In the winter of 1941 there was not much point in talking about a landing on the moon. Every Friday night you could turn on WABC and hear Kate Smith singing When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain, and that, so far as the record shows, exhausted popular interest in lunar exploration. Here and there, it is true, you could find a few visionary spirits who believed in space travel, but they were regarded uneasily when they began discussing their favorite subject. Out in Roswell, N. Mex., Dr. Robert Goddard, age 59, at last had his own shop and rocket-launching tower, after decades of neglect. Dr. Goddard was a versatile genius who won fame in his youth by writing the school song for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, unquestionably a most difficult school name to set to music—Stand by Her, Boys, Your Old Worcester Tech was his solution—and in 1929 he made headlines because one of his homemade rockets exploded and alarmed and perplexed the Worcester police department. The headlines interested Charles Lindbergh, who persuaded the copper magnate Harry Guggenheim to finance Goddard's experiments.
Then there was the American Rocket Society. It was founded in 1930 by a group of science-fiction writers. In 1941 the more dedicated members organized Reaction Motors, Inc. and started manufacturing rocket engines. By that time rocket developments in warfare were speeding things up generally. But popular enthusiasm was lacking. The president of the American Rocket Society said bitterly, "The lack of progress of American rocket research...was caused solely by the prevailing attitude of ridicule."
Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo of the Japanese navy was not interested in getting to the moon in the winter of 1941; he had a more earthly destination. He was interested in getting a task force of six carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, nine destroyers and three submarines from the Kurile Islands to Hawaii without being discovered on the way. The ships were assembled at Tankan Bay on Saturday, Nov. 22.
That was an important date in American colleges, for a different reason. It was the day most would be playing their next-to-last games of a terrific football season. Unbeaten Duke, bound for the Rose Bowl, was playing North Carolina. Navy, beaten only by Notre Dame, played Princeton. Once-beaten Alabama, Cotton Bowl-bound, was taking on once-beaten Vanderbilt.
December 19, 1966
That Saturday had its own importance for the 26 men chosen for this year's Silver Anniversary Awards: they were all playing football, they were in their last year at college, and for most of them it was the last or next-to-last game ever. They all went on to distinguished careers that led to their nomination for Silver Anniversary Awards 25 years after they graduated. There was, however, a substantial interruption on the way. Vice-Admiral Nagumo and Pearl Harbor saw to that. The interruption ended forever the prewar world they had known and began a new era, different in so many ways that not only visionary scientists but heads of state could talk about a landing on the moon in the near future and not be regarded as crackpots.
Not that war was unexpected by this generation. "Most of us felt it was inevitable," one of them recalls. "But we were shocked at the way it came at Pearl Harbor." They were a matter-of-fact generation and, pending the arrival of war, they enjoyed themselves without working hard at it.
Paul and Arthur Eggers, running guard and end at Valparaiso University, had a particularly pleasant fall. Born in Seymour, Ind., the sons of a Lutheran minister, they were identical twins and so much alike they could switch dates and recite for each other in class. When Arthur was turned down for football in high school because of a heart murmur, Paul passed the physical examination for him. In return, Arthur used to memorize poetry and recite it in Paul's stead, declaiming in their German class such lines as "Du, du liegst mir im Herzen" as himself and repeating them as Paul. They thought alike, and starred in relay races because they passed the baton smoothly. Once they received national attention playing football for Valparaiso when they were both knocked out on the same play. Arthur did the blocking for Paul on ends-around, and opponents had trouble seeing which one had the ball. "It was a great thrill, Paul and I going on an end-around play," Arthur said. "We had a sixth sense. I knew exactly where he was, and he knew where I was."
William McGarvey Dudley, later a famous professional football star, was the captain of the extraordinary Virginia team that lost only to Yale. Born in Bluefield, Va., he was driving a soda-pop truck when he won a scholarship to Virginia despite his few years and few pounds (he was 5 feet 10 and weighed 172). "They took me because I could place-kick," he said. It was a wise choice. Dudley played his first college game at 16. At 19 he was All-America, captain and the nation's leading scorer.
