Discover more from Football Archaeology
December 24, 1917: Going Over There Instead of Pasadena
This Today in History post is the first in a series profiling individual soldiers, sailors and Marines that played in the 1918 and 1919 Rose Bowls.
As we relax at home on Christmas Eve, it is worth remembering that not everyone has that opportunity, and many lacked that opportunity on December 24, 1917. At the time, the world had been at war for three and one-half years and millions of men from many nations were manning the front lines in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, rather than relaxing at home.
America entered the war in April 1917 and had approximately 100,000 men in Europe by Christmas Eve 1917, but fresh troops were being sent to France and 2 million would be there by the end of the year. One man heading to Europe was the U.S. Army's 2nd Lt. Allan Bynon, a man who packed a lot of activity into a limited amount of time.
Bynon grew up in Oregon, graduating from Willamette University in 1917 with a Bachelor of Law degree after playing football and starring on the track team. During his schooling, he worked in a law office and was studying for the Oregon bar exam when America entered WWI. Bynon volunteered for the Army’s officer training program and was ordered to report for officer training at the Presidio in San Francisco by May 15. Prior to reporting, the Oregon Supreme Court allowed him to take a special bar exam, which he passed, so he reported for officer training as a full-fledged lawyer.
Bynon completed officer training in August, and was assigned to the 91st Division at Camp Lewis as part of the Quartermaster Corps. (The Quartermaster Corps managed supplies and logistics.) In addition to his formal military duties, Bynon was a substitute left end for the Camp Lewis football team and played in several regular season games, including Camp Lewis’ victory over Fort Stevens on December 9. Following the win, Camp Lewis was invited to play in the 1918 Rose Bowl. Bynon surely would have enjoyed playing in that game, but he had received and issued invitations of his own. The invitation he received was actually an order sending him to France the next day, December 10. He had also issued an invitation of marriage to Miss Florence Hofer and hastening their plans, the two were married one hour before he boarded the train heading east.
That brings us to this day in history, for it was on Christmas Eve 1917 that 2nd Lt. Alfred Bynon boarded the S.S. Floridian in Hoboken, New Jersey and sailed for Liverpool, England. Bynon was likely sent to Europe early to deal with contractual issues, and unlike most sent there, he returned to the States within the next month or two. He then shipped to France a second time in March 1918 and returned in March 1919 following the war.
After the war, Bynon was an assistant U.S. District Attorney, a Representative and Senator in Oregon’s state legislature, and was in private practice before passing away from a heart attack in 1946 at age 50.
As you celebrate the holidays today or in future years, remember that there were and are soldiers, sailors, and Marines in harm’s way while you relax at home.
If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to my newsletter or check out my books.