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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Generation at play and war
"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...
Published on November 23, 2011 by Malvin

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3.0 out of 5 stars For die hard football enthusiasts.
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. The descriptions of the games was interesting, but all the politics of how what coach got what job & why got tedious. I quit reading it.
Published 6 months ago by charlotte s. stone


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Generation at play and war, November 23, 2011
By 
Malvin (Frederick, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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"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. Most of all, we understand how the drama captured the nation's attention at a moment when a war-weary population most needed the solace that a quintessentially all-American game could provide.

However, I was a bit disappointed that after writing over 200 pages to take us to the momentous event, Mr. Roberts devotes little more than ten pages to actually describing the game, which consists of a highlights reel and synopsis more than a play-by-play recap of the action. I suppose that after having come to know the characters so well, I would have liked to have experienced the play a little more. Having said that, no doubt my disappointment is testimony to how well Mr. Roberts succeeded in capturing the life and spirit of the times; which ultimately left me wanting more.

I highly recommend this exceptional book to everyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOSTALGIA IS A GOOD THING...THANK YOU, November 9, 2011
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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. Readers might disagree about the importance of football during World War II but General Douglas McArthur made his priorities clear when, after Army had crushed Navy in 1944, he cabled Blaik from the Philippines saying "The greatest of all Army teams...We have stopped the War to celebrate your magnificent success."

The question at the outset of the War was whether or not to continue any football, much less military sanctioned programs, because strong young men were needed overseas to fight for the country. The author has fully researched the controversy and carefully explained the program set in place that ensured manpower for the armed services while allowing the competition in collegiate sports to continue. There were players who were drafted from the playing field and others who served later. Football legends were created at a time when heroic deeds were being performed on the battlefield, with appropriate glory being given to both.

Yes, this book enfolded me in nostalgia. Glorious times and thrilling personalities once again validated my addiction to reading. Randy Roberts, thank you for bringing back these wonderful memories.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what they fought for, December 7, 2011
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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.

The general reader should come away with a greater appreciation for how these men used college football as a teaching & morale tool then, and how servicemen around the world were stirred by this de facto national title game. As Roberts wrote, many men around the world listened to this game in the hope of remembering the joy of being boys again, of the joy of life before the harshness of war.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The historic 1944 Army-Navy game, December 13, 2011
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A Team for America by Randy Roberts is an extremely interesting book that focuses on the 1944 Army-Navy football game, a contest that is normally thought of as the greatest Army-Navy game ever. It took place in a time when World War II was raging across most of the world. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nearing the end of his life, and the American people were living with rationing, shortages, and the constant worry that a loved one might not come home again.

Army, coached by the legendary Red Blaik, was ranked #1 in the country. Navy was #2. Both schools were operating under rigorous conditions created by the war. The game was so important that for a few hours the war almost seemed to stop around the world. Mr. Roberts does an excellent job of supplying extensive background information about the history of the Army-Navy series. He enables the reader to understand what has gone on before and why this particular game is so important.

Of course, the author's emphasis is on football, but not solely. He delves into descriptions of West Point and the Naval Academy and makes sure the reader understands the sometimes harsh conditions that the first-year students had to deal with. He also does a good job of explaining the impact of the war, both on the football and the two schools.

I watched part of last Saturday's Army-Navy game on TV and, as always, I was hugely impressed by the traditions and spirit exhibited by the crowd and the players. The atmosphere is always impressive, no matter how good the teams are. Mr. Roberts' book has helped me to understand how the game reached its current level.

Any of you who enjoy football or military history will enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining and informative, January 23, 2013
This review is from: A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation at War (Paperback)
I'm still reading the book, but I can tell you that it is very well-written and entertaining look at football during WWII, not only the Navy/Army game, but other teams of the era as well. The book is written mostly about Army, although there is significant information about the Navy teams too. I had heard a lot about Red Blaik the Army coach who took over the team in 1941 and proceeded to have many successful seasons until his retirement in 1958, but I didn't know that he was also a West Point graduate and a friend of Douglas MacArthur. Also included are some great antidotes about Robin Olds, who went on to an incredible career in the Air Force, serving in both WWII and Vietnam as an F-4 Phantom group commander. Olds was also an All-American tackle at Army. Read the wiki on Olds just to get an idea of what kind of guy he was. I would suggest that the reader also take a look at a recent book, Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, Country, and Football at West Point by Joe Drape, which is a look at modern day football at West Point.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Description of an Inspiring Game, March 26, 2012
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Mr. Bey (Riverside, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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I knew I was bound to like A Team for America from the start. Events like these justify every sports fans' love for the game. While I wasn't alive for the Army-Navy game, this book makes you feel like a spectator at this momentous occasion.

This book is different from most sports books that I've read because it's more of a hybrid sports-history book than I'm used to reading. The book tells the backstory of the game as well as the historical context behind it. Books about older sports teams tend to do that, but never in this thorough fashion. Military history fans will eat this book up as well.

Some people might be off put but the fact that this book is just as much about the context of the game as the game itself. But I didn't really have a problem with that. Roberts is a history professor and it clearly shows. That really isn't a bad thing.

