Pearl Harbor Day: Remembering Army-Navy Football WW II

time: 23:20:02 12/06/2018  view: 2278

Most of our military service men and women will testify that keeping up morale is a major priority, particularly in times of war. World War II was no exception. As a result of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. found itself pulled into a war we had hoped to stay out of. Soon thereafter, the War Department saw an opportunity to build morale using a popular American sport–football. Remarkably, it proved successful.

The game of football played a major role in building comradeship amidst the ranks. Young men across America immediately signed up for duty, among them former and current college or national football athletes. By this time, the sport was an all-American past-time. Thus, the war department used football to motivate as well as, cross-train cadets. Creating an environment of comradeship combined with elements of physical agility and teamwork, fueled successful missions throughout the war. Undoubtedly, it also helped soldiers feel at home when they were in fact, far away.

Final paragraph, "No British or American camp is ever really considered complete without a football." This book can be read in its entirety through the Library of Congress website at the link found below.

A book solicited by the war department entitled, “A Peep at the Front” depicted what the war front was like to young boys at home. The final chapter, 'Sportsmanship at the Front' detailed how football was an important part of the military services culture. Likewise, it alluded to the fact that the German’s knew nothing of such physical prowess or team coordination. As a result, the German’s were sure to lose the war. And so they did.

High school to college

Remember your high school football team doing tire drills? The servicemen football experience is where those came from. Military training used these physical exercises first. According to Eddie Dooley’s, “ The Service Teams," a sports writer stated, "Football is a body-toughener. Football lights the fighting spark in fighting men. It develops aggressiveness, teamwork, stamina, physical and mental coordination under active stress, and therefore it holds a foremost place in our national wartime training program. Teams by the hundreds are in formation at various Army camps and posts and Navy bases. The greatest participation in the history of the sport will be entered in the records of 1942."

College to NFL

In late 1942, the War Department began to promote organized football exhibitions. Universities across the U.S. had been depleted of football players as many had enlisted.  In an effort to provide some form of sports entertainment, servicemen football teams were put in rotation. This allowed college football to continue during the war despite a lack of players.

Additionally in the same year, the U.S. Army named two "All-Army teams" of approximately 60 players per unit. One located in the East and one in the West. They were referred to as the "Million Dollar teams".  Reason being, their primary purpose was to raise $1 million for the Army Emergency Relief fund through a series of exhibition clashes with the professional teams of the National Football League.

Honorable Mention:

We lost 19 active or former NFL players during World War II. Yet, we had an incredible record setting football player come out of the Army service football team. Felix Anthony "Doc" Blanchard became the first ever junior to win the Heisman Trophy as well as, the first football player to win the James E. Sullivan Award, both in 1945.  Following playing football for West Point/the Army, he served in the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1971 when he retired as a colonel.

The service football teams remained intact even after Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945. It was believed that war with Russia could ensue and the war department wanted their servicemen ready for battle. Continuing the football league was a way to retain both agility and comradeship among the enlisted. This Saturday's annual Army-Navy football game will air on CBS at noon, December 8, 2018.