Arizona Cardinals have a military history that not many remember
World War II saw the Arizona Cardinals merge teams and send players overseas
During World War II’s impact of drawing players into service, the Cardinals combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers (pretty ironic some 70 years later for Super Bowl XLIII) in 1944 to form Card-Pitt. They had a terrible record of 0-10, but luckily it’s not mentioned a lot.
During that time, a bunch of Arizona Cardinals players went overseas, and a few met their tragic fates while protecting their country. Here is a summary of those players:
Keith Birlem played quarterback at San Jose State but was converted to an “End” for a handful of games before being cut and spending the rest of the 1939 season with Washington. He was KIA (killed in action) in Polebrook, the U.K., in 1943.
That’s not a typo. Jack Chevigny was the Cardinals’ head coach in the 1932 season, in which the Cardinals with a funky record of 2-6-2. Football historians know Chevigny for his game-winning touchdown during the Notre Dame-Army game, where Knute Rockne coined “Win one for the Gipper!”
Chevigny was one tough son of a gun. After completing basic training, he requested to serve in the Marines. That change was granted, and after bouncing around, a handful of places landed in Camp LeJune in North Carolina.
He became the equivalent of a strength coach and coached football for the camp. He took over when the team was 0-2-1 and renamed the team name from “Camp LeJune All-Stars” to “Camp LeJune Leathernecks,” and finished 6-2-1. Did anyone know an inner circuit of football existed like this?
Then to epitomize his grit, he requested an overseas combat deployment, where he was stationed in the South Pacific. Chevigny died in the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945