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1953 Football Team Draft Nomination

After the Navy Game —- He ordered the door secured and as he turned to speak his eyes were misty.

“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.”

1. Bob Farris ’55 played the entire 2d half of the Navy Game totally blind in one eye. Although he was Captain of the ’54 Team he was never to play another down of Football.

2. Bob Mischak ’54 as a player and a coach, Bob participated in 3 Super Bowls, 8 AFC Championships and numerous playoff games. As the starting Offensive Tackle on the 1958 Giant Team he participated in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” – – yet he had this to say of the 1953 Duke Game:

“As many reports have stated, the 1953 team “Returned to Glory” with the defeat of the nationally ranked Duke Blue Devils at the Polo Grounds in New York City. From a player’s stand point, that was the epitome of any game, team, and student body support that I’ve been associated with – bar none.”

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

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.

3. Coach Hugh Wyatt founder of the Black Lion Award provided the August 14, 2009 Bradenton Herald article by Roger Mooney. Excerpts of the interview with Jerry Hagan ’55 who quarterbacked the 1st Army drive in the Duke Game are below

It is the chanting that Jerry Hagan remembers most about that October afternoon in the fall of 1953.

Sure, Hagan remembers the touchdowns and the game-saving tackle by Bob Mischak in the game’s waning minutes. He remembers Earl Blaik, Army’s larger-than-life coach, calmly pacing the sidelines at the old Polo Grounds. Hagan remembers heading to the locker room at halftime holding a 7-0 lead. He remembers thinking during the days leading up to the game that he and his Army teammates were going to be trounced by Duke, at the time ranked seventh in the country.

Those memories are as clear as the brilliant blue October sky that Saturday afternoon nearly 56 years ago.

“Go! Go! Go! Go!”

“It was continuous,” said the 75-year-old Hagan, who played that afternoon. “Just deafening”

Army didn’t win a national championship that afternoon. No one clinched a Heisman Trophy. But Army won something more important. The Black Knights knocked off a top-10 team and began lifting the stain caused by the Honor Code scandal that had rocked the academy two years earlier.

Because of one game. Because of one win.
“Army was back,” Hagan said.

Go! Go! Go! Go!

Hagan Class of ’55 entered the Academy that summer of 1951 when the scandal broke. “The atmosphere was just so depressing for a while because nobody could believe this could happen,” Hagan said.”It kind of crushes you.”

The football team was devastated. Blaik’s teams had won three national titles and produced two Heisman Trophy winners in the six seasons prior to 1951. In 1951, Army went 2-7, including a season-ending loss to Navy. Hagan was a member of the varsity in 1952, playing defensive back.

The following year Hagan was moved to linebacker and quarterback since the NCAA imposed a rule returning the game to “Iron Man” football.

The ’53 Team opened the season with a win at Furman, but lost the following week to Northwestern. It was a loss, Hagan said, that shook the team’s confidence. But the Black Knights had an assistant coach who would not let his unit suffer a mental breakdown. His name was Vince Lombardi.

“He was a very cerebral coach,” Hagan said. “He was so intense, so intolerant of mental mistakes. We didn’t have many athletes, but we were probably the most mentally prepared team because of Coach Lombardi and Coach Blaik.”
Army football wasn’t much to rally around during the 1951 and ’52 seasons. The Corps of Cadets were use to us getting beat.

Then came Oct. 17, 1953, and the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
The cadets filed into the Polo Grounds silent as ever, but started screaming. Go! Go! Go! Go!

And go Army did.

It was 14-13 late in the fourth quarter when Duke’s Red Smith broke free headed for the winning touchdown. Mischak caught Smith at the 10 and brought him down at the 7.

It is the most famous tackle in Army history.

Army stopped Duke less than a foot from the goal line on fourth down.
Seconds later, players were riding on the shoulders of the cadets, who stormed the field. Army went 7-1-1 that year, beating Navy in the season finale. They were awarded the Lambert Trophy for being the best team in the East.

They restored the Academy’s pride. The glory was back.

Now there is a push to have the ’53 immortalized in the Academy’s Hall of Fame.

