Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard


From Dwight Eisenhower to Roger Staubach, from World War II medal-winners to Vietnam War legends, from gridiron glory to battlefield bravery, the Army-Navy Game's history is filled with compelling stories. Here are a few of my favorites from years past:


In 1945, at the start of Hudner's final year there, Wesley Brown arrived at Annapolis. Four years later, Brown became the first African American to graduate from the Naval Academy.

"I wasn't going to leave him there," said Hudner of that day. "What I had to do was clear."

"I guess the boys need some advice from me," Hudner joked Thursday before traveling here from his Massachusetts home.

"Oh God," he said, "those were some great games."

Aiming for the sky Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown were born 1,250 miles apart in two different worlds.

While Brown (no relation to Wesley), a sharecropper's son, attended blacks-only schools in Jim Crow Mississippi, Hudner, the white son of a prosperous Fall River businessman, went to prestigious Phillips Academy before entering Annapolis.

But Brown persevered. The salutatorian of his Eureka High School class, he likely never considered the Naval Academy. As of 1944, only five African Americans had ever enrolled there and, having endured various indignities, none had made it beyond their first year.

Brown rejected the advice of those who pointed him toward a small black school and picked Ohio State. That was the alma mater of his idol, Olympic legend Jesse Owens.

Hudner, meanwhile, after graduation from Annapolis in 1946 (study then was compacted into three years; he, technically, is in the Class of 1947), had various assignments at sea and on land, none of which terribly interested him. He was aiming for the sky.

In 1948, he applied for and was accepted at the Naval flight-training school in Pensacola, Fla.

But the military's segregated walls had not yet crumbled, and he was rejected repeatedly, advised by some that "no [black men] would ever pass the test," his widow, Daisy, once told a Hattiesburg newspaper.

Both Brown and Hudner ended up with Fighter Squadron 32 in the Korean conflict. Though Hudner, as a lieutenant junior grade, had a higher rank, Brown had more experience, and the Mississippi farmhand soon had the Naval Academy grad as his wingman.

They became friends and flew numerous missions together, Section Cmdr. Brown receiving the Air Medal for his role in successful raids on Wonsan, Songjin, and Sinanju.

Then, on Dec. 4, 1950, the two were part of a formation of eight F4U Corsairs on a reconnaissance mission near the Chosin Reservoir. An American force of 15,000 Marines battled 100,000 Chinese and North Korean troops there. Planes from the USS Leyte were called in for support.

"We didn't have set targets, but we'd destroy what we'd find," said Hudner. "We were flying pretty low that day, low enough to see people on the ground, and we had to be concerned with the mountains."

Enemy flak hit several of the planes. One round apparently struck Brown's fuel line, and, flying at an altitude of only 1,000 feet, he went into a crash dive.

Nosing into the rocky terrain, the plane slammed into a mountainside. His squadron mates circled back to survey the scene, fearing Brown, 24, had perished. Suddenly, one of them said he'd seen the downed pilot waving.

A rescue helicopter was summoned. Hudner knew that would take time and a pilot trapped in an aircraft that appeared to be burning didn't have much of that.

"I'm going in," Hudner radioed his commander.

He dumped his plane's fuel, circled the spot a few times and, with artillery fire all around and his wheels up, slammed his own plane into the rocks, trees, and snow with a jarring thump.

"I wouldn't have landed that way if I hadn't known the helicopter was coming," Hudner said.

He could see smoke coming from the rear of Brown's Corsair. The pilot was trapped in the cockpit.

"He was alive, but badly hurt," Hudner recalled. "I couldn't get him out of the cockpit. His right leg was crushed and entangled in metal and instruments."

Without an extinguisher and fearing the fire would soon spread, Hudner packed snow around the cockpit as a makeshift fire wall. He put his knit hat and scarf on Brown's icy body but couldn't extricate his friend.

The helicopter arrived with the ax Hudner had requested. The men chopped futilely at the steel wreckage.

"It was late afternoon, and the light was fading. The helicopter couldn't fly at night. We talked about using a knife to cut off Jesse's entrapped leg," Hudner said. "But neither of us really could have done it. It was obvious Jesse was dying. He was beyond help at that point.

"We had to leave. We had no choice. I was devastated emotionally."

