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National Park Quiz 31: World War II

An iconic World War II era poster. The photo is a scan of a copy belonging to the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian Institution) and retrieved from the website of the Virginia Historical Society via Wikipedia.

1. True or false? The photo accompanying this quiz shows Norman Rockwell's painting of “Rosie the River,” the iconic character honored through the establishment of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

2. True or false? During World War II, the Federal government suspended laws protecting the national parks and permitted mining, logging, grazing, and other consumptive uses necessary to support the war effort and assert the nation’s strategic interests throughout the world.

3. True or false? In support of the war effort, the Federal government erected numerous temporary buildings on public land, but declined to do so in the national parks.

4. True or false? The Federal government paid less than 10% of the cost of designing and constructing the National World War II Memorial.

5. True or false? War in the Pacific National Historical Park honors the bravery and sacrifices of all who participated in the Pacific Theater of World War II, including the military forces of Japan.

6. The Federal government made liberal use of the national parks as training areas for combat troops and other personnel involved in the war effort. For example, Mount Rainier was used for mountain warfare training, Joshua Tree National Monument was used for desert training, and facilities constructed in Catoctin Mountain Park and in ______ were used to train Office of Strategic Services (OSS) spies.
a. Prince William Forest Park
b. Greenbelt Park
c. Rock Creek Park
d. Piscataway Park

7. In early 1942, dozens of merchant ships and several German submarines were sunk at “Torpedo Junction,” the heavily trafficked sea lanes just off the coast of what is now ______ National Seashore.
a. Acadia
b. Cumberland Island
c. Canaveral
d. Cape Hatteras

8. Sitka spruce was a strategically important raw material during World War II because its high strength-to-weight ratio made it desirable for airplane construction and other manufacturing. Timber interests accordingly cited vital national defense needs when they sought permission to log Sitka spruce in ______ National Park
a. Great Smoky Mountains
b. Voyageurs
c. Olympic
d. Rocky Mountain

9. What is the only independent country honored with a pillar at the National World II Memorial, which has a pillar for the District of Columbia and each US State and Territory at the time of World War II?

10. Two national parks preserve remains of concentration camps the Federal government operated in the western states during World War II. Can you name them?

Extra Credit Question:

11. True or false? The National Park Service headquarters vacated its offices in Washington, DC, during World War II.

Super Bonus Question:

12. World War II ended on September 2, 1945, when Japanese officials signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender during a ceremony that took place on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The Missouri is now paired with the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor to evocatively symbolize the beginning and end of America’s participation in World War II. A carefully deliberated decision resulted in the Missouri being positioned well back from the Arizona and with its bow facing the sunken ship. What was the reasoning behind this particular positioning of the Missouri?


1. False. Artist J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster was one of a series commissioned by Westinghouse’s War Production Co-Ordinating Committee. (Interestingly, the “We Can Do It!” poster was only exhibited at Westinghouse, and only for two weeks. It didn’t become famous until after the war.) Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter," which was painted for the May 29, 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover, depicts a female riveter on lunch break. It was auctioned off at Sotheby's for nearly $5 million in 2002.

2. False. There was no general suspension of laws protecting the national parks. Wartime National Park Service Director Newton B. Drury managed to fend off all but the most exceptional demands for the consumptive use of park resources.

3. False. The Federal government constructed numerous temporary structures, especially office buildings and housing for wartime workers, on national parklands in and near Washington, DC. Not even the National Mall was spared.

4. True. The Federal government’s share came to only about $16 million. More than $180 million was raised from corporations, veterans groups, and other private sources.

5. True. The site honors all who fought in the Pacific Theater of War. This includes the United States, Japan, and the Allied nations (Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union).

6. a -- There were two OSS training schools at Prince William Forest Park. One taught combat skills, sabotage, guerrilla warfare, and commando operations. The other taught radio engineers how to operate shortwave stations relaying secret messages from agents behind enemy lines.

7. d -– German submarine commanders enjoyed easy pickings off the Outer Banks for only a few months. By late 1942, a combination of heavy patrolling, enforced blackouts, and related measures made it very difficult and dangerous to hunt merchant ships along the eastern seaboard.

8. c -– The Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), which can live up to 700 years, is a temperate rainforest species that grows only in the North Pacific Coast region. Olympic National Park offers nearly ideal growing conditions for this species and currently has the world’s largest specimen (the Queets Spruce).

9. The Republic of the Philippines, better known as the Philippines, was a U.S. territory during World War II. Japan launched a surprise attack on the Philippines just 10 hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Philippines gained its independence after the war on July 4, 1946.

10. The two parks are Minidoka Internment National Historic Site (in Idaho and Washington) and Manzanar National Historic Site (in California). Most of the roughly 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese extraction interned in these and eight other concentration camps (or "relocation centers") were American citizens.

11. True. During the war, higher-priority demands for office space in Washington, DC, forced the National Park Service to temporarily move the agency’s headquarters to Chicago.

12. There are several reasons for this arrangement. Authorities wanted to make sure that the Missouri would not draw attention away from the Arizona, and that the Arizona would not be visible to people participating in military ceremonies aboard the Missouri. Pointing the Missouri’s bow toward the Arizona conveys the notion that the mighty battleship now watches over the sunken ship so the crew interred within its hull can rest in peace.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passably fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Minidoka is a National Historic Site since May 2008. It was vastly expanded in size but downgraded from NM to NHS by this years Omnibus Bill.

Nice catch, MRC. I fixed it. This was an especially dumb mistake on my part. Several months ago I even started to write an article about the Minidoka redesignation and expansion, emphasizing the satellite site on Bainbridge Island. Might still do it.

Although I lived on the island of Oahu for many years, I never knew why the Missouri is placed the way it is.

Thanks for sharing this piece of history with us.

You're welcome, Fred. When my wife and I toured "Big Mo", I was puzzled by the fact that it was impossible to get a good view of the USS Arizona Memorial from the quarterdeck of the battleship -- that is, from the part of the Missouri where the Japanese surrender ceremony took place. Finding out why was a real revelation. The symbolism is very powerful. Those unfamiliar with the setting might want to take a look at
this site. It is the single best photo I have ever seen of the two vessels' relative positions.

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