Captain William Busik was a Pasadena, Calif. high school star who played with Jackie Robinson in junior college before going to the Naval Academy. Busik was credited with doing most for the 1941 Navy team that won seven and lost only to Notre Dame. In the Army-Navy game eight days before Pearl Harbor, Army led at the half 6-0. But from the opening kickoff in the second half, according to The New York Times, "Navy went all the way for a touchdown, with Barnacle Bill Busik the whole show.... Busik has seldom been more brilliant." Navy won 14-6.
Robert Pray Barnett, the son of an Albany, Ga. physician, was 6 feet 4, weighed 220 and was center and captain of the Duke eleven that piled up 311 points to 41 for its opponents in winning nine games.
Dr. Max Biggs was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of a foreman in a rubber-company plant, and was an end at De Pauw in 1941. A basketball star, too, and on a scholarship, he was starting a career in medicine that was to lead him to research in radiation.
Dr. Loyal W. Combs (called Bill) was a 21-year-old senior at Purdue and the son of a small-town storekeeper from Lowell, Ind. He intended to become an engineer but became so wrapped up in biology courses that he chose medicine instead. He played end three years at Purdue and put in a season with the Philadelphia Eagles before settling down to his medical studies.
William Howard Crawford was born in Fort Worth, Texas and grew up in the home of Ed Carleton, father of the St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Tex Carleton. In 1941 he was a guard (a third-year veteran) on the Texas Christian team that beat Tulsa, Arkansas, Indiana, Baylor, Centenary, Texas and SMU, tied Rice, lost to Fordham and Texas A&M and met Georgia in the Orange Bowl.
William Herbert Geyer had an unusually tough beginning to overcome. When he was a fullback on a state high school championship team he was chosen the most popular person in Bloomfield, N.J. and given an all-expense tour of the U.S., including the Rose Bowl game. He kept his perspective in spite of this, got to Colgate on a scholarship, worked for his room and board and played three years under famed Coach Andy Kerr. In 1941 he set a college record of 966 yards for kicks returned that still stands.
Arthur Harrison, the son of a machinist, was born in East Walpole, Mass., went to Exeter Academy and played varsity football for three years at Tufts as a 5-foot-10½, 180-pound left halfback. A history major, he expected war to come soon and has only a vague memory of the game just before Pearl Harbor. "It was against Massachusetts State," he says. "I think we won it 14-7." They did.
Fred Harold Harrison played high school football in Lawrence, Mass., then went to Phillips Academy and, on a scholarship, to Yale, where he starred on the unfortunate 1941 Yale team that won only one game. But he remembers that one vividly. Yale gave Virginia, and Bill Dudley, its only defeat, 21-19.
James Oliver Jackson was born in Denison, Texas, the son of a railroad employee. In 1941 he was a 21-year-old single-wing tailback on the Abilene Christian College eleven. A track star, and eventually a celebrated track coach rather than a football star, he was a dependable performer on the team that came to the end of the season with six wins and two losses. The last game just before Pearl Harbor was an 18-14 win over St. Mary's University.
Fred Morgan Kirby was a 170-pound end playing his last game for Lafayette on the day before his 22nd birthday, when he caught a pass to set up a touchdown that helped beat Lehigh 47-7. Lafayette had an undistinguished season—four won and four lost up to that point—and, says Kirby, "it's always the thrill of the season when Lafayette beats Lehigh." A son of the celebrated financier Allan P. Kirby, he was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., played football at Hackley and, briefly, at Lawrenceville (he was injured in the first game). The high point of his three years with the Leopards of Lafayette was in 1940. Playing Army for the first time since 1893, the small Lafayette eleven was terrified when it went on the field, astonished when it began to score and then played good, hard football to win 19-0, as Army careened to the worst year in its history.
Captain Custer Krickenberger, age 20 in his senior year, was a 5-foot-8½, 170-pound guard on the 1941 Case Institute of Technology team. He and Case had a good season that year. The Roughriders won seven and lost only one, and Krickenberger scored two touchdowns, which he thought was pretty good for a guard, especially since one came after he made a wild tackle to stop a long run. The ball shot up in the air and Krickenberger caught it and got away in the other direction to the goal.
