Playing for Their Nation: Baseball and the American Military during World War II

By Steven R. Bullock | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Vitalizing Spirit Baseball in Morale Building and Militar y Training

America's involvement in World War II and the mobilization that it necessitated provided the impetus for an unprecedented explosion in military baseball. In 1939, before many Americans recognized the gravity of the escalating global conflict, the United States Army employed only 175,000 fighting men, and budget constraints necessitated the use of antiquated equipment throughout the armed forces. As the potential for entry into the war increased during 1941, the numbers of soldiers grew tenfold, and the American military machine gradually began to modernize and mobilize at a stunning rate that continued through the conclusion of the conflict. In the end, over fifteen million men and women filled the ranks of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard with the express purpose of ending fascism and protecting American interests everywhere.

Although World War II was a defining point in this nation's history militarily, economically, and socially, it was also cast amid the latter stages of baseball's “Golden Age” in America. At a time when the national pastime was exactly that, World War II interrupted what had been an unprecedented period in the annals of professional baseball. Diamond legends such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson were not yet distant memories with an aura of mystery only recognizable in grainy black-and-white photographs. Those individuals, as well as most of the other great players of baseball's “Silver Age” in the first two decades of the twentieth century, still commanded attention and often entered the public eye through charity events, commercial ad

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