FOOTBALL AND AMERICA: World War II


THE NFL ON PEARL HARBOR DAY

Three scheduled NFL games were under way when the Japanese first attacked Pearl Harbor at 12:55 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 7, 1941. The public address announcer at New York's Polo Grounds, where fans were celebrating "Tuffy Leemans' Day" in honor of their star running back, interrupted his commentary to tell all servicemen to report to their units.

The same was done at Chicago's Comiskey Park. At Washington's Griffith Stadium, the announcer paged high-ranking government and military personnel who were in attendance, but did not mention the attack. Reporters were told to check with their offices.

 

"CONCRETE CHARLIE" BEDNARIK DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF ON THE BATTLEFIELD AND THE FOOTBALL FIELD

Hall of Fame center/linebacker Chuck Bednarik turned in his Army Air Corps uniform for a Philadelphia Eagles uniform. The last of the NFL's "Iron Men," Bednarik missed only three games during his 14 years with the Eagles. As a waist gunner in a B-24 Liberator, Chuck took part in 30 long-range bombing missions over Germany. "There was anti-aircraft fire all around," Bednarik recalled. "You just waited for your turn to get hit, but ours never came."

For his courageous service, Bednarik was awarded the Air Medal and four Oak Leaf Clusters, the European Theater Operations Medal and four Battle Stars, and the Good Conduct Medal.


THE NFL’S WAR RELIEF GAMES AND WAR BOND EFFORTS

Just as America’s general population rallied behind the war effort, so too did the NFL.  Hundreds of players joined the effort through enlistment, as the NFL organizationally looked for additional ways to make a difference.

One such endeavor was the selling of War Bonds, an activity that generated $4,000,000 worth of sales for the effort in 1942 alone.  Treasury citations were given to three Green Bay Packers, future Hall of Fame coach Curly Lambeau, quarterback Cecil Isbell and future Hall of Fame end Don Hutson, who were credited with selling $2,100,000 worth in a single night during a rally held in Milwaukee.  

The NFL also donated the revenues from 15 exhibition games to service charities. The games produced a total purse of $680,384.07.  It was reported to be the largest amount raised by a single athletic organization.  

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