Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Wednesday Quiz II:5 -- Twentieth Century Battles

The Wednesday Quiz -- Season II -- Quiz 5

Twentieth Century Battles

The Wednesday Quiz is a "closed-book" test of knowledge and intuition; please do not look up answers, ask others for help, or answer as a team.

Questions about the rules and the ~Fabulous Prizes~ are answered here.


This week's Quiz is an is-it-or-isn't-it game about something that's really kind of an oxymoron. The idea of a "battle" -- two armies engaging each other in a specific, limited context of time and place -- was pretty much obsolete by the 1910s. So we are using the word "battle" here in a broad context to indicate any sustained military unpleasantness. Having said that, for each grim little tale,

Is It or Isn't It an Actual (and more or less accurately described) Twentieth-Century Battle?

1. Antietam (1941) -- As the French Army retreated in disarray at the beginning of World War II, nearly two thirds of its soldiers were caught near the village of Antietam between Italian forces advancing from the south and German forces advancing from the north. Surrounded, outnumbered, and cut off from supplies, the French capitulated in what is still the "biggest surrender" -- measured in number of POWs captured -- in history. Paris would fall to the Germans eight days later.

2. Bangladesh (1971) -- From its declaration of independence from (West) Pakistan in March to eventual victory in December, much of Bangladesh was a field of continuous chaos and violence. Killing of civilians by the U.S.-backed Pakistani troops was a commonplace, and although the figure of three million fatalities claimed by Bangladesh is probably somewhat high, the figure of 26,000 claimed by a official Pakistani inquiry is generally considered extremely low.

3. Bay of Pigs (1969) -- Often thought of as merely a humiliating fiasco for the United States, the Bay of Pigs in fact exacted an enormous toll of military and civilian casualties. Preliminary bombing of the heavily-populated landing area caused, according to Cuban estimates, nearly a quarter of a million deaths.

4. Borodino (1903) -- As Greek armies steadily drove troops of the Austro-Hungarian Empire north during the Second Balkan War, the Italian army was sent across the Adriatic to support the Archduke's cause. Arriving in the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula weeks before their supplies of food, heavy weapons, and ammunition were ready, the Italians were quickly surrounded in the Borodino Valley and attacked with withering, continuous artillery and machine-gun fire. Roughly 235,000 soldiers and civilians perished.

5. Kampala (1951-53) -- After Uganda's Idi Amin recklessly invaded his southern neighbor, the larger and better equipped Ethiopian army quickly shattered his armed forces, launched a counter-invasion, and laid siege to his capital, Kampala. Somewhere between 600,000 and 900,000 died before international pressure led to a lifting of the siege two years later.

6. Leningrad (1941-4) -- Nazi Germany, with a little help from Finland, lays siege to the Soviet Union's second city. Close to a million soldiers and another million civilians die from cold, starvation, and combat in what was probably the Century's single deadliest sustained battle.

7. Okinawa (1945) -- The largest of the many amphibious assaults in the Pacific Theater of World War II, the Battle of Okinawa was an attempt by the Americans and their allies to secure a base for the bombing and presumed invasion of Japan. In addition to tens of thousands of American casualties and more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers killed, an enormous proportion of the Okinawan civilian population died during the battle.

8. Passchendaele (1917) -- From June to November, Allied troops assailed the German trenches in hopes of capturing the Belgian village of Passchendaele, the idea being that this would force U-Boats to stop using Belgian seaports. Over the course of six months, and at the cost of 140,000 combat deaths, the Allies managed to advance five miles and capture the village. Except, it turns out that U-Boats hadn't actually been using Belgian seaports. The Germans recaptured the village at the Battle of the Lys, five months later.

9. Stalingrad (1942-3) -- Troops of Nazi Germany and their allies occupied most of this strategically significant Soviet City in the fall, but found themselves trapped when Soviet armies cut off their supply lines at the beginning of the cold, cold winter. Holding the city was a logistical impossibility, but German dictator Adolph Hitler, a big advocate of the power of positive thinking, insisted that his troops do it anyway. Estimates vary widely, but well over a million Soviet, Germany, Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian soldiers died in the engagement.

10. Somme (1916) -- Estimated as the 10th deadliest battle of the 20th Century, and the deadliest outside of the Russian Front of World War II. The British and French attempt to break out of World War I's stalemate of trench warfare. The British famously lose some 60,000 soldiers on the first day of the attack; after an eventual million or so combined deaths on either side, the battle ended with the Allies having advanced several miles in some locations.

Submit your answers in the comments!


d said...

insomnia ftw!

1 that was the civil war right? n
2 i'm not sure about the date, but that sounds right y
3 kennedy was not alive in '69 n
4 uh y
5 this did not appear in 'the last king of scotland'. n
6 i think everything about this is wrong including the date n
7 weirdly i was just talking about this the other day y
8 uh y
9 y
10 y

Cartophiliac said...

1. isn't
2. is
3. isn't
4. isn't
5. isn't
6. is
7. is
8. is
9. is
10. is

Elaine said...

1. Good Lord. Antietam was a Civil War battle--among the bloodiest. I've never heard of *another* Antietam, so I will say ISN'T
2. Is
3. ISN'T-- wrong date, among other things.
4. ISN'T
5. IS
6. IS, though 'help from Finland???'
7. ISN'T...the 'Okinawa' part seems wrong
8. IS
9. IS
10. IS

Plainly I am just under-informed in the matter of our planet's genius for blood-letting....

Elizabeth said...

Once more into the breach, dear friends!

1. No
2. No
3. Yes
4. Yes
5. No
6. Yes
7. Yes
8. No
9. Yes
10. Yes

These quizzes are my Waterloo.

Nichim said...

