WWII: The Home Front Quiz


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

During World War II, Americans at home played a huge role in the conflict. They didn't dodge any bullets, but they supported troops and restructured their lives to ensure an Allied victory. How much do you know about the home front during World War II?

How did Americans respond to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor?

Following the attack, Americans went into a state of collective panic. They were terrified, thinking that America was perhaps too vulnerable to her enemies.


Americans were immediately ready to sacrifice aspects of their lives in order to beat back the Japanese.

Panic gave way to resolve. Across the country, men, women, and children banded together and declared their intent to beat the Japanese no matter what it cost.


What was the status of the American economy before World War II?

The American economy was in shambles, still struggling through the Great Depression. With the arrival of war, American companies had to find a way to get back on their feet.


The war helped America shake off the effects of the Great Depression.

As America descended into war, the economy went into overdrive, primarily to supply the military with supplies and weapons. By the end of the war, the Great Depression was over in the U.S.


What was "V-mail"?

V-mail was short for "Victory Mail." To save space and weight, correspondence to and from war zones was censored, photographed to microfilm, and then reprinted when it reached its destination. The microfilm was much lighter than regular paper letters, and it consumed far less cargo space, too.


Which of the following helped Americans follow the war?

There was no TV news during World War II. Americans flocked to movie theaters, and before feature films, they viewed newsreels, which contained updates on the war and its progress.


On average, how many Americans watched newsreels each week?

Every week, at 14,000 movie theaters, about 50 million Americans saw the newsreels that breathlessly unveiled the war as it was happening. The total population of the country at that time? Only around 130 million, meaning that more than one-third of the nation saw the newsreels each week.


On the home front, some Americans lost many of their civil rights.

The war caused all sorts of major political reactions, especially with regards to Japanese-American citizens. Many were stripped of their rights and forced into internment camps.


During World War II, radios were common in homes.

There were no TVs, but there were radios galore. During major events, like Pearl Harbor, Americans everywhere were glued to their radios, yearning for updates on the violence.


When a soldier died, what symbol did his family put in the window of their home?

It was the saddest of things to see -- a gold star in the window of a home. It meant that a family's beloved soldier had been killed. No one wanted to be a "gold star" family.


Why were American families encouraged to save cooking fats during the war?

The government collected waste fats from cooking. The fats were used to create explosives critical to combat efforts. Americans saved scrap metal, rags and hundreds of other used items to help the war effort.


What were "victory gardens"?

The government encouraged citizens to plant so-called "victory gardens" during the war. These helped to increase America's overall food supply and eased pressure on the public food distribution system.


Mail was critical to morale both at home and abroad. How many letters were delivered abroad each year of the war?

American citizens and soldiers relied solely on mail for communication. Around five billion letters traveled to and from war areas each year during the conflict.


How long did it take for V-mail to reach its destination during the war?

In decent conditions (in terms of both weather and battle), V-mail was actually pretty fast. Letters might be delivered in around two weeks. For lonely soldiers, those two weeks probably felt like a lifetime.


Who was Ernie Pyle?

Ernie Pyle was an acclaimed journalist during the war. Unlike most reporters, he offered stories that had an intimate touch, giving citizens back home an idea of what the war was really like. He was killed during a battle in the Pacific theater.


World War II newsreels were scrubbed of any footage that might be deemed offensive.

As the war dragged on, the newsreels became more violent and more gruesome. The reality they offered galvanized Americans for the hard sacrifices of the long conflict.


What percentage of the U.S. population served in the military during World War II?

Just over 12 million Americans served in the military during the conflict. That accounted for about 10 percent of the country's entire population. Everyone knew someone who served.


About how many Americans were killed during the war?

Roughly 400,000 American men and women died in the war, far fewer than most Allied nations. But all across the country, most people knew numerous service personnel who lost their lives.


About 1 million black Americans entered the workforce during the war. Most of them were women.

Of the 1 million black Americans who surged into the workforce during the war, most were women. The war tapped many populations that were underemployed before the conflict.


Rationing was common during the war. What was the first item to be rationed?

Tires were in short supply during the war. They were the first item to be rationed by the government.


How did citizens manage to procure items that were subjected to rationing?

Everything from gas to butter was rationed during the war. Everyone was supplied with ration stamps, and once your supply of stamps for the month was gone, you learned to live without.


Why did millions and millions of people move from rural areas to cities during the war?

In the span of months, American factories ramped up production. Millions of rural Americans moved to cities to take these good-paying jobs, often crowding into cities in overwhelming numbers.


How did the war affect leisure time on the home front?

Leisure time for average Americans plummeted during the war, as factory employees worked long, long hours. Many factories operated 24 hours a day in an attempt to keep up with demands from the military.


How did Americans respond to the draft during the war?

The draft was an important source of war personnel. Unlike the Vietnam War draft, Americans mostly supported the World War II draft. It was considered a necessary war.


Gasoline was rationed during the war. How many gallons did each family receive per week?

Each family received three gallons of gas per week. It meant carefully choosing when and where to use the precious fuel.


During the war, many women stepped into jobs normally reserved for men.

Before the war, there were clear lines between jobs worked by women and men. But as men were called to military service, more than 6 million women stepped into "men's" jobs, often dirty, physically demanding jobs that were critical to the war effort.


President Roosevelt tried to suspend professional baseball during the war.

Pro baseball's commissioner asked President Roosevelt if the sport should suspend games until the war was over. Roosevelt was adamant that the games should continue because they were a boost to public morale.


How did American news censors enforce censorship of certain information during the war?

American news censors found news editors to be incredibly compliant during the war. Editors felt it was their patriotic duty to present only the most pertinent news to their readers.


Many women divorced their husbands because they were gone so long during the war.

Government rules made it hard (or impossible) for women to divorce soldiers who were in active service. But once those men returned, divorces skyrocketed. They peaked in 1946, the year after the war ended.


The war ended in 1945. When did rationing finally end?

The epic war finally ended in 1945. Rationing dragged on for a little longer, until 1946, when all limits were finally lifted in the U.S.


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