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Posted: Wed August 14, 2013 8:35AM; Updated: Sun August 18, 2013 10:54AM

War and Roses: The 1942 Rose Bowl rallied a rattled country

By Brian Curtis

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The 1942 Rose Bowl between Duke and Oregon State was moved to Duke Stadium because of the war and was sold out within 48 hours.
The 1942 Rose Bowl between Duke and Oregon State was moved to Duke Stadium because of World War II and was sold out within 48 hours.
Duke University Archives

In 1943, Charles Haynes Jr. dropped out of Duke to join the military, just as his father had done during World War I. The younger Haynes had earlier tried to enlist in the Canadian Royal Air Force, as many Americans had done before the U.S. entered the war, but he failed the vision test. Undeterred, he memorized the eye chart and signed on with the U.S. Army.

After a brief stint in the cavalry, stationed in North Africa, Haynes was promoted to 2nd lieutenant and moved to the Fighting Blue Devils of the 88th Infantry, in which he led the rifle platoon of Easy Company. Later that year Haynes was on a troop ship from North Africa to Italy when he came across Frank Parker, a 2nd lieutenant who led the rifle platoon of Fox Company. The two realized they'd met before. Two years earlier Haynes had been a quarterback at Duke and Parker a guard at Oregon State.

They were opponents in the 1942 Rose Bowl, a game that almost didn't happen and remains the only Rose Bowl contested outside of Pasadena. The event is memorialized by a patch of roses outside Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham and in too many obituaries both then and now.

It was a game created by infamy, played by men for whom helmets and bombs and ground attacks would soon have a very different meaning. By the time the war was over, Haynes's and Parker's lives would become intertwined, and the bond formed in roses would be sealed in blood.

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Oregon State started the 1941 season 2-2, and hopes for its first Rose Bowl berth seemed as remote as its campus in Corvallis. But coach Lon Stiner's team got hot, winning four straight games without surrendering a single point. The Beavers upset the Stanford Indians, and their other Pacific Coast Conference foes faltered down the stretch. To the team's surprise and delight, a final win over rival Oregon in late November clinched a spot in the 28th Rose Bowl. As the PCC champion, Oregon State had its choice of opponent, and all eyes turned east.

Undefeated Duke, which featured quarterback Tommy Prothro, All-America backs Tom Davis and Steve Lach and storied coach Wallace Wade, was an overwhelming preseason favorite, and true to predictions the Blue Devils went 9-0 and had the nation's top-ranked offense. Still, Duke wound up second in the polls behind Minnesota. But until 1946 the Big Ten prohibited its members from playing in bowl games, so the Gophers were out. On Dec. 1, Duke was announced as the opponent, and Wade and his staff began planning the cross-country train journey, with stops in Lubbock, Texas, for practice; the Grand Canyon for sightseeing; and Hollywood for a private tour of the Fox Studios.

Regardless of who was playing, the Rose Bowl -- the oldest and best attended bowl game -- was always cause for celebration. For many, the New Year's Day game was the unofficial start of the year, and in Pasadena preparations were well under way. The grass was brilliant and shiny, the roses were set to bloom and the members of the royal court were practicing their parade waves. As soon as the matchup was announced the tickets began to fly out the door.

Then came the morning of Dec. 7. At 7:55 a.m. (HST) the first Japanese bombs dropped on the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor. By the time the bombardment was over, eight American battleships were severely damaged or sunk, 188 planes were destroyed, and 3,691 U.S. troops were dead or injured. America was at war.

In the days following, President Franklin Roosevelt warned of additional bombardments on the coast. Rumors of Japanese submarines on the attack became a daily occurrence. Authorities instructed West Coast residents to cover their windows at night with black cloths. Military commanders became increasingly concerned about the toll that staging the Rose Bowl might exact on much-needed law enforcement personnel and supplies. The game would also provide an inviting target for the enemy. Lieut. Gen. John DeWitt, commander of the Fourth Army who oversaw military affairs on the West Coast, "asked" the Tournament of Roses Association to cancel the game and the parade.

