Wilbur D. Jones, Jr., the author of “Football! Navy! War! How Military ‘Lend-Lease’ Players Saved the College Game and Helped Win World War II“ will speak about his new title and sign books at the Historical Society of Cecil County on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1:00 p.m. While highlighting the Navy’s role in preserving the game and football’s impact on national morale and the war effort during the 1940s, it has a significant local angle. One of the star players, “Choo-Choo” Charlie Justice trained at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center.
During World War II, the U. S. military and colleges joined forces, fielding competitive teams to prepare men for combat. The book highlights the Department of the Navy’s role in preserving the game and football’s impact on national morale and the war effort through their “Lend-Lease” to colleges of officer candidates, including All-America and professional players. It describes wartime college and military football.
From a local perspective, the book features details about the powerful Bainbridge Naval Training Center teams of 1943-45, whom Jones rates as the No. 1 military wartime team. Bainbridge opened in 1942 as a boot camp and advanced training station, and closed in early 1970’s. The center was located at the Jacob Tome Institute at Port Deposit. This is a major previously unpublished work on the history of Cecil County and region during WWII.
“Exciting military games were a diversion from war’s horrors and sacrifices, and they helped boost bond sales and home front morale for civilians and the military,” Jones writes. His book covers such games as Great Lakes Navy’s final-minute 19-14 upset over perennial power Notre Dame in 1943 (though the Irish won the national championship anyway). Featured in previously unpublished detail is the sport’s wartime star, teenaged halfback Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, a kid among the All-Americas and NFL players at Bainbridge Navy and a postwar superstar at North Carolina.
Admiral James L. Holloway III (Ret).., 20th Chief of Naval Operaitons and Chairman Emeritus of the Naval Historical Foundation said Football! Navy! War! “is an untold story about the relationship of America’s great game with the armed forces – especially the United States Navy – during this struggle against the Axis powers. As one who fought alongside many of the outstanding athletes that Wilbur Jones portrayed, I can testify how the smash-mouth tactics of the gridiron were applied in the waters and archipelagoes of the Western Pacific. The book is a must-have for any patriot and fan of the sport.”
Don Jenkins of Sports Illustrated said: “I’ve been waiting for somebody to do this book and preserve these treasured college football memories, and now Wilbur Jones has done it – and done splendidly.”
The author, Wilbur D. Jones, Jr., is a retired Navy captain with four decades of service. He spent several days in Cecil County working on this project. This free program takes places at the Society’s headquarters at 135 E. Main Street in downtown Elkton. Light refreshments will be served.
Click here to read a full review of this title in the Star News Online (Wilmington, NC)