It was the war that saw the greatest generation defend freedom for generations to follow. It was the war that galvanized the legacies of iconic leaders such as Churchill, FDR and Patton. Involving more than 16 million U.S. troops, World War II included around 70 million soldiers across Europe and the Pacific. It was a time marked with heroism and tragedy.
We all know the major events. The invasions of Poland and Paris, the bombings of Great Britain and Pearl Harbor ("a date which will live in infamy") together with conflicts such as D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge are depicted in countless films, miniseries and books. Every year, tourists flock to historic sites and monuments to remember those who served. But these were not actors on movie sets; these were real people who joined together, sacrificed and are remembered today as heroes.
Whether you're a history professor or just an amateur enthusiast, if you consider yourself a World War II buff, be sure to test your WWII IQ against our quiz.
Who was the U.S. president when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
Franklin D. Roosevelt was president when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Harry Truman, then the vice president, became the 33rd U.S. president when FDR died in 1945.
The D-Day invasion the Allies orchestrated to retake Europe from the German Third Reich was launched at what location?
The D-Day invasion took place on the coast of Normandy, France. Through misdirection, the Germans believed the attack would occur in the Pas-de-Calais along the narrowest part of the English Channel between England and France.
Two nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, bringing about the surrender of Japanese forces and the end of the war in the Pacific theater. In which two Japanese cities were they detonated?
The U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The Hiroshima bombing was the first ever deployment of an atomic bomb on populated areas.
In what year did Germany invade Poland?
In September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland, an act that resulted in both France and Great Britain declaring war on Germany.
Adolf Hitler predicted the war in his memoir published in 1925. What was it called?
In his 1925 memoir "Mein Kampf," Hitler predicted the war in Europe and Jewish persecution in Germany.
Which came first V-E Day (victory in Europe) or V-J Day (victory in Japan)?
V-E Day came first on May 8, 1945. V-J Day followed on Sept. 2, 1945, the day Japan surrendered to the Allies.
Some historians believe what contributing factor helped set the stage for World War II?
Instability in Europe after World War I is widely believed to have helped create a climate where Hitler's National Socialist Party could rise to power.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy motivated the U.S. to enter the war. On what date was Pearl Harbor attacked?
Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack took approximately two hours and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 American service members.
The use of secret, unbreakable codes was a behind-the-scenes strategy employed in wartime. One code language used by the U.S. Marines was borrowed from what Native American people?
About 400 Navajo "code talkers" worked for the war effort. Their coded communications were never broken by the Japanese.
During the conflict, were there more civilian or battle-related deaths?
The numbers are staggering, with an estimated 45 million civilian and 15 million battle-related deaths.
The D-Day invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, was considered a major turning point in favor of the Allies. On what date did it occur?
D-Day, the day more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded Western Europe, occurred on June 6, 1944.
The nations involved in the war formed two opposing alliances. What were they called?
The two major powers were the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) and the Allies (the U.S., Britain, France, China and the USSR).
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, how long did it take Congress to approve President Roosevelt's request to declare war on Japan?
It took one day for Congress to approve President Roosevelt's request. There was a single dissenting vote.
British engineer Robert Watson-Watt's radio-wave device was designed to be a weapon, but it actually became what kind of technology?
In 1935, Robert Watson-Watt was working on a means of destroying enemy aircraft. His efforts resulted in the development of radar technology.
How many years did World War II last?
The war lasted six years, from 1939 to 1945.
During the war, the British referred to Germans by what common nickname?
Jerry, or Jerries (plural), was slang for a German soldier during World War I that became more commonly used in World War II.
There are currently five branches of the U.S. armed services: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy. Which branch was part of the Army until after World War II?
The Air Force was recognized as its own military branch in 1947, years after the war ended.
Japan and the Soviet Union were on opposite sides of the World War II conflict. In what year did they sign a peace treaty?
Japan and Russia (formerly known as the Soviet Union) never signed a formal peace treaty, but they are still working on it. One bone of contention is a dispute over the South Kuril Islands (also called the Northern Territories dispute), which the Russians took from the Japanese after the war.
About how many battle-wounded people were there worldwide during the course of World War II?
Worldwide battle casualties are estimated at 25 million.
What treat was invented during the war to compensate for chocolate shortages?
That would be Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut spread that is experiencing a resurgence of popularity.
World War II was a devastating conflict, but it did lead to the creation of an effective international organization devoted to worldwide peace and security. What is it?
The United Nations formed in 1945 to replace the floundering League of Nations. Only sovereign states can become UN members. This influential organization currently has 193 member states.
How many domestic automobiles were produced in the U.S. after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (between February 1942 and October 1945)?
Life in the U.S. changed drastically after Pearl Harbor. Raw materials like rubber, steel and nylon were used in the war effort. From early 1942 to late 1945, no domestic automobiles, auto parts or trucks were produced.
Kamikaze pilots were dreaded Japanese weapons during the war. About how many kamikaze pilots intentionally crashed their planes into enemy targets during the conflict?
Approximately 2,800 Japanese pilots died in kamikaze raids during the war. Their efforts killed over 4,900 sailors and destroyed 34 U.S. ships.
Before Japan's surrender, there were plans for possibly launching a third atomic bomb. Which city was targeted for this final assault?
Had it been necessary, the third bomb was scheduled for release over Tokyo.
Of the eight battleships damaged or destroyed during the Pearl Harbor attack, how many were eventually repaired and placed into service?
Six battleships were eventually restored. The California and the West Virginia were sunk and later raised and repaired. Two, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, never rejoined the fleet.
Did any of Hitler's relatives fight for the Allies?
Hitler's nephew, William Hitler, served in the U.S. Navy during the war. He changed his name to William "Willy" Patrick Stuart-Houston.
Who first used the phrase "the war to end all wars"?
The quote often used to describe World War II is attributed to President Woodrow Wilson, but he wasn't actually talking about World War II. He was referring to World War I.
How many different countries were involved in the conflict?
By the end of the war, more than 30 countries across the globe were involved in the fight between the Allies and the Axis.
Enola Gay was the name of the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb over the port city of Hiroshima, Japan. What was the name of the aircraft that dropped the second bomb over Nagasaki?
Bockscar was named for its usual pilot Frederick Bock. On the actual day of the bombing, though, Bock was in another B-29 designed to take scientific measurements of the blast.
What was a "Liberty Steak"?
The "Liberty Steak" was a common hamburger. Fearing the name was somehow pro-Nazi, clever marketers changed it for the duration of the war.
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