How Well Do You Know the Leaders of WWII?

Torrance Grey

What year did Adolf Hitler ascend to the chancellorship of Germany?

Hitler's rise to power was the more surprising because he'd already been imprisoned for a failed coup in 1923. But the tide of German political sentiment changed over the intervening ten years.

Which British prime minister declared war on Germany?

Chamberlain was advocating an appeasement policy until Germany invaded Poland, at which point his hand was forced. He had previously stated publicly that England would not tolerate such an invasion.

Which prime minister led England for most of the war?

Churchill took over for Neville Chamberlain, who resigned because he felt labour politicians could not follow a staunch conservative, even in wartime. Churchill is widely admired for shepherding Britain through some of its darkest days.

Who was the leader of the Soviet Union during the war?

History has not looked favorably on Stalin. True, his alliance with the capitalist West against the Nazis essentially assured the Allied victory, but he was also a brutal dictator whose policies worsened a postwar famine and allowed millions of deaths.

In which part of the Soviet Union was Joseph Stalin born?

Stalin was born in a small town called Gori, to parents of modest means. He spoke Georgian, which is still a thriving language in the former Soviet republic.

What was Benito Mussolini's informal title?

Mussolini was the prime minister of Italy before he simply took over as a fascist dictator. He brought Italy into the war in June 1940, in support of Nazi Germany.

Which Axis general was known as "the Desert Fox"?

Erwin Rommel was part of the North African campaign in WWII. The campaign down there was the responsibility of Italian forces, but Rommel, newly promoted to general, provided extensive support.

Which leader gave the famous "we shall fight on the beaches ... we shall never surrender" speech?

Churchill made several stirring addresses to Parliament during the war. His "beaches" speech was made just before the battle of Britain.

What was the title of Japanese leader Hirohito?

Japan also had a prime minister, but this does not mean that Hirohito's role was a merely ceremonial one. Postwar debates about Hirohito's role in the war, both in Japan and the West, have largely concluded that he was an active participant in wartime decision-making.

Who was president in the US for most of the war?

Roosevelt came from a wealthy, well-connected family. Perhaps surprisingly, he was unusually sympathetic to the poor and working-class, creating the "New Deal", including social programs that Americans rely on to this day.

Who was in charge of American forces at Normandy on D-Day?

Bradley's name isn't as well-known as Patton or MacArthur, but should be. Never again have so many troops served under a single commander as when Bradley headed the Western Front -- about 1.3 million were under his command.

Which of these wartime acts by FDR was later controversial?

Roosevelt signed an executive order relocating Japanese residents who were not yet citizens, or those with dual Japanese-American citizenship. Often, they lost property and businesses in the move -- a difficult setback for immigrants making a life in a new country.

Which leader was known for his "Great Purge"?

Under Stalin's direction, hundreds of thousands of "enemies of the working class" were killed in the late 1930s, and many more exiled from Russia or imprisoned in gulags. This made Stalin a very strange bedfellow with FDR and Churchill, and indeed, the Western-Soviet alliance didn't last long after the war ended.

Who was Japan's prime minister at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack?

Tojo was descended from the samurai caste. Historians suggest that the samurai code of bushido informed Tojo's sense of discipline and national pride.

Who headed the Manhattan Project, which developed the A-bomb?

All the men listed were geniuses in scientific fields, and Einstein and von Braun were even physicists, like Oppenheimer. But it was Oppenheimer who went to Los Alamos to head up the bomb project, which the Pentagon feared the Nazis might also be working on.

Which military leader nearly lost a leg to an infection as a youth?

One interesting sidenote about WWII leaders is how many of them overcame some kind of disability or ailment to become historical figures. These include speech impediments, polio, and in Eisenhower's case, an infection which nearly cost him his leg. Against medical advice, Eisenhower refused amputation and, fortunately, recovered.

Which military leader went on to a very successful political career?

Eisenhower, a moderate conservative, was twice elected president of the United States. One of his signature achievements was America's Interstate Highway system. (And yes, "Steve Rogers" is Captain America and therefore not real -- we're just keeping you on your toes!)

Which US military leader vowed "I shall return" about the Philippines?

MacArthur was known for his corncob pipe and his crusty leadership style. Reportedly, Pentagon brass asked him to amend his statement about the Japanese-held Philippine islands to "We shall return," but MacArthur refused to do so.

Which military leader went on to be a key figure in the Korean war?

The Korean war was technically a United Nations "police" action. MacArthur was therefore the UN commander; however, he was in charge of troops that were overwhelmingly either American or South Korean.

Which of these leaders was troubled by the "black dog" of depression?

Churchill didn't coin the term "black dog" for depression, but he used it as a sort of code word in communications with friends. Back then, it was harder for men (and probably women too) to discuss depression outright; there was a "pull up your socks and cope" ethic.

Which of these was a gifted fencer in his youth?

Patton was so adept at the sport that he was a pentathlete at the 1912 Olympics (fencing is one of the five sports that make up pentathlon). He also designed a new cavalry saber for the Army, known as the "Patton sword."

Which of these civilians saved Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in factories?