1. N
2. N
3. Y
4. N
5. Y
6. Y
7. Y
8. Y
9. N
10. N
I don't know the answers (except the first one, even I know that), and now I feel sick. I should have registered as a conscientious objector.

DrSchnell said...

1. nope
2. nope
3. nope
4. yup
5. nope
6. nope
7. yup
8. sure, why not. Anything that dumb and deadly is plausible in WWI
9. yup
10. yup.

Aviatrix said...

I don't know these as well as I wish I did, but I really hope that doesn't mean I'm condemned to revisit such battles.

1. TRUE - Michael5000 isn't mean enough to make that up.
2. TRUE - Time and place plausible.
3. FALSE - Here's a window on Michael's duplicity: real name, fake events.
4. FALSE - Too huge a death toll for a single battle in a war I've never heard of.
5. FALSE - Falls in the gap between the end of my textbooks and the beginning of my experience, but I think it went the other way.
6. TRUE - I have a Soviet poster depicting the feat of their survival.
7. TRUE - It's the one with the heroic flag statue.
8. TRUE - Many Canadians there.
9. TRUE - I haven't heard of it by name, but there's a long tradition of invading armies freezing to death in the Russian winter.
10. TRUE - I may have been fooled à la Bay of Pigs, though.

mrs.5000 said...

1 no!
2 yes
3 no
4 no
5 no
6 yes
7 yes
8 U-Batty! no
9 yes
10 no

Melissa said...

1. Isn't
2. Is
3. Isn't
4. Isn't
5. Isn't
6. Is
7. Is
8. Isn't
9. Is
10. Is

Ben said...

1. Isn't. I think there WAS a battle of Antietam in the Civil War.

If I had some semblance of certainty about #1, I'm far less certain about any of the rest.

2. Isn't (I hope)
3. Isn't
4. Is
5. Isn't
6. Is
7. Is
8. Isn't
9. Is
10. Is

McGuff said...

I will give my answeres in Texan.


UnwiseOwl said...

1. The French don't tend to name their towns after American Civil War Battles, do they? False.
2. Hrmm...the dates seem about right for the Bangladesh Cricket Team...True.
3. I thought this had about a dozen casualties. I'm sure no-one would like JFK anywhere near as much if that were true. False.
4. Hehe...Sharpe saves me again...I'm pretty sure this was a Napoleonic battle. False.
5. Amin only came into power in the 70s. I think. False.
6. Argh...I always get Leningrad and Stalingrad muddled. Oh those crazy Finns. True.
7. That sounds like exactly the way WWII was fought, particularly in the second half. True.
8. Again, bad military fiction saves me. True. It always sounded more heroic in my childhood.
9. Argh...the other one...what if I've swapped these around? Blergh...I think this is True, too.
10. True. 90% of the 40,000 Australian troops at the Somme were casualties, I believe, the biggest percentage of any nationality. Gee...I'm such a nerd

Aviatrix said...

Maybe I should devote the time I spend in a day looking at lolcats and webcomics to learning basic facts about the world. I can has a know?

Kritkrat said...

Pure guesses. Again. Damn.
1. isn't
2. is
3. isn't
4. is
5. isn't
6. is
7. is
8. isn't
9. is
10. isn't

UnwiseOwl said...

@Aviatrix. I was thinking I needed to read less military history and more webcomics. More we should swap.

Elaine said...

We wouldn't want to deprive M5000 of the maniacal glee he's evidently experiencing as, one after the other, we fall into his various traps. The words 'sick' and 'twisted' kind of come to mind, but I'm sure that's a coincidence. Just like the fact that it's April Fool's Day today.

M5000, be sure to work the NYT puzzle today!

Michael5000 said...

1. Antietam -- NO. Antietam is a battle from the U.S. Civil War. The "biggest surrender" in history was when the (West) Pakistani army capitulated to India and the newly-independent Bangladesh in 1971. Which brings us to:

2. Bangladesh -- YES.

3. Bay of Pigs -- NO. It was hardly bloodless, but fewer than 5000 people were killed in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

4. Borodino -- NO. History has two completely seperate Battles of Borodino, but I made this third one up out of thin air.

5. Kampala -- NO. Idi Amin recklessly invaded Tanzania (not Ethiopia) and got spanked pretty badly for it, but everything else is false and, happily, there was no Siege of Kampala.

6. Leningrad -- YES. The Finns did little to actively attack the city, but they did form the northern wall of the siege.

7. Okinawa -- YES. Although the famous flag-raising was more of an Iwo Jima sorta dealie.

8. Passchendaele -- YES. This episode, also called III Ypres, might have been deliberately scripted to illustrate the madness of war. Oddly, wars have continued to erupt sporadically ever since.

9. Stalingrad -- YES.

10. Somme -- YES. Perhaps the most singular feature of 20th Century warfare is that the Russian Front of WWII had nine seperate engagements that managed to kill more people than died at the Somme.

Michael5000 said...

Which makes military historian Cartophiliac, military historian Phineas, and military historian UnWise Owl the ruling junta of this week's quiz, with perfect scores all around; Melissa was only one question behind.

Michael5000 said...

@Elaine: I think that what you are seeing as "traps" are things that I am intending as "clues."

And as for the NYT Crossword puzzle, I'm afraid it takes six weeks to make it out to the Beaver State. Presumably they are still shipping by covered wagon. We are forever puzzling over the inexplicable Christmas puzzle in February or Fourth of July puzzle in late August, then remembering.

Christine M. said...

Hey! I answered the questions, but I'm not in the comments! Well, dang.

Michael5000 said...

@la gringa: I wondered where you were this week....

UnwiseOwl said...

La gringa and I may be having a similar problem, M5000...I've been having to post everything twice for the last week or so, as wp has been rejecting my password without telling me each time I post here. Possibly La Gringa is having the same issue?