Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bears in World War II

 
BEARS COACH GEORGE HALAS (left) CONFERS WITH YOUNG BUSSEY,
BOB SNYDER, KEN KAVANAUGH, AND DICK PLASMAN, 1941
 

     Soldier Field, the home of the Bears, was created as a monument to those who served in World War I. It was dedicated on November 27, 1926, with Army and Navy struggling to a 21-21 tie.
     George Halas, the Bears' founder, coach, and owner, served in the Navy during World War I and World War II. Halas left active duty in 1946, retiring as a captain in the Naval Reserve and later received the Distinguished Citizens Award, the highest honor the Navy can bestow on a civilian.
     Ed McCaskey, Halas's son-in-law, served in the Army during the war and earned a Bronze Star and a Combat Infantry Badge.
     More than 40 members of the Bears' organization served, including Hall of Famers Danny Fortmann, Sid Luckman, George McAfee, and Joe Stydahar. Luckman was originally posted stateside and permitted to travel on weekends to play in games, but he was later assigned to a tanker carrying gasoline to Europe. During the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, Luckman was on a transport ferrying troops from Britain to France.
     One Bear did not return from his service overseas. He was Young Bussey, a Texas native who was drafted by the Bears out of L.S.U. in 1941. The five-foot-nine, 184-pound rookie backed up the great Luckman at quarterback, completing 13 of 40 pass attempts for 353 yards and five touchdowns. He also played some at safety and returned one punt, for 40 yards. Bussey joined the Navy shortly after the season ended with Bears winning their second consecutive world championship. He served until January 7, 1945, when he was killed in action during the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in the Phillippines.
     Young Bussey was one of an estimated 416,800 American service men and women who lost their lives in World War II.
     Today is Veterans Day, so hug a vet.

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