Schindler was a businessman who hired Jews to work in his enamelware factory, and later a munitions factory. He was the subject of the Steven Spielberg film, "Schindler's List."

Which of these Axis leaders was considered by his people the incarnation of a god?

Of course, it's unlikely that the average Japanese person believed the emperor was literally the incarnation of a divinity. But this remained part of Japanese rhetoric about the royal family in the mid-20th century. Specifically, they were said to be descended from the sun goddess Amaterasu.

On the home front, which filmmaker made "Why We Fight" propaganda films?

Frank Capra was Italian-born (as Francesco Rosario Capra). But he amply proved his devotion to the United States with the seven "Why We Fight" films, meant to inspire U.S. soldiers. Walter Huston, incidentally, was the actor who narrated the films.

Who was president of the United States in the latter days of WWII?

Truman succeeded Roosevelt upon Roosevelt's death, and remarked that his succession felt like "a load of hay" fell on him. He was the commander-in-chief who authorized the use of the atomic bomb on civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a decision that remains controversial to this day.

Which of these struggled with a speech impediment?

You might have learned about King George's speech impediment from the movie "The King's Speech," in which Colin Firth played the monarch. Winston Churchill, meanwhile, had a lisp -- not a stutter, as is sometimes erroneously said.

King George VI took over the throne when his older brother ________.

Edward VIII could not marry a divorced woman and stay king. He gave up the throne to be with his American bride (and maybe to escape the pressures of kingship; who knows?)

Which of these leaders was stricken with polio but overcame it?

Roosevelt contracted the disease at 39 years old and was paralyzed from the waist down. He used crutches at times, and avoided being photographed while in a wheelchair.

In his speech about the Pearl Harbor attack, FDR called December 7, 1941, " ... a date that will forever live in _______."

Roosevelt made the speech the day after the surprise attack, to the U.S. Congress, which is the branch of the government that must declare war. Congress did so that same day.

George VI was the father of which monarch?

Elizabeth II became queen after her father died in 1952. She shares her name with England's most famous queen, Elizabeth I, who ruled in the days of Shakespeare and never shared power with a husband.

Which leader quietly committed suicide over his role in an attempt to assassinate Hitler?

Hitler's propaganda machine had built up Rommel to be a hero; for this reason he was given the opportunity to privately take a cyanide pill. Afterward, the false news was spread that he'd died in a shooting attack on his car.

Which of these Germans actually carried the briefcase bomb in the July 20 attempt to assassinate Hitler?

Claus von Stauffenberg carried a bomb in a briefcase into a bunker meeting with Hitler and other military leaders. Unfortunately, an aide moved it away from Hitler so that Hitler could walk around freely while addressing his subordinates.

True or false: Did Adolf Hitler ever marry his lover, Eva Braun?

Though she is commonly referred to as Hitler's "lover," they did marry -- but just days before killing themselves to avoid capture by Allied forces.

Which of these was hanged for war crimes after a tribunal?

While Tojo was executed, Hirohito emerged largely unscathed from the war. He was seen as an important potential ally to the West as the Cold War heated up, an ally that would be useful in keeping the entire Far East from falling to communism.

What happened to fascist leader Benito Mussolini after the war?

Mussolini was killed by leftists and hung upside down in a service station, as a warning to remaining supporters of fascism. His mistress, Clara Petacci, was killed and displayed with him.

Of what ailment did FDR die?

Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage before finishing his fourth term. His declining health was kept from the public during his re-election campaign, which is ethically questionable, but FDR is such a beloved figure that this has not been a blot on his presidency.

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About This Quiz

War pushes humans to the extreme in their fight to survive not only the war, but also the world they seek to live in once the smoke has cleared. World wars are often studied and discussed, because everyone in the world was affected.

But this quiz isn’t here to just ask you any ol’ questions about WWII. We want to know how much you remember about the key players who helped make the major moves which triggered both failures and successes, and eventually peace.

One of those leaders was Rudolf Hess. Often forgotten as a WWII leader, due to the fact that his life and death were involved in espionage, Hess was Deputy Führer at the time, which was only behind Hermann Goering in succession in the Nazi regime. On May 10, 1941, Hess took a small Messerschmitt fighter-bomber from Rhine, across the North Sea. He was on his way to the Duke of Hamilton in the middle of the night. His plan? To meet with the Duke, who was rumored to be more willing to talk peace terms with Nazis. Unlike Churchill.

Before Hess made it there, he crash landed in Scotland, 12 miles from his destination. As the story goes, he was brought to meet the Duke; however the Duke gave Hess no hope. When Hess informed them that he had acted without Hitler’s orders on this peace quest, his “diplomatic respect” was revoked and he was taken prisoner. He spent 46 years as prisoner Number 7. He was the facility’s only prisoner for more than 20 years, before he committed suicide at age 93.

Hess was the only appointed Deputy Führer and history has yet to truly reveal why Hess took the risk he did. Had he truly acted on his own?

Since we know you don’t know the answer to that one, it’s time for you show us what you do know! And maybe after you complete the quiz, you might share your theory of the Rudolf Hess mystery!

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