4. Lodge from guard to fullback, Sisson switched from end to back and then switched back to end; Lunn as Team Captain on the sidelines, as another was better able to meet the new requirements of playing both ways; the injuries to Chamberlin, Attaya, Zeigler, Ordway and Franklin; and the unrelenting demands and hours spent ensuring Vann mastered the details of the Royal 3 F’s -(Faking, Feeding and Fleeing) that Vann met Lombardi’s expectations, resulted in Jim Lee Howell, the New York Giants’ head coach who hired Lombardi after the 1953 season at Army to say – –

“If Lombardi can do that kind of job in three years at West Point – he could do a helluva job in the pros where he would have an experienced base to work with.”

The 3 years were the 2 difficult seasons of 1951 and 1952 followed by the success of the 1953 Season.

Years later after Vince Lombardi’s death his son was to write – “My personal interest lies in Peter Vann’s contribution to the success of the 1953 Army team which I consider a major factor in my father’s success.”

5. Ted Husing the CBS Sports announcer for the Duke Game — “These Boys have got me so excited I can’t even finish the Broadcast. Take over Walter”

If you do not know who Ted Husing was – – wikipedia provides this “Husing’s personally could be arrogant, coarse and opinionated. He was the first to bring a candid, editorial style to sports play- by- play. He was barred for two years by Harvard University for covering its home football games after he called All American quarterback Barry Wood’s performance “putrid”. After criticzing World Series umpires in 1934, Husing was banned from doing play-by-play of the Fall Classic by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis”

6.Col Blaik “When I come to describe the team of 1953, what they meant to me and, far more important, what they meant to West Point, I cannot praise them enough.”

7. Grantland Rice wrote with eloquent simplicity, “They came up the hard way and there probably has never been a squad with a finer spirit.”

8. Winners of the Lambert Trophy.

9. Rated No. 14 Nationally.

10. Col Blaik was named Coach of the Year by the Washington Touchdown Club.

11. Col Blaik After the Duke Game — The emotionally-controlled Blaik who, with tears in his eyes, handing the Army-Duke game ball to Bob Mischak with the words – “Don’t ever give up.” He was later to refer to the it as “The Game never to be forgotten.”

12. The Silence imposed upon the Corps The Corps’ preparation for the game had been more than unusual, including a “silence” imposed by the cheerleaders at the meal following Blaik’s talk. The “silence” which began after the traditional pregame sendoff of the team – proved potent. The cheerleaders had put a cork in the bottle of more than two years of pent up frustration. When the Corps completed its subdued, strangely silent, pregame march-on at the Polo Grounds, and the last man double-timed onto the first step of the stands, the men in gray exploded. They shook that old stadium almost non-stop in the sunshine and shadows of that Indian summer afternoon.

13.Duke ball players reaction — Worth Lutz, Dukes 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.”

14. New York Times the day after Army’s 14 – 13 win over 7th ranked Duke summed up what that Team did 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.”

And anothe quote — “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.”

Bob had run down Duke’s All American Red Smith. For nearly 15 years afterward the story of Army’s win and Bob’s tackle was part of West Point’s Military Psychology and Leadership Course – as an example of the power of motivation.

15. NY Times again

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

Third was Ralph Chesnauskas, Yearling right guard who played the entire sixty minutes”

16. Even today Lowell Sisson ’54 accepts responsibility for the ’53 Team’s only loss. How many Athletes are willing to admit their contribution to a loss 56 years past, especially when that Team had such an outstanding Season – such was and is the makeup of the ’53 Team.

The NCAA changed the rules for the 1953 Season what was in effect a return to Iron Man Football. Lowell played Offensive End during the ’52 Season but in trying to come up with the best fit, Lowell was switched to the backfield in the spring of ’53.

“About 10 days before the season was to start I was called in to Col Blaik’s office. Fearful regarding what the reason was, I reported in to find “Col Blaik” and “Vince Lombardi” there and they proceeded to ask me what my reaction would be if they were to switch me back to end. I said I did not care where they wanted me to play as long as I could be of value to the team.

Because of the switch back to end I did not get totally grooved into playing defensive end and this contributed to a large degree why we lost our only game that season. I felt I played a terrible game against Northwestern and contributed mightily to our defeat.”

