When most people hear “Rose Bowl,” they immediately think Pasadena, California. But in 1942, the Rose Bowl was relocated to Durham, North Carolina, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It's the only Rose Bowl played outside of Pasadena, and the game almost did not happened.
In his new book "Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl and the Boys Who Went to War" (Flatiron Books/2016), sports writer Brian Curtis tells the story of the game and the men who first met on the field as opponents and later as allies on the front lines.
In an interview with “The State of Things” host Frank Stasio, Curtis said almost immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a public debate arose about whether the Rose Bowl between Duke University and Oregon State College should take place.
“On the one hand people said, ‘We must play the Rose Bowl game. If we don’t we are further giving into the enemy by stopping our way of life and sports is exactly what we need.’” Curtis said.
“On the flipside, you had those who said, ‘We are now officially in World War II. Many of these young boys who are playing in the game will be going off to war, and this is their last Christmas at home. Staging a game in southern California could be a danger, and the Japanese could easily bomb it.”
Ultimately, Lt. Gen. John DeWitt asked the governor of California to cancel the game in Pasadena. But within two days, it was rescheduled to be played in Durham, North Carolina thanks to the influence of Duke head coach Wallace Wade.
Oregon State College was the underdog in the matchup, but upset Duke University with a score of 20 to 16.
Not every player on Oregon State was able to play in the game. Days before the team hopped on the train to Durham, FBI agents showed up to the Oregon State practice field to inform player Jack Yoshihara he was unable to travel with the team. Yoshihara was a Japanese American and was considered an “enemy of the state” after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yoshihara finished his spring semester at Oregon State and was sent to an internment camp with his family in Idaho in the summer of 1942.
“For years after there was a lot of resentment from Jack and his sons and daughters toward how he was treated by America, which we can all understand,” Curtis said. “If there is a positive end to this story, he was finally awarded his Oregon State degree about five or six years before his death, was given his Rose Bowl ring, and his family actually three weeks ago came to the 75th anniversary reunion that Oregon State hosted in Corvallis.”
Curtis books also follows the lives of Charles Haynes of Duke and Frank Parker of Oregon State. The two met in Italy while serving during the war and realized they had been opponents in the 1942 Rose Bowl. In October of 1944, Haynes was wounded after leading a charge on the battlefield. He was left for dead, but Parker heard his friend was dying and rescued him. WIthin months after the rescue, Haynes was back on the front lines.
“I thought that they should be main characters. They weren’t necessarily the stars or MVPs, but it emblematizes who these boys were. They were innocent boys who played in this unique football game as opponents and ended up on the same team wearing the same uniform,” Curtis said.