Military Trivia Quiz



By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Vincent Shane Hansen / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Pinpointing the origins of the military in human history is not an easy task. Archeological evidence shows us that there have been thousands of battles stretching back through all of human history. Some of these battles we have clear historical records about, others are more anecdotal and sketchy. A good number have even been lost to history completely. What we do know is that humans tend to work together in fighting forces against other humans and they've done so for as long as anything close to society has existed. The only thing that has changed is how we do it; from sticks and rocks way back when to the most high-tech modern drones and advanced weapon systems that we use today. 

War, soldiers, battles, technology, there's plenty to know about the history of the military. It's like an endless rush of facts that cover the smallest details of military conduct and extend to the entire interplay of events that lead up to major world conflicts. Is there any chance you could possibly know all of it? Well, no, not really. But you can know some of it, and maybe you know enough to get through this quiz! Soldier forth and see how well you can do!

Which movie managed to increase interest in becoming a naval aviator by 500%?

1986's epic military love letter "Top Gun" was a huge hit with audiences and still stands the test of time as an action movie. The Navy itself acknowledged that, after the film's release, the number of people joining up to become naval aviators increased 500%


Which conflict saw the most American casualties in history?

The Civil War was far and away the bloodiest conflict in the history of American battles, which does make sense since it was Americans fighting Americans. At least 618,000 soldiers fell in battle. The next most costly was WWII with 405,000.


In 1942, the military blacked out Los Angeles and fired 1,400 artillery rounds at what?

In February of 1942, 1,400 rounds of anti-aircraft artillery and .50 caliber rounds were fired off by the thousands at what was at first believed to be enemy aircraft but later turned out to probably be a wayward weather balloon. We say probably because no one really knows for sure and it could have literally been nothing based on the evidence.


In what year did the Air Force separate from the Army?

Prior to 1947, there was no individualized Air Force in the United States military as it's known today. There were planes, of course, but they were part of what was then known as the Army Air Corps and pilots were therefore in the Army. In 1947 the Air Force was officially introduced.


How many times has the United States formally declared war?

Though US military forces have been involved in literally hundreds of conflicts, only five formal declarations of war have been issued. That includes both World Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican-American War and the War of 1812. Technically you could stretch that number to 11 as Congress declared war on different individual nations during WWI and WWII.


Only one US Navy ship still on the commissioned roster is being held captive by another nation. Do you know what it is?

In 1968, North Korea took the USS Pueblo (shown here) captive and to this day still has it in their possession. It's moored in a river in North Korea and they use it as a tourist attraction, not that there's a lot of tourism in North Korea.


Very few people ever become honorary Marines, but some do. Which one of these earned that honor?

Chuck Norris is one of a number of celebrities who have become honorary Marines over the years. He joined the ranks of celebs like Bob Hope and even Bugs Bunny who holds the rank of Master Sergeant.


How many five-star generals have there been in the history of the US Army?

The rank of five-star general didn't show up in the US military until 1944. Five men earned the rank including Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall (shown here), Douglas MacArthur, Henry Arnold and Omar Bradley. The rank was retired in 1981 after Bradley passed away.


Under what circumstances can a Marine carry an umbrella in uniform?

Prior to November 2019, only female Marines were allowed to carry umbrellas. Thanks to the rule change, now both male and female Marines can avoid dealing with soaking wet dress uniforms.


In what year was the computer that coordinates the operation of the United States military arsenal built?

The United States nuclear arsenal is controlled by an IBM Series/1 computer designed in 1976. It still uses 8-inch floppy disks for memory storage and has been mostly obsolete for nearly 40 years. That said, it's also pretty much impervious to hacking as a result. This system was supposed to be replaced in 2017. Was it? Good question!


How many US presidents served in the military before becoming president?

A total of 29 presidents have a history in the military, either in state militias or the U.S. armed forces. Eisenhower earned the rank of 5-star general and Washington was posthumously granted what would be the equivalent of 6 stars while Teddy Roosevelt earned the Medal of Honor.


In what year did the U.S military come into existence?

A unified Continental Army came into existence by an act of the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. That means that the Army actually came into being before the United States was a real thing.


Who went to battle in the first war in recorded history?

The first battle in recorded history between two armies was between Sumer and Elam in the year 2700 BCE. The Sumerians defeated the forces of Elam. At around the same time, King Gilgamesh went to war as well.


Which popular vehicle started life as a general-purpose military vehicle?

Jeeps originated as military vehicles during World War II and were called "General Purpose" vehicles. That got abbreviated to GP and that in turn evolved into Jeep as you know it today.


How old was Major General John Lincoln Clem when he first tried to enlist?

John Clem tried to enlist in the 3rd Ohio Infantry when he was about 9 years old in 1861. They turned him down so he went to the 22nd Michigan who initially also turned him away but then let him become the drummer boy. By age 12 he was a sergeant and a hero.


They call it "The Old Guard" because it really is old. In What year did it form?