17. Col Blaik wasn’t a coach who gave emotional, fire and brimstone speeches at halftime. Rather, he was analytical. He identified mistakes and taught his team how to correct them. Not so against Dartmouth. He was frustrated by a flat, lackluster first half and gave his team a tongue lashing.

Ralph Chesnauskas remembers they were the harshest he ever heard the Colonel speak — words to the effect – – –

“I do not care if it is your Mother across the line from you, I want her on the ground.”

18. Col Blaik’s offensive play routine required the Army center to be the first man out of the huddle after the quarterback called the play. As the center trotted up over the ball, the rest of the team would pause, then break from the huddle, and jog to the line of scrimmage. Not so the second half against Dartmouth, or against any other team the remainder of the 1953 season.

Center Norm Stephen ’54 was so energized by Blaik’s blistering half time remarks, that on the first offensive play of the second half he bolted from the huddle and raced to the ball – and the other ten players pausing for a moment to understand, followed his lead. The Corps roared their approval, and that pattern continued the rest of the afternoon. A new method for calling up “the twelfth man” had been established.

19. Colonel Red Reeder who served West Point as Assistant Athletic Director in the Army Athletic Association, (The Triple A) from 1948 to 1967 had this to say –

“In all my association with the Corps, I have never seen a better display of Sprit. ”

20. The Cheer Leaders were told a Pack Howitzer was too expensive to be given to the Cadet Corps. With the help of the Ordinance Department Jay Gould ’54 constructed a Cannon from a German Rocket Gun captured at Kasserine Pass. It was first used in the Duke Game.

The Cadets were nearly paranoid with concern that the Middies were going to interfere with the Cheer Leaders plans for the Navy Game 6 weeks away. Bill Robinson took the step to hide the Victory Cannon at Ft. Hamilton in NYC after the Duke Game. It is another indicator of how intent the Cadets were on keeping things going, supporting the team the entire season without a hitch.

21. Billy the Navy Goat was taken by Cadets and paraded through Washington Hall. President Eisenhower ordered the Cadets to immediately return the Goat.

22. They were one of the smallest Army football teams in years, at season’s end thirty-eight men, a team of heroes with no stars and with a different hero each Saturday.

23. Neil Chamberlin a standout at tackle during the ’52 Season was lost during the summer of 1953. Col Blaik said of the season “Injuries as the season advanced cost the Team solid fullback and punter Fred Attaya ’54, hard-nosed right halfback Mike Zeigler ’56, and spirited end “Ski” Godwin Ordway ’55. By the time season got down to the Penn and Navy games, the starting eleven and about four substitutes carried the full load.”

The 1953 Team was a Team of Iron Men committed to the ideals of West Point. They played Iron Man Football.

23. Army Defense – In the Duke Game 23 passes were thrown by Duke compared to the 28 passes which were throw in their first 4 games. Chesnauskas, Zeigler at guard, Farris and Melnik at the tackles, Mischak, Sisson and Holleder controlling the sweeps, bottled up Duke’s running game all afternoon except for the one reverse and 73 yard sprint by Red Smith which Mischak hauled down.

24. Bob Brogi ’62 when asked if he supported the Nomination replied –

“Absolutely and unquestionably YES, YES and YES. Unlike most members of our Class, being from Highland Falls and a 15 year old in 1953, I saw all of the Army home football games in 1953 as well as most of 1949-1957. In the early years to include 1953, I had to watch not from the inside stadium, but from a high oak tree which I would climb so that I had a commanding view above what was then the somewhat temporary stands at the North end of the field. About that year, I became much more savvy as to ways that I could get or con tickets from those who were not going to use and always sat as a real participant. So I vividly recall seeing Sisson, Stephen, Tommy Bell, Pat Uebel, Fred Attaya, Peter Vann, Bob Mischak, Ralph C., Don Hollander , and many, many others through the years.”

25. Jim Morgan ’57x remembers General James Van Fleet, before the Navy Game, standing on the Poop Deck, stripping off his uniform down to a Beat Navy T-shirt, then putting on his Army sweater with his Football Army A, bring from the Corps of Cadets thunderous shouts, demanding Victory over Navy.

