Can you answer these real 'Jeopardy!' questions about U.S. military history?

Written by:
September 18, 2019
Joe Sohm / Visions of America // Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Can you answer these real 'Jeopardy!' questions about U.S. military history?

The United States military is a complicated organization. With echelon ranks and byzantine rules and regulations, knowing it inside and out can baffle even the most astute and interested military observers and historians—or the most talented of "Jeopardy!" contestants.

The famous quiz show, in which participants are given an answer to which they must formulate the question, has featured several military-centric questions over the years. The questions range from the sites of specific battles to the occupations of former commanders in chief and test the depth of knowledge for each contestant.

Stacker looked at recent trivia questions on the military and found an incredible array of topics to test the mettle of even the most devoted of military or trivia buffs. When the military is mentioned, it's easy to assume the scope will be limited to battlefields. But the military's enormous reach extends far beyond.

Those who hope to answer all the trivia questions correctly must know, for example, the specific name of the military installation in Nevada in which conspiracy theorists have long believed the military is hiding aliens. Such a question belies the enormous power and reach of the military, as a landowner and an authority, with the presumed power to control and influence seismic events.

And America's military is often run differently from those of other countries, which offer valuable comparative insights into its unique nature. In some countries, for example, the head of the armed forces and the head of government are different positions, whereas, in the United States, they are one. In other cases, the U.S. military has been impacted by the vicissitudes of the operations and adventures of other nations.

Click through to see just how many "Jeopardy!" questions with a connection or comparison to the U.S. military you can answer.

Methodology: Stacker compiled a list of 25 questions about U.S. military history featured on the show "Jeopardy!," using the J! Archive.

You may also like: Can you answer these real 'Jeopardy!' clues about your state?

Clue #1

- Clue: Despite objections from the Pentagon, on July 26, 1948, Harry Truman issued an executive order telling the military to do this.
- Category: On This Day
- Value: $2000
- Date episode aired: July 26, 2019

Answer #1: What is abolish discrimination in the armed forces?

While Truman also butted heads with some of his top military brass over decisions he made during his administration like dropping the atomic bomb, the decision Truman made on July 26, 1948 was more prosaic: Truman abolished "discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin" which lead to the armed forces being formally and officially desegregated.

[Pictured: Executive Order No. 9981, Ending military segregation, 1948.]

Clue #2

- Clue: Gold Beach was at the center of the five designated landing areas during this 1944 military operation.
- Category: On the Beach
- Value: $400
- Date episode aired: May 30, 2019

Answer #2: What is Operation Neptune or D-Day?

Gold Beach was the code name for the site of one of the most famous military battles of World War II: Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day or the invasion of Normandy. D-Day, which led to the liberation of France from Nazi Germany, left a verified 2,499 Americans dead.

[Pictured: British troops come ashore at Jig Green sector, Gold Beach, 1944.]

Clue #3

- Clue: The story goes that 19th century Marines wore collar protection from bayonets—hence this nickname.
- Category: Military Matters
- Value: $600
- Date episode aired: July 20, 2012

Answer #3: What are leathernecks?

Semper Fidelis, Latin for "always faithful," is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps (often shortened to Semper Fi). As of 2017, the Marines number 182,000 active-duty soldiers with 38,500 in reserve. 

[Pictured: U.S. Marines recruits train at Parris Island.]

Clue #4

- Clue: The Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, boasts the original plaster statue of the flag-raising here.
- Category: Statues
- Value: $800
- Date episode aired: April 8, 2014

Answer #4: What is Iwo Jima?

A fierce, five-week-long engagement in the Pacific theater during WWII, the fighting in Iwo Jima centered on fortified Mount Suribachi, upon which the iconic flag-raising happened on Feb. 23, 1945. The Japanese fought nearly to the last man; U.S. Marines took only 216 prisoners from the more than 20,000-strong Japanese fighting force.

[Pictured: Iwo Jima statue in Arlington, Va., which is inspired by the original statue in Texas.]

