Correction: The explanation for the answer to No. 2 gave an incorrect number of war dead in an earlier version of this post. It is now correct.

Here’s a quiz to test yourself on how much you know about Memorial Day and the wars in which U.S. soldiers have fought and died.

Answers, with a bit of history, follow the questions.

Sscouts light more than 17,000 candles at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery in Virginia. (Peter Cihelka/AP)

a) Revolutionary War

b) Civil War

c) World War I

d) World War II

2. What was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history?

a) Battle of Antietam

b) Battle of Gettysburg
c) Battle of Shiloh

d) Battle of Okinawa

3. What was the original name of Memorial Day?

a) Remembrance Day

b) Commemoration Day

c) Decoration Day

d) Dedication Day

4. True or false: All states celebrate Memorial Day on the same day.

5. Which is NOT a tradition on Memorial Day?

a) Small American flags are placed on each grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

b) American flags are flown at half-staff from dawn to noon.

c) The president or vice president lays a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

d) The president or vice president gives a speech at Arlington National Cemetery.

6. Each year the 3rd U.S. Infantry spends hours placing a small American flag before the gravestones and niches of service members buried at Arlington National Cemetery (and the U.S. Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery) just before Memorial Day weekend. How many flags are placed at Arlington?

a) 118,000

b) 156,000

c) 213,000

d) 267,000

7. What was the longest war in which U.S. soldiers fought?

a) Civil War

b) Vietnam War

c) War in Iraq

d) War in Afghanistan

Army Spec. Kevin Wilson, 23, left, of New York, and Army Spec. John Finner, 23, of Sikeston, Mo., soldiers with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or "Old Guard," place a flag before each grave at Arlington National Cemetery. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

a) It is the only cemetery in the country with veterans from all U.S. wars.

b) The land on which the cemetery was built was originally Robert E. Lee’s Virginia estate that was confiscated by the Union during the Civil War for nonpayment of $92.07 in taxes.

c) In 1877 Lee’s son sued the government for confiscating Arlington illegally but lost his bid to get back the land.

d) There are nearly 30 funerals a day on average at Arlington.

People wave as motorcyclists ride across the Memorial Bridge during Rolling Thunder 2012. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

a) Government recognition and protection of prisoners of war and those missing in action.

b) More comprehensive veterans’ benefits.

c) A return to the military draft so that people from all walks of life serve in the armed forces.

d) Al of the above.

10. Who said this?

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

a) President George Washington, who served as commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

b) President Dwight Eisenhower, who also served as supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II.

c) Gen. George S. Patton.

d) Gen. Douglas MacArthur.


1. b) Civil War.

Lots of towns had their own commemorations before 1868, but it is said that Memorial Day became a holiday in that year when Gen. John A. Logan of Grand Army of the Republic issued a proclamation, according to, that said:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

After World War I, Memorial Day commemorations honored not just the Civil War dead but soldiers who had died in all American conflicts.

2. a) The bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history was the Battle of Antietam in Maryland, fought on Sept. 17, 1862. Also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, it was the first major Civil War battle to be waged on Union soil. There were between 23,000 and 26,000 killed, wounded or missing after 12 hours of fighting.

3. c) Decoration Day

4. False. A number of Southern states still have a separate day to honor Confederate soldiers who died in the war. Some of them are in April, May and June, and in Texas, Confederate Heroes Day is Jan. 19.

5. c) It is customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, not at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

6. d) The soldiers put flags in front of more than 260,000 gravestones and about 7,300 niches at Arlington. (Another 13,500 flags are placed at the Soldier’s and Airmen’s Cemetery.)

7. d) The war in Afghanistan is the longest in which U.S. troops have been committed. It started in 2001 and is nearly 11 years old. The second longest was the Iraq war, launched by the administration of president George W. Bush in 2003.

8. c) In 1877 Lee’s son did sue the government for confiscating Arlington illegally, but he actually won his suit. The Supreme Court gave him back the land, but what could the Lee family do with an estate littered with corpses? George Lee sold it back to the government for $150,000. Over time, 250,000 soldiers would be buried in what is now Arlington National Cemetery.

9. a) Government recognition and protection of prisoners of war and those missing in action.

10. c) Patton.


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