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Today's Tidbit... American Football in 1946 Germany
Note: An earlier version of this post had two images incorrectly described as being games played in Germany. These images and one sentence of text were removed.
Post-WWII Germany was segmented into French, English, Russian, and American zones, with each nation administering its zone separately. To maintain order in its zone, the U.S. Army established the Constabulary, comprised of 38,000 troops charged with maintaining order.
The Constabulary troops received training on German history, customs, and governmental processes. As tensions eased, recreational activities became available, ranging from classes offered by German artists to numerous sports activities. Many bases formed football teams that played one another, sometimes flying to away games. As typical of military teams, the talent varied widely, with some former professional and college players and others with high school experience. As one G. I. wrote in a letter home, however, one of the league's biggest challenges was that many teams had the same color uniforms. Nevertheless, the games went on.
As seen below, several images of Americans practicing in preparation for their games are available via the National Archives catalog, including the example below.
Besides preparing for their games, some G.I.s took the time to teach American football to local youths. Their instruction ranged from classroom training to unconventional games using a football.
Eventually, their efforts paid off as they fielded what was believed to be the first American football game played by German citizens. They even outfitted the teams in contrasting uniforms.
The soldiers at American bases in Germany continued playing football for at least another decade, with American college coaches coming to Germany to conduct clinics. Bill Yeoman, who played for Army from 1946 to 1948, was stationed in Germany during that period, met Duffy Daugherty at a clinic, and later joined his staff at Michigan State. Yeoman, of course, created the Veer offense at Houston while also being the first football coach at a predominantly white college in Texas to offer a scholarship to a Black player.
Special thanks to Mariam Kleiman at the National Archives for the heads-up regarding these images.
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