List of World War II military service football teams

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This List of World War II military service football teams includes all those top-level American football teams consisting of active duty military personnel of the United States Armed Forces that played against collegiate or professional opponents during the seasons of 1942, 1943, or 1944.

Background[edit]

During the years of World War II the American military saw a rapid expansion of its system of military bases as the number of young men skyrocketed through enlistment and conscription. Many of these included former collegiate and professional stars of the football gridiron. Some 19 active or former players of the National Football League would ultimately die in the American war effort,[1] in addition to an uncounted number of former collegians.

Early in the war effort one football writer said about the applicability of the formation of football teams with military training:

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.[2]

Beginning in the fall of 1942, the War Department began to promote organized football exhibitions involving select teams from its military bases that played full schedules against the depleted squads of regional universities.[3] These elite teams are included in the following list.

These were further distilled into military All-Star Teams which played against collegiate and professional opponents. In 1942 the U.S. Army named two "All-Army teams" of approximately 60 players per unit, located in the East and West.[4] These were informally known as the "Million Dollar teams" — their purpose being to raise upwards of $1 million for the Army Emergency Relief fund through a series of exhibition clashes with the professional teams of the National Football League.[4] The Eastern Army All-Star team was led by Lt. Col. Robert R. Neyland, and played September 1942 games against the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Chicago Bears.[4] The Western All-Stars, coached by Major Wallace Wade of Duke University, played a slate including games beginning late in August 1942 against the Washington Redskins, Chicago Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants.

By the time that the war had ended, various service teams had been coached by such legends as Bernie Bierman (Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks), Paul Brown (Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets), and Joe Verducci (Alameda Coast Guard Sea Lions),[5] as well as the aforementioned Neyland and Wade.

Even with the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, however, the times still remained uncertain to an extent with the Allied occupation forces facing possible pacification campaigns in the defeated Axis countries, as well as increasingly strained relations with the Soviet Union. As a result much of the American war apparatus remained intact, at least initially, during peacetime—including many service football teams.

The State Fair of Louisiana, which normally sponsored a series college football games as part of its annual State Fair Classic, found itself without its regular host schools at times during the war when they were forced to drop their football programs. The locally-based Barksdale Field Sky Raiders were invited to play in two of the classic's October games, one against the Selman Army Airfield Cyclones[6][7] and another against the Lake Charles Army Airfield Flying Tigers;[8] the Camp Swift Dragons ended up filling in for Lake Charles Army Airfield.[9] The fair's "Negro Day" game featured Wiley College paired against the Randolph Field Black Ramblers (the African American counterpart to the Randolph Field Ramblers).[10] Barksdale Field had also previously competed in the 1934 classic, against Texas Military College.[11]

Even the service academies remained strong through 1945, with Army and Navy's annual game featuring the two top teams of the 1945 AP Poll and the game being declared the "Game of the Century," with Pres. Harry S. Truman himself attending. Army's Doc Blanchard even won the Heisman Trophy that year.

After encountering no significant resistance in the occupied countries over the subsequent year (save for a few, isolated efforts at sabotage by Edelweiss Pirates or Japanese holdouts), most American servicemen were then quickly discharged, and the service football teams essentially left with them. Truman issued Proclamation 2714 formally ending the war on December 31, 1946.

One noteworthy post-war game—which may have typified just how far the few remaining service teams had fallen since Iowa Pre-Flight’s magical run at #2 in the 1943 AP Poll—pitted Central State University of Ohio against the Wright Field Kittyhawks; despite it being Central State’s first season[12] as a new four-year institution, they still won the game by an astonishing score of 101–0.[13]

List of teams[edit]

United States Army teams[edit]

Teams associated with the bases of the United States Army included:

United States Army Air Forces teams[edit]

Teams associated with the bases of the United States Army Air Forces included:

United States Navy teams[edit]

Teams associated with the bases of the United States Navy included:

The team was coached by former Ohio State University coach Paul Brown in 1944.
In 1943 Iowa Pre-Flight finished the season 9–1 and was ranked #2 in the AP Poll.

United States Marine Corps teams[edit]

United States Coast Guard teams[edit]

Teams associated with the bases of the United States Coast Guard included:

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Football and America: World War II," Professional Football Hall of Fame, pg. 2. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  2. ^ Eddie Dooley, "The Service Teams," 1942 Football Illustrated Annual. New York: Fiction House, Inc., 1942; pg. 21.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Jack Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," 1943 Football Illustrated Annual. New York: Fiction House, Inc., 1943; pg. 16.
  4. ^ a b c Dooley, "The Service Teams," pg. 22.
  5. ^ "Alameda Coast Guard Sea Lions School History". sports-reference.com. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 
  6. ^ "College Football". Daily Illini (p. 6). October 21, 1945. 
  7. ^ Joe E. Carter (October 21, 1945). "Sky Raiders In Close Battle: Sandberg, Former Star of Gophers, Features Win for Cyclones". Shreveport Times (p. 18). 
  8. ^ "State Fair Premium Lists Are Distributed". Baton Rouge State-Times (sec. A, p. 8). September 12, 1945. 
  9. ^ Joe E. Carter (October 28, 1945). "Soldiers From 'Buldge' Lose to Barksdale: Camp Swift Team, Recently Back From Europe, Beaten by Raiders". Shreveport Times (p. 18). 
  10. ^ "Louisiana State Fair (ad)". Atlanta, Tex. Citizens Journal (p. 5). October 18, 1945. 
  11. ^ "Louisiana State Fair (ad)". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate (p. 15). October 19, 1934. 
  12. ^ "Central State Marauders: All-time NCAA college football scores". college-football-results.com. 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 
  13. ^ >"Gaston (Country) Lewis". ehbcsports.com. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 
  14. ^ a b c Daye, Encyclopedia of Armed Forces Football, pg. 114.
  15. ^ Daye, Encyclopedia of Armed Forces Football, pg. 115.
  16. ^ Daye, "The Encyclopedia of Armed Forced Football,"
  17. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pg. 18.
  18. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pp. 18-19.
  19. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pp. 19-20.
  20. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pg. 21.
  21. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pg. 22.
  22. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pg. 19.
  23. ^ Byrne, "The Service Teams USA," pp. 20-21.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Daye, Encyclopedia of Armed Forces Football: The Complete History of the Glory Days. Haworth, NJ: St. Johann Press, 2014.