A Look Inside A Team for America
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|Blaik called the squads of 1944, 1945, and 1946 his "storybook teams." Some of the players that carries them to victory were ends Barney Poole and Hank Foldberg, and backs Glenn Davis, Young Arnold Tucker, and Doc Blanchard. (Army Athletic Communications, USMA)||"No one in the game had as much speed and as many gears as Glenn Davis," a teammate said."He could be surrounded one moment and gone for a touchdown the next." (Army Athletic Communications, USMA)|
|Doc Blanchard had size, power, and speed. Sometimes, sportswriters thought, he played like a man among boys. (Army Athletic Communications, USMA)||On November 11, 1944, as American troops battled in Western Europe and the Pacific, Army played Notre Dame in Yankee Stadium. The game shocked everyone in sports. (Army Athletic Communications, USMA)|
Q: What drew you to write about West Point football during World War II?
A: Since I was in high school I have had two abiding interests--sports and the history of the two world wars. As a writer I have authored more than a half dozen books about sports and athletes, and as a teacher I have had thousands of students in my course on World War II. Given those twin interests, A Team For America was a natural. I knew that the 1944 Army team, led by two future Heisman Trophy winners, was one of the greatest in college football history. But I wondered, what was it like to play under the shadow of the largest war in world history? And, how did the action on the field contribute to the war effort? Such questions made me want to talk to the players and to tell their story.
A: Well, initially there was some doubt whether football--as well as professional baseball and other college and professional sports--would continue during the war. The demand for soldiers and sailors was so acute that it seemed to many people that any man strong enough to lug a football should be lugging a rifle. But led by U.S. Navy officials, the government established V-programs in colleges across America to provide education and training for future naval officers, and these youths were allowed to participate in varsity sports. But as they finished their training, they were called into the service. At the academies the situation was different. Although their time at the academies was reduced from four to three years, they could not be called into the service until their three years education was completed. Therefore the academies had a more consistent source of manpower for their teams. It made planning for the Army coach, the legendary Earl "Red" Blaik, easier.
Q: Why was the 1944 season unique and memorable?
A: To begin with, as I said earlier, it was played under the shadow of the war. Think of this: The class of 1945 became upperclassmen when the class of 1944 graduated. The day was June 6, 1944--D- Day. General Brehon B. Somervell, after delivering the graduation address at the Academy, announced, "Only a few hours ago the mightiest undertaking ever attempted by our Army was launched against the enemy entrenched along the shores of France. Today our forces began that grim, tough and bloody march from the shores of the Atlantic to Berlin." Of course, the cadets and spectators at the ceremony cheered wildly. In a way, that was the start of the 1944 season. During the fall millions of Americans opened their newspapers to read about the march of U.S. armed forces toward Berlin and Tokyo as well as the campaign of the West Point football team to win the national championship. For many readers, the actions on the battlefield and the playing field were somehow linked, forming a story about what was good and right about America.
Q: Did the players at West Point during the war end up in combat?
A: Certainly the ones who graduated in 1942, 1943, and 1944 became part of what they called "The Big Show." For example, Henry Romanek and Robin Olds, two friends who played on the same teams at West Point, were both part of the D-Day invasion. Romanek was badly wounded. Olds flew above the beaches in a P-38 fighter. Olds went on to earn ace status both in World War II and the Vietnam War. By the time the class of 1945 graduated the war was almost over. But many of them served in the Korean War, several dying on the battlefield or from wounds suffered in combat.
Q: What was the most important thing that you leaned during researching and writing A Team For America?
A: On one level I learned a great deal about the home front during the war--about the lives that most Americans led while many of their sons, brothers, and cousins were fighting overseas. But on a more personal level, the research brought me into contact with some extraordinary men. Uniformly, they were generous with their time and memories, still close to their teammates, and proud of the Academy. There’s a lot of talk about the "Greatest Generation," and I’m not exactly sure of how far to take the phrase. But the men I met and studied were special. Still today, they inspire awe. Writing their story was a pleasure.
Roberts wrote a real winner here! I happened to have worked for two of the Army football players who were instrumental in the success of these teams during the war... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bill M
Terrific story about a historical game and the men who played it. If you love America and football you'll enjoy this bookPublished 7 months ago by Coach Rut
Great book! Written by my History Professor at Purdue! Easy to read!Published 7 months ago by Brandon
Captured the mood of the era and filled in some sports history gaps for me Documented more of the Army-Tennessee sports connections. Read morePublished 8 months ago by bill robinson
I liked this book at the beginning because I like football. But I had a hard time keeping up with the details after a while. Read morePublished 13 months ago by charlotte s. stone
I got this series for my wife who has always loved West Point and what it stands for.
This complete set is well done and has some interesting stories. Read more
As an avid reader of books regarding football coaches I found this really worthwhile. Combined with my interest in Army Football this is outstanding from both football and history... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Coach
Was a good book. If you root for Army in football it's a must read. The history was great to read, especially Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. I always wondered about those days. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Steveatypical
A good recounting of how our society adapted in the era know best (if at all) by the sacrifices of the greatest generation. Read morePublished 17 months ago by geoffrey wasson