Clue #5

- Clue: In 2013, the government officially said this "numeric" military facility in Nevada existed, but aliens...not yet. Not...yet.
- Category: The Western U.S.
- Value: $800
- Date episode aired: March 28, 2019

Answer #5: What is Area 51?

One of the most enduring American conspiracy theories involves the supposed presence of aliens at a remote military facility in Nevada called Homey Airport or Groom Lake, but more commonly called Area 51. While the CIA confirmed the existence of the area in 2013, the military claims the area is used for classified purposes—which only gives conspiracy theorists even more of a reason to believe life from other planets is behind the fortified walls.

[Pictured: Warning sign outside of Area 51.]

Clue #6

- Clue: The first jet-to-jet aerial victory took place during this war when a USAF Lockheed F-80C shot down a MiG-15 over the Yalu River.
- Category: Military Firsts
- Value: $1200
- Date episode aired: Sept. 17, 2014

Answer #6: What is the Korean War?

Long before Maverick and "Top Gun" popularized the aerial dogfight among mainstream Americans, Russel J. Brown chased and shot down the Soviet-made MiG during a routine combat patrol. The American press took the news and spread it like wildfire, christening a new American icon: the intrepid dogfighter.

[Pictured: Lockheed F-80C at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.]

Clue #7

- Clue: The first women to fly U.S. military aircraft made up WASP, the "Women Airforce Service" these.
- Category: The WWII WASP
- Value: $200
- Date episode aired: Dec. 19, 2014

Answer #7: What are pilots?

About 1,000 women completed training for WWII's WASP program. Because of high attrition rates among combat pilots, the U.S. Army's aviation wing (the Air Force wasn't yet created) needed pilots to test and ferry aircraft and train young pilots. The female pilots saw no combat but played a crucial role in freeing up more of their male counterparts to take part in combat operations.

[Pictured: Women Airforce Service Pilots]

Clue #8

- Clue: Student occupation of a Harvard building led to the end of this military education program at the school for 43 years.
- Category: 50 Years Ago, in 1969
- Value: $1600
- Date episode aired: Jan. 22, 2019

Answer #8: What is ROTC?

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1969, many Harvard University students were stridently antiwar. When students occupied a major university building that year, one of their demands was for Harvard to end its affiliation with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which the university did for close to 40 years.

[Pictured: A photograph of President Lowell reviewing the Harvard Reserve Officer's Training Corps on the way to maneuvers, 1918.]

Clue #9

- Clue: This Chiricahua Apache leader's surrender to Gen. Nelson Miles in 1886 ended major military action with Native Americans.
- Category: The Wild West
- Value: $1000
- Date episode aired: Dec. 22, 2014

Answer #9: Who is Geronimo?

Geronimo was an expert in raiding and guerilla warfare who led several Apache uprisings between 30 and 50 Apaches by his side. After his surrender, he died a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Okla.

[Pictured: Apache Chief Geronimo.]

Clue #10

- Clue: This cheek-haired general's attack on Fredericksburg in 1862 saw 12,000 Union losses with little change in the rebel lines.
- Category: Military Mistakes
- Value: $1200
- Date episode aired: Dec. 31, 2014

Answer #10: Who is (Gen. Ambrose) Burnside?

Considered one of the Union Army's most callous and ineffective generals, Burnside gained admittance to the United States Military Academy at West Point thanks to his father's political connections. He is best known for having the facial hair style "sideburns" named after him. After the Civil War, he became the first president of the National Rifle Association.

[Pictured: Gen. Ambrose Burnside.]

Clue #11

- Clue: The first two names inscribed on the [Vietnam Veterans] Memorial were not combat soldiers but military these, helping the South Vietnamese.
- Category: The Vietnam War
- Value: $1000
- Date episode aired: April 4, 2015

Answer #11: What are advisors?

President Eisenhower began sending advisors to Vietnam to help the embattled South Vietnamese, a policy that President John F. Kennedy maintained and eventually escalated. By 1964, some 23,000 American advisors were in Vietnam leading into the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which caused Congress to grant newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to use any means necessary to promote international peace.