26. Dick Stephenson ’57 who earned 3 Army A’s as a lineman; (who is remembered even today by Bob Anderson ’60 for the hit Dick put on Bob in Bob’s introduction to Army Football in the fall of 1956) remembers – –

One of Army football’s most effective passers, Peter Vann, the Army QB (with a truly great right handed passing arm), managed a left handed forward shovel pass to Freddie Attaya, from the grasp of the Duke’s All American tackle Eddie Meadows who had pinned Petes’s passing, right arm to his torso, which Freddie caught to keep an Army drive going on into a score…simply unbelieveable momentum, continuity, and a bit of luck.

Who remembers the incredible diagonal, quickly one-on-one, pursuit of the Duke halfback, Red Smith, in an open field chased by Army’s end, Bob Mischak, catching and covering somehow, from some 73 long, long yards, with Mischak tackling him from behind, at Army’s 7-yard line. The Duke halfback never ran so fast and free, and Bob Mischak literally found another gear. The score was already 14-13, Army, at this time in the game, as I recall.

Who remembers following this incredible pursuit/catch by Bob Mischak, the Army team put on a goalline stand that defied all sense, reason, or logic, holding Duke off on all four downs, with Duke so arrogantly confident that they refused a field goal attempt!

27. Freddie Attaya remembers Vince Lombardi’s shouted advice to him as he ran onto the field in a third and seven situation. “Run the gauntlet” yelled Lombardi.

Vince was reminding his fullback of a drill he put his backfield through in practice. Running backs, carrying the ball pressed against their gut, ran hard between two lines of eight players each. The ball carriers’ forearms protected the ball, and their hands tightly gripped opposite ends of the pigskin, every player in the gauntlet aggressively tried to “tackle the ball.” Freddie ripped the middle of Duke’s line for nine yards and a first down. When he came off the field, Lombardi rushed to hug him, telling him he had done a great job.

28. Jerry Lodge, converted from guard to fullback during spring practice, remembered the Duke game for a different reason. He played fullback on offense and guard on defense when Army was in a six-man line, and moved into linebacker when Army went to a five-man line. On defense, he played alongside the few linemen who were in the game nearly the entire 60 minutes and was in Army’s dramatic goal line stand following Bob Mischak’s game-saving tackle. With first and goal on Army’s 7-yard line, the cadets held Duke on a fourth down quarterback sneak from the two, with 40 seconds to play.

Throughout the final two minutes of play, especially during Duke’s four thrusts at the Army goal, it was almost impossible to hear or think because of the roar from the crowd. Cadets had come down out of the stands, were pressing around the Army bench and close to the sidelines, imploring their defense to hold.

Army’s always thorough scouting reports helped exploit Duke’s weaknesses and patterns.

Jerry Lodge remembered what Blaik had told the team. When the Blue Devils get inside an opponents’ 10-yard line, they run the ball between their own tackles on 95% of plays. And when they get close to the goal line, they run quarterback sneaks. Prior to the fourth down play, a Duke assistant threw a kicking tee onto the field, indicating a field goal attempt.

Lutz picked up the tee and threw it back, disdaining the field goal.

Gerry Lodge had seen his teammate, left guard Dick Ziegler ’54, playing magnificently all afternoon, often absorbing the energy of three Duke blockers because of his hard charges in the middle of their line. As Duke huddled for Lutz to call the fourth down play, Lodge said to Ziegler “Remember, he’s going to try to sneak.”

Duke’s Lutz did, but he was met by a wall of white jerseys. Army took over on downs, inches from the goal line, while the Corps of Cadets shouted their frenzied approval. But the game wasn’t yet over. On first down, Freddie Attaya, on orders from Blaik, punted from deep in his end zone. Duke had 30 more seconds and four more plays from the Army 37-yard line – all passes – all knocked away. Peter Vann, Army’s quarterback, batted away the last pass in the end zone, a pass thrown by Gerry Barger, Duke’s quarterback, to starting quarterback Worth Lutz.

