May 27, 2013 - A Memorial Day tribute: ND football players who died in WWII

By Olson


WWII had ended prior to the 1945 College football season.

After the end of that season the Notre Dame Football Review of the '45 season dedicated a full page 'salute' to the five monogram football players who died in the War (actually there were six-they missed one-explained below).

To me it seems strange that only the monogram winners were singled out. Much of the fighting and dying during that War was done by 18 to 20 year old young men. Some of the ND football players listed below simply didn't have time to earn a letter before dying for their Country.

The Notre Dame football players who died in World War II (all are listed by their FROSH season w/ the ND frosh football team vs Graduating class-since many did not get a chance to graduate):

Stories about these Irish players:

Hercules Bereolos Guard
A guard on the Irish football team and one of the 5 lettermen honored in the '45 Football Review (won his letter in 1940). Also a shot putter on the ND track team, Bereolos was a pilot of a Naval Torpedo plane. The ND Alumnus magazine pointed out that this was 'considered one of the most dangerous assignments in the Navy. Bereolas was killed in action (KIA) on 3/30/44 somewhere in the South Pacific.

George Birmingham Half Back
An All State Basketball and Football star from Iowa. George was considered one of the two best HBs on the 1942 ND frosh team (the other was Emil Sitko). Birmingham must have been good- four HBs from that ND frosh team of '42 played in the NFL. George could have stayed at ND in officer training and played on the '43 National Champs, but he enlisted to get into the action. Per the ND Alumnus, USMC Pfc George Birmingham participated in the original landing on Iwo Jima on 2/19/45 and was in on all of the fieriest fighting on the beaches. George was KIA on Iwo on 3/5. Upon learning of the death of Birmingham, a very sad Coach Leahy wrote a Iowa sportswriter that George 'would have created a legend rivaling George Gipp' if he had returned to ND from the War. Possibly a bit of hyperbole by the Coach, but very nice nonetheless.

Harold Borer Half Back
Borer was a HB on the 1938 varsity. Harold also flew one of the dangerous torpedo planes for the Navy. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism after scoring a direct hit on a Japanese surface craft-contributing to her sinking. Borer was KIA in the initial attack by Admiral Halsey's forces in Formosa. He left behind a wife and 2 children.

Jack Chevigny Half Back
Probably the most famous on this list. Jack scored the first td after the halftime 'Win One for the Gipper' speech by Knute Rockne in the '28 Army game at Yankee Stadium. Chevigny was a ND assistant coach under Rockne for the next two undefeated National Championship teams (29 & 30). In 1931, Jack was named 'Junior Coach' to Hunk Anderson's 'Senior Coach' title after Rockne's death. In '32 Chevigny was the Head Coach of the Chicago Cardinals in the NFL. In '34 he became the Head Football Coach of the Texas Longhorns. That season he took his Longhorn team to ND and upset the favored Irish 7-6. After 3 seasons as Texas coach, Jack became the Asst. Atty General of the State. Then he entered the oil business.

During WWII, Chevigny volunteered for the Marines and was commissioned a Captain. He was the HC at Camp Lejiune until he requested combat duty. Jack was KIA on the second day on Iwo Jima. I have read numerous versions of how Chevigny died on Iwo, but the most consistant(and the one in the first account in the ND Alumnus + his recent Bio) state that Capt. Chevigny and five other Marines took a direct hit in a crater they had taken cover in. A great story of a pen belonging to Jack circulated for many years after the war-but there was no truth to that story.

Tom Creevy QB
Creevy was a QB on the 1942 varsity. His brother Richard was also on that Irish team. Tom won the Distinguished Flying Cross for bring a bomber back with part of its tail shot off. He was also awarded the Air Medal with 7 Oak Leaf Cluster and a President Citation. Creevy completed 35 missions over France and Germany as a bomber pilot. He was eligible to return home after completing these missions but instead volunteered to become a Mustang Fighter Pilot. Tom was KIA in his Mustang fighter.

Frank Cusick End
Cusick is the ND letterman who was left off the 1945 salute in the FB Review. Frank was left off the 'salute' because he still listed as 'Missing in Action' (MIA) over Germany at the time of publication. In his sophomore year at ND, Frank found himself running with the first string two weeks before the start of the '42 season. Only one other sophomore had started for the Irish in the last ten years. Ironically that soph was Bob Dove, now a senior. Leahy had moved AA end Dove to guard and Cusick looked like his replacement (over fellows soph. ends Yonakor-later an AA and 1st round draft choice and Zilly-later a starter on the '46 NCs and NFL player). So Cusick must have been good. But Leahy came to his senses and moved Dove back to end. Cusick was 2nd string and won his letter. He would have likely started in 1943 but was off to War instead. Cusick flew numerous missions over Europe as a Navigator on a B-17. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and Air Medal with two Clusters. Frank was listed as MIA on 1/23/45 'in action over Germany'. This was finally changed to KIA in early '46, too late to be included in the ND Football Review salute of Monogram winners.