Fans of the movie Miracle as well as fans of sports in general will get a kick out of this book. It's an excellent depiction of the time period and the game's importance to the nation. Sports have always been a medium used to bring people together and A Team For America shows the power that an individual game can have on an entire society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great look at the Army-Navy game, March 25, 2012
By 
Nagronsky "Nagronsky" (Skagit Valley, Wa USA) - See all my reviews
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As a college football fan, the Army-Navy game looms large in history, and this book gives an in depth look at the teams leading up to and during the 1944 season, when cadets and midshipmen were on accelerated school terms, and for a short time, vagabond jocks who never could have normally gotten appointments to either Academy were shuffled in for short periods. The Army team, which had fallen on hard times for years leading in, featured two future Heisman Trophy winners in Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard(Mr Inside & Mr Outside), as well as Robin Olds, who later became an ace in the ETO and over Vietnam(Olds' name was familiar to me also because he later married movie star Ella Raines, from my old home town), while Navy was decimated by various of the V- programs.
Being a big college football fan, this will stay on my bookshelf alongside A Civil War: Army Vs. Navy a Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry. If you're a fan, I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great in-depth look at the renaissance of Army football, December 18, 2011
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I'm an Army fan, having grown up just a few miles from West Point. They're truly the only college football team that I feel any loyalty for, and am fascinated by the history of both the institution of the United States Military Academy, and also the men and women that wear the black and gold on the field. I must admit though, that I knew little about the history of the team prior to their success of the 1990's. This book has filled in a lot of blanks, particularly about the man whose name graces the field at Michie Stadium: Earl 'Red' Blaik.

The times in America during WWII were obviously tough, as rationing and travel restrictions affected the nation and college athletics in particular. Teams were disbanding left and right, as the nation's young men headed off to war. The 1944 game chronicled in the book is considered the greatest in the rivalry, as Blaik returned the team to prominence, using the newly popular T formation. This basic offensive scheme is still used somewhat by today's academies (known as the triple option these days), but back in the day it was absolutely revolutionary. The author's descriptions of the brutality on the field are pretty startling, like when a cadet's teeth are knocked out and subsequently retaliates later on the offending midshipman by breaking his ribs! It's a strong reminder of the times and toughness these men were all about. These were the days of no face masks, and players who played through injuries that would simply not happen in today's world. Amazing stuff.

The lead up to the 1944 game is at times a bit tedious, but the story of that game gave me chills. The pregame festivities included all the American companies discussing the weapons they were building to keep our boys safe. Maimed and wounded troops walked the field to a somber crowd that lowered their caps in respect to their sacrifice. No question this book illustrates the amazing generation of Americans that was a part of or witnessed that game, and lived through the war.

This is a great book for a fan of service academy football or sports history buffs. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nation, a football team, a history lesson and an excellent book all wrapped up in one., November 13, 2011
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The focus of A team for America is the Army's West point football team in the 1940's and their rise to power and how that got there.

Author Randy Roberts takes us back to the 1940's He gives the reader an essence of what America was like in the 1940's post WW1 and through WW2. Roberts walks the readers through parallels of the Army team and how it translated to American victories in WW2 culminating in the classic Army Navy game of 1944.

The is the story of the Army football team, it's the story of Red Blaik, DeWitt Coulter, Glen Davis, Doug McKenna but it's also the story of America, pride and perseverance. Roberts did a god job of capturing the spirit of America in the 1940's paying tribute the the soldiers and the circumstances they fought through on the battlefield.

Roberts does an excellent job of explaining how the enlistment changed December 8th 1941 when thousands of young men enlisted in the service foregoing college and in a lot of cases leaving their college team. Some players wound of on the Army or Navy team playing against friends that they once played with at another college. Roberts talks about the major players on the teams, he gives the reader some insight as to what the person was like and what their background was and how their friends reflected on the.

While the main story line was the Army football team of the 1940's it's foundation is the spirit of America in the 1940's. Roberts talks about the rations of the 1940's in terms of gas allotments, people not being able to buy a turkey for thanksgiving.

Roberts details the Army football games starting in 1940 talking about the games and the meaning of those games, building a team that went from bad to the very best.

The story is well written the back stories about some of the ancillary characters wonder a little bit from the heart of the story but this was only a slight distraction for me.

Roberts being a professor of history really delivers in terms of historical detail here. The writing style was captivating and kept me interested throughout the book. If your a fan of football especially college football or a fan of American military history you will both enjoy this book and get a history lesson all at once.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting look at Army football during World War 2, November 2, 2013
By 
I enjoyed this terrific look at Army (West Point) football during World War 2. Plenty of talk about the people, including legendary coach Earl (Red Blaik) and his team members, including Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard, as well as the events, particularly the 1944 Army/Navy game.

Most interesting for me, however, was the look at wartime restrictions and other challenges. For many of these games, fans could not attend unless they lived within 10 miles of the stadium so, for instance, for an Army/Navy game, half of the academy's members would be ordered to cheer for the other team.

Very interesting book.
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A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation at War
A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation at War by Randy Roberts (Paperback - October 16, 2012)
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