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Cleveland Indians who served in World War II

A remembrance of the fifty men who served during World War II and also played for the Indians...

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which served to draw the United States into World War II. It is fairly well known among Indians fans that the team's young ace, Bob Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy the very next day. He missed almost four full seasons from the prime of his career, having been the best pitcher in baseball in the years before he enlisted.

Feller is the most famous member of the Tribe to have served during World War II, but he is far from the only member. A man named Gary Bedingfield runs a website called Baseball in Wartime. Using the database he has compiled and cross referencing it with a list at Baseball-Reference of those who played for the Indians between 1930 and 1959, I found a total of 50 men who served during WWII and also played for the Indians.

They are listed below, along with the military branch they served in, which theater (if any) they were stationed in, and majoe medals/honors they were bestowed:

  • Bob Alexander (Navy)
  • Pete Appleton (Navy)
  • Dick Aylward (Army, European Theater)
  • Gene Bearden (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Moe Berg (OSS, European Theater, Presidential Medal of Freedom)
  • Eddie Bockman (Navy)
  • Lou Brissie (Army, Mediterranean Theatre, Purple Heart)
  • Soup Campbell (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)
  • Eddie Carnett (Navy)
  • Sam Chapman (Navy)
  • Al Cihocki (Coast Guard)
  • Chubby Dean (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)
  • Joe Dobson (Army)
  • Larry Doby (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Hoot Evers (U.S. Army Air Force)
  • Bob Feller (Navy, European and Pacific Theaters)
  • Tom Ferrick (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Ray Flanigan (Army, European Theater, Silver Star)
  • Denny Galehouse (Navy)
  • Mike Garcia (Army, European Theater)
  • Joe Ginsberg (Army, Pacific Theater)
  • Joe Gordon (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)
  • Mickey Grasso (Army, Mediterranean Theatre)
  • Ted Gray (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Mickey Harris (U.S. Army Air Force, Panama Canal Zone)
  • Myril Hoag (U.S. Army Air Force)
  • Dixie Howell (Army, European Theater)
  • Wally Judnich (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)
  • Ken Keltner (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Ralph Kiner (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Lou Klein (Coast Guard)
  • Joe Krakauskas (Canadian Air Force, European Theater)
  • Bob Lemon (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Morrie Martin (Army, European and Mediterranean Theaters, Purple Heart)
  • Barney McCosky (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Cal McLish (Army, European Theater)
  • Al Milnar (Army, Pacific Theater)
  • Frankie Pytlak (Navy)
  • George Strickland (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Birdie Tebbetts (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)
  • Joe Tipton (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Bob Usher (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Elmo Valo (Army)
  • Johnny Vander Meer (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Mickey Vernon (Navy, Pacific Theater)
  • Ralph Weigel (Coast Guard, Pacific Theater)
  • Vic Wertz (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)
  • Bill Wight (Navy)
  • Early Wynn (Army, Pacific Theater)
  • George Zuverink (U.S. Army Air Force, Pacific Theater)

Bedingfield's website includes an impressive collection of short biographies on each of the players. If you're not already familiar, you might take a few minutes to read more there about Berg, Brissie, Flanigan, and Martin, the men listed here who earned some of the military's highest honors.

My grandfather served in the Army during the war. He was stationed in Europe and awarded the Purple Heart. Like many veterans, he wasn't one to talk much about his service, though in his later years he began to open up a bit about it. He passed away in 2007, and I imagine almost all of these 50 men have also passed away.

If you know anyone who fought in the war, and they're willing to speak about it, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity.