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A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation Hardcover – November 29, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 054751106X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547511061
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Randy Roberts

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.


Q: Why were the service academies, Army and Navy, so good during the war?

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.


About the Author

RANDY ROBERTS is a Distinguished Professor of History at Purdue University. His previous books include John Wayne: American (coauthored with James Olson), Joe Louis: Hard Times Man, and Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes among others. He is married to Marjie Traylor Roberts and father to twin daughters, Alison and Kelly.

More About the Author

I write books that I would like to read, stories about sports and film icons who had an impact on American history. People like John Wayne, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali. My most recent books have explored the role that college football players and coaches have played during times of national crisis. Just published is "Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, and Dixie's Last Quarter," a book I wrote with Ed Krzemienski. It details the relationship between Bear Bryant and Joe Namath during the early 1960s, a time of CIvil Rights struggles, a violent backlash, and the emergenge of Alabama as the finest football team in the nation. It features two iconic personalities fighting for victories on the field and their careers off the field.

In 2011 I published "A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation." It's the story of a West Point football team during World War II, striving to win a national championship before they shipped off to the battle front. It was their last chance to be boys before the nation demanded that they be men. During the months between D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge the team gave the millions of American soldiers around the world something to celebrate. After their last game General Douglas MacArthur wired Coach Red Blaik, "THE GREATEST OF ALL ARMY TEAMS. WE HAVE STOPPED THE WAR TO CELEBRATE YOUR MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS."

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 36 customer reviews
Any of you who enjoy football or military history will enjoy this book.
David Pruette
Mr. Roberts focuses most of his attention on the Army players and coaches and less time on Navy, who had dominated the rivalry for years leading up to the big game.
Malvin
So in many cases, the strongest writing of this book deals with cultural details that a historian of the ear would be keenly interested in.
Jason G

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on November 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"A Team for America" by Randy Roberts is the remarkable story of how the 1944 Army-Navy game could momentarily remind a nation at war what freedom was all about. Mr. Roberts, who is a distinguished professor of history at Purdue University, spent over ten years reviewing source materials and interviewing many of the players who figured prominently in the contest. This thoroughly engrossing book, which offers an uniquely fascinating look at the Greatest Generation at play and war, should appeal to readers of twentieth century U.S. sports history.

Mr. Roberts takes us back to a time when college sports in America were far less commercialized but were not less passionately played. Mr. Roberts focuses most of his attention on the Army players and coaches and less time on Navy, who had dominated the rivalry for years leading up to the big game. Importantly, we get to know these men not just from cold stat sheets but through the dozens of colorful stories and anecdotes that were collected by the author first-hand, who shares many of them here for the first time. These include the legendary Army head coach 'Red' Blaik; Heisman Trophy winner 'Doc' Blanchard; Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star Glenn Davis; and many more.

Of course, Mr. Roberts presents plenty of historic context. Mr. Roberts discusses the controversy about college sports at a time when the need for personnel on the front lines was balanced against the desire to keep morale high. We learn how Army and Navy were able to attract top-tier sports talent while others scaled back or folded, placing the two schools at the top of the nation's football rankings in 1944.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Schuyler T Wallace VINE VOICE on November 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The question of why we read is usually answered with long, mysterious narratives that don't really provide any answers. One of the reasons I read is to have the chance to relive pleasurable times in my life. It has a name - nostalgia - a human condition alternately scoffed at and longed for. Randy Roberts has written A TEAM FOR AMERICA, my kind of book; a voyage to yesteryear, on a nostalgic vessel.

Roberts has chronicled the 1944 Army-Navy football game, one of the preeminent struggles in sports history. But there's more. He delves into military academy history, functions, and athletics and their relationship with the United States public and a great World War. He carefully explains how football flourished during the war years when young, strong bodied young men should have been overseas fighting the battle against tyranny. He does so by combining impeccable research with crisp, mesmerizing narratives that transports the reader to an important time in history, a time of fear, deprivation, and national pride. He cleverly leaves the final yea or nay to the reader.

I was 10-years old back then and I idolized the very players and coaches Roberts writes about - Davis, Blanchard, Kenna, Lombardo, Tucker, Blaik and Hickman, among many others. The man I consider the best football player of all time, Notre Dame's Johnny Lujack, is mentioned frequently, bringing to memory the 1946 game between the Black Knights and the Irish and Lujack's stunning open field tackle of the unstoppable Doc Blanchard to preserve a 0-0 tie between the top two teams in the nation.

This was a time of brave heroics on the battlefield and classic battles on the football field. Roberts is careful to assign the proper priorities to each of the struggles and how they related to each other.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jason G on December 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This history of the 1944 Army football team is a refreshing example of sports & cultural history. Essentially, this book tells the story of the rise of USMA football in the World War II era, after falling on hards times during the Depression era. The strength of this book is that the author brings a historian's perspective, and not that of only a sports writer.

So in many cases, the strongest writing of this book deals with cultural details that a historian of the ear would be keenly interested in. Roberts writes with a great deal of insight about the role of popular music in the era, the news media, the restrictions on consumer goods and how WWII really forced many Americans to learn and experience more of their own nation than they had before.

Roberts, a history professor at Purdue University, focuses this book on the climactic 1944 game between the #1 & 2 ranked Army & Navy squads. He clearly shows how important this game was to not only the sporting world, but to the nation at large, and to service members serving around the world, listening to the game on short wave service. His descriptions of Army coach Blaik & some of the notable members of the team, including Blanchard & Davis are direct, without embellishment or without any kind of cynical irony. Roberts clearly came to have great affection for these men, some of whom would die in service to their nation in WWII & Korea.

This would be a wonderful book, particularly for teen & college students, and really anyone, to connect them to the really differently ordered world of that era; for it is increasingly hard to communicate what a total war effort looks like, and using these games would demonstrate that well.
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