Oregon State and Duke were crushed, as were sports fans across the country. Even The New York Times wrote an editorial arguing that playing the game would "be a fine and heartening gesture." Knowing what the Rose Bowl meant to his school -- and with thousands of dollars in ticket sales in his coffers -- Oregon State athletic director Percy Locey drove to San Francisco to plead with DeWitt in person. To no avail. There would be no game.

But if the war was about anything, it was about preserving a way of life, and that life included a game that suddenly seemed more worth fighting for than ever.

*****

Wallace Wade knew about war, having served as a captain in the Army during the Great War, though he never made it overseas. Like many football coaches, Wade respected the structure, authority and power of the military, and he routinely hosted servicemen at Duke practices and games. One of nine children growing up on a farm in Trenton, Tenn., Wade learned early that hard work, discipline and football were American staples. After earning a scholarship to and a degree from Brown University, where he played on the offensive line in front of All-America Fritz Pollard, Wade entered the coaching ranks. His first job was at tiny Fitzgerald and Clark Military Academy in Tennessee, where he was 16-3, earning the notice of larger programs. He became an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, and the Commodores went 15-0-2 and won two Southern Conference titles during his two years in Nashville.

Wade was a hot commodity before coaches were hot commodities. He accepted the head job at Alabama, and college football would never be the same: Wade would win three national titles and four Southern Conference championships in eight years. Duke, which was not a football power, called Wade in 1930, looking for recommendations as it searched for a new football coach. The discussion led to a series of cloak-and-dagger negotiations that ended with Wade shocking the college football world by taking the top spot in Durham one year later.

Almost as soon as word of the Rose Bowl's cancellation spread, alternative venues were floated. Chicago offered to host the game at Soldier Field. Washington, D.C., suggested that it would be a patriotic gesture to play it in the nation's capital. But Wade had the inside track, and before those invitations even arrived he, Duke president Robert Flowers, vice president Henry Dwire and dean William Wannamaker had received permission from North Carolina governor Melville Broughton to stage the game in Durham. Wade was one of the most influential men in college football, so when he pitched the idea to Oregon State and the Tournament of Roses, the bid was accepted.

There were slightly more than two weeks to plan the biggest game in college football, and serious preparations -- marked by unprecedented cooperation -- began. The University of North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest lent temporary bleachers to increase the seating capacity at Duke Stadium from 35,000 to 56,000. The detested UNC student body even sent Duke a good luck scroll signed by more than 15,000 Tar Heels -- a symbol of the camaraderie that gripped the nation. The city of Durham, no friend of Duke's at the time, rolled out the welcome mat for the world and for Oregon State.

Tickets? They sold out in 48 hours -- a pity for the fans who sent Western Union telegrams to reserve spots only to have their requests misplaced. Otherwise, it was a scalper's delight, with $4.40 seats selling for $15 a pop.

The frenzy had something to do with the unique location and the national mood, but the game itself presented an appealing showdown. Oregon State's line outweighed Duke's by nearly 10 pounds per man, but the Beavers came in as 3-to-1 underdogs. Coach Stiner didn't think Duke had faced the level of competition in the Southern Conference that his team had seen in the PCC, where Oregon State had given up only 33 points all year. On the other hand Duke and its wide-open single wing offense had scored 311 points. Something had to give.

*****

On Dec. 19 the Beaver Special steam engine rattled out of Corvallis's 4th Street station. Filled with 31 players and a traveling party of 50 for the 3,417-mile journey to Durham, the train was high-class: -air-conditioning, sleeper cars, dining cars, even formal meal menus (many of which the players sent home).

Standing on the platform was Jack Yoshihara, a reserve sophomore defensive back from Portland. Born in Japan in 1921 to a single mother, Yoshihara and his mom had come to the United States when he was three years old, on the last ship allowed into America before Japanese immigration was halted. They settled in Portland, where Yoshihara's mother married and opened a restaurant. Yoshihara grew up in two worlds: the Japanese neighborhoods of downtown Portland and the America outside their boundaries. Striving to be one of the boys, he laced up his football cleats and earned a spot on the Oregon State football team in 1940. Although he was largely a reserve and scout-team member, he had seen some game action, and like his teammates the 21-year-old reveled in the excitement of the Rose Bowl berth.

