What Do You Know About the Naval Battles of WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: USN

About This Quiz

The Second World War saw the biggest ground battles in the history of humankind. In places like Stalingrad and Leningrad, millions and millions of troops fought and died as the Allies and Axis desperately fought for survival. But the war spread to the oceans, too, where thousands of ships large and small tried to sink each other using mines, torpedoes and aircraft launched from flight decks. In this water-soaked quiz, what do you really know about the naval battles of World War II?

World War II was truly a total war, one in which countries amassed all of their resources in order to defeat their enemies. By land, by air and by sea, they fought with modern weapons of all kinds. But one kind of ship in particular made an immense impact on the war, particularly in the Pacific Theater. Do you know which ship it was? It was, of course, the aircraft carrier, deployed by both Japan and the United States, these monstrous ships became icons of the fight.

Aircraft carriers allowed navies to extend their reach and influence by hundreds of miles. Suddenly, navy battles weren’t limited to the range of a ship’s guns – the battles raged far from the ships themselves, as fighters and dive bombers tangled in the skies. Do you recall major ship battles that were decided by air power?

From Pearl Harbor to the Battle of the Java Sea, the Imperial Navy looked unstoppable. Plunge into the waters of this WWII navy battles quiz now!

What was the single biggest naval battle of World War II?

The Battle of Leyte Gulf wasn't just the biggest naval battle of WWII. It may also have been the biggest naval battle in human history. Its consequences were equally massive.


The Battle of Leyte Gulf found Allied forces fighting ____.

In October 1944, the Allies (mostly American and Australia sailors) clashed with the Japanese navy. The battle evolved into a clash of immense proportions.


How many total ships took part in the massive Battle of Leyte Gulf?

Roughly 400 ships fought at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and most of them belonged to the Americans. The Americans hoped that a victory there would help them later launch an invasion of Japanese-held islands in the South Pacific.


At the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese hurled everything they had at the Americans. Why?

The Japanese knew an American invasion was imminent. They used every navy ship they had left in an effort to stop the American advance. The resulting battle involved 200,000 men and sprawled over about 100,000 square miles.


The Battle of the Atlantic was the _____ in all of WWII.

In 1939, the Battle of the Atlantic began, as the Axis and Allies wrestled for control of the seas. It became the longest (and most continous) battle of the entire war.


Which type of weapon did the Germans deploy en masse during the Battle of the Atlantic?

In the Battle of the Atlantic, German U-boats (submarines) prowled the seas, sinking military and merchant ships by the hundreds. Allied captains feared "wolfpacks" of German U-boats, which used coordinated attacks.


The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first battle in which ______ attacked each other.

Fought in May 1942, the Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle ever in which aircraft carriers duked it out. But the ships never even laid eyes on each other, instead using air power to fight.


At the Battle of the Coral Sea, what was the Japanese navy's mission?

At the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese navy realized that American aircraft carriers were nearby -- so they set out to find the U.S. fleet and destroy it as quickly as possible.


From a tactical standpoint, which side won the Battle of the Coral Sea?

The Japanese navy was largely successful at the Battle of the Coral Sea, sinking one major carrier and killing nearly 700 Allied sailors. But it wasn’t a long-term win.


At the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese unleashed which terrifying weapon?

As the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Japanese commanders knew they were in dire straits. They sent kamikaze (suicide) pilots to dive bomb American ships … sometimes with horrifying success.


At the Battle of the Java Sea, 2,300 Allied sailors were killed. How many sailors did the Japanese lose?

It was a lopsided fight. The Japanese trounced the Allies, killing about 2,300 sailors … while losing just 36.


Which major battle took place six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

With the devastation of Pearl Harbor still fresh in their minds, U.S. sailors were very motivated at the Battle of Midway, which took place six months later. Midway was an incredible turning point of WWII.


How long did the Pacific Theater of WWII last, anyway?

While the war in Europe raged, so to did the Pacific War. It dragged on for more than 3.5 years, as the Japanese refused to surrender even when it was clear that they'd lose the war.


The Americans essentially lost the Battle of the Coral Sea, but they did manage which major accomplishment?

The Allies basically lost the Battle of the Coral Sea. But they did manage stop a major Japanese offensive -- and it was the first time in WWII that they'd managed that feat.


What date did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor?

On December 7, 1941, a "date which will live in infamy," the Japanese used a surprise navy attack to blast Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The attack drew the U.S. into WWII.


The Battle of Midway took place near which type of geographical feature?

Midway Atoll is a tiny fragment of land in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. It became famous during the Battle of Midway.


How many ships did German submarines manage to sink during the Battle of the Atlantic?

German subs were relentless in the Battle of the Atlantic. They sank 3,700 Allied ships, mostly merchant vessels.


German subs sank thousands of enemy ships in the Battle of the Atlantic. How many subs did they lose in the process?

German sub crews were deadly in their efficients, sinking 3,700 enemy ships. They lost just under 800 subs in the process, or about 30,000 sailors.


What was the purpose of the Japanese attack at the Battle of Midway?

At Midway, the Japanese sent a huge navy force in hopes of crushing the U.S. Pacific fleet. Their hope was to gain total control over the Pacific in an effort to defeat America.


What major advantage did the Americans have at the Battle of Midway?

American code breakers figured out the date and location of the Japanese attack at Midway. The Americans set a trap … and the Japanese sailed right into it.


At the Battle of Leyte Gulf, how was the USS St. Lo sunk?

During Leyte Gulf, the USS St. Lo earned a sad place in history -- it was the first major ship ever to be sunk by a kamikaze attack. The planes struck an area where aircraft were being refueled, causing massive chain-reaction explosions.


During the Battle of the Philippines Sea, the Japanese lost _____ aircraft in just two days.

For the Japanese, it was a horrifying development -- they lost 630 warplanes in just two days at the the Battle of the Philippine Sea. It was a harbinger of things to come.


In 1945, what was the purpose of Japan's Operation Ten-Go?

In April 1945, the Japanese sent their last real group of ships to Okinawa in a desperate attack … one they knew was suicidal. The Allies decimated Operation Ten-Go before it ever reached the island.


Operation Ten-Go featured the Yamato. What was special about this ship?

The Yamato was the biggest battleship in the world. But Operation Ten-Go was doomed from the start, as American air superiority blasted the Yamato and other ships with relentless attacks.


The USS Lexington was essentially destroyed during which battle?

At the Battle of the Coral Sea, the USS Lexington was struck by Japanese warplanes. She survived the initial fight but was so badly damaged that she had to be scuttled a few days later.


Six Japanese aircraft carriers attacked Pearl Harbor. How many of those carriers were sunk at the Battle of Midway six months later?

Half a year after the devastation of Pearl Harbor, the Americans got their revenge. They sank four Japanese carriers at Midway … a fact that changed the course of the Pacific War.


What was a major result of the Battle of Leyte Gulf?

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was a last-gasp attack by the Japanese navy. It lost dozens of ships in the fight and basically ceased to exist as a fighting force.


The "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" is a nickname for the lopsided aerial fight that was part of which naval battle?

During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, American forces blasted hundreds of Japanese planes out of the sky. It was such a lopsided victory that the Americans called it the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."


The USS Princeton was a light carrier lost during which battle?

A Japanese dive bomber struck the bullseye during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The USS Princeton caught fire and exploded multiple times before finally sinking into her watery grave.


Why were American pilots and gunners so successful at the Battle of the Philippine Sea?

At the Battle of the Philippine Sea, numerous factors converged -- like better training, improved weapons, and more -- and the result was a virtual slaughter of Japanese forces.


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