These days, Westerners can scarcely imagine fighting a war for the very existence of their countries. But as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” In a war for their very lives, the Axis and Allies confronted each other in countless ways. Do you think you remember the most memorable events of World War II in this battle-hardened quiz?
Even at the very beginning, the Nazis were manipulating events to justify their aggression. On August 31, 1939, German operatives staged the Gleiwitz incident, an “attack” on a German radio station that Hitler used as an excuse to invade Poland. It was a tiny, isolated act that gave rise to years of brutality in Europe.
In December 1941, the Empire of the Rising Sun smashed American battleships in Hawaii and sent Americans into a violent tizzy. This single event brought the United States into the war and shifted the balance of power between the Allies and the Axis.
In this World War II quiz, we’ll see if you recall other major battles and moments that, in hindsight, became incredibly important to the war’s outcome. Grab your Tommy Gun and see if you can blast this quiz to pieces!
On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s minions savagely invaded Poland and subdued the country within a month. The European theater of the war was underway.
After the ineffectual hand-wringing of Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill was elevated to prime minister, and it was immediately clear that he had no patience for the likes of Hitler and his antics.
At the end of May 1940, British and French troops were trapped at the beaches of Dunkirk. But using many small civilian boats, hundreds of thousands of troops were evacuated to England, where they would live to fight again.
On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The war that America tried to avoid was suddenly right there ... in the paradise of Hawaii.
At the Battle of Iwo Jima, photographer Joe Rosenthal took an iconic picture of Marines raising an American flag. The photograph rejuvenated U.S. support of the Pacific War.
All of democracy shuddered in fear when German troops took Paris in June 1940. If Paris could land under Nazi control, what might become of the rest of the free world?
Seeing as how Britain is a heavily fortified island, Hitler used bombers and fighters to attack in the Battle of Britain. It was a major air battle and a critical one that the Allies had to win.
By October 1941, Stalin and Hitler were definitely not BFFs anymore. Hitler ordered 1 million troops for the assault on Moscow — he didn’t just want to capture the capital, he wanted to obliterate it.
That March day, MacArthur retreated from the Philippines in the face of a blistering Japanese invasion. He swore, though, that someday he’d be back.
Codebreakers gained valuable insights on Japan’s preparations for the Battle of Midway, and the U.S. sprung a trap. Four Japanese carriers sank into the depths, and suddenly America’s Navy had some breathing room in the Pacific.
After Germany invaded Poland, France and Britain declared war ... and nothing happened. Then in the spring of 1940, Germany started up the war machine again.
The extreme stress of the war (and the Great Depression) took their toll on the president. He died just before the war ended, and Harry Truman replaced him.
In June 1941, the Germans embarked on Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. In the end, the offensive would kill millions and millions of troops and civilians.
In the summer of 1943, the Germans and Soviets fought at the Battle of Kursk, which featured many thousands of tanks. The Soviet line held, and then began conducting its own major offensives.
On July 16, 1945, the Trinity test in New Mexico detonated the first nuclear weapon in human history. But it would be far from the last.
In August 1942, the Germans decided to capture Stalingrad. There was just one problem — the Soviets wouldn’t give it up. Millions of people perished in the fighting that lasted until February ... and the Soviets held on.
On September 3, 1943, nearly four years to the date of the start of WWII, Germany’s ally, Italy, surrendered. Europe no longer seemed like a lost cause for the Allies.
In the biggest amphibious assault ever, the Allies used more than 5,000 ships to land at Normandy. There, the men stared down the Atlantic Wall — and won — and began driving the Germans backward.
As the Germans escalated the Battle of Britain, they used the Blitz to bomb cities and industrial areas all over the country. Tens of thousands of civilians died in the attacks but the English calmly carried on.
Allied feints tricked the Germans, making them think the landings would happen elsewhere. Just one beach, Omaha Beach, became a bloody quagmire for the Allies. There, more than 2,000 men died.
At the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino, the Germans dug in for a long fight. Both sides pummeled each other with artillery and then flung wave after wave of infantry at the enemy, in scenes reminiscent of WWI.
Paris had been under the spell of the Nazis since the spring of 1940. Finally, in August 1944, the Allies took back this beacon of freedom.
With the Eastern Front lost, Hitler launched a surprise attack on the Western Front in late 1944. It became known as the Battle of the Bulge, and both sides suffered terribly in the miserable cold.
At Stalingrad, the Soviets beat back the Germans and inflicted nearly 800,000 casualties. The defeat forced Nazi leaders to tap into vital reserves from the Western Front.
German officer Claus von Stauffenberg was a leader of the July 20 (1944) plot to assassinate Hitler. A briefcase bomb exploded and narrowly missed killing the Nazi despot, and instead, Stauffenberg was executed. Thousands of people were arrested and many were executed as Hitler lashed out in the wake of the plot.
On August 6, 1945, the Allies dropped the world’s first atomic bomb used in warfare. Codenamed "Little Boy," it left parts of Hiroshima in ruins.
The Warsaw Uprising in 1944 found Polish operatives trying to take back their occupied city from the Germans. They failed, and after two months of fighting, the Germans leveled much of the city in revenge.
That January day, Soviet troops wandered into the horror show of Auschwitz, liberating the survivors. It was the beginning of the end of the Holocaust.
With his mad dreams of global domination down the toilet, Hitler poisoned and then shot himself on April 30, 1945. The Third Reich, along with its lunatic leader, was dead.
On May 8, 1945, Germany finally surrendered. It was Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, but in the Pacific, the Japanese were still fighting to the death.