Today’s Tidbit… From The Bubbly To The Bulge
During WWII, American troops in Europe and the Pacific were periodically pulled out of action and moved behind the lines to rest, rehabilitate, and take on replacements. Besides their military duties, a portion of each unit received leave to visit designated entertainment locations or nearby cities.
Those remaining with the units had time available for various leisure activities, including sports. As a result, it was not uncommon for units to form football and other teams to compete with one another while behind the lines. Such was the situation in December 1944 in Rheims, France, when two units scheduled a competitive football game for Christmas Day. Since Rheims (Reims in French) is the largest city in France’s Champagne region, the game was dubbed the Champagne Bowl.
The program cover tells us the game was to feature the Screaming Eagles versus the Sky Train, with the Screaming Eagles representing the 101st Airborne and the Sky Train standing in for the Army Air Force units whose perfectly good planes the Screaming Eagles left in midflight.
Among those practicing with the Screaming Eagles was UCLA’s All-American catcher, Lynn Compton, who also played guard for the Bruins in the 1943 Rose Bowl.
You may not recognize Lynn Compton’s name or picture, but that might change by introducing him as Buck Compton of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Regiment of the 101st Airborne. Of course, those who have watched the television miniseries A Band of Brothers know that Dick Winters returned from his R&R trip to Paris only to have the 101st ordered to leave the Champagne region and head to the Ardennes.
The Germans launched their Ardennes offensive seventy-eight years ago yesterday, and seventy-eight years ago today, the 101st left their camp at Mourmelon le Grande, heading toward the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Of course, the 101st never returned to Rheims, and the Champagne Bowl never occurred.
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