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Sports during WWII

As we go about our daily lives, we seem to often overlook certain people.
On a daily basis, I notice men with WWII, Korea or Vietnam vet hats on. Usually, I try to stop and speak with some of them for a brief moment and shake their hand in recognition for the service they have provided our country. Often times people just pass them by without a second glance.
I have had the opportunity to be a part of small and major projects within the history community over the past several years. I have had the chance to work on major television documentaries and major motion pictures focused around WWII.
These projects have ranged from the hit National Geographic series, “Hell Below” and “U.S.S. Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” starring Nicholas Cage, and numerous others.
WWII is my favorite interest due to the fact that these men are still with us. That number however is diminishing at an alarming rate. When these veterans leave this world, so do their stories and their echoes of history if their stories are not preserved. Their stories are important to us all. If they did not take the actions they did during WWII, no matter how small the role, we perhaps would live in a much different world than we enjoy today.
I have dedicated my work to preserving their history so that generations will remember long after they have left this world for the next. In conducting many of these interviews, I have always been intrigued by how their life transitioned from one of a small-town kid to a man through their service. They not only left a mark on the history of the war itself during WWII, but also the home front. Many of these men played football, baseball, basketball and other sports for their local high schools.
Some had just graduated and were starting their lives, while others were still students. In some cases, kids still in high school went to war and then returned to high school to finish their senior years as men.
I have seen this case more than once.
Sports legends such as Bob Feller, Joe Louis, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio left home and their careers in sports to fight for their country.
Sports leagues were usually organized on bases in England and in the Pacific to pass time and offer them to keep up their training for their return home.
Sports history during WWII seems to be in a category of its own. This history is not only associated with our community but also with every city in America.
Escambia County High School in Atmore, through research, shows that football season was in full swing during all years of the war. The thought crossed my mind while reading the games and scores from those years, of how these young men kept going with everything that was going on. Many members of our community were away fighting. There were a number of these who did not return home.
Not only did football season continue, the winning for ECHS did as well.
ECHS produced near undefeated records in almost all five years of wartime.
These kids had to not only deal with the stress of loved ones fighting, many had to also contribute more. School was met with football, football was met with home, home was met with work. These young men had to work and help produce for their families more than ever as many fathers and brothers were away at war.
Women were perhaps the hardest workers of the time. Families had to be cared for and the void of men in the workforce had to be filled.
It’s interesting to look back and catch a glimpse of such a time in our town’s history through the eyes of these men and women.