A day later, four planes flew over Brown's downed aircraft and napalmed the charred remains.

"Back on the ship, our captain wanted to try to retrieve the body," Hudner said. "But the terrain was too bad, and there were too many enemy soldiers in the area. So to make sure nothing would be done to Jesse's body, he ordered the napalm."

The citation that accompanied his medal tells the story as well today as then.

"Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt. (J.G.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. . . . He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames."

Tom Hudner can still feel the cold, still see the flames. Time has not helped him forget.

"It's been 60 years," he said. "And not a day goes by that I don't think of that day. And Jesse."


The colorful event, to be contested for the 109th time this afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, has been played in all but five of the last 100 Decembers.

World War I canceled it in 1917 and 1918. The 1928 and 1929 games never took place because of institutional disagreements over eligibility rules.

In each of those cases, however, it was understood that the annual football meeting of military academies one day would be resumed.

The 1909 contest was scrapped because of death. Or rather deaths.

On Oct. 16, in an 11-6 loss to Villanova, Midshipman quarterback Earl Wilson was paralyzed by a soon-to-be-outlawed flying-wedge tackle. He would die in April.

It was saved in May 1910, when a special committee headed by the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Princeton revamped the sport's rules.

They effectively banned the flying wedge - packs of sprinting players catapulting themselves toward their opponents' weakest point - by mandating seven-man lines and four-man backfields. Pulling, pushing and interlocking holds by teammates were outlawed. Kickoffs now had to travel at least 10 yards. To alleviate weariness, the two 15-minute halves were replaced by four 10-minute quarters.

The desired result was achieved. The game opened up. Those menacing masses of players that had wreaked such physical havoc vanished. Deaths and serious injuries decreased.

But nothing could bring back Byrne, Wilson or Christian.

Col. John Byrne had never been so afraid as when he looked down at his motionless son.

Byrne had seen death. He'd been a Civil War commander, police chief of Buffalo, and now was that city's most prominent private detective. Eight years earlier, he'd been the man in charge of security at the Pan-American Exposition when President William McKinley was assassinated there.

But this was his son.

"I can't move," the frightened young man told the doctor, according to an account in the Buffalo News.

Col. Byrne, then in his late 60s, had climbed a fence and hurried to the crowd forming near his fallen son. West Point's superintendent, Col. Hugh L. Scott, and its commandant, Gen. F.W. Sibley, were there as well.

After 15 minutes, Byrne was placed on a stretcher and taken to the academy's hospital. The game was ended.

"We cannot tell at this time whether the injury will prove fatal," Hanna said.

Days later, Byrne was dead. In December, his father died of a stroke.

That reasoning didn't slow the criticism.

"Does the public need any more proof," wrote the Washington Post, "that football is a brutal, savage, murderous sport? Is it necessary to kill many more promising young men before the game is revised or stopped altogether?"

The answer was yes.

On. Nov. 13, as his Virginia team played Georgetown, halfback Christian suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage trying to burst through the line.

By 1910, the rules revision had quelled the public's distaste for football.

"The adoption ... eliminated the cruder versions of nineteenth-century football and established the groundwork for a sleeker, faster, wide-open game," football historian John Watterson wrote in American Heritage magazine.

Citing correspondence between academy officials, the New York Times on Dec. 2, 1909, reported that "there is no doubt the game will be played next year whether the rules are modified or not."

On Nov. 26, 1910, Franklin Field was packed with spectators for whom the deaths of the previous fall were an increasingly faded memory.


Hinger, who had retrieved several injured colleagues already, got close enough to the powerfully built officer to see a sniper's bullet fell him. The medic lifted Holleder's head into his arms and watched the big man die. The father of four young daughters was 33.

There is resonance in his story because his final moments - ordering his helicopter pilot to land, jumping from the craft and sprinting toward his wounded colleagues - so closely mirrored the attributes he displayed on the football field that season a half-century ago.

The 6-foot-2 200-pounder had never played in the backfield. He understood that the switch would cost him his all-American status and expose him and his coach to criticism. But, after sleeping on Blaik's unusual proposal, Holleder agreed.

Holleder himself heard fellow Cadets criticizing his play and even Lt. Gen. Blackshear Bryan, the academy superintendent, made it a point to tell Blaik how much heat he was getting over the quarterback.

