- Encyclopedia of Armed Forces Football: The Complete History of the Glory Years by John Daye
As the title indicates, this book is what it says it is, an encyclopedia of football played by armed forces teams during the “glory” years. But what were the glory years? And what are the parameters of this particular collection of team rosters and game results? John Daye, a former high school football coach, is not interested in the teams fielded by the Naval Academy and West Point over the decades. Instead, as Daye makes clear in his introduction, he has spent years collecting more than two hundred programs and twenty-eight videos detailing the games played by Army and Navy camp teams during World War I, World War II, and the decade following the conclusion of World War II—and those are the materials that he reproduces in this encyclopedia.
For historians of sport, Daye provides a clear, specific, and concise explanation for the embrace of service sports during the twentieth century. He begins with Woodrow Wilson’s statement that he wished that, despite America’s entry into World War I, college sports might continue. Daye then explains how the twin Army and Navy Commissions on Training Camp Activities organized sports programs for each camp that, especially in the case of football, would impress sportswriters and spectators with the quality of play and raise money from gate receipts for the war effort. Indeed, Daye argues that it was the presence of so many fine football players on camp teams that led to a growing civilian interest in football that would be evident at the war’s conclusion.
Daye then discusses the service football programs during World War II. He describes the role played by the Navy’s C-5 preflight program, as it prepared “deck volunteer specialists” to protect the fitness of sailors as they crossed the oceans around the world. As Daye demonstrates, some Army and Navy teams, such as those fielded by the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and Randolph Field, were strong enough to play professional and college teams and occasionally beat them during the war. Daye also demonstrates that virtually every soldier and sailor who wanted to was able to participate in football and other sports during training.
After World War II, football began its rise to prominence as a professional sport, eventually passing baseball as the most followed American game. Alongside the growing interest in professional football was a new interest in service ball, reflected in the decision by CBS to broadcast a full slate of service football games during 1952. Daye shows, then, that, despite CBS’s attempt to maintain national interest in service football, by 1955 the armed forces were turning their attention to other matters and allowed the program to fade in importance.
Daye draws on his own collection of rosters, game programs, and game descriptions for the bulk of his analysis. He also provides a useful bibliography for further research. I would imagine that genealogists and family members researching the names of their loved ones might find the rosters useful as well. [End Page 243]