Louis Curran Halfback
Curran was a HB on the 1940 ND frosh team. Pvt. Curran fought through North Africa and onto Italy, where he was KIA. He was one of 4 members of the '40 frosh team to die in WWII

Ted Dorosh Halfback
Dorosh was a record setting back in HS(Pa All State). I believe that some of his records stood for many years. Ted entered ND in the Spring of '44 and went through spring drills with the Irish football team. But Ted didn't get a chance to play in 1944. He was called up by his draft board in July at the age of 18. Dorosh was KIA in Belgium in Feb. '45.

Norb Ellrot Guard
A guard on the 1940 ND Frosh team. Ensign Ellrot died of burns suffered in a Naval Air training crash in Florida.

Allen Elward Jr Quarterback
QB on the 1940 ND frosh team. Allen was the son of a former ND player and Knute Rockne teammate. His father was the Head Football Coach at Purdue in 1940(later AD). Elward was listed as KIA in the August 1, 1945 listing of ND students KIA in the ND Alumnus magazine. I do not know the particulars on his death.

Vince Harrington Guard
Another of the 5 monogram winners saluted in the ND FB Review. Vince was a reserve guard on the '24 National Champs and Rose Bowl winners. Major Harrington was the first ND monogram winner to die in WWII, however he was not KIA. He died of a heart attack while servicing in England.

Wayne 'Rusty' Johnston Halfback
A Marine V-12 training transfer to ND. Rusty had been a star player at Marquette. Johnston did not get into a game at ND (he left at midseason of '43 with Angelo Bertelli and others). KIA on Okinawa 4/14/45

John McGinnis End
McGinnis was an end on the 41 and 42 varsity. Just before McGinnis was KIA on Mindanao, John had been cited for heroism in leading his men through a mine field to rescue American soldiers who had been trapped by the Japanese.

George Murphy End
Murphy was the Captain of the 1942 Irish football team. There is a ESPN article that discusses the death of Lt. Murphy USMC on Okinawa on 5/15/45. George's older brother John had also played for the Irish and later was an assistant coach for Ara. Murphy left a wife and a young daughter whom he never saw(born the day before he shipped out overseas).

Martin O'Reilly Center
Another of the monogram winners-in 1940. Lt O'Reilly was a Naval Pilot instructor was died in a plane crash during a training exercise in Kansas.

Howard Petschel End
Howard was on the '39 varsity as a soph. Like most of the sophomores in those days he did not play a down. But in the spring of 1940, Petschel won a Hering award as the top end in spring practice. He had a great future. But Howard quit school and joined the Army Air Corps in Sept 1940(a full year + before the US entered the war). This generated some press around the Country that a ND player quit to enlist. Petschel was listed as MIA in March 1942 when his plane was shot down by Japanese fighters while he was evacuating people from Java to Australia. ND classmates placed a plague in Carroll Hall on campus inscribed 'the first member of the Class of '42 lost in battle.' Petschel left a wife and young son.

Robert Callahan Tackle
I have not been able to determine from my research (as yet) whether the Robert Callahan who was a tackle on the 1941 frosh team was the same Robert Callahan, ND student who was killed on Okinawa. Perhaps there were two different people with the same name, around the same period at ND. But Robert Callahan was KIA on Okinawa-I put him on the list.

Also:
The only ND football player KIA in World War I:

Arnold McInerney- tackle on the 1915 & 16 Irish team

A little know fact: Knute Rockne published a novel in 1925 entitled 'The Head, the Hands, the Foot,the Ball'. Rockne dedicated the novel to Arnold McInerney.




Keywords: football, memorial day, hercules boreolos, george birmingham, harold borer, jack chevigny, tom creevy, louis curran, frank cusick, ted dorosh, norb ellrott, allen elward jr, vince harrington, wayne johnston, john mcginnis, george murphy, martin oreilly, howard petschel, robert callahan, arnold mcinerney, knute rockne, world war ii, world war i, yankee stadium, army, texas, track team, shot put, emil sitko, george gipp, hunk anderson, iwo jima, bob dove, purdue, marquette, okinawa, john murphy, hering award

Posted On: 2013-05-27 08:34:44 by Olson

   Comments:

      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: Cappy Gagnon at 2013-11-07 09:15:06[#2]
We had at least one other player killed in WWI. There's a good reason why you would have missed one I am aware of.
Paul “Curly” Nowers scored four TD’s and three extra points (27 points) in the October, 5, 1912 116-0 win over St. Viator, our second biggest victory. Although Nowers did not letter (!) he is in the media guide. Like McInerney, he was a lieutenant. McInerney's death was truly heroic and worthy of much longer mention.
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   Posted By: Stapleton at 2013-05-27 18:54:40[#1]
This is the best post you've done so far, which is saying something.
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