Armored Division expertly move through battlefield exercises, General Patton knew it would be a force to behold. He nicknamed it "Hell on Wheels."

The Lost Battalion had 275 when it was surrounded by the Germans in 1944. How many of those men made it out alive?

The Lost Battalion was nearly obliterated or captured. But thanks to the Purple Heart Battalion, 211 of the 275 trapped troops were rescued.

The 332nd Fighter Group was a group of black pilots better known as what?

The 332nd Fighter Group (and the 477th Bombardment Group) was commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen. These African American pilots made history in many ways throughout the war.

At the Siege of Bastogne, the 101st Airborne lacked which type of equipment?

At Bastogne, the 101st suffered withering assaults from a determined German advance. And they had few tanks (and even less fuel) to help them repel the Nazis.

Where did "Castner's Cutthroats" make a heroic (and frigid) impression?

The 1st Alaskan Combat Intelligence Platoon was better known was "Castner's Cutthroats." They did serious battle with the Japanese during the Aleutian Islands Campaign starting in 1942.

Allied bomber pilots relied on the Tuskegee Airmen for what purpose?

The Tuskegee Airmen served well as fighter pilots. They were particularly renowned for their skills in bomber escort missions, in which they protected bomber crews from German guns.

OSS Detachment 101 was meant to accomplish which mission?

Deployed in Burma, the OSS Detachment 101 was meant to make life harder for the Japanese. Always in great danger, these men worked behind enemy lines and helped to rescue many Allied airmen who'd been blasted out of the skies.

During WWII, Army officials filled out manpower shortages in the 10th Mountain Division by throwing in men from other units. What happened?

The 10th Mountain Division took pride its is rugged skills and training. When mixed with random soldiers, the 10th's morale nosedived as the group lost some of its identity.

The Buffalo Soldiers achieved which significant feat?

German commanders created the infamous Gothic Line on the backs of slave labor. The Buffalo Soldiers broke the Gothic line, but at great cost, with nearly 3,000 casualties in 12,000 personnel.

At the Siege of Bastogne, German commanders insisted that the trapped 101st Airborne surrender. What was the American commander's reply?

When the Germans insisted that the 101st Airborne surrender at Bastogne, the Americans didn't hesitate. Their response? "Nuts!" In '40s, parlance, it was definitely a refusal.

During the Battle of the Bulge, which group parachuted directly INTO the Battle of the Bulge?

With the 101st Airborne surrounded at the Battle of the Bulge, U.S. officials acted. The Pathfinders parachuted right into the fray, expecting incredible casualities but actually losing just one of 20 men.

"The Rock of the Marne" is the nickname for which famed unit?

The 3rd Infantry Division earned its "Rock of the Marne" nickname during the First World War. It served admirably in WWII, too, taking the fight to the Germans before most other Allied units.

The 442nd Infantry Regiment lost so many men that it essentially had to be numerically replaced how many times during the war?

The 442nd Infantry Regiment's 4,000 men were decimated throughout WWII. It was basically rebuilt twice during the war due to incredibly high casualty rates.

What was the purpose of the so-called Ghost Army?

The Ghost Army -- the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops -- was meant to trick German troops. Its men built all sorts of decoys that made Allied forces seem larger than they were.

What's the nickname of the 101st Airborne Division?

And you can bet the Nazis heard them coming from miles away. The 101st Airborne is the "Screaming Eagles," and they were instrumental during several key WWII battles.

During WWII, the Filthy Thirteen took up which famous hairstyle?

At least one of the Filthy Thirteen had Native American roots, which inspired the men to try out Mohawks in battle. The widely circulated photos of this unusual hairdo added to the group's fame.

The Allied Ghost Army was so top-secret that officials kept it under wraps for how long after the war?

During WWII, the Ghost Army tricked the Germans by creating many decoys in Europe. The program was so secretive that no one really know about for four decades after the war.

What was one reason that Tuskegee Airmen bomber pilots never served during combat during the war?

The Tuskegee Airmen trained as both fighter and bomber pilots, and the fighter pilots saw a lot of action. Racial frictions in bomber units, however, were one big reason the bomber pilots never flew combat missions.

Audie Murphy was a famous soldier who served with which unit during the war?

Murphy was the most highly decorated American soldier of WWII. He served with the 3rd Infantry Division and then became a movie star.

What was the most important function of Castner's Cutthroats in Alaska?

When the Japanese captured some of the Aleutian Islands, the Americans plotted to take them back. Castner's Cutthroats performed vital scouting that gave troops the information they needed to make successful assaults.

Which unit helped to reinforce the 101st Airborne at the Siege of Bastogne?

General George Patton drove his Third Army like mad to reach the siege at Bastogne. And they got there in time, helping to throw back the Germans and send them running for their lives.

The OSS Detachment 101 officially recorded some astonding numbers in Burma. Its 22 members killed about how many Japanese?

In Burma, OSS Detachment 101 used all sorts of deadly means to harass and punish the Japanese. American records show that this tiny unit killed more than 5,400 Japanese … and saved more than 500 Allied men in trouble.

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