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."