29. To back up — With two and one half minutes left in a game that was already emotionally and physically exhausting, Duke took the ball on downs just inside their own 20-yard line with Army leading 14-13. Worth Lutz knew he needed a long gain. His team didn’t have the energy for a long, grinding drive, so he called a double reverse. Lutz handed the ball to halfback Bob Pascal, indicating a sweep around Army’s left side. Pascal then slipped the ball to “Red” Smith, Duke’s speedy All-American candidate, heading in the opposite direction. Army’s defense over commited, and Smith broke into the secondary. After sidestepping a linebacker, he was in the clear, ten yards beyond pursuing Army defenders, sprinting toward the southeast corner of the field.

Earl Blaik years later described reactions on the Army sidelines.

“We on the bench and the Corps of gray in the lower stands behind us shot to our feet in sudden silent, stunned consternation. Smith looked home free. I felt our heads were being pushed down once more into the ashes of 1951.”

Then, from out of the pack of pursuers, came left end Bob Mischak. He had an angle on Smith and rapidly began closing the gap at the 50-yard line. By the time Smith crossed the Army 20, Mischak had closed to 3 yards. The Army stands were coming alive, shouting encouragement to him, but it was important that he not commit too soon. Blaik held his breath, muttering to himself, – “Not yet! Not yet!” As Smith crossed the 12-yard line, Earl Blaik was saying “Now! Now!” Bob Mischak leaped far and high, caught Smith around the shoulders at the 10, and downed him on the 7-yard line.

Earl Blaik remembered Bob Mischak’s game-saving tackle for the rest of his life.

“In somehow catching and collaring [Smith], Mischak displayed heart and a pursuit that for one single play I have never seen matched. Yet his feat, one of the great defensive plays of football, would have soon been forgotten, had it not been for the [goal line stand that] followed.

30. They were only scored on 12 times in ’53. One by Navy, 5 times by Northwestern with 6 spread out over the other 7 Teams.

General MacArthur said it would take 10 years.

The Leadership of the Class of 1954, the commitment, the self sacrifice of the Classes of 1955 and 1956 — of every member of that Team, supported by the Thunderous Chant of Go, Go, Go from the Class of 1957 insured that it only took 3 years.

Cadets left to right, Clyde W. La Grone, Roman J. Peisinger, Ira Coron, and Leonard Griggs. In the background is Rox Shain, the Army player whose game-opening diagonal kickoff preceded Navy’s fumble. (Photo courtesy of Willis C. Tomsen, ’54.)

It was the Season Army Returned to Glory

Col. Earl Blaik leaving the field late afternoon Nov. 28th 1953 after the Army Team beat Navy 20 to 7.

“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.”

We five Classes believe the 1953 Football Team did more for West Point than any other Team in any Sport.

signed by ’54, ’55, ’56, ’57, ’62


1. The ’53 Season

2. Bob Mischak’s Letter to Last year’s Selection Committee


3. Army Football Classsics -1953 Football Film





1. Complete Review by the Members of the 1953 – 1954 Corps of Cadets to insure correctness of material. (In the Chant were there 3 Go Go Gos or 4? Is it Jerry or Gerry Lodge – Academy Publications-Howitzer and The Pointer have it both ways – just informed it is Jerry)? A misspelled name and incorrect location of a player in the Team photo have been corrected – are there any other corrections? Need better picture of Ordway.

2. Rework of the draft Nomination and The ’53 Season by ’62.

3. Continue the count of the Class of ’62 to determine an exact number supporting the Nomination.

4. Add any additional comments from the 1953 – 1954 Corps of Cadets which support the Nomination.

5. Determine if each of the 4 Class Presidents (’54 – ’57) or an approprite representative from each Class are willing to sign the Nomination. Failing that, if available would the 1953 – 1954 Cadet Brigade Commander be willing to sign the Nomination?

Work Area

The 1953 – 1954 Corps of Cadets and ??? members of the Class of 1962 Nominate the 1953 Football Team for the Army Sports Hall of Fame.

We the Graduates of the Classes of 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1962 believe the 1953 Football Team must be recognized for what they gave back to the Corps of Cadets, for what they gave for our Honor Code, for what they gave back to our Academy Motto — for what they gave back to the United States Military Academy.