But days after Pearl Harbor, as Stiner put his team through a wet, grueling practice, two FBI agents in suits approached him on the field. Minutes later Stiner told Yoshihara that he would not be allowed to travel with the team: By executive order no Japanese-Americans were permitted to go more than 35 miles from their homes. Despite protests from teammates and fellow students to the Oregon State president and campus ROTC commander, Yoshihara was forced to watch as the train filled with his teammates, coaches and friends pulled away.

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Outside Corvallis, families of the Oregon State players lined the route, waiting patiently with provisions and quick embraces as the train passed through the small towns of eastern Oregon. In Hood River star left halfback Bob Dethman's father, Alfred, generously put two boxes of apples on board. In Baker guard-linebacker Martin Chaves's family waited patiently to give their boy a proper send-off, and not just in anticipation of the cross-country trip. Chaves, who had been voted captain for the Rose Bowl by his teammates, would, like many of the players, be entering the military almost immediately after the game.

On Dec. 20 the train arrived in Boise, Idaho, where Stiner had the team run sprints up and down the station platform to get in some exercise. Back onboard, the team played bridge, told stories and had study sessions with their coaches. In Omaha members of the University of Nebraska's N Club gave Stiner a good luck horseshoe. The coach didn't need luck, he needed a practice field. He worried about "days of railway and hotel lobby" training. As it was, his team had been unable to practice much as heavy rains had drenched Corvallis for most of December.

The Beavers arrived in Chicago on Dec. 22, and Stiner welcomed an invitation to work out on Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. The train with the Beavers' equipment and uniforms had not arrived by practice time, so the boys wore maroon warmups borrowed from Chicago during their kicking and passing drills. Their colors arrived just in time for Chaves, Dethman, halfback Don Durdan and back Joe Day to dress in full pads for press pictures.

Later that day the team reboarded the train. After a stop in the nation's capital for practice at Griffith Stadium -- home to the Washington Senators and Redskins -- and a tour of the capital, the Beavers rolled into Durham on the morning of Dec. 24. Dressed in woolen jackets embroidered with the Rose Bowl logo, they were greeted by a throng of about 2,000 ready to show true Southern hospitality. The Durham High School marching band lent some pomp to the circumstance, and Chaves was made honorary mayor of Durham.

Over the next seven days the Beavers ate at Turnage's Barbecue, had a traditional Southern Christmas dinner at Duke, watched a polo match at Pinehurst, visited the state's cigarette manufacturing plants and attended too many fancy luncheons.

Wade, too, had appearances to make in addition to planning details of tickets and traffic while preparing his team for a football game. He created the most talented scout team in the country to simulate Oregon State. One of the best triple threats in the country was Duke graduate George McAfee of the Chicago Bears, who had played in the 1939 Rose Bowl, and since he was a lefty, he did a great impersonation of Durdan in practice. Jap Davis, another Duke graduate who was coaching the school's freshmen, suited up too. Even Dick Watts, a senior at rival North Carolina State, joined.

Everywhere he went, Stiner was swarmed by well-wishers and strangers, reporters and businessmen, and he embraced the scene. When approached with an offer from a Durham banker to cash his checks, the coach quipped, "The way the boys have been borrowing money from me on this trip East, it looks like I'll be seeing a lot of you."

It is the Zero Hour,
For the Victory Rose Bowl Game.
It is a splendid circumstance,
That two great teams thus may meet.
Theirs is the exhilaration of aspiration realized.
East and West are enabled to know each other.
American's appreciation of American is heightened.
American nerves are soothed and morale is boosted.
Cowering and wailing in the chimney corner,
Is not the way to American victory.
-- The Durham Sun, Dec. 31, 1941

*****

Game day. Back in Pasadena the Rose Bowl Court and Queen were escorted from the Valley Hunt Club to the Rose Bowl Stadium with no one watching. Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away, cold air and steady rain forced spectators to take cover under oilcloth table liners and to burn fires in the stands to keep warm. The new grass Wade had planted in Duke Stadium had become a mud puddle.

