Oct. 6, 2011
*Written by the 'Voice of the Golden Eagles' John Cox
Saturday afternoon marks the first-ever meeting in football between Southern Miss and Navy. It sounds like we will have an outstanding contingent of Golden Eagles fans at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis to watch the game. If you have never been to Annapolis and are going this weekend you are really going to enjoy your trip there. Annapolis is the capital of the state of Maryland and is steeped in history and with Washington, D.C. not to far away there are numerous things to enjoy and see while you are there.
As I was thinking about our trip to Navy this weekend, I thought about how many student-athletes over the years from Southern Miss have served in the United States military. Since the University opened its doors in 1912, Southern Miss student athletes have served and fought in every war and armed conflict since World War I, up to and including the current conflict in the Middle East.
The United States involvement in World War I had wide repercussions throughout the country, and what was then Mississippi Normal College was no exception. Football was not a part of the university life during the 1917-1918 and 1918-1919 school years because the campus was united in an attempt to aid the war effort overseas.
The 1941 football season was the University's final full season of football until 1946. On Dec. 7, 1941, eight days after Southern had defeated St. Mary's of Texas 7-0 to complete a 9-0-1 season, Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor thus drawing the U.S. into World War II. The Japanese also attacked Clark Field that day in the Philippines and one of the casualties included Andy Webb, who had played center and linebacker for the school in 1937 and 1938.
As American men began leaving for combat, several schools canceled games with the college; including St. Mary's, Louisiana College and Spring Hill College. Although just six games remained on the 1942 schedule, Southern officials elected to continue intercollegiate athletics and scheduled football spring practice to begin Feb. 23, 1942. But Coach Thad (Pie) Vann, the team's line coach and a lieutenant in the Army reserve, was ordered to report for active duty in the late spring of 1942. By summer, faced with problems of scheduling, travel, and lack of players, the school announced the termination of all intercollegiate sports. A makeshift Southern team went on to play four games against military and service teams during the fall of 1942. The state's Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning subsequently suspended athletics at all state schools for the duration of World War II.
Vann served in Europe as a second lieutenant in the field artillery for three years during the war and at the end of the conflict served as a Special Service officer, responsible for organizing recreational, athletic and educational services to boost soldiers' morale. The eight decorations he earned included a bronze star for his service during the invasion of Europe, and he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel before being discharged from the active service in 1945.
Southern's coach at the time, Reed Green, also joined the military. He attended the University of North Carolina Naval Indoctrination School, where one of his classmates was baseball great Ted Williams. Green left North Carolina as a lieutenant junior grade and went to the University of Iowa, where he met future Oklahoma head coach Bud Wilkerson, Missouri head coach Don Faurot, and future Maryland head coach Jim Tatum. While at Iowa, Green was involved with the V-5 and V-12 programs, which were responsible for officers' military and physical fitness training. Green was subsequently stationed on the USS Intrepid and overseas. Before he was officially discharged from the service in 1946 as a lieutenant commander, he also had been stationed in Manteo, N.C., Key West, Fla., and Corpus Christi, Texas.
Many former Southern Miss football players of that era also served in the military. Melvin (Pel) Autry, Henry (Frenchie) Bolis, M.G. (Foots) Clements, Fred Dickey, J.P. (Noonie) Hackney, William (Mike) Katrishen, Jake Scott, Bracie Smith, Joe Vetrano and C.J. (Pete) Taylor were just some of the gridiron greats who served their country during the World War II. Thirty-four former Mississippi Southern students lost their lives during World War II. Including Webb, Bolis, James Forte, Thomas Rivers King, Rufus McSwain and Bishop Rockwell.
As we travel to Annapolis this weekend you can bet that all of us will have on our mind all the men and women of our armed forces that are currently protecting our country and our freedoms and also those that came before them, that gave their lives and put their lives on the line for the United States of America, including the former Southern Miss students who served.
This week, on the Southern Miss IMG Sports network, our broadcast will begin at 1 p.m., central time with our 90-minute pre-game show. Featured on this week's pre-game is a visit with Golden Eagle senior cornerback Marques Wheaton. Our Eagle of the Past this week is Adalius Thomas (1996-1999) and our Great Moment in Southern Miss Football relives the 11-7 victory in Athens, Ga., over the Georgia Bulldogs as well as a conversation with tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Robert Matthews. Don't forget after the game during our post-game show will always visit with a couple of Golden Eagle players of the game and have an exclusive post-game talk with Coach Larry Fedora.
If you are going to Annapolis, we hope to see you, there. It should be a great trip.
Southern Miss to the Top!!