Bill McWilliams Support of the 1953 Nomination

January 29, 2009

Mr. Bob Beretta

Senior Associate Athletic Director for Athletic Communication

U.S. Military Academy

639 Howard Road

West Point, NY 10996

Dear Mr. Baretta;

I am honored to have the privilege of supporting, and in the strongest possible terms urging the selection of the 1953 Army football team for the Academy’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Enclosed please find the book, A Return to Glory, and two articles, one on Vince Lombardi, the other on the 1953 Army-Duke football game, both published some years ago in Assembly magazine. Together, these three items chronicle the history of Army football’s astonishing turnaround following the devastating 1951 cheating incident, a turnaround crowned by the 1953 team’s glowing achievements. The succeeding paragraphs will highlight a few of the team’s additional, unforgettable accomplishments and effects, some comments resulting from their play and at the same time, through the enclosed writings offer those considering the nomination a far deeper understanding of its remarkable history. With respect to the book, I will identify the most pertinent chapters and pages to ease learning about the players and their season, a season never to be forgotten by the Corps of Cadets of that era – and a season that inspired the Bicentennial book’s title.

Before proceeding, it is important to put the subject in perspective with Coach Earl Blaik‘s words about the 1953 Army football team. In his 1974 autobiography, The Red Blaik Story, he wrote, “When I come to describe the team of 1953, what they meant to me and, far more important, what they meant to West Point, I cannot praise them enough.” Of them, Grantland Rice wrote with eloquent simplicity, “They came up the hard way and there probably has never been a squad with a finer spirit.” True, we did look for better things than in 1951 and “52”. We did not harbor, however, the faintest dream of even localized empire. Any prognostication that we would win the Lambert Trophy, emblematic of the Eastern Championship, and be rated No. 14 nationally would have been tabbed fantastic. With Coach Blaik’s words as background, the team’s history echoes his witness.

They were one of the smallest Army football teams in years, at season’s end thirty-eight men, a team of heroes with no stars and with a different hero each Saturday, all playing for honor and love of the game, undeniable facts laid out in chapters 17-19 (pages 787-916) in A Return to Glory. They were led by quiet, solid leaders from the class of 1954; augmented by a small number of players from the smallest Academy class in years, 1955, and a bevy of talented yearlings in the class of 1956 who set the gridiron on fire that fall. All, together, became inspired. Though the phrase wasn’t originated by Coach Earl Blaik, it was the incomparable football teacher, the thoroughly emotionally-controlled Blaik who, with tears in his eyes, handed the Army-Duke game ball to Bob Mischak, Army’s left end who made the incredible game-saving tackle. Blaik’s words to Bob were simple but powerful, and echo down through the years, “Don’t ever give up.”

The cheating incident had never-publicized, lingering effects on Army football players in the three following seasons, effects witnessed and painfully felt by the young, inexperienced B and C teams – the men who accomplished the “football miracle” of 1953. As Blaik wrote years later in baring his bitterness and frustration over the cheating incident, “For two years these boys had seen the roughest action. They had lived with the coaching lash, dirt, blood, and defeat.” Adding to the effects the players faced was the revelation that the much-admired Army varsity had been deeply involved in what became a national scandal. In a number of cases the players left to pick up the pieces became subjects of totally unwarranted suspicions and stinging criticisms simply because they were Army football players. Army football, indeed, service academy football came under sharp attack in Congress as well as in the media. It seemed to some players that men they had looked up to as champions and team leaders had disgraced not only themselves, the Academy, the Army and Air Force, they had embarrassed and disgraced the game of football. The season of 1953 changed all that — the team and the Corps of Cadets washed the effects away with stunning, inspirational teamwork and marvelous achievements. Yet, there were more hurdles to cross before they could accomplish their football miracle.

Following the 1952 season, changes in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules greatly restricted substitution and for several years virtually ended the offensive-defensive unit two-platoon system. The result was to lengthen playing time for varsity players, decrease the number of varsity letters awarded, increase injury potential, and cause a return to what in years past had been called “iron man football”.

To compete under the more complicated substitution rules, Coach Blaik chose to return to the type of two-platoon system he inaugurated at Army during the World War II years, two or three units that went both ways, on offense and defense. While the rule changes impacted all collegiate teams, no team Army was to face in 1953 had suffered the total loss of its varsity lettermen and team leaders two years earlier. The losses had forced virtually complete rebuilding from the ground up. Other colleges and universities would have been able to accelerate efforts to make up such losses with much larger student bodies and massive numbers of alumni on the lookout for talent, aggressive well-funded recruiting, junior college transfers, and the growing lure of expanding professional football immediately after graduation. Not so at Army.