"He couldn't throw," Shelton recalled. "He would just roll left or roll right and run it himself. But he was a load to bring down. Tackling him was like trying to tackle a horse."

But Blaik demanded and prized toughness above all else. He stuck with his tough QB.

"Holleder was a natural athlete, big, strong, quick, smart, aggressive, a competitor," Blaik wrote in his 1960 autobiography. "I knew he could learn to handle the ball well and to call the plays properly. Most important, I knew he would provide... leadership."

The night before the game, Blaik gathered his team at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel and told them he was wearying of those long postgame walks to shake hands with winning coaches.

There was silence in the room. Then Holleder spoke. "Colonel," he said, "you're not going to have to make that walk."

Afterward, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was so ecstatic that he sent a gushing telegram to Blaik.

A week later Holleder became the only quarterback to appear on Sports Illustrated's cover after a game in which he failed to throw a single completion. One of his two passes was intercepted, and the other should have been.

After graduating in 1956, Holleder went on to an outstanding career as an infantry officer.

On Oct. 17, 1967, as he sat in a helicopter helplessly observing the closing stages of a North Vietnamese ambush that would kill 58 Americans, Holleder was, in Maraniss' words, "an untamed mustang."

He badgered his commanding officer until Holleder finally got permission to land. The major leapt from the chopper, grabbed a .45 pistol and some nearby soldiers, including Hinger, and made for the bloody jungle.

"He was running hell-bent when automatic-weapons fire got him," said Hinger, who like Shelton is retired and living near Sarasota, Fla. "Then, a moment or so later, he died in my arms. It's funny, I only knew Don Holleder for about two minutes. But that was long enough to know what kind of man he was."


The Lonesome End is still alone, flanked out now on the edge of America, in a remote log house that abuts Montana's Glacier National Park.

Bill Carpenter won't be coming home for tomorrow's 107th Army-Navy game.

Even though the retired Army general grew up here, remains one of the storied series' most memorable participants, and is a military legend to boot, it's been years since he's returned for one of these annual football spectacles.

Friends and Army officials have tried to persuade him, regularly prodding the 69-year-old graduate of Springfield High (Delaware County) to reconnect with his alma mater.

They've told him that Cadets, Iraq veterans, and plain old retirees would love to see the 1959 all-American whose pass-catching skills and gridiron isolation landed him on magazine covers and made him one of that simpler era's more intriguing sports icons.

They've pointed out that the man a colleague once called "the finest officer-leader this country has produced since the Korean War," the Vietnam hero who during a fierce jungle battle in 1966 ordered an air bombardment atop his own position, ought to be present when the Corps of Cadets marches into Lincoln Financial Field.

But just as he stood apart from his teammates in that revolutionary formation Col. Earl Blaik devised for those long-ago Army teams, Carpenter continues to stand alone.

"Bill has always marched to his own drummer," said Bob Anderson, an Army teammate. "I'm probably his best friend, and yet when people have asked me to explain him, I can't. I have no idea."

Anderson, who was Carpenter's initial West Point roommate, asked his friend last year to attend a reunion of their 1958 team. He declined.

Earlier this year, Skip Werley, the ex-Springfield High athletic director who has become a close friend, wanted Carpenter to meet him in South Bend, Ind., for the Army-Notre Dame game since members of his 1959 team, the last to beat the Irish, were gathering there.

"He didn't want to go," recalled Werley, who visits Carpenter every year or two in Montana. "He's a little down on Army. He looks at Air Force and Navy and the success they've had in football and wonders why Army can't do the same thing."

Carpenter shuns attention, turning down an interview request for this story and countless others in the years since his playing career ended with a 43-17 loss to Navy at Municipal Stadium on Nov. 28, 1963.

Since he retired as a three-star general 16 years ago, he and his wife, Toni, have lived in isolated Whitefish, Mont. Whitefish, however, has become a popular tourist destination, and, friends say, he's considering a move deeper into Montana's woods.

"He's not a hermit," Werley said. "He just doesn't like the limelight."

He hikes, fishes and canoes. His children and grandchildren sometimes visit, and occasionally an old friend from West Point or Springfield will journey to his five-acre homesite.

