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Vital connections: Baseball and the American military during World War II

Steven Ray Bullock, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States witnessed a mobilization of monumental proportions through the duration of the Second World War. Millions of Americans served in the armed forces and millions of others engaged in activities and occupations to aid the war effort. Americans fought for the principles and institutions they held dear, which for many, included baseball. At the outbreak of World War II, baseball was unsurpassed by any other sport in terms of mass participation, popularity, and emotional attachment. This study attempts to demonstrate that baseball was a substantial force in the consciousness of American soldiers, sailors, and civilians at this time and served a unique purpose in the eventual Allied victory. ^ Throughout the war, baseball and the American military became increasingly intertwined. As the number of servicemen grew, the numbers of fans of the national pastime within the armed forces expanded proportionately. With this knowledge, military leaders promoted participatory baseball programs for fighting men, primarily to improve morale and supplement the physical aspects of training. Some of these athletic programs, bolstered by professional players, accumulated truly stunning levels of talent, which was displayed often by military commanders. Also, professional organizations donated millions of dollars in cash as well as new and used equipment to support war related charities and augment military baseball programs. Furthermore, the vast majority of major league players active at the outset of the Second World War served in the military and endured a variety of experiences. This absence of between one and four years from professional baseball exacted a dramatic toll on the careers of those who served, not only through tenures being shortened or even ended, but also in terms of the statistical decline evident upon their return. Thus, baseball and the American military joined forces on many levels during World War II and mobilized to best of their respective abilities to contribute to the successful completion of the war effort. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Bullock, Steven Ray, "Vital connections: Baseball and the American military during World War II" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3034367.