Noah Noel Langdale Jr. played his best game for Alabama against Tennessee in 1941, when Tennessee was finally beaten 9-2 after walloping Alabama three years in a row. A big, tenacious tackle with extraordinary stamina, Langdale was born in Valdosta, Ga., a brilliant student (Phi Beta Kappa) and a stentorian orator. After one year on the Alabama varsity, he was out for a year with a leg injury so bad that he had to work at getting on and off chairs. He came back to play two more years and to get one of those watches awarded to everybody who played in the Cotton Bowl. Shortly before Pearl Harbor once-beaten Alabama met once-beaten Vanderbilt in a crucial game of nationwide interest. Langdale's opposite number in that game was Dan Walton, another award winner, and all afternoon they glared and collided until Vanderbilt won 7-0. "We've butted heads quite a bit," Judge Walton says, "but I've never met the man."
Colonel Raymond Murphy was a student at Montana State College when he won an appointment to West Point. He missed only one varsity game in his three years at guard. And those were tough years at the academy; 1940 was the worst football year in Army's history: the Cadets beat only Williams. Captain in 1941, the first year of Red Blaik's era as coach, Murphy witnessed Army's revival, when there were five victories, a tie with unbeaten Notre Dame and losses to Harvard, Penn and Navy.
Jack Olson, the son of a pioneer family that developed Wisconsin Dells, Wis. by running excursion boats through the gorges on the river, was fullback in 1941 on a Western Michigan eleven that was undefeated and untied.
Robert Lynn Peters in 1941 wound up his third year as Princeton's outstanding back, a runner, passer, receiver and punter. In 1940 he completed a 75-yard forward pass, a college record that still stands. In the 1941 Navy game Peters hauled down a Navy man who had run 57 yards and got another after a 40-yard run, then twice interrupted Bill Busik, who was on his way to touchdowns after sprints of 34 and 46 yards. "When Peters came off the field for the last time," said the Times, "after personally staving off at least four touchdowns with thrilling tackles, he received a tremendous ovation from both sides of the stadium—a fitting tribute to a man who will go down as one of Princeton's outstanding heroes."
Charles Milton Pearson was winding up a brilliant college career at Dartmouth. From Madison, Minn., he was a high school basketball star, a good shortstop and a football hero who became a 6-foot-4, 220-pound tackle and captain of the Dartmouth eleven. He was class president for three years, even after winning a freshman award for "manliness, uprightness, fairness and respect for duty." Nicknamed "Stubby," he was also called "Abe Lincoln" and "the Senator," because of his lanky farm-boy sincerity and sense of humor—"handsome, in a he-man sort of way," said a colleague. He was also a brilliant student (Phi Beta Kappa) and an intellectual, who was generally found with a book of poetry in his possession (Keats was a favorite). His girl friend was a cover girl on LIFE shortly before Pearl Harbor. Pearson played in that famous 1940 fifth-down game that Cornell "won" 7-3, then conceded to Dartmouth.
Dr. Robert Lloyd Pinck started every game for three years as quarterback at Washington and Lee. The son of a Paterson, N.J. pharmacist, he went to Washington and Lee because his older brother had been there. Football success was not unfamiliar in the Pinck family. Brother Dick helped to write a book about his disillusionment with success in sport, The Hero, subsequently made into a movie starring John Derek.
Endicott Peabody, Harvard's celebrated All-America guard, sometimes called Harvard's greatest lineman and known as the Baby-faced Assassin in 1941, was a power on the team that beat Dartmouth, Princeton, Army, Brown and Yale and lost to Penn and Cornell.
Malcolm Smith was a center on Pennsylvania's 1941 team that beat Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Maryland, Columbia, Army and Cornell, and lost only to Navy, though injuries kept him out of that series of sensational one-sided victories until midseason.
Arnold Soloway got his football start as a tackle at Boys' High School in Brooklyn. He went on to become a three-year letterman at Brown and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In college on a partial scholarship, he ran a laundry route. Brown won five and lost four in 1941, dropping the last one, shortly before Pearl Harbor, to Rutgers 13-7.
Frank Szalay, who died last year, was a slight, dark, good-natured athlete who played football at Ohio University. His father died when he was in his teens, and Frank worked as a busboy, truck driver and janitor during the three years he was a 150-pound center with the Bobcats.
Judge Dan Edward Walton played tackle on Vanderbilt's great 1941 team, coached by Red Sanders and Sanders' new assistant, Bear Bryant. Born in Tennessee, the son of a railroad conductor, Walton starred in that heady season when Vanderbilt, having lost only to Tulane, was stunned by a last-game defeat by Tennessee 26-7, two weeks before Pearl Harbor.
