9 Memorialized Athletes Who Died Defending America
As a way to commemorate Memorial Day, Major League Baseball honored the deceased by wearing military green and camouflage on hats and various parts of their uniforms over the weekend.
We do not typically associate professional athletes with military service, let alone among those who’ve died in the line of duty. Here is a list of prominent athletes in their day that died giving their lives in service to America.
Andrew Jackson Lummus, Jr. (October 22, 1915 – March 8, 1945) was a two-sport athlete at Baylor University, a professional football player with the New York Giants, and an officer in the United States Marine Corps. He fought, and died, at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II and received the Medal of Honor for his service.
Charles “Charley” William Paddock (August 11, 1900 – July 21, 1943) was an American athlete and two time Olympic champion in track and field. He was also a U.S. Marine. Paddock was the first person named “The fastest man alive.” In 1943, during World War II, Paddock died in a plane crash near Sitka, Alaska.
Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. (July 9, 1918 – June 2, 1943) was a student and a college football player at the University of Iowa. He won the 1939 Heisman Trophy and was a consensus All-American. He died during a training flight while serving as a United States Navy aviator in World War II. Kinnick was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, and the University of Iowa renamed its football complex Kinnick Stadium in his honor in 1972.
Donald Thomas Steinbrunner (April 5, 1932–July 20, 1967) was an American football offensive tackle that was one of only two American professional football players to die in the Vietnam War. James Robert “Bob” Kalsu was the other.
James Robert “Bob” Kalsu (April 13, 1945 – July 21, 1970) was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and an eighth-round selection in the 1968 NFL/AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. Kalsu was a starting guard for the Bills in 1968. He was killed in action on July 21, 1970, when his unit came under enemy mortar fire at FSB Ripcord near the A Shau Valley.
Harry Mink O’Neill (May 8, 1917 – March 6, 1945) was a professional baseball player who appeared in one game for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1939, as a catcher. O’Neill and Elmer Gedeon were the only two Major League Baseball players killed during World War II.
Elmer John Gedeon (April 15, 1917 – April 20, 1944) was a professional baseball player, appearing in several games for the Washington Senators in 1939. Gedeon flew several missions in the European Theater of Operations as an officer of the United States Army Air Forces before being shot down over France.
Hobart Amory Hare “Hobey” Baker (January 15, 1892 – December 21, 1918) is considered one of the greatest ice hockey players of his era, and the first great American hockey player, in addition to playing football. He was one of the first nine players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame upon its founding in 1945, the first American so honored, and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame as one of its charter members in 1973. He died in a plane crash leaving France in 1918.
Patrick Daniel Tillman (November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004) was a professional football player in the National Football League (NFL) who left his sports career and enlisted in the United States Army in June 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. His service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequent death, were the subject of much media attention. Tillman joined the Army Rangers and served several tours in combat before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan from friendly fire. Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since Kalsu. Tillman was posthumously promoted from specialist to corporal. He also received posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart medals.
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TWCC.com and Wikipedia pages for each athlete/military member.