[Pictured: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall]

Clue #12

- Clue: His military career did much to swell this seventh president's reputation.
- Category: Picture the Prez
- Value: $1000
- Date episode aired: Nov. 9, 2019

Answer #12: Who is Andrew Jackson?

Seventh President Andrew Jackson's heroism in the War of 1812 against the British helped make him famous and propel him to the presidency. But history remembers Jackson for his disastrous Trail of Tears, which in 1831 displaced thousands of Native Americans from their homes.

[Pictured: portrait of Andrew Jackson, 1824.]

Clue #13

- Clue: It's the title of a 1972 David Halberstam book on the U.S. military failure in Vietnam.
- Category: The "Best" Words
- Value: $2000
- Date episode aired: Oct. 5, 2018

Answer #13: What is 'The Best and Brightest'?

David Halberstam's 1972 book analyzing the American military failure in Vietnam was a spectacular success and changed the course of American military and foreign policy thought. "The Best and the Brightest" argued that President John F. Kennedy surrounded himself with the titular "best and the brightest" to craft his war strategy in Vietnam, but that this was still no bulwark against military failure, cautioning against overconfidence in future conflicts.

[Pictured: David Halberstam (left) of the New York Times, AP Saigon Correspondent Malcolm Brown, and Neil Sheehan of UPI, talk beside a helicopter in Vietnam, 1964.]

Clue #14

- Clue: It's the U.S. military's equivalent of a prison.
- Category: 8-Letter Words
- Value: $1200
- Date episode aired: Sept. 20, 2018

Answer #14: What is a stockade?

Being sent to a military prison is called being sent to the stockade. One of the main reasons soldiers end up there is drug use, which some attribute to the oft-tedious nature of life and work in the U.S. military.

[Pictured: Military veterans enter the dining hall for lunch at the Cybulski Rehabilitation Center.]

Clue #15

- Clue: The oldest U.S. military decoration still in use; its reverse says, "For Military Merit."
- Category: Metals & Decorations
- Value: $1600
- Date episode aired: Dec. 3, 2015

Answer #15: What is the Purple Heart?

The U.S. awards Purple Hearts to soldiers wounded by enemy means and to the next of kin of those killed by enemy fire. It can only be earned in combat. First awarded in 1932, approximately 1.8 million combat veterans have earned the honor.

[Pictured: The purple heart medal resting on the American flag.]

Clue #16

- Clue: To his troops, this WWII general was "Dugout Doug" because he was rarely seen out of his tunnels in Corregidor.
- Category: Military Nicknames
- Value: $200
- Date episode aired: April 27, 2016

Answer #16: Who is (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur?

The son of a decorated Union Army captain, MacArthur spent his entire adult life in the army until being relieved of command after a disastrous stint in the Korean War. MacArthur rubbed everyday soldiers the wrong way by rarely visiting frontlines and traveling with his family and personal cook to his secure headquarters. In reality, few U.S. generals of his stature ever saw the frontlines of battle.

[Pictured: Gen. Douglas MacArthur heads ashore after landing at Leyte in the Philippines.]

Clue #17

- Clue: On July 21, 1861, with Manassas Junction to the south, Gen. McDowell's Union forces sent a decoy force and a flanking force toward Confederates at this waterway, which gave its name to the battle.
- Category: Military Memories
- Value: $600
- Date episode aired: Oct. 26, 2016

Answer #17: What is the Battle of Bull Run?

A resounding Confederate victory, the Battle of Bull Run nevertheless dealt the South a significant manpower blow from which its soldiers struggled to recover. President Jefferson Davis called for 400,000 additional volunteers in the battle's immediate aftermath. The first major battle of the Civil War signaled to both sides that this would be a long, bloody contest.

[Pictured: Painting of the Battle of Bull Run.]

Clue #18

- Clue: In 1997, Vernon Baker became one of only seven African Americans and the only one living to receive this award for valor in World War II.
- Category: US Military Men
- Value: $400
- Date episode aired: Jan. 1, 2017

Answer #18: What is the Congressional Medal of Honor?