Maury White expected to go to Hawaii with the Drake University team for a postseason game with the University of Hawaii scheduled for December 6. (It was dropped because of "world conditions".) White's father was editor of a small-town Iowa weekly and died when Maury was 17. For two years White and his mother and sisters kept the Manilla Times (circ. 1,000) going. When it began to show a profit he went to Drake and played halfback three years with the Bulldogs.
The football season was over by the time Vice-Admiral Nagumo was ready to strike. The task force was 230 miles north of Pearl Harbor. The time was 6 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, when 183 planes were launched—49 horizontal bombers, 51 dive bombers, 40 torpedo planes, 43 fighters. They flew into the bright morning sunlight at 9,000 to 15,000 feet and, beginning at 7:55 a.m., dropped their bombs, leaving 2,403 dead. Endicott Peabody was at the Giant-Dodger football game at the Polo Grounds in New York when he heard the news. "It was a pretty somber experience," he said. Bill Dudley was watching the Washington Redskins play at Griffith Stadium when the loudspeaker began calling government officials, and thousands of military personnel at the game were ordered to report. Loyal Combs, at Purdue, was on his way to church; Arthur Harrison, at Tufts, was having breakfast in the school cafeteria; Fred Kirby was at the point of mounting his horse at Morristown, N.J. for a cross-country ride; and Oliver Jackson, at Abilene Christian, was playing dominoes in the dormitory when the news came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
Like millions of others, they went to war. For the men at West Point and Annapolis the transition was fast: Raymond Murphy left the academy for the China-Burma-India theater, where he was assigned to the British 14th Army; Bill Busik served on the destroyer Shaw through most of the war. The medical men went on with their training, though now in the services: Dr. Biggs at Harvard for the Navy Medical Corps, Dr. Loyal Combs at Marquette for the same and Dr. Robert Pinck at Duke for the Army Medical Corps and service in postwar Germany.
The bowl games were pretty grim after Pearl Harbor. Because of fear of attack on the West Coast, the Rose Bowl was moved to Durham, N.C., where Duke lost to Oregon State 20-16. Duke Captain Robert Barnett, going into the Marine Corps after graduation, emerged at the war's end as a major. William Crawford went with Texas Christian to the Orange Bowl (TCU lost to Georgia 40-26) and then enlisted in the Navy. Most of the men of this college generation, in fact, enlisted after Pearl Harbor, but generally were not inducted until after graduation in the spring. The brilliant Charles Milton Pearson left Dartmouth to become a Navy dive-bomber pilot. He was in action at Truk, Tinian, Saipan, Ponape and elsewhere, and lost his life diving on a Japanese destroyer in the Palau campaign.
Bill Dudley was in the Army Air Corps, flying B-29 bombers in the South Pacific. Malcom Smith, a Marine lieutenant, won the Silver Star at Saipan: he crawled out under fire and rescued the company commander, a brother of Under Secretary of State Nicholas Katzenbach. Smith was also the platoon leader of an outfit whose demolition expert was an actor named Lee Marvin. Fred Harrison went from Yale to become a captain in the field artillery. The Eggers twins, for the first time in their lives, were separated, Paul becoming a major and Arthur a captain in the Air Corps. At the end of the war Bob Peters was a captain in the 13th Armored Division, Endicott Peabody a naval lieutenant in submarine service and Oliver Jackson an Air Corps captain. All told, 14 of the award winners were in the Navy, nine in the Army and the remainder in the Marines and the Coast Guard.
None of these sudden transitions to new careers had much to do with landing on the moon. But a life of such rapid changes conditioned an entire generation to expect anything—to regard remote possibilities and vague conjectures as possible happenings in the immediate future no matter how fantastic they had appeared shortly before. Two decades after their military duty the award winners were well established in their own careers, substantial citizens in the classic American pattern, with the intangible difference that they were also characterized by a matter-of-fact acceptance of developments in science and world affairs unthinkable in earlier times. Sudden death had taken a lot of their generation. Three of the men of the Duke team that played in the Rose Bowl were killed in action. Frank Szalay, establishing a tractor business in San Diego after the war, died as he was gaining a more than local reputation as an inspired and dedicated director of children's recreation.
