Famous American Names Among the Dead of World War II
World War II affected almost every family in America in some way. Husbands, fathers and brothers for the most part were drafted or enlisted, and women took up the fight at home by working in factories and industries to support the war. Many women, lacking eligible men in their families, took up the call and enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps.
Professional sports figures, Hollywood and famous names associated with music and journalism all lost members of their communities. These were truly sad times for the American people who reached for their newspapers each morning with apprehensions.
Some famous professional sports names that lost their lives in the WWII fight:
- Jack Lummus; A professional football player for the New York Giants, he enlisted in the marines in 1942. He died when he stepped on a land mine in Iwo Jima leading Company E’s 3rd rifle platoon.
- Elmer Gedeon; Pro baseball player with the Washington Senators. Drafted in 1941, his bomber B-26 was shot down over France in 1944.
- Harry O’Neill; Pro baseball player with the Philadelphia Athletics. Enlisted in the Marines in 1942, he was a 1st Lt. Killed by sniper fire in Iwo Jima.
- Al Blozis; Professional football player for the New York Giants. Enlisted 1943, and died in January of 1945 searching for two scouts from his units who hadn’t returned. He didn’t return either.
- Leonard Supulski; Pro football player for the Philadelphia Eagles. Enlisted as pilot in 1943, was killed during routine B-17 training maneuvers in Nebraska.
Some other famous athletes, both Olympians, also lost their lives:
- Foy Draper, part of the gold medal winning relay team of the 1936 Olympics. He ran with the famed Jesse Owens. Draper enlisted in 1940 in the Army Air Corps of the 97th squadron, 47th bombing group and was shot down in 1943 during a strike against German and Italian ground forces in Tunisia.
- Charles Paddock, was an Olympic medal winner of the 1920 Olympics. He had served in the Marines in WWI and was an aide to Major General Wm. P. Upshur in WWII. Both of them plus 4 others were killed in a plane crash in 1943 over Alaska.
Hollywood lost one of the child actors of “Our Gang” movies; Robert Hutchins who played “Wheezer.” He enlisted in 1943 and died in a mid air collision in a training exercise in California in 1945. Probably two of the most famous of American entertainment names that died in a WWII related effort were Carole Lombard and Glen Miller.
Carole Lombard, a great American actress and wife of Clark Gable, was not in the military, but was returning home from a War Bond Rally in Indiana when she lost her life in a plane crash. In 1944 a cargo liberty ship was named the SS Carole Lombard in her honor.
Glen Miller, famed band leader and musician, enlisted in the Air Force and was leading the Army Air Force Band. In December of 1944 they were crossing the English Channel to entertain the allied troops in Paris, when the plane went missing in action.
Two more famous Americans lost their lives in the fight for world peace:
- Joseph Kennedy Jr.
◦ The brother of the future 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and one of the first tragedies to plague this American family. He was a naval aviator in WWII and after completing two years of missions, instead of returning home, volunteered for “Operation Aphrodite,” in which he and the co-pilot were to bail out of a plane that would detonate by remote after they were gone. The explosives detonated prematurely and killed them both on May 17, 1945.
- Ernie Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
◦ Ernie was a war correspondent, and one of the few civilians in WWII who was awarded a purple cross. We died by sniper fire in Okinawa on April 18, 1945.