FIELDS OF BATTLE by Brian Curtis


Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War
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A veteran sports journalist revisits “the most unusual yet meaningful Rose Bowl Game” ever.

In 1941, Duke University was a national football power. Under legendary coach Wallace Wade, the Blue Devils were undefeated and slated for their second trip to the Rose Bowl to face Lon Stiner’s Oregon State Beavers, surprise winners of the Pacific Coast Conference. West Coast security concerns following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced officials to move the game from its customary venue in Pasadena, California, to Duke’s home field. As he prepares us for this extraordinary match-up, Curtis (Every Week a Season: A Journey Inside Big-Time College Football, 2004, etc.) explores each school’s distinct culture, introduces coaches and select players, and summarizes the evolution of each team’s season, including the unusual logistical challenges posed by the last-minute site change and the game's charged wartime atmosphere. He doesn’t neglect the big game’s details (an Oregon State upset), but he focuses mostly on what came after, the horror of a world war into which more than 70 of the game’s participants immediately plunged. Yes, Curtis invokes the hoary football-as-war analogy in his title, exhortatory quotations from the likes of Wade and Vince Lombardi, but mainly he’s careful to distinguish between an arduous game and savage war. In Europe and the Pacific, the boys of the Rose Bowl became men. Four were killed, many wounded; some won medals, and not a few returned to lives marked by alcoholism, depression, and divorce. Especially memorable are the tales of OSU’s Stan Czech, who before his capture as a POW shared a hasty cup of coffee with Duke’s Wade in a foxhole; Jack Yoshihara, the “alien” prohibited from traveling with his team to the Rose Bowl and who spent the war in an internment camp; and Frank Parker, the Beaver standout who rescued a Duke player near death on the battlefield.

A fine sports book with a stirring extra dimension.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-05958-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2016


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