Pickpockets in the stands and thieves in the parking lots took advantage of the large crowd and the extra chaos caused by the inclement weather. Fortunately the crooks left referee Lee Eisan his 50-cent piece. Unable to locate a traditional silver dollar -- they were apparently in short supply in North Carolina -- Eisan, who played quarterback for a losing California team in the 1929 Rose Bowl, used the half-dollar for the coin toss.

The weather and location were not the only reminders that this was a unique Rose Bowl. Duke officials had to receive clearance from aeronautical authorities in Washington for a plane to fly overhead for pictures, which the public-address announcer informed the crowd about beforehand lest anyone think the enemy was attacking.

In a muddy, hard-fought game in North Carolina, Oregon State upset Duke, 20-16.
In a muddy, hard-fought game in North Carolina, Oregon State upset Duke, 20-16.
Courtesy of Pasadena Tournament of Roses Archives

Just past 2 p.m. on New Year's Day, after a moment of silence to honor those lost not a month before, Oregon State's Norman Peters booted the opening kickoff. The brown dot, hard to follow in the dark gray sky, was collected by Duke's Davis at his own five-yard line. He was crushed by Lloyd Wicketts, the ball popped free, and Oregon State recovered.

After trading possessions, the Beavers faced a third down on Duke's 19-yard line. Durdan dropped back to pass. With no receiver open, he faked a throw and took off to his right, nothing but mud ahead of him. The touchdown and extra point gave the underdogs an early lead.

Wade went to a ground-and-pound game. Lach tied it up in the second quarter on a reverse from four yards out, The Durham Sun describing him as "unmolested." Despite forcing a Duke turnover in the second quarter, Oregon State could not muster another scoring drive, and the game was tied at the half.

In the locker rooms Wade dissected his team's mistakes with zeal, while the tension of Stiner's speech was interrupted by an inebriated fan who stumbled in to find relief for his bladder. But the coaches' words must have had some impact, because after a sluggish first half, both teams came alive to start the third quarter. Oregon State's George Zellick caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Dethman. Duke responded with a one-yard Winston Siegfried TD run set up by Lach's 37-yard reverse. With two minutes to go in the third the game was tied at 14.

The offensive explosion was not over. As the third quarter ran out, Oregon State halfback Gene Gray raced into the flat. After the game Gray would return to Corvallis and be rejected by the Navy because he was missing teeth -- they had been knocked out playing football. Eventually the Army Air Forces would give him a chance, and Gray would fly more than 50 combat missions over Germany. Two years after the war, as a Navy test pilot, his P-80 Shooting Star fighter jet would crash on takeoff in a Panamanian jungle, costing him both arms. But during the Rose Bowl, Gray's body was whole, and he used it to juke a defender and haul in a 30-yard heave from Dethman. He then eluded two tacklers and ran 38 yards to give the Beavers a 20-14 lead on what was then the longest pass play in Rose Bowl history.

As time wound down, the teams traded a series of fumbles and interceptions, one of which led to a Duke safety that pushed the score to 20-16. The Blue Devils then found themselves with one last possession, starting on their own 36. They ran and passed to Oregon State's 46-yard line, but on third down Dethman intercepted a pass, and the game was over. "We thought right up until the end we would get a touchdown," end Jim Smith recalls from his home in Louisville. "In the huddle there was no backing down."

But Duke's three fumbles and four interceptions sealed its fate. The 20 points the Blue Devils allowed were the most points scored against a Wade team since 1931, and Oregon State claimed the second-biggest upset in Rose Bowl history, behind Columbia's 7-0 win over Stanford in 1934. "I go into the Air Service January 24th, and if I get killed, I can take it now and die happy -- that's how you feel when you win a Rose Bowl football game," said Chaves, the winning captain.

