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.
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 Guadalcanal. 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."
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.