How Well Do You Know the Leaders of WWI?

By: Torrance Grey

Emperor Taisho ruled which nation that sided with the Allies in 1914?

OK, this one was fairly easy. Trust us, these questions are going to get harder. But about Japan (while we're here): Taisho and the nation were eager to retake some German holdings in the Pacific. The outbreak of war simply fit with Japanese objectives.

By what title was Germany's WWI-era leader, Wilhelm II, best known?

You'd also be correct in calling Wilhelm II the "emperor," but most often, we refer to him as Kaiser Wilhelm. Fun fact: This German title is etymologically related to the Russian word for a supreme leader, "czar."

Who was the English monarch during the Great War?

George was a second son who was not expected to take the throne; however, his brother Albert Victor died of pneumonia, and George became the heir, and later the king. History would repeat itself, in a way, when his second son, George VI, took the throne after Edward's abdication with his lover, Wallis Simpson.

Who led the American forces on the Western Front?

Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces, a large mobilization of U.S. soldiers on the war's Western Front. He didn't always endear himself to Allied leaders by insisting that his force not be "parted out" to other armies that were suffering attrition, but he is respected for insisting on a hands-on approach to the training and leadership of American "doughboys."

Who was killed along with Franz Ferdinand in June 1914?

Gavrilo Princip first shot Ferdinand's wife Sophie, then the archduke. This action seems are the crueler given that not only was Sophie from a low-ranking family, and had married Franz for love, but Princip shot her in the abdomen, a very painful and not immediately fatal place to be shot.

What was the nickname of General John Pershing?

This was a not-so-friendly nickname at first, based on his early command of a segregated, Negro unit. In fact, the original nickname used a word other than "Black," which we can't repeat here. On a light note, props if you got why "the Gerund" was funny. (If not, check out a copy of Strunk & White).

Which wartime leader laid out a peace proposal referred to as the "Fourteen Points"?

At the time that Wilson presented his Fourteen Points to Congress, America had joined the war. What the thoughtful president Wilson was interested in was a lasting peace that wouldn't require the U.S. to play "world policeman." And it worked; we've never been cast in that role again! (*sighs*)

Before his political career, Wilson used to hold which influential office?

This goes a long way toward explaining Wilson's approach to the presidency and the war. He was a Democrat and progressive who believed in American involvement on the public stage, but involvement that would promote world peace.

In the run-up to the war, Czar Nicholas was distracted by his son Alexei's illness. What did Alexei suffer from?

Hemophilia is a disorder in which blood does not clot properly, making ordinary injuries life-threatening. Alexei's illness led to his mother, Alexandra, falling under the sway of Rasputin, a Siberian monk whom she believed was curing her son. All of this domestic drama in 1912 and 1913 couldn't have helped Nicholas in his attempts to prevent a war, or prepare for one.

The Great War might have stretched out longer had it not been for the 1917 Revolution in Russia. Who was its key architect?

Lenin and Trotsky were the most important members of the Bolshevik Party. Aided by the demoralization of the Russian people that years of war had caused, they seized power and deposed Czar Nicholas and his family. Once in power, they pulled Russia out of the war.

David Lloyd George was the leader of which nation at the war's end?

We've discussed the role of King George V elsewhere in this quiz; Lloyd George (the names are confusing, we know) was his "civilian" counterpart, the Prime Minister. Fun fact: Lloyd George was Welsh-born and actually grew up speaking Welsh in the home. Swych! (Excellent!)

Which of these prime ministers was nicknamed "Pere la Victoire"?

Clemenceau was France's prime minister from 1917 to 1920, the period when the Allies won the war. Though not as well known to American students, Clemenceau was a kind of Winston Churchill figure to the French of the time, whose vigorously anti-German rhetoric stirred up a demoralized people.

Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen, creator of the Schlieffen Plan, was a leader in whose army?

The Schlieffen Plan, though not created expressly for World War I, was important to how it played out. That is, Field Marshal Von Schlieffen came up with a plan for an invasion of France, through Belgium, about 10 years before the war actually broke out.

The archduke's assassin wasn't exactly a "leader" in WWI, but he was a prime mover. What was his name?

