World War II Battles

Kelly Scott

Image: Keystone / Stringer

About This Quiz

World War II saw some of the bloodiest battles ever fought. How much do you remember about them? Test your knowledge about battles between 1939 to 1945 in this 35-question quiz.

How did General George Patton die on December 21, 1945?

After the war, Patton became the military governor of Bavaria, but he was relieved of this post because of his statements on denazification. He commanded the U.S. Fifteenth Army for slightly more than two months. Patton died in Germany on December 21, 1945, as a result of injuries from an automobile accident there twelve days earlier. While Allied leaders held differing opinions on Patton, a popular, award-winning film titled "Patton" was released in 1970 and helped transform him into an American folk hero.

Which of the following is generally accepted as the most deadly battle of WWII?

The Battle of Stalingrad, which saw Hitler’s major push for dominance on the Eastern Front, was marked by terrible losses on both sides. The Russians alone had over a million men wounded or killed.

Which of the following naval battles is considered one of the most decisive battles of WWII as well as a turning point in the Pacific theater?

While the Japanese hoped another surprise attack would demoralize the Americans into capitulating in the Pacific, in fact, the Battle of Midway effectively destroyed Japan’s naval strength when the Americans destroyed four of its aircraft carriers and Japan’s navy never recovered from its mauling at Midway. It was thanks to American codebreakers who were able to determine the date and location of the planned attack which enabled the U.S. Navy to prepare its own ambush.

Which battle is General Tadamichi Kuribayashi best known for being overall commander of the Japanese garrison?

Although the United States Marine Corps had expected to capture Iwo Jima in five days, Kuribayashi and his men waged guerrilla warfare against them for 36 days. While it is believed that he was killed in action in the final assault,the some believe he personally led, Kuribayashi's body was never identified by the United States military.

Who commanded the British Eighth Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy, as well as all Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord, the initial stages of the Normandy Invasion?

In August of 1942, Winston Churchill appointed Bernard Montgomery to be commander of the British Eighth Army in North Africa where Monty forced Erwin Rommel to retreat after the Battle of El-Alamein. He also reviewed the plan for the Normandy Invasion and commanded all ground forces in the initial stages of the invasion.

Which weapon was particularly notable in the Battle of Kursk in WWII?

The Battle of Kursk was a giant clash of tanks between Germans and Russians. With a full eight thousand tanks, it broke all records for the largest tank battle in the history of mankind. If the Germans had broken through the Russian lines in the Kursk salient and scored a decisive victory over the Red Army, it is perfectly possible that they might have turned back the tide of war in their direction, despite their defeats at Moscow and Stalingrad in 1941 and 1942, respectively.

Which WWII battle was the deadliest for U.S. troops?

The Germans' initial attack included 406,000 men, 1,214 tanks, tank destroyers, and assault guns, and 4,224 artillery pieces. These were reinforced a couple weeks later, bringing the offensive's total strength to around 450,000 troops. Between 67,200 and 125,000 of their men were killed, missing or wounded. Americans sent 610,000 troops, of which 89,000 were casualties, making it the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in WWII.

Which general was awarded the Medal of Honor for extreme bravery early in WWII and then went on to preside over the Japanese Unconditional Surrender in 1945?

His strategy of maneuver, air strikes and force avoidance meant that soldiers under his command faced relatively low casualties. MacArthur also managed the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951 and as the effective ruler of the country, he oversaw sweeping economic, political and social changes.

Which battle marked the end of the so-called "Phoney War" (the uncertain period of WWII in which saw neither side committed to serious military action) and witnessed the German forces invade France and the Low Countries?

Despite similar numbers in their respective forces, the Germans devastated the inexperienced French (and other Allied) troops and took the entire country soon after.

When did the Battle of Leyte Gulf begin?

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history

Towards the end of the war, which U.S. general led a force of over 1.3 million troops (America's largest to serve under one man)?

From the Normandy landings to the end of the war in Europe, Bradley had command of all U.S. ground forces invading Germany from the west. After the war, Bradley headed the Veterans Administration and became Army Chief of Staff. In 1949, Bradley was appointed the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the following year oversaw the policy-making for the Korean War, before retiring from active service in 1953. He was the last of only nine people to hold a five-star rank in the United States Armed Forces.

Which of the following battles was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan?

The Guadalcanal campaign was a significant strategic combined arms victory by Allied forces over the Japanese in the Pacific theater. The Japanese had reached the peak of their conquests in the Pacific. The victories at Milne Bay, Buna-Gona, and Guadalcanal marked the Allied transition from defensive operations to the strategic initiative in that theater, leading to offensive operations, such as the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and Central Pacific campaigns, that resulted in Japan's eventual surrender and the end of World War II.

The invasion of which country is also known as the September Campaign, and also marks the beginning of WWII?

The German invasion began on September 1, 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, while the Soviet invasion commenced on September 17 following the Molotov-Tōgō agreement. After the Polish defeat at the Battle of Kock, German and Soviet forces gained full control over Poland and the success of the invasion marked the end of the Second Polish Republic, although Poland never formally surrendered.

