Hutson’s loss in WWII


I have written several times on this blog about the National Football League’s involvement during times of national crises such as World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. It is a very popular and well researched subject here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so much so that we have an exhibit concerning the topic traveling around the United States. If you attend a Washington Redskins game during the upcoming 2011 season you will see Pro Football and the American Spirit on display in FedExField. The exhibit tells the story of professional football players and personnel who served our nation in the armed forces from WWII to Desert Storm to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I recently came across an interesting bit of information concerning World War II that had to do with Don Hutson the great Pro Football Hall of Fame end of the Green Bay Packers. Hutson, who rewrote the NFL’s record book during his 11-year career with the Packers from 1935-1945, did not serve in the military. However, just like millions of other Americans he was deeply affected by the cost of war.

Hutson was the older brother of two twins, Robert and Ray, who were arguably the most talented members of his family. Both earned All-State and All-Southern honors at Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas and led the team to the state championship their senior year. Like their older brother, Robert and Ray decided to attend the University of Alabama where they played on the football team as freshman in the fall of 1940.

Robert Hutson and Ray Hutson (Photo Courtesy of the Paul W. Bryant Museum)

The twins gained a great deal of media attention as their athletic abilities were quickly recognized at the university. Ray was an outstanding runner, receiver and punter, while Robert was a very gifted passer and runner. But as war raged in Europe and around the world, the brothers felt compelled to enlist in the Army Air Corps in 1941 rather than return to Alabama for their sophomore year. After basic training Robert was shipped to the South Pacific while Ray was stationed stateside.

Tragedy struck the Hutson family on September 5, 1943 when word came to them that Robert was killed when his plane crashed after takeoff near the Himalayan Mountains in India. To make matters worse, R.B. Hutson the father of Don and the twins died at the age of 56. He passed away presumably from the shock just days after the telegram detailing Robert's demise arrived. Don, who was in Wisconsin preparing for the upcoming 1943 season, returned to Arkansas to grieve with his family in the days before his team’s first game.

Ray continued his service until his discharge in January of 1946. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters after he logged 77 aerial missions over the same terrain where his twin brother perished. After his service he chose to forgo his college eligibility and joined his brother Don in the automobile business in Wisconsin where he continued to work for more than 50 years.

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