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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.
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.