Which battle prevented Germany from gaining air superiority, eventually forcing Hitler to cancel Operation Sea Lion, the planned amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain?

The Battle of Britain has been described as the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. The primary objective of the Nazi German forces was to force Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.

Which battle was the only battle in which American forces sustained a greater number than total casualties than the Japanese?

American losses for Operation Detachment during the Battle of Iwo Jima were a staggering 6,821 killed/missing and 19,217 wounded. During the struggle for the island, twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded, fourteen posthumously. A bloody victory, Iwo Jima provided valuable lessons for the upcoming Okinawa campaign. In addition, the island fulfilled its role as a waypoint to Japan for American bombers. During the final months of the war, 2,251 B-29 Superfortress landings occurred on the island. Due to heavy cost to take the island, the campaign was immediately subjected to intense scrutiny in the military and press.

In which battle did Germany use submarines to devastating effect by cutting off Britain's supply routes?

Because shipping was vital to supply Britain with food, raw material, and fuel, the strategy in the Battle of the Atlantic leveraged submarines smartly. However, while U-boats destroyed a significant number of ships, the strategy ultimately failed. Although the U-boats had been updated in the interwar years, the major innovation was improved communications, encrypted using the famous Enigma cipher machine. This allowed for mass-attack naval tactics (Rudeltaktik, commonly known as "wolfpack"), but was also ultimately the U-boats' downfall. By the end of the war, almost 3,000 Allied ships (175 warships, 2,825 merchantmen) had been sunk by U-boats.

When did the Japanese first start leveraging kamikaze attacks in WWII?

Some sources claim the first kamikaze mission occurred on September 13, 1944 when a group of Japanese pilots on Negros Island decided to launch a suicide attack the following morning. Two 220 lb (100 kg) bombs were attached to two fighters, and the pilots took off before dawn, planning to crash into carriers however they never returned and there is no record of an enemy plane hitting an Allied ship that day. According to other sources, on October 14 1944, the USS Reno was hit by a deliberately crashed Japanese plane. Kamikaze tactics were undoubtedly used on October 17, 1944, at the beginning of the Battle of Leyte Gulf when the Japanese 1st Air Fleet was massively overwhelmed and purposefully resorted to suicide attacks.

After which battle, deemed a stunning success, did Churchill cautiously advise, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations."?

The Allied forces were split in two by a German armored advance to the Channel coast at Calais after being taken by surprise at the speed of the advance. In one of the most widely-debated decisions of the war, the Germans halted their advance on Dunkirk, giving time for the Allies time to organize the Dunkirk evacuation and build a defensive line. Despite the Allies' gloomy estimates of the situation, with Britain discussing a conditional surrender to Germany, in the end over 330,000 Allied troops were rescued.

What was the name of the US Chief of Staff during WWII, who although he never personally led troops in combat, he picked or recommended the top commands including Eisenhower, Devers, Patton, and McNair?

To support WWII efforts Marshall organized the largest military expansion in U.S. history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly equipped army of 189,000 men and, partly drawing from his experience teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, coordinated the large-scale expansion and modernization of the U.S. Army.

Which battle inspired Churchill's famous speech including the phrase, "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour"?

The Battle of Britain has an unusual distinction in that it gained its name prior to being fought, since it is derived from this famous speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons on June 18, 1940, more than three weeks prior to the generally accepted date for the start of the battle.

Beginning three months after the outbreak of WWII, where did the so-called "Winter War" take place?

The Soviet Union ostensibly sought to claim parts of Finnish territory, demanding that Finland cede substantial border territories in exchange for land elsewhere, claiming security reasons and the protection of Leningrad, only 20 mi (32 km) from the Finnish border. When Finland refused, the USSR invaded the country.

Which of the following is true about the Battle of Badung Strait?

The Battle of Badung Strait was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the night of February 19, 1942 in Badung Strait (not to be confused with the West Java city of Bandung) between the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDA) and the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the engagement, the four Japanese destroyers defeated an Allied force that outnumbered and outgunned them, escorting two transports to safety and sinking the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein.

When was WWII's D-Day?

The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during WWII. It was the largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control, and contributed to the Allied victory on the Western Front.

What was the name of the 1942-1943 major battle along the Eastern Front for control of a Southern Russian city?

Marked by constant close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians by air raids, the Battle of Stalingrad is often regarded as one of the single largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel) and bloodiest (1.7 – 2 million wounded, killed or captured) battles in the history of warfare. The heavy losses inflicted on the German Wehrmacht make it arguably the most strategically decisive battle of the whole war. It was a turning point in the European theater of WWII and German forces never regained the initiative in the East.

When did the Battle of Nancy begin?

