Third down and a War to Go: The All-American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers

Overview

"The 1942 Wisconsin Badgers were a terrific football team. As young men of that era, they were extraordinary, yet typical. Among other reasons, that's why theirs is an All-American story."

When longtime college and National Football League coach Jerry Frei died in 2001, many of his former players attending his memorial services were astounded to learn that he had been a decorated P-38 fighter pilot in World War II. He never brought that up with his players. But like so many other veterans, he hadn't talked much ...

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Third Down and a War to Go

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Overview

"The 1942 Wisconsin Badgers were a terrific football team. As young men of that era, they were extraordinary, yet typical. Among other reasons, that's why theirs is an All-American story."

When longtime college and National Football League coach Jerry Frei died in 2001, many of his former players attending his memorial services were astounded to learn that he had been a decorated P-38 fighter pilot in World War II. He never brought that up with his players. But like so many other veterans, he hadn't talked much about the war with his children, either.
Late in Jerry Frei's life, his son-author and journalist Terry Frei-belatedly began asking more questions about the young pilot's experiences. As they talked, a frame of reference was the Wisconsin Badgers' 1942 team picture on Jerry Frei's den wall. Sophomore backup guard Jerry Frei, then only 18, was in the fourth row of that 1942 photo, behind All-American end Dave Schreiner and star halfback Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, and next to fearsome fullback Pat Harder. Jerry Frei spoke of how the players on one of the greatest college football teams of all time went off to serve their country after their glorious season-and about how not all of them made it back.
After his father's death, Terry Frei set out to learn more about the team and the men in that picture. What he learned left him forever changed.
In the final-fling atmosphere common on college campuses as the first year of U.S. involvement in the war was winding down, the Badgers climbed up the national rankings under the guidance of coach Harry Stuhldreher, the quarterback of Notre Dame's famed "Four Horsemen." Stars and scrubs alike had enlisted in various branches, were awaiting their callups, and knew that each game brought them closer to military service. Of the 51 players on the '42 roster, only one remained on the team the next season.
Dave Schreiner and the Badgers' other co-captain, halfback Mark Hoskins, both came from tiny Lancaster, Wisconsin, and the long-time buddies and teammates both planned to become pilots. But Schreiner's color blindness scuttled that plan, and after he renounced a pre-medicine student deferment, the two-time All-American end became a Marine officer.
As the war raged on, the Badgers sailed through Harm's Way, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, confronted daunting odds as pilots when their mission totals mounted, attempted to survive in infamous prison camps, and led units in the fierce Pacific island battles.
Through exhaustive research and interviews with the remaining Badgers, their families, and combat comrades, Terry Frei tells the often heart-wrenching story of this band of brothers, describing their successes and losses both on the football field and in service to their country.
This is a tale about one team.
It stands for a generation.

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Editorial Reviews

Adam Mertz
"The first half of the book establishes the principal characters and the 'swell' atmosphere of the day, to borrow some period terminology, while detailing an 8-1-1 season in which the Badgers were deemed mythical national champions by the Helms Foundation. With the war heightening, the majority of the players were sent overseas to fight on the front lines, and Frei follows them relentlessly in the book's second half. . . Either half of the book would have stood alone, but together they do supreme justice to a group all too soon gone, all too easily forgotten."
The Capital Times, Madison
Dwight Chapin
"...a book that not only makes you keep reading, but makes you care...The last chapter in Frei's book, 'Lives and Deaths,' details what happened to everyone from that squad, and by the time you get there, you really want to know about them. It's that kind of book, relatively modest in intent but rich in fabric and execution."
San Francisco Chronicle
Jay Greenberg
Tirelessly researched and relentlessly touching. The true allegory of football and war, minus the cliches.
New York Post
Rick Morrissey
Terry Frei has captured the spirit of a different time in this country, a time of faith in school and in country, a time of intense loyalty to teammate and fellow soldier. Third Down and a War to Go tells the story of one University of Wisconsin football team during World War II. But to limit the tale to that is like saying Angela's Ashes is about Ireland. This book brings to life, in shades of black and blue and blood red, the idea that certain things are worth fighting for.
Chicago Tribune
Robert B. Rennebohm
Terry Frei has done a superb job of researching and writing to bring us the true spirit and similarity of our military services, particularly the U.S. Marines, and college football. He vividly follows the 1942 Wisconsin Badgers, who so soon after their gridiron exploits were the losers of life and limb. Events of over sixty years ago seem to have been frozen in time as Frei takes us back to the glory days of so many young Americans.
Wisconsin end (1942, 46-47), Marine lieutenant (1943-45), and long-time head of the University of Wisconsin Foundation
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870203602
  • Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 727,933
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Frei is a sports reporter and columnist for the Denver Post and ESPN.com who frequently appears on sports radio and television. His previous book was the acclaimed Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming: Texas vs. Arkansas in Dixie's Last Stand, the story of the 1969 football game between the Texas Longhorns and the Arkansas Razorbacks—and the tumultuous times in which it was played.

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