FROM COLD HARD FOORBALL FACTS.COM
“The scope of World War II smacks you in the face when you consider that 995 members of the NFL, mostly players, interrupted their careers and, in some cases, gave up their lives serving in the military.
Those who served in World War II included some of the biggest names in football history – George Halas, Wellington Mara and Cold, Hard Football Facts all-time greats Otto Graham and Chuck Bednarik. Imagine today if Denver owner Pat Bowlen, Indy GM Bill Polian, New England QB Tom Brady and Baltimore LB Ray Lewis all left their cushy NFL gigs to join the service, and you get an idea of the impact World War II had on professional football and on society at large.
Twenty-three of the 26 members of the NFL killed in wartime gave their lives in World War II. Their names are listed below.
More than 200 NFL members served in the military during the Korean War, including Hall of Famers Dick “Night Train” Lane and Ollie Matson. Twenty-eight NFLers served in the military during the Vietnam War, including Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner, Ray Nitschke and Roger Staubach.
One World War II veteran played a key role in the NFL until very recently. Former Buffalo GM Marv Levy served in the U.S. Army Air Corps – the precursor to the Air Force – from 1943-46.
Before Super Bowl XXVIII, after his Bills had suffered three straight title-game defeats, then-head coach Levy was asked if the upcoming contest was a “must-win” game.
No, he said.
“World War II was a must win.”
This list of the 26 NFL members who were killed in service of the country during wartime was compiled thanks to information provided by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the National Football League.
WORLD WAR II
Cpl. Mike Basca (HB, Philadelphia, 1941) – Killed in France in 1944
Lt. Charlie Behan (E, Detroit, 1942) – Killed on Okinawa in 1945
Maj. Keith Birlem (E, Cardinals-Washington, 1939) – Killed trying to land combat-damaged bomber in England in 1943
Lt. Al Blozis (T, Giants, 1942-1944) – Killed in France, 1945
Lt. Chuck Braidwood (E, Portsmouth-Cleveland-Cardinals-Cincinnati, 1930-1933) – Member of Red Cross. Killed in South Pacific, winter 1944-1945
Lt. Young Bussey (QB, Bears, 1940-1941) – Killed in Philippines landing assault in 1944
Lt. Jack Chevigny (Coach, Cardinals, 1932) – Killed on Iwo Jima in 1945
Capt. Ed Doyle (E, Frankford-Pottsville, 1924-1925) – Killed during North Africa invasion in 1942
Lt. Col. Grassy Hinton (B, Staten Island, 1932) – Killed in plane crash in East Indies in 1944
Capt. Smiley Johnson (G, Green Bay, 1940-1941) – Killed on Iwo Jima in 1945
Lt. Eddie Kahn (G, Boston/Washington, 1935-1937) – Died from wounds suffered during Leyte invasion in 1945
Sgt. Alex Ketzko (T, Detroit, 1943) – Killed in France in 1944
Capt. Lee Kizzire (FB, Detroit, 1937) – Shot down near New Guinea in 1943
Lt. Jack Lummus (E, Giants, 1941) – Killed on Iwo Jima in 1945
Bob Mackert (T, Rochester Jeffersons, 1925)
Frank Maher (B, Pittsburgh-Cleveland Rams, 1941)
Pvt. Jim Mooney (E-G-FB, Newark-Brooklyn-Cincinnati-St. Louis-Cardinals, 1930-1937) – Killed by sniper in France in 1944
Lt. John O’Keefe (Front office, Philadelphia) – Killed flying a patrol mission in Panama Canal Zone
Chief Spec. Gus Sonnenberg (B, Buffalo-Columbus-Detroit-Providence, 1923-1928, 1930) – Died of illness at Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1944
Lt. Len Supulski (E, Philadelphia, 1942) – Killed in plane crash in Nebraska in 1944
Lt. Don Wemple (E, Brooklyn, 1941) – Killed in plane crash in India in 1944
Lt. Chet Wetterlund (HB, Cardinals-Detroit, 1942) – Killed in plane crash off New Jersey coast in 1944
Capt. Waddy Young (E, Brooklyn, 1939-1940) – Killed in plane crash following first B-29 raid on Tokyo in 1945″