– All gave some, some gave all
71 years ago today 160,000 allied troops landed at Normandy in Northern France, beginning the fight back against Hitlers Third Reich and ultimately victory in Europe. By land, air and sea, men, machines and supplies landed on Utah, Omaha, Sword, Gold and Juno beachheads, many of them never left.
What we consider todays NFL didn’t exist in 1944 but some of the teams did and many of the men that would go on to take up positions in the Hall of Fame were on those beaches that day.
Perhaps the most famous was Chicago Bears Quarterback Sid Luckman. Luckman fought at Normandy after volunteering for the merchant marine at the close of the 1943 season. Luckmans Coach, the legendary George Hallas, was the “Welfare and Recreation Officer” for the 7th Fleet in the Pacific. Luckman went on to play 7 more seasons for the Bears and was admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Frank Gatski was at Marshall College when they cancelled the football program in 1943. His reserve unit was quickly called up to fight and he was among the infantrymen landed on D-Day. After the war Gatski attended Auburn and spent a brief amount of time working in mines until he got a tryout for the a new team, the Cleveland Browns. Gatski eventually became the Browns starting centre and with Otto Graham at QB, won 3 titles in his first 6 with the Browns.
Pete Phios served in the 35th Infantry Division under General George Patton. He Received a battle field commission to 2nd Lieutenant and was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star for bravery. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1945 but wasn’t able to join the team until 1947. He played in the first 6 Pro Bowls and won 3 receiving titles. In his 8 year career he missed just one game and played on both offence and defence.
The courage and sacrifice shown by these man and the many more not named here helped ensure the free world as we know it today. On this the 71st Anniversary, we are thankful for all they have done.