Every few months, with no warning to anyone, he hops in his pickup and drives the 2,000 miles back to Delaware County, where he was one of the 1950s' most accomplished and versatile athletes. He visits his mother, Helen Dunn, at Dunwoody, a Newtown Square retirement community, and then just as quickly, and just as quietly, retreats.

If his solitude on the gridiron added an element of mystery to his football talents, Carpenter's continued isolation has only enhanced the aura that engulfs him in military circles.

"Everyone knew about the Lonesome End and the hero of Dak To," one of his former commanders, retired Col. Terry Roche, told Sports Illustrated a decade ago. "He walked in the back of the room with his fatigue uniform on, and this silence fell across the room. Everybody turned around."


William Stanley Carpenter Jr. was born in 1937 in Woodbury, Gloucester County.

Anyone who doubts the role destiny played in his life need only view one of the first photos taken of the boy.

In it, the tiny towhead is smiling widely, fighting determinedly with his hands and mouth to hold on to a football that is nearly as large as he.

The picture was taken by his namesake father. A few years later, Bill Carpenter Sr. would be killed by a German bullet during the final month of World War II.

"One summer Bill and I traveled around Germany and Holland with my brother," Anderson said. "He wanted to visit the cemetery where his dad was buried. My brother and I started to get out of the car with him, and he stopped us. He asked us not to go.

"I think he was bitter about his dad's death. I think it made him want to join the Army and kill someone."

Since football and West Point were what his father wanted for him, those wishes became the son's.

Carpenter's mother eventually remarried, and they relocated to leafy Springfield. Since his step-dad, Cliff Dunn, was the comptroller at the Philadelphia Navy Base, the boy, already obsessed with the military, got to attend several Army-Navy games during the rivalry's heyday in the 1940s and early 1950s.

At Springfield High, the 6-foot-3, blond, blue-eyed teenager was the quintessential all-American boy. In 1955, senior classmates voted Carpenter "best looking" and "most athletic." He starred on the basketball court. He ran the 100-yard dash in 9.9 seconds as a track star. And he was a hotly recruited, all-county running back on the Cougars' football team.

He excelled at everything but baseball," Werley said. "He didn't care for it. Thought it was boring, too slow."

Carpenter was traveling full speed by the time he graduated. He enrolled at Manlius Pebble Hill School, a military prep institution, and a year later entered West Point.

His first two seasons there were solid but unspectacular. Then, at 4 a.m. on a summer morning in 1958, Blaik awoke with an idea. The Army coach jotted it down on the notepad he always kept on the nightstand.

"In those days, the hash marks were wider apart," recalled Anderson, who was the Cadets' starting tailback. "For a flanker like Bill, it was 20 yards into the huddle and 20 yards back. Col. Blaik decided that was a lot of wear and tear on maybe his best athlete. So he formulated a plan to keep him out there even during huddles."

Blaik tagged the position "The Lonely End." Sportswriters altered it to "The Lonesome End." Whatever it was called, the position seemed made for Carpenter.

He got his signals from quarterback Joe Caldwell. If Caldwell's left foot was forward, it was a running play. If it was his right foot, a pass was coming. There were only six pass routes, and Caldwell indicated which it would be by touching something - his belt buckle, his helmet, his knee pad.

"Simple, but no one ever figured it out," Anderson said.

Carpenter caught a school-record 22 passes in 1958 as Army earned a No. 3 ranking and beat Navy, 22-6. A year later, with Blaik replaced by Dale Hall, the Cadets were a struggling 4-4-1. But Carpenter, the captain and by now a national phenomenon as much for his unusual position as his talents, had 43 receptions for 591 yards, Army records that lasted 21 years.

Maybe his most remarkable athletic accomplishment took place after his final football season had ended. Army's lacrosse coach, aware of Carpenter's formidable mix of size, strength and speed, asked him if he'd ever played the sport.

Though Carpenter hadn't, he agreed to give it a try. After his one and only lacrosse season, he was named an all-American.

The NFL's Colts, knowing he was destined for an Army career, drafted him anyway. The Oakland Raiders of the fledgling AFL also tried to sign him. But, except for a stint with a base team at Fort Campbell, Carpenter was done with football.


"Mr. Outside" picked up speed descending the steps in his Berwyn home, lowered his shoulder as he passed into the family room, cut right to avoid a coffee table, and spun left when a leather recliner came into view.