The players didn't know that as they battled, 260 miles to the north in Washington, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt were sealing their destinies. A series of meetings between the new allies culminated on New Year's Day when the leaders met to formalize America's entry into the European theater.

After Duke hosted a dinner that evening for both teams, the Beaver Express departed Durham and traveled along a southern route, stopping in Atlanta, New Orleans for the East-West Shrine Game, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, Los Angeles and Sacramento before arriving home. The team had traveled 7,384 miles through 24 states and used 10 railroads. By the time the train pulled into the station, the traveling party had shrunk, as some players hopped off near their hometowns to say their good-byes.

*****

Jack Yoshihara had listened to the NBC radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl in a tiny room in Corvallis. With news spreading that relocation camps were popping up on the West Coast, Yoshihara sold his prized '41 Chevrolet for $25, packed up his things and waited. When his family's number came up in March 1942, he was sent to work in a civilian assembly plant in Portland, along with 4,000 other Japanese-Americans. The factory was really anything but. The hastily made assembly lines and barracks were on the grounds of the Portland International Livestock Exposition, with a layer of plywood the only thing separating the workers from the mud and manure. More troubling were the barbed wire and armed guards that separated them from America.

In June, Yoshihara was sent to the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho as part of a construction crew ordered to build guard towers, fireplaces and barracks, though Yoshihara would end up serving on the camp's fire department. It was scorching hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter. The wood barracks with tar roofs provided little comfort for the cramped inhabitants. This was the Yoshihara family's home for the next year. When not working, Jack passed the time by carving toys for the children and shaping furniture out of leftover wood for fellow residents.

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Just as he had been prevented from playing in the Rose Bowl, Yoshihara was kept from the rush to join the war effort, despite his repeated efforts to enlist. Non-Japanese players from the game had no such problem. Durdan joined the Navy. Duke captain Bob Barnett enlisted with the Marines 20 days after the Rose Bowl. Prothro served 39 months as a Navy gunnery officer on the USS Breton, an escort carrier in the Pacific Fleet that was involved in the assault and occupation of Okinawa. Zellick was there too, leading a platoon as a Marine lieutenant. They were among the lucky ones who made it home.

Reserve Oregon State back Everett Smith, a private in the Marines, drowned during an amphibious landing in the South Pacific. Duke sophomore running back Walter Griffith, was killed at Guadal-canal. His backfieldmate Al Hoover, who joined the Marines shortly after the Rose Bowl, found himself in a vicious battle on Peleliu Island in September 1944. When a Japanese grenade landed near his buddies, Hoover instinctively jumped on it. Duke tackle Bob Nanni, a Marine sergeant, was killed on Iwo Jima.

Wade, who was 49, reenlisted shortly after the Rose Bowl loss. "My boys were going in, and I felt like we should stay together as a team," he told his biographer, Lewis Bowling. "We were just participating in a different battle."

The clean image on the program didn't match the mud-soaked game, where men who grappled on the field would later fight together in war.
The clean image on the program didn't match the mud-soaked game, where men who grappled on the field would later fight together in war.
Courtesy of Pasadena Tournament of Roses Archives

Along with Tennessee coach Robert Neyland, Wade was assigned to coach an Army all-star team against NFL teams to raise money for the war effort. Wade hated every minute of it, preferring combat. In mid-1944 he got his wish when he was made lieutenant colonel and put in charge of the 272nd Field Artillery Battalion, which would soon be in the Battle of Normandy.

By war's end Wade would be awarded the Bronze Star, four battle stars and the Croix de Guerre with palm for his actions. In December 1944 he found himself in some of the most intense fighting in the European theater. After the fall of France earlier in the month, the Allies were confident that the end of the war was near, perhaps by Christmas. The Germans were reeling, retreating on the Western front and being pummeled by the Russians in the east.