First awarded on March 25, 1863, 3,505 individuals have received the Medal of Honor. It's given for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty." Despite "Jeopardy!"'s official answer, the official title doesn't actually have "Congressional" in it.

[Pictured: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (right) and Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker (center).]

Clue #19

- Clue: Graduates of this military college in Charleston, S.C., fired the first shots at Fort Sumter to begin the Civil War.
- Category: USA! USA!
- Value: $600
- Date episode aired: Feb. 24, 2017

Answer #19: What is the Citadel?

Union forces Fort Sumter to the Confederates on April 12, 1861. The fort today is called the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park and is part of the National Park system.

[Pictured: The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina.]

Clue #20

- Clue: In August 1992 the U.S. military began relief efforts in this African nation but soon got involved in interclan fighting.
- Category: 20th Century America
- Value: $600
- Date episode aired: May 8, 2017

Answer #20: What is Somalia?

This botched relief effort led to the notorious Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. The battle was popularized by the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."

[Pictured: U.S. humanitarian aid relief in Kismayo, Somalia, in the 1980s.]

Clue #21

- Clue: In 1980 Secretary Cyrus Vance resigned over the decision to order an ultimately failed military op in this country.
- Category: State Department History
- Value: $1200
- Date episode aired: Dec. 8, 2017

Answer #21: What is Iran?

Operation Eagle Claw was an unmitigated disaster. U.S. Army Delta Force and Ranger teams sent in never made it past the staging point when only five helicopters successfully completed the initial journey. President Jimmy Carter blamed his 1980 election loss on his failure to secure the release of the embassy hostages.

[Pictured: Grounded plane from the remnants of Operation Eagle Claw.]

Clue #22

- Clue: The U.S. went to the polls for one of these on Nov. 8, 2016.
- Category: Ranking the New Military Man
- Value: $200
- Date episode aired: Nov. 27, 2017

Answer #22: What is a commander-in-chief?

The United States held a presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016, that led to Donald Trump winning a surprise victory over his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with 304 electoral votes to her 227. Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. 

[Pictured: Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Fountain Hills, Ariz., 2016.]

Clue #23

- Clue: The first successful wartime attack by one of these occurred by the Hunley off Charleston in 1864.
- Category: Military Firsts
- Value: $1000
- Date episode aired: June 11, 2010

Answer #23: What is a submarine?

The H.L. Hunley, a crude, human-powered submarine built by the Confederate States of America, sunk the wooden-hulled USS Housatonic. It was the Hunley's first and last attack, immediately disappearing afterward. The wreckage was found in 1970, painstakingly raised from the depths in 2000, and is now on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, S.C.

[Pictured: Model of The Civil War Submarine, H.L. Hunley in South Carolina.]

Clue #24

- Clue: On Oct. 7, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom began in this country; by December, the U.S. had dropped 12,000 bombs and missiles.
- Category: Life's A (Military) Campaign
- Value: $400
- Date episode aired: Feb. 18, 2010

Answer #24: What is Afghanistan?

The United States is still at war in Afghanistan in 2019, battling numerous Islamist elements and warlords while trying to prop up a floundering, corrupt, pro-Western government. The U.S. controls most major cities and highways, losing less than 2,500 soldiers to the Taliban's estimated losses of more than 60,000. Estimates of civilians killed pushes past 40,000 for a war with no end in sight.

[Pictured: Soldiers in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.]

Clue #25

- Clue: This wave of attacks in early 1968 was a military defeat for North Vietnam but turned many Americans against the war.
- Category: Of Surprise
- Value: $1200
- Date episode aired: June 7, 2017

Answer #25: What is the Tet Offensive?

The Tet Offensive was a major turning point for the Americans in the Vietnam War. The coordinated series of attacks by the Vietcong showed the American public that the war would not be swiftly and easily won, and that defeat was possible, marking a turning point in public support for the conflict.

[Pictured: RF-4C Phantom II destroyed during the enemy attack against Tan Son Nhut during the Tet Offensive, 1968.]

You may also like: Can you answer these real 'Jeopardy!' clues about your state?

Trending Now