The Year America Stood Still: Army's Dream Season of 1945
1945 was unlike any other year on record.
World War II was ongoing but the Soviets had marched into Poland. Germany’s Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had fled to his underground bunker, properly titled the Fuhrerbunker.
This is the same year where President Franklin D. Roosevelt sat down with Winston Churchill & Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference. In February of 1945, the battle of Iwo Jima took place when 30,000 Marines stormed the island to help further American victory in the Pacific Theatre.
Most notably, the largest bittersweet memory of 1945 was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki & Hiroshima, Japan.
On May 8 of 1945, the Germans surrender to the Allied Forces.
On September 12 of 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the American-led Allied Forces in Singapore.
Life in America marched on with a new sense of pride.
The Chicago Cubs made the World Series but lost to the Detroit Tigers. The Chicago Cubs have yet to return to the World Series since.
Many future sports icons were born in 1945 from Phil Jackson and Larry Bowa to Walt Frazier and Jim Palmer.
Still, America was missing something. Baseball was still the national past time. Football was just as controversial then as it is today.
The year before, the Army football team was crowned by the Associated Press as national champions after a 9-0 season. Controversy erupted when Ohio State finished 9-0 but didn’t receive the same recognition from the media after they had just won national champion honors in 1942.
1944 was just the second time Army was crowned as college football national champions by the Associated Press. The first came in 1914.
1945 was a special year for the Black Knights football program. After receiving its second national title the year before, the Army Black Knights continued to stroll forward under head coach Earl “Red” Blaik.
The most famous game of the 1945 season took place at Yankee Stadium on November 9. The unbeaten Fighting Irish of Notre Dame were ranked second in the nation. The cadets from Army were unbeaten as well. In “The House That Ruth Built,” Army smacked Notre Dame around, winning 48-0.
Army’s win over Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium exemplified their 1945 season. Army averaged 8-yards per play on offense and 46 points per game. Their defense allowed just 6 points per game.
Army was led fullback Doc Blanchard. In 1945, the fullback position was nothing like it is today. The fullback position put rings around the eyes of defenders like they were looking at the planet Saturn. He also played linebacker, placekicker, and punter.
1942, Doc Blanchard was a freshman at North Carolina. At the end of the year, he enlisted in the United States Army. On July 2, 1944, Blanchard received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. While playing football at West Point, Blanchard’s teams went 27-0-1.
In 1945, Doc Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy. In 1946, Blanchard was drafted 3rd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He decided that professional football wasn’t for him and went on to become a pilot for the newly formed United States Air Force. This football star turned hero went on to serve our nation in the Korean War & Vietnam War.
Speaking of Blanchard, Notre Dame coach Ed McKeever once said “I’ve just seen Superman in the flesh.”
On December 1, in front of 102,000 fans in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, including President Truman, Blanchard led the Knights offensive with three touchdowns (one on defense) in a victory over rival Navy.
Even though World War II was over by the fall, the Black Knights would continue their offensive and finish the season as national champions with a 9-0 record. The Alabama Crimson Tide finished 10-0 but were not recognized by the Associated Press.
1945 was a year where America stood still. World War II was wrapping up in scary fashion. Communism began to engulf Eastern Europe. Wages started to soar for the American worker and Army won its second consecutive national championship in football. Things were beginning to look up for the country.
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