The Battle of Nancy in September 1944 was a 10-day battle in which the U.S. 3rd Army defeated German forces defending the approaches to Nancy, France and crossings over the Moselle River to the north and south of the city. When the 3rd Army began its attempt to capture Nancy, it had only recently recovered from a severe fuel shortage which had caused it to halt on the Meuse River for five days. During this time, German defenders in the area had reinforced their positions. The battle resulted in U.S. forces fighting their way across the Moselle and liberating Nancy.

Which general spent much of his military career in India before being appointed to Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East theater, but when the war in North Africa turned against the British, he was relieved of the post and once more appointed Commander-in-Chief India?

Auchinleck was relieved of the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East theater in 1942 during the crucial Alamein campaign. He served as Commander-in-Chief India until Partition in 1947, when he assumed the role of Supreme Commander of all British forces in India and Pakistan until late 1948. He retired to the United Kingdom but at the age of 84 emigrated to Morocco, where he died at the age of 96.

Which was the longest battle of WWII?

The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943.

What was the codename for the Allied invasion of Sicily, a major campaign ow WWII which started the Italian Campaign?

The Allied invasion of Sicily was a major WWII campaign in which the Allies performed a large amphibious and airborne operation into Sicily, followed by a six-week land campaign. This also marked the beginning of the Italian Campaign. Beginning on the night of July 9, 1943 and lasting through August 17, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by driving Axis air, land and naval forces from the island and opening the Mediterranean sea lanes merchant ships for the first time since 1941. Benito Mussolini was toppled from power in Italy and the way was opened for the invasion of Italy.

Which of the following is NOT a WWII battle in the New Guinea campaign?

The New Guinea campaign resulted in a crushing defeat and very heavy losses for Japan. As in most Pacific War campaigns, disease and starvation claimed more Japanese lives than enemy action. Most Japanese troops never even came into contact with Allied forces, and were instead simply cut off and subjected to an extremely effective blockade by the US Navy. Garrisons were effectively besieged and denied shipments of food and medical supplies, and as a result, a staggering 97% of Japanese deaths in this campaign were from non-combat causes.

Which country withstood a German invasion for the second longest period of time, after the Soviet Union?

The Norwegian Campaign, between April 9 to June 10, 1940, was fought in Norway between the Allies and Germany. In April, the United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force. Despite moderate success in the northern parts of Norway, Germany's invasion of France in May eventually compelled the Allies to withdraw and the Norwegian government to seek exile in London. The campaign ended with the occupation of Norway by Germany, and the continued fighting of exiled Norwegian forces from abroad.

Which Western Front battle heralded the first time that a significant German force fought on the defensive yet emerged victorious in the end?

Operation Battleaxe was a British Army operation in June 1941 to clear eastern Cyrenaica of German and Italian forces and raise the Siege of Tobruk. The British lost over half of their tanks on the first day and only one of the three attacks succeeded. They achieved mixed results on the second day, being pushed back on their western flank and repulsing a big German counter-attack in the center. On the third day, the British narrowly avoided complete disaster by withdrawing just ahead of a German encircling movement.

What was the name of the operation used to mislead the German high command about the date and place of the Normandy invasion?

Operation Bodyguard was the code name for an Allied deception plan before the 1944 invasion of north-west Europe. It was intended to mislead the German high command and it delayed German reinforcements to the region for some time after D-Day. The Allies had already employed deception operations against the Germans, aided by the capture of all of the German agents in the United Kingdom and the systematic decryption of German Enigma communications.

Which 4th largest city in the USSR was the site of four battles back-and-forth between the Germans and the Soviets?

During WWII, Kharkov was the site of four major military engagements. The city was captured and recaptured by Nazi Germany on 24 October 1941; there was a disastrous Red Army offensive that failed to capture the city in May 1942; the city was successfully retaken by the Soviets on 16 February 1943, captured for a second time by the Germans on 15 March 1943 and then finally liberated on 23 August 1943. Seventy percent of the city was destroyed and tens of thousands of the inhabitants were killed.

Which battle saw one of the first major uses of paratroopers to occupy crucial targets prior to ground troops reaching the area?

The Battle of the Netherlands lasted from May 10, 1940 until the main Dutch forces surrendered on the 14th. Dutch troops in the province of Zealand continued to resist the Wehrmacht until May 17 when Germany completed its occupation of the whole nation. The German Luftwaffe used paratroopers in the capture of several major airfields in the Netherlands in and around key cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague in order to quickly overrun the nation and immobilize Dutch forces. The battle ended soon after the terrible bombing of Rotterdam and the threat by Germans of additional such bombings.

What is the name of the bridge in the Netherlands which was the pivotal objective of the Battle of Arnhem?

In World War II, during Operation Market Garden (September 1944), the British 1st Airborne Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were given the task of securing the bridge at Arnhem. The units were parachuted and glider-landed into the area on September 17th but the bulk of the force was dropped rather far from the bridge and never met their objective. A small force of British 1st Airborne managed to make their way all the way to the bridge but was unable to secure both sides. The British force at the bridge eventually ran out of ammo and were captured on September 21st, and a full withdrawal of remaining forces made on September 26th.

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