The Most Forgotten Game Ever Played: Dec. 7, 1941

Bob Cunningham@BCunningham215Senior Analyst IDecember 8, 2008

Dec. 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy.

We all know what happened on that fateful day. The peaceful territory of island chains known as Hawaii was surprisingly attacked by Japanese air forces and dealt the United States one of its worst losses in its history.

My great-grandfather was there that day. He was a young man then, about 19 years old. He had only recently enlisted in the Air Force in order to help protect these United States from what seemed to be an imminent attack during an unstable time in the whole world's history.

He was sent to Pearl Harbor, a mainstay for the United States. A base that needed to keep an eye on Japan and to protect the 48 continental states from attacks on the western shore.

At approximately 8:00 AM, he awoke to gunfire and explosions. He ran outside to see what was going on, as had most of the troops stationed with him. What they saw horrified them, as Japanese planes flew by so low they could have been touched by a man with his feet firmly on the ground.

They swept by in waves, destroying planes and fleets of ships in their paths. They killed any soldier unfortunate enough to be in their way, soldiers my grandfather had known personally.

He watched his fellow men die in a cowardly attack by the Japanese. He manned a tourette and fired upon their planes, using their "rising sun" symbol as a target.

As he fired angrily, he looked up in time and through tears saw a Japanese pilot look him dead in the eyes and salute him as he opened fire on his position. The plane flew overhead, missing its mark.

The Japanese pilots did all they could to shoot down an American flag which flew above Hickam field. My grandfather once told me, "They tried to knock that flag down every chance they got. They shot at it, hell they dropped a few bombs near it. But I'll be damned if those sons a'bitches could get it down. It had more holes in it than I could count but dammit it stayed right there."

After enduring waves of enemy attack and watching their comrades die, the attack was over. For two hours they were forced to suffer through such a hell that cannot be described with words, but only in the tears of the survivors when they tell their stories.

Five time zones away, on the East Coast of the United States, the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles were slated for a 2:00 PM game.

The Eagles were near the end of a dismal '41 season in which they came into the game at 2-7-1. They were expected to have some turmoil as they had just hired an unknown man in Greasy Neale to lead their team.

The Redskins, behind the leadership of Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh, were sitting at 5-5, needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Eagles started things off in the game with a touchdown scamper from Jack Banta to take an early lead on the favored Redskins, 7-0.

Washington took advantage of an Eagles turnover to score in the second quarter when Sammy Baugh tossed a 19-yard strike to Al Kreuger. The 'Skins closed the gap with the game now at 7-7.

The Eagles capitalized on a Redskin turnover in the third quarter. Hank Piro caught a six-yard pass from Tommy Thompson in the end zone to jump out on the 'Skins by a score of 14-7.

In the fourth quarter, however, it was all Redskins.

Joe Aquirre and Sammy Baugh hooked up for two touchdowns, one on a nine-yard strike and the other coming towards the end of the game on a four-yard bullet to the end zone. Aquirre, also the kicker, missed the extra point on the first touchdown scored in the fourth quarter to make the score 20-14.

The Eagles had forced five turnovers in this game, but lost due to six turnovers forced by the Washington defense. It was a very sloppy game, to say the least, that ended the way most thought it would.

But once the game was over, nobody cared.

News did not spread the way it does today, so the players and fans all the way on the East Coast were oblivious to the horrifying attack on American soil by the Japanese. But once the game was over, sometime around 5:00 PM EST, everyone knew.

Football took a backseat to worry and anger amongst the American people.

The war, much like today, was a hot-button issue. Half of the country thought we should enter World War II, and half believed in the idea of isolationism.

This attack made everyone pro-war. Much like 9/11 did today, the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the country together against a common enemy.

America now knew that they would not be able to watch this one from the sidelines.

The United States entered the war, and football was all but forgotten in favor of worry about loved ones. However, the NFL decided to keep their league going in order to keep some sense of normalcy amongst the American people.

Football was an escape for many from the real problems that faced them as individuals, going through a depression, and now a war on top of it. Many fans were forced to part ways with loved ones, knowing they may never see them again.

Football helped sooth that agony, and took people to a happier, better place.

So, while football was not completely forgotten by its fans during these awful times of war, this specific game will always be known as "The Most Forgotten Game Ever Played."


We remember those who served in Pearl Harbor and all throughout the war. Those who died and fought in order to preserve our American traditions, such as football and the NFL.


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