But Adolf Hitler decided to fight back. Contrary to the advice of his commanders, the German leader moved resources off the Eastern front and prepared a surprise attack from Germany into Belgium. His goal was to wedge between the British troops in the north and the American troops in the south, and then drive into Antwerp.

Wade's regiment was driven back, and at some point he wound up shivering in a foxhole, weathered, tired and hungry, having not eaten for two days. Fresher troops that had pushed forward to reinforce the Allied positions held the foxholes, and one of them took pity on Wade, giving the former coach his coat and a warm cup of coffee. It's unknown who recognized whom, but the soldier was Stan Czech, a former Oregon State right tackle. Three years after they faced each other in the Rose Bowl, the coach and the player were now on the same team.

Only days after his encounter with Wade, Czech and his unit were hiding in a two-story farmhouse outside of Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, radioing enemy positions to the soldiers behind them. They sent word to open fire, and a battle ensued. It claimed the lives of many enemy soldiers but also resulted in the farmhouse being surrounded by the Germans. Czech was taken prisoner.

He was sent to OFLAG XIII-B, a crowded POW camp in Hammelburg, Germany, where dysentery, hunger and cold plagued the prisoners. Gen. George Patton's son-in-law John Waters was also a prisoner at OFLAG XIII-B. Although he denied later that the operation was created to save Waters, Patton devised a secret rescue plan. The daring raid by 300 men was a disaster. In the frenzy Czech and a handful of fellow prisoners made a break for it, disappearing into the freezing night. He and another POW wound up in a barn, where they slept safely. But in the morning, while making their way to a nearby town in search of food, they were recaptured and sent to a camp deeper inside Germany. By the time he was liberated after nearly six months in captivity, Czech had lost 50 pounds.

*****

In the fall of 1944, Charles Haynes led the First and Second platoons of Easy Company in an assault on a German position atop a ridge in the mountains along Italy's Arno River. As he reached the apex of the hillside, he was met by machine-gun fire and heavy shrapnel. Blood spread from a gaping hole in his chest, the dark red creating a stark contrast with the snow. The world was suddenly quiet. "At first I thought I was dead," Haynes told the The Durham Herald years later. "When I realized I wasn't dead, I knew I was going to die."

It was close. Seventeen hours passed before anyone could reach him. One of the rescuers was Frank Parker, who had received news that his friend and former football foe was down. With another soldier helping, Parker hoisted the blood-soaked Haynes onto his back and carried him down the hill to a small farmhouse, where Haynes received life-saving medical treatment.

The Army wanted to send Haynes back to America, but bad weather and complications from his injury kept him in a hospital in southern Italy for three months. In January 1945, still healing from his wounds, he rested in a wheelchair and listened on the radio as Duke beat Alabama 29-26 in the Sugar Bowl. A week later he was recalled to the front lines.

His company had moved three miles in three months, and he found himself back in the action, 200 yards to the left of Parker, whose company was also engaged in the North Apennines Campaign. The last time they saw each other during the war was in the falling snow on the Brenner Pass, and by the time the two men left Europe, Haynes had earned a Silver Star.

Haynes and Parker were not the only men from the 1942 Rose Bowl who encountered one another on the front lines, aboard a ship or in a foreign bar. They, like others, shared the horrors of battle and the loneliness of the battlefield. They shared memories of a football game played by boys who were now men.

In a diary and in the pages of a never-finished novel found in a cardboard box deep in the bowels of the University of North Carolina Library Archives, Haynes wrote of the commonalities between war and football. The planes overhead, the drums beating, the big hits.

Yes, war is just like a football game you keep telling yourself. At least today, anyway. Anything to get you through one more day and still be alive.

Football may be a metaphor for war, but it is not war. The 1942 Rose Bowl had to be played, not because it somehow prepared the men who participated for the hardships that awaited, but because it symbolized the determination and sacrifice and camaraderie that would define the American war effort. As Jim Smith, the former Duke player who is one of the few still-living participants, put it in a postwar interview, "[The Rose Bowl] gave people something to hang on to: We're still a nation, we're still here, we're still going about things. That's what sports can do."

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