1953 Football Team Nomination

The Class of 1962 believes the 1953 Football Team belongs in West Point’s Sports Hall of Fame.

If you play for Army, always remember what these Cadets did.

This is that Team – Winners of the Lambert Trophy

*Please note – Gerry Lodge – 67 and possibly #32 is missing from Photo and 2d man 2d row next to Tommy Bell – Name is Zaborowski number 58, and Wynn number 31 is in 2d row not 3d.

The Nomination

There is more to some teams than just the statistics, than just the win loss record. Sometimes there are teams which are able to overcome adversity, who just have the will to win.

General MacArthur said it would take 10 years. Grantland Rice wrote “They came up the hard way, and there probably has never been a team with greater spirit.” The team had only one All American and because of the organization which selected him, West Point does not even recognize him today as such. Still, just as with the ’44, ’45, ’46, ’48, ’49 and ’58 Teams, the 1953 Team won the Lambert Trophy.

The day after their memorable game against the 7th ranked team in the nation, the New York Times wrote —

“He also took a 17-yard pass, amazingly thrown left-handed by Vann, immediately preceding the 43-yard scoring aerial”

Peter Vann rolling to his right to throw, had been confronted by Duke’s All-American left tackle Ed Meadows. Peter had to slow and reverse direction, slanting to his left toward the line of scrimmage, to evade Meadows’ charge. As he lunged past, Meadows grabbed for Vann’s right arm, and Peter instinctively switched the ball to his left hand. Meadows then caught hold of Vann’s right arm, but Peter, still moving to his left, pulled free and threw a short, wobbly, but accurate left-handed strike to Fred Attaya.

1950 Graduates stationed at Fort Bliss listening to every word on the radio heard Bill Stern “- – – And, Smith is in the clear, he’s away for a touchdown.” there was a pause of 5 second or so of silence, and Stern then said, “No, no…he’s going to get caught from behind!”

The next day in the Times– “But from well back an Army figure set out in pursuit. With the place in an uproar, Bob Mischak cut down the gap between them, and finally leaped upon Smith and dragged him down on the 7 yard mark, 73 yards from the line of scrimmage.”

An Army end had run down Duke’s speedy All American Candidate – Red Smith. Army held, taking over inches from the goal line.

Again from the Times “A third was Ralph Chesnauskas, yearling right guard who played the entire sixty minutes.”

It should be noted here that in the locker room after the game, the Triple A T-shirts worn by the Cadets who had played nearly the entire game had to be cut off with scissors as the shirts had adhered to their skin.

The Times summed up what that Team did that day with —

“The fire and viciousness with which this Army team ran, hit, blocked and tackled made it the winner it was today against a team whose line was thought to be too powerful for the cadets and whose backs were expected to show the speed and driving force.”

Perhaps the Army Duke Game at the Polo Grounds was West Point’s greatest game. Army went undefeated (tie — Tulane) the rest of the season beating Navy 20 to 7. After the Navy game, Col Blaik said to the Team

“I have never coached a team that give me more than you did. I never have coached a team that has given me as much satisfaction. Considering all the conditions since 1951, you have done more for football at West Point than any other team in the history of the Academy.”

Prior to the Duke Game is perhaps for the first and only time that the Corps of Cadets ever imposed a silence upon itself. The pent up frustration of continued losing the past two seasons was only released when the last Cadet left the field for the stands after the march on. Worth Lutz, Duke’s quarterback said after the Game, “The savage cheering of Go!GO!GO! from the West Point stands placed our team in a nervous fright of tension and jitters”.

For over 10 years the Academy’s Military Psychology and Leadership Department referred to Bob Mischak’s run down of Red Smith, and the team’s effort that day as an example of the power of motivation.

Much, much more could be said about this Team — for perhaps at no time before or since has the United States Army, the Corps of Cadets, the Coaching Staff and the Team itself been so in sync. The Washington D.C. Touchdown Club named Col Blaik Coach of the Year following the 1953 Season. It was the first time a cannon was used (a German rocket gun captured at Kasserine Pass); a Cadet bath robe was floated up by weather balloons — an offering to the gods of the game; an Army Cheerleader cheered so loud and jumped so high, he tore neck muscles, causing him to lose consciousness; the Navy Goat was brought to West Point and taken into Washington Hall to the cheers of the Cadet Corps; Red Reeder made the Cheering Squad a team sport that year; the flag depot in Philly made a huge Beat Navy flag; there was the fly over by an Army Helicopter painted with Beat Navy — it goes on.

The importance of that season might be summed up from an article in The Pointer published the night before the Navy Game which tied the Team and its accomplishments to the events of 1951.

“Tomorrow afternoon, radio sets will be tuned on Philadelphia all the way from Berlin to Panmunjom. Graduates will be listening for news of an Army victory. But they’ll be listening for something more – something none of them talk about. They’ll be listening for evidence that the Corps is on its way back. They want to know that the values which they stand for are still alive in the Corps.”

Sources

Morris Herbert – Class of 1950

Jay Gould – Class of 1954 Army Cheer Leader

Peter Vann – Class of 1956 Army Quarterback

The New York Times

A Return to Glory

You Have to Pay the Price

1954 Howitzer

The Pointer – Fall of 1953

Reviewed by

BG (Ret) Jim Kays – Class of 1962 Dean E&AS Naval Postgraduate School

Col Lance Betros – Class of 1977 Department Head Department of History USMA

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