Then the 76-year-old man many still consider college football's greatest running back dropped the cumbersome Heisman Trophy he had been lugging like a slippery pigskin onto a table and, slightly winded, sank gratefully into his chair.

"There you go," said Glenn Davis, apparently as satisfied with that delivery as after any of the 59 touchdowns he recorded in a legendary West Point career.

Six decades ago, when America was at war, Davis was a fair-haired speedster who seemed to embody the best of military commitment and homefront diversion.

Some time will also be spent telling the story of three Heismans.

That trophy-lugging journey from an upstairs bedroom earlier this week might have given Davis, the three-time all-American who averaged an astounding 11.7 yards a carry in 1944, one last unbeatable record.

After all, how many times has one Heisman winner carried a Heisman Trophy belonging to his wife's first husband past the photo of a stepdaughter who is married to the brother of yet a third Heisman recipient?

Still a triple threat after all these years.

"Around here," said Davis' wife, Yvonne, "if someone mentions the Heisman Trophy, you have to ask which one."

This peculiar convergence of Heisman Trophies was born, not surprisingly, at a Heisman Family Night banquet in 1995.

In a New York City ballroom, Davis, the 1946 Heisman winner, met Yvonne Ameche, the widow of Alan "The Horse" Ameche, who had won the award given to the nation's top collegian as a Wisconsin running back in 1954.

A year after their Heisman meeting, Davis and Ameche's widow married. That made him the stepfather of Ameche's children, one of whom, Cathy, was married to Michael Cappelletti. Cappelletti's brother, John, captured the 1973 Heisman while at Penn State.

"When you think of how few Heisman winners there have been, it's remarkable that three wound up in one family," Yvonne Davis said.

Davis seems more interested in talking about the three Heismans than in talking about his own career.

"In all the years Glenn played football, he was never caught from behind," his wife said.

"Oh my gosh!" Davis blurted out in obvious embarrassment. "Come on, Vonnie!"

"The two schools are a little down now but it doesn't matter what level they're playing at. When you have two evenly matched teams, it usually produces a great game," he said.

There will be just one regret.

"He lost his wife about five or six years ago and he kind of became a recluse," Davis said. "He's in good health, but he doesn't get out, doesn't attend reunions or anything like that anymore."


Sportswriters detailed the halfback's every move. Bobby-soxers, including a young Elizabeth Taylor, who later was briefly engaged to Davis, swooned over his Californian good looks. Records fell as easily as faked-out opponents.

Davis' career rushing average of 8.26 yards a carry remains an NCAA record. He scored a touchdown nearly once every nine times he touched the ball, ran for 2,957 yards and caught passes for 855 more. If he had not played alongside a fellow Hall of Famer like Blanchard, those numbers would be significantly higher.

Even in choppy old films, the 5-9, 170-pounder looks to be performing at 78 RPMs in a 45-RPM world. His legs churn furiously, but his movement is swift and graceful.

His coach, the normally reserved Red Blaik, insisted Davis was "jet-propelled" and called him "emphatically the greatest halfback I ever knew."

Davis' story read like a movie script, which, in 1947's The Spirit of West Point, it eventually became.

Ironically, that 107-minute film chronicling the exploits of Davis and Blanchard might have cost Davis the opportunity to become a professional legend, too.

"There was this scene where I was supposed to catch a punt, go to the right, fake a handoff and then cut back to get away from tacklers. I wasn't warmed up or anything and when I cut, I tore the ligaments and cartilage," he said, rolling up his right pant leg to reveal a surgical scar and a misshapen joint that moved as if it had a mind of its own.

After his military obligation, he played two injury-marred seasons with the powerful Los Angeles Rams of 1950 and 1951 and retired. Suddenly, life settled into a more mundane routine.

Davis worked for 35 years as the special-events coordinator for the Los Angeles Times, using his sports connections to plan charitable events. He helped start an NFL all-star game - the Pro Bowl, they called it.

"I was a Southern California boy, and I guess I had a lot of contacts," he said.

Davis grew up on an orange grove in LaVerne, Calif. The fastest schoolboy anyone in Southern California had ever seen, the "California Flash" won 13 letters in basketball, football, baseball and track at Bonita High School.

Years later, when Bonita High built a new football stadium and named it in his honor, Davis donated his Heisman to the school.

"Just something I wanted to do," he said.

Now, when people ask him to pose with a Heisman trophy, he borrows Ameche's.

"Friends joke that not only does Glenn sleep in Alan's bed and drive his car, but now he uses his trophy," Yvonne Davis said, laughing.

He could have gone to any college, but with a war raging, he and his twin brother, Ralph, decided on West Point. In August 1943, their mother handed them a bag of fried chicken and waved goodbye as a train pulled out of Los Angeles' Union Station on a four-day journey to New York. They would not see their parents again for more than a year.

"In those days," Davis said, "freshmen at West Point didn't leave the base for a year."

"I've always said I'm more proud of graduating from West Point than of anything else I've ever done," he said.

And, on that point at least, there was no one else in the house who could say the same.


Baseball's war-weakened 1944 World Series, by comparison, had featured a mediocre matchup of the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns. The NFL remained a tiny blip on America's radar screen. Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio, and a lot of Joe Blows from professional sports were wearing military uniforms that December.

Baltimore has spent $15 million to turn the annual spectacle into a kind of mini-Super Bowl, while fans and tourists flock to the Inner Harbor for interactive experiences, pep rallies, parades, and tours of technology-loaded ships and helicopters. The game itself figures to be obscured by the hoopla.

The gap between the pageantry and the quality at the 2000 game is close to the reverse of the situation in 1944. Then it was the football and not the fanfare that fueled interest.

"People were lining up to get into the academies in those days," said Coppage, 76, now retired and living in Annapolis, Md., where the Naval Academy is located. "Both teams were remarkably deep in wonderful athletes."

The move to the much larger facility on Baltimore's 33d Street not only helped satisfy the public's interest in the game, it allowed government officials to sell more war bonds. Ticket-buyers among the 70,000 fans had to purchase a bond with every seat. By game's end, more than $58 million had been pledged. "You hear a lot of different reasons why that game was moved," said Coppage, who played tackle on both offense and defense. "But the real reason, I believe, was because of the war bonds. They thought, 'Hey, imagine how much we could sell at a game like like this.'

The 2,300 cadets traveled from West Point to Baltimore that week on a troop ship. Fearing the German U-boats that were suspected to be patrolling less than 100 miles off the East Coast, three destroyers surrounded the transport. Rough seas made the two-day journey hell on water for the land-based future officers.

"There were a lot of green faces over those gray uniforms," Coppage said.

"We had gotten there the previous day, but the rest of the midshipmen got up early that Saturday and ferried over from Annapolis," Coppage said.

When they arrived, they marched through the streets of Baltimore toward the stadium. Once at the stadium, they filed past the usual assortment of admirals and generals, President Roosevelt's daughter Anna, and more than 250 disabled veterans occupying 50-yard-line seats.

Temperatures were in the 20s, and a 25-m.p.h. wind blew through the stadium. Players had difficulty gripping the ball at first, and the early play was sloppy.

Two plays later, the Cadets' Dale Hill ran 20 yards for the game's first points. The score was 9-0 at halftime.


Blanchard, the powerful and speedy son of a South Carolina physician, was only a sophomore that afternoon. A year later, the 6-foot, 205-pound fullback who could run 100 yards in 10 seconds would become the first junior - and the first service academy player to win the Heisman Trophy.

Despite Staubach's spotless reputation, both at Annapolis and when he starred for the Dallas Cowboys, the most gifted of the five was probably Davis, the lightning-quick halfback from Burbank, Calif.

Like Blanchard a three-time all-American, Davis rolled up 59 touchdowns and 4,129 yards rushing, receiving and passing as his West Point team went undefeated from 1944 through 1946. (Only a 0-0 tie with Notre Dame in 1946 kept the those Cadets from perfection.)

Davis, who also played defense and averaged 58 minutes a game, ran or threw for a TD every nine times he touched the ball. And in 1946, he averaged 11.7 yards a play - still an NCAA record.

"Davis, on his own, would have been a phenomenon," his West Point coach, Earl "Red" Blaik, said after Davis graduated. "But when you think that he was paired with Blanchard for all those years, you know why people say we will never see another tandem like that again."