Now in their early middle years, they are active in civic works of one kind or another: fund-raisers for Negro colleges, like Robert Peters; builders of churches, like Paul Eggers; and hospital trustees, like Arthur Harrison. They are leaders of charity fund drives and, like William Geyer and Fred Kirby, outstanding fund-raisers for their colleges. Many of them are in politics. Dudley is in the Virginia House of Delegates. Arthur Eggers is a county prosecuting attorney in Washington state. Dan Walton, after serving as district attorney in Houston, became a Texas criminal district court judge. Jack Olson last month was elected lieutenant-governor of Wisconsin, a post he had held formerly, and Endicott Peabody, who had served a term as governor of Massachusetts, was defeated for the U.S. Senate.
Some developed their own businesses. Peters returned to Kingsport and organized Clinchfield Supply Company. But for a good many of the members of this generation the turbulent changes of the time took place within their own professions. Dr. Max Biggs moved on from the study of medical physics to research among the accelerators and reactors at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratories. Dr. Robert Pinck returned after hospital work in Germany during the Berlin airlift to head the Department of Radiology at Long Island College Hospital. Captain Custer Krickenberger, after working on the Alaska Highway and serving as a Navy underwater-demolition expert, is on the staff of Admiral Roy Johnson, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.
Sometimes the returning veterans were involved in fast-growing postwar industry, like Robert Barnett, who became vice-president of Atlas Chemical Industries in Wilmington, Del., and William Crawford, who became first president of Panther Chemical, a Texas Refinery Corporation subsidiary in Fort Worth. And occasionally they became figures in industrial history, like Fred Kirby, who emerged from the struggle of Alleghany Corporation as chairman of the board of Investors Diversified Services, the biggest financial house of its kind. Malcolm Smith became president of Argus Cameras Inc., Paul Eggers an attorney in Wichita Falls, Texas. Arnold Soloway, after serving as a governmental economic adviser, became the head of Jamaicaway Development Co., a New England realty firm. Maury White returned from Navy duty in the Pacific to become a sportswriter and editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune. Arthur Harrison taught high school history, then went into business, becoming president-treasurer of a big Ohio industrial-sand combine.
More often, however, the men of this generation retained connections with their colleges either as teachers or directors. Captain Busik served as director of athletics at the Naval Academy and is now commander of Destroyer Squadron 25, Pacific Fleet. Colonel Raymond Murphy became athletic director at West Point before becoming a deputy director in the office of assistant chief of staff for force development in the Pentagon. Oliver Jackson, in his 15 years as track coach at Abilene Christian, made the school world-famous with Olympic gold-medal winners such as Bobby Morrow and Earl Young. Fred Harrison became director of athletics (and a history instructor) at his old school, Phillips Academy. Noah Langdale taught mathematics at the University of Georgia and practiced law before becoming the head of fast-growing Georgia State University at Atlanta.
And, without exception, they retained an enthusiasm for football. Sometimes there is a professional interest. Dr. Loyal Combs is medical director and team physician at Purdue. Bill Dudley, who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins after the war, takes some time off from his insurance business in Lynchburg to scout college players for professional teams. But usually the devotion to football of these experts consists of attendance at whatever games they can get to. Otherwise their recreational interests are varied. Kirby hunts with the Spring Valley Hounds, Geyer hunts in Africa, Dr. Biggs races his sloop in transpacific races, Robert Barnett grinds precious stones for recreation, Colonel Murphy hammers and saws and does cabinetwork around his home in Alexandria, Va. And there are water skiers, fishermen and weekend golfers among them. But they follow football with an intensity that can hardly be appreciated except by other enthusiasts of their generation. "The big game is better today," Bill Dudley says, "more specialization, with bigger, better, faster players." But he says of two-platoon football: "When a ballplayer doesn't go both ways, he misses something."
Or, as Bob Peters puts it, "Football has come into its own today and is much more exciting to watch. The boys are bigger and faster now. Still, I miss the old workhorses who could do many things and do them well."
That might serve as a fair description of the generation, a group of old workhorses who have done many things. And, perhaps more important, they seem to be ready for almost anything the future may bring.