Princip definitely moved the needle of history; on the other hand, he might have been the pawn of greater forces. Above, you'll see the names of some other radicals who paid the ultimate price for their opposition to the government, like Rosenberg and Sacco. (Enukidze is a Bolshevik, who turned out to be on the winning side in his particular battle).

Who succeeded Nicholas II as czar of Russia?

Russia had no more czars after Nicholas. His family, the Romanovs, were famously overthrown, then killed by Bolshevik guards while imprisoned. The drawn-out, difficult war had a great deal to do with political events in Russia in 1917. It's hard to guess when, or even if, Russia would have overthrown its government in the absence of the world war.

President Woodrow Wilson was determined, for some time, to keep America neutral. What largely changed his mind?

The Zimmermann telegram, sent from Germany to its ambassador in Mexico, encouraged an alliance between Germany and Mexico against the United States. Germany believed that would keep the U.S. too occupied to join the war. But when the British intercepted the telegram and passed it on the to United States, the die was cast.

Which of these young future generals saw his first action in World War I?

MacArthur had served in Veracruz, Mexico, but it was on the Western Front that his star really began to rise. Eisenhower and Bradley, who were younger, had stateside deployments during the war. Schwarzkopf came considerably later, leading U.S. troops in the first Gulf War.

Albert I was one of the first leaders of a smaller nation called upon to stand up to the Central Powers. Of which country was he king?

Germany intended to invade France through Belgium, because France had good defenses along the border the two countries directly shared. Germany thought that Belgium, led by King Albert I, would be a pushover. As it turned out, this was not the case.

Lloyd L. Williams is famous for the line, "Retreat? [Expletive], we just got here!" at the battle of Belleau Wood. What branch of the U.S. military was he with, and did he forever inspire?

The Battle of Belleau Wood is part of Marine lore, thanks to WIlliams's insouciant line. Disclaimer: Williams's superior, Frederic Wise, also claimed to have said the line; the truth of the matter is unclear. Also, the Air Force didn't exist as such in World War I, although the first significant aerial battles did occur in the Great War.

A president's son fought with distinction at the battles of Cantigny and Soissons. Who was he?

Three of Theodore Roosevelt's four sons served in some capacity during WWI. The president's namesake, Ted, not only received the French Legion of Honor for his service in the Great War, but he went on to land at Utah Beach in the Normandy invasion in World War II.

Which of these was not one of the "Big Four" at the Paris Peace Conference?

Venizelos was the prime minister of Greece during the war years, and opposed the king of Greece, who wanted to align with the Central Powers, not the Allied Powers. Notice how Greece no longer has a monarchy (at least, in residence)? The fallout from the king backing the wrong horse is a big reason why. For all that, Venizelos wasn't a major player at the peace accords.

When the fighting was finally over, what location did the world's leaders choose for the peace talks?

The Paris Peace Conference is also known as the Versailles Peace Conference, for its specific location in the city of Paris. The treaty with Germany is now known as the Treaty of Versailles, although four other treaties with different aggressor nations came out of the talks, as well.

What else was in the "Zimmermann telegram" that angered Wilson and the rest of Washington?

The telegram made reference to "unrestricted submarine warfare" that its author, Hans Zimmermann, said would likely force England to surrender in the near future. This would likely have endangered American civilian ships, as the U.S. was shipping a good deal of supplies to the Allied Powers.

France's president throughout the war was known for conservative, anti-German views. Who was he?

Not only did Poincare dislike Germany, but he made two trips to Russia in the years before the war, to shore up relations with that country, and Russia did enter the war on France's side. Could things have played out differently if Poincare's opinions had been different? We'll never know.

Paul von Hindenburg played what role in the German war effort?

Paul von Hindenburg stepped into the role played not terribly successfully by Helmuth von Moltke and then Erich von Falkenhayn. They were all leaders of what Germans called the Oberste Heeresleitung, or "High Command" in English. (We're sorry about "airship designer," by the way. He had nothing to do with the doomed airship.)

Helmuth von Moltke was an early leader of the German forces; he was chief of the German General Staff, to be exact. By what nickname is he known?