Bellino and Dawkins won the Heisman in what, in retrospect, were down years in college football. Both were versatile, but neither compiled the statistics that Blanchard and Davis had.


"It is," often hyperbolic sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote from his press-box perch at Franklin Field in the 1920s, "the biggest show on earth."

Veterans Stadium will be filled tomorrow, as will local hotels. A national television audience will be watching. And when the Cadets and the Midshipmen march en masse onto the artificial-turf field and the bands start playing stirring fight songs, memories of games and faces past will come alive.

Famous names - in sports, politics and the military - cling to this game's history like barnacles to a ship bottom.

Blanchard and Davis, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, starred during and just after World War II. Those two and 1950s halfback Pete Dawkins won Heisman Trophies at West Point.

All that color began to fade in the late 1960s. College football and the nation changed. Compulsory military service ended. The academies tightened their recruiting standards. And, despite the outraged yelps of those who wanted big-time football at the two schools, the game was downsized.

The first game met with resistance before and after it took place.

Two months before it was played, the New York Times carried an article on faculty displeasure at West Point. Few believed that it made sense for men who would be relying on each other in battle someday to be pummeling one another senseless on the bloody gridiron.

"The excitement attending it exceeds all reasonable limits," said Maj. Oswald Ernst, then the U.S. Military Academy's superintendent.

Many memorable games followed.

Blaik's reputation was scarred by a West Point cheating scandal in the early 1950s, one that included his son Bob. He retired after an 8-0-1 season in 1958 with an overall record of 166-48-14.

As changing views of the military coincided with the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and as college football became more lucrative and competitive, the game's popularity slipped.

In 1980, the game was moved to the more compact and fan-friendly Veterans Stadium. There were no more Heisman winners or national championship contenders taking part, but the competitive spirit never waned.


As the crowd of 102,000 roared in anticipation, referee Bill Halloran stopped play to push fans back toward the sidelines. One sportswriter described the scene, with mink-coated women bouncing in delight on wooden benches, as "a turmoil of mad excitement."

"Then when we got back to the locker room, the door was locked. If you recall, at old Municipal Stadium, the locker-room doors were big, and they were made of metal. Well, we were all so upset that we kicked those damned doors down."

* Last night, Carrington, Davis and 25 other participants gathered at the Convention Center to reminisce about that afternoon half a century ago.

Then, they recruited such players as Blanchard as soon as they left other colleges to enlist. ("Ideal officer material," one West Point scout noted of Blanchard at basic training, then added, "also an outstanding athlete.")

Too monumental for some.

Shortly after dawn on that sunny, mild Saturday, commercialism was evident everywhere at the 20-year-old stadium, which was later renamed JFK Stadium and is now the site of the CoreStates Center.

Seven hundred vendors lined up for 55,000 game programs. More than 100 IRS agents looked for scalpers, not to arrest them but to claim a tax on their transactions. Dozens of special railroad cars - 17 alone from New York - dumped fans along sidings constructed on nearby Terminal Avenue.

"We didn't have any time-outs," Carrington recalled.

The ball was moved back to the 8, the clock was restarted, and Bill Hawkins took the third-down snap. He took a few steps toward the sideline and pitched the ball to halfback "Pistol" Pete Williams.

Williams was met by several tacklers at the 4 but, knowing he had to halt the clock, strained to reach an out-of-bounds line that the crowd had long since obliterated.

"We, of course, believe he got out of bounds," Carrington said.

"Obviously, we were desperate to stop the clock," Carrington said. "I'm lying at his feet groaning (faking an injury) and Lee Bramlett, our captain, was doing the same thing. I had a perfect view of him, and he was looking over his shoulder at the clock, not noticing us."

Hamilton sent in another illegal sub, Bill Earl, but Halloran never acknowledged him.

"We had them beaten, beaten," a disappointed Hamilton said as he spoke with reporters in a stadium tunnel.

"How can they be so happy so soon after the war?" the tearful woman, whose fiance had been killed in the South Pacific, asked a reporter.

"No one was happy," Carrington recalled. "Grown men were crying and sobbing in that locker room. It was a wonderful game, and I was proud to be a part of it, but we'll always be disappointed."

"The ways the cameras were positioned, you couldn't tell if he [Williams] really got out of bounds or not," Carrington said. "So I guess we'll never really know."