The 3rd US Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, dates back to 1784. You may recognize this unit today for two of its important ceremonial duties as either escort to the president or guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


How much money does the entire world combined spend on military needs?

Roughly speaking, based on 2018 estimates, the world's military budget was a whopping $1.8 trillion. About 37% of that was just the US which spends more than any other country in the world. The US military budget is about $693 billion as of 2019.


The military can hand down a death sentence for crimes though it almost never does so. Which of these crimes could get you a death sentence?

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, all of those crimes could potentially net you a death sentence, but it'd have to be some remarkable cowardice or falling asleep in a way that literally leads to war, probably. The military has not executed anyone since 1961.


How many people are employed by the Department of Defense on active duty?

The Department of Defense employs about 1.4 million on active duty plus 718,000 civilians, making it the largest employer in the entire United States of America by a landslide. Ford, GM, Exxon, Google, and Amazon combined employ fewer people.


For how long did Hannibal wage war against Rome?

The Second Punic War or, as the Romans may have called it, the War Against Hannibal, lasted for a preposterous 17 years. It was one of the most violent and prolonged campaigns in military history and it included the use of war elephants. Hannibal eventually lost.


How many overseas military installations does the US have?

The US has about 737 military installations overseas, but that number does change as new installations are needed and others are either destroyed or phased out depending on the needs of the moment. Shown here is Naval Support Activity Bahrain, a United States Navy base in the Kingdom of Bahrain.


How old was the oldest active member of the US Coast Guard?

As unbelievable as it sounds, the oldest active duty member of the US Coast Guard in history was Anthony Christy, who served until he was a staggering 105 years old. He served as a lighthouse keeper and died on duty in 1862.


How many dogs are in the Army?

There are roughly 500 dogs serving in the Army right now. They're officially called Military Working Dogs and have a variety of jobs from detecting drugs and explosives to patrol duties. They're constantly being trained and have to go regular evaluations. Across all branches, there are over 2,500 dogs.


Who chose the US Army's dress colors?

In the year 1779, George Washington chose the Army's service dress colors. That doesn't mean they stayed that way for long, and they've actually gone through a number of colors over the years, but in 2010 they returned to Washington's picks.


Which nation had the largest military force in history?

Believe it or not, America holds the title of the largest military in history. While China currently has a force of a couple of million and the Soviet Union nearly reached 11 million by the end of WWII, the US military had 12 million soldiers in 1945. That number has not been seen since. Troops are shown here approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.


During what war was the first US submarine used?

The first submarine ever used by the military was called The Turtle and it made waves all the way back in the Revolutionary War. Its mission was to sink a British ship that was moored off the coast of New York. It failed.


How much land does the US Army own?

The US Army controls about 24,000 square miles which, all together, would make it larger than nine states including Maryland and New Jersey. The military as a whole, around the world, has several hundred thousand square miles of property.


What was the name of the giant Air Force robot designed in the late 1950s to handle nuclear materials?

Built by GE for the Air Force Special Weapons Center, the massive 7-ton Beetle was like a tank that had arms and could load 2,000 pounds worth of nuclear weapons and irradiated parts into an atomic-powered plane. The Beetle never saw active duty


Do you know how many nuclear warheads officially exist in the world?

As of 2019, there are 13,890 nuclear warheads in the world and 3,750 active ones. While this is still enough to destroy everything, it's a great reduction from the 70,000 that were active in 1986.


During which war was a jet first shot down by another?

During the Korean War, the very first dogfight between jet fighters saw a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star take out a MiG-15. Though fighters had met in numerous conflicts in WWII, those were not specifically jet fighters.


Everyone knows G.I. Joe but what does G. I. actually mean?

This one is tricky because people started using "G.I." to refer to government or general issue products that were made for soldiers but actually it originally meant galvanized iron. In military supply records, it was the abbreviation so a lot of equipment soldiers used would be called G.I. whatever. The name evolved from there.


About how many people enlist in the US Armed Forces every year?

Around 180,000 people per year enlist for active duty in the Armed Forces. Statistically speaking, about 50% of all people who are in the right age range to enlist wouldn't qualify as a result of not meeting medical or physical standards.


What symbol did the 45th Infantry once wear on their sleeves?

Prior to WWII, the 45th Infantry wore swastikas on their sleeves as a token of respect to Native Americans. The symbol had been used for good luck until the Nazis effectively ruined it for all time. It was replaced by the Thunderbird shown here.


For years the military was doing something called the "Stargate Project." What was it about?

The Stargate Project was an initiative to investigate psychic powers and their potential military applications. It was actually a handful of projects that spanned from the late '70s to the early '90s that were all consolidated into one.


Which Hollywood bombshell was assembling drones in 1944?

Before she was calling herself Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean Dougherty worked at a military factory in Van Nuys, California. Photos of her were snapped there and they're pretty famous "before they were stars" stuff, but it's also worth noting America was making drones in 1944.


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