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Today's Tidbit... An Aerial Attack At Yankee Stadium
Following Pearl Harbor, concern about potential attacks by carrier-based planes or sabotage led to playing the 1942 Rose Bowl at Duke's home field in Durham, North Carolina. Less well-known was the relocation of San Francisco's 1942 East-West Shrine Game to New Orleans.
As the country shifted to a war footing, decisions were required regarding the role of sports in a wartime economy. In February 1942, FDR famously gave the green light to major league baseball to continue as recreation for war workers and service personnel. (The players did not receive an exemption from military duty.) However, in July 1942, all auto and motorcycle racing was suspended to preserve fuel and rubber.
Things continued under somewhat normal conditions on the football front, though some schools dropped football for all or parts of the war. Several NFL teams merged for a season or two due to the lack of players, while military teams abounded, many with college and professional stars on their roster.
The beginning of 1942 also witnessed what German U-boat commanders called the Second Happy Time, during which 609 Allied ships were sunk, with many of those coming along the East Coast where defense methods were lacking and blackouts were not yet common. Eventually, the authorities banned night games from the schedule, but concerns about fan-filled stadiums being targets of enemy attacks did not go away.
At Yankee Stadium, home of the Bronx Bombers, concern remained about other types of bombers, so they developed procedures for fans to follow in the event of an enemy aerial attack. (Germany did not have aircraft carriers, but that did not eliminate the fear of an attack.) Signs were posted in Yankee Stadium, and game programs carried a guide telling fans what to do in the event of an aerial attack. The guide appeared in the programs for games 3, 4, and 5 of the 1942 World Series and continued during the 1942 college football season.
The November 21st game between Army and Princeton was not much of a contest. Mainly keeping the ball on the ground, Army gained 388 yards by that route, winning 40-7. The Cadets ended the season the following week playing Navy in Annapolis, the game being moved there from Philadelphia to attract a smaller crowd and conserve fuel. (Only fans living within 10 miles of the stadium could buy tickets.) Navy won that game 14-0, but they would not taste another victory over Army until 1950.
Concerns about fans in stadiums faded as 1943 wore on. Enemy submarines and aircraft carriers no longer posed a significant threat in U.S. waters.
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