The nickname came about simply because Von Moltke's uncle, also a Helmuth von Moltke, had been a field marshal in the German army. If you thought of Von Moltke the Younger as a "short-timer," we don't entirely blame you. Though he had a distinguished pre-war military career, Moltke didn't last long during the war itself, suffering a breakdown in 1914 after the loss of the First Battle of the Marne.

What childhood illness might have shaped the character of Wilhelm II?

Erb's palsy is a form of nerve damage. In Wilhelm's case, it caused his left arm to be shorter than his right, and his left hand to be deformed. Because of it, the future German leader was traumatized in his childhood by a series of riding lessons that were very difficult for a child without two good arms, but his mother insisted a future leader be able to ride horseback.

One of France's most respected army commanders was Phillipe Petain. He earned the nickname "the Lion of ______."

Petain was known as one of those leaders who inspire confidence in the common troops; this is one of the things that allowed him to ascend. later, to the head of state in WWII-era France, the southern "free state" of France during the Nazi occupation of the north.

After Moltke's failure at the Marne, who succeeded him as Chief of the German General Staff?

As chief of staff, van Falkenhayn lasted a bit longer than Moltke, serving for two years. A string of losses and setbacks cost him his position in 1916. These included Romania's entry into the war and a poor showing (though not outright defeat) at Verdun.

People generally think of Franz Ferdinand as "the archduke whose murder started the war," but what, really, made him a target for a Serbian assassin?

Ferdinand was part of the Austro-Hungarian ruling family, the Habsburgs. Many Slavs, including a secret group called the Black Hand, resented Austria-Hungary's annexation of the South Slavic regions and wanted to kill a Habsburg to make a point. The emperor was disinclined to travel, so it was his nephew and heir, Franz Ferdinand, who became the target.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was related to which of his enemies in the war?

The Great War was, to some extent, a family affair, because European royalty married across national lines to create and cement alliances. Wilhelm II was, therefore, related to both George and Nicholas. He and Nicholas wrote back and forth in the run-up to World War I, with the emperors signing themselves "Willy" and "Nicky."

True or false: Franz Joseph, emperor of Austria-Hungary, remained in power for the entirety of the war.

It is true that Franz Joseph was one of the longest-ruling monarchs in modern European history. He held power for 68 years. However, he died of pneumonia in 1916, at the age of 86; his death was unrelated to the war that was still raging at the time.

Who represented Italy at the Paris Peace Conference?

Orlando was one of the "Big Four" at the Paris Peace Conference, but maybe it should have been the "Big 4.5." Orlando didn't speak any English, so he got a serious assist from his foreign minister, Sidney Sonnino, who was fluent in English because of being half -- wait for it -- Welsh! We're seeing a theme here.

An Army base on California's central coast is named for which of these leaders of the Meuse-Argonne offensive?

Fort Hunter Liggett is a training facility in southern Monterey County, in California. It was used as a location in the Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers," which was about Vietnam, not World War I.

Why was Franz Joseph's nephew, not his son, the heir apparent?

The Crown Prince Rudolf killed himself and his young lover, a baroness, in what is known to the world as the famous "Mayerling incident." That is, Rudolf shot himself and Mary Vetsera at a hunting lodge outside the village of Mayerling. The events are memorialized in a ballet of the same name.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: WikiCommons by Pietzner Karl, WikiCommons by Harris & Ewing, WikiCommons by Bain News Service

About This Quiz

Though it was sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, World War I was much more than the Austria-Hungarian empire's retaliation for one murder. The assassination touched off a powder keg of tensions around the globe. While most of the war would be fought in Europe, the tentacles of international intrigue would reach as far as Africa, Australia, New Guinea and Mexico. And, of course, it reached the United States, which joined the hostilities late.

The war was also, believe it or not, a "family affair." The European royal houses had intermarried regularly to create alliances; Queen Victoria was even known as the "grandmother of Europe" because of the way her descendants spread throughout foreign nations. For this reason, both allies and combatants in the Great War were related, both by blood and by marriage. Nobody fights like family, right? Maybe that's why America stayed on the sidelines for so long ... no personal scores to settle! More seriously, though, in this quiz we're going to examine the motivations of various heads of state: why they leapt eagerly into a war, or why they dragged their heels. 

Are you ready to revisit the Great War, as seen through an emphasis on its leaders? Find out how much you remember now!


About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!