The NCAA rule changes had other impacts not normally visible to cadets and Army sports fans — but were quite clear to team members vying for varsity status and the coveted Major A. The remaining 1953 team members, who, at the end of the 1952 season believed they had almost secured starting offensive or defensive platoon positions, suddenly found themselves being retested and moved from one position to another to determine who could play both offense and defense and had the conditioning, strength and stamina to play both ways. Their extraordinary individual responses were inspirational, highlighting individual willingness to sacrifice for the team. Again, from Coach Blaik’s 1974 book.

“A normal amount of injuries as the season advanced cost us solid fullback and punter “Fred Attaya”, hard-nosed right halfback “Mike Zeigler”, spirited end “Ski” “Godwin Ordway”, and a few others. By the time we got down to the Penn and Navy games, the starting eleven and about four substitutes carried the full load” At quarterback, “Peter Vann” shared the job to some extent with “Jerry Hagan” early in the season, but improved gradually to indispensable level. Vann, Pat Uebel, and “Tommy Bell” at halfbacks and “Gerry Lodge” at fullback played 60 minutes against Penn and almost all the way in the Navy game.”

It’s important to note, that Peter Vann was a sterling offensive team leader his last two years at Army, became a classic drop-back passer and deft ball-handling and faking wizard who repeatedly confused defensive linemen, and was far more than Blaik’s description of him on defense as “dependable in a crisis”. Playing at defensive right halfback on the last play of the season’s crucial, turnaround game, he too made a game-saving play, batting away a pass thrown from Duke’s quarterback to their alternate quarterback — in the Army end zone – then went on to be ninth in Heisman Trophy voting and a second team All-American quarterback in 1954. Right halfback Tommy Bell, scored one of the two touchdowns against Duke, became a first team All-American in 1954 and that same year one of the few four-year lettermen in Army football history. Yearling left halfback Pat Uebel, who scored one of the two touchdowns in the stunning upset of No. 7-ranked Duke and all three of Army’s touchdowns in the win over Navy — one of a small number of Army players to score three touchdowns against Navy, and to that time the only player to score all three touchdowns in a win over Navy – was another hero in the 1953 Army backfield. Of Army’s two lead halfbacks Coach Blaik would write, “In ’53 and ’54 both Uebel and Bell were among the top echelon of all-time West Point halfbacks.” (See pages 202-206 of A Return to Glory, for added information on Thomas J. Bell and Robert M. Mischak.)

Rounding out the backfield after the loss to injury in the Tulane game of the swift, agile, hard-driving fullback, and punter, “Freddie Attaya”, was guard-converted-to-fullback “Gerry Lodge”, who stepped into Freddie’s shoes and performed magnificently at both fullback on offense and linebacker on defense. It was this backfield, plus three great Army ends, and this team that brought Vince Lombardi to the attention of the New York Giants at the end of the 1953 season, setting Vince on course to become a legendary professional coach. (See pages 208-216 for added information on Lowell Sisson, “Gerald Lodge”, “Leroy Lunn”, “Freddie Attaya”, and Peter Vann.)

Blaik said of the three ends on the 1953 team, “Our end play was handled by Bob Mischak, Lowell Sisson, and a yearling of unusual potential named Don Holleder. Sisson was another who kept improving and hit the top in the Navy game. After Attaya’s injury, Sisson did the punting. Mischak developed into a fine pass receiver and on defense he delivered the play that was the pivot, in a real sense, of the entire season. Holleder was a naturally talented pass receiver with outstanding speed, hands, and competitive fire. By 1954
he became just about the most dangerous offensive end in college ranks. Don later became an Army legend in his own right. A first team All-American end in 1954, he voluntarily gave up the chance to become a two-time All-American, by acquiescing to Coach Blaik’s request that he switch to quarterback for the 1955 season, a position he had never played in either high school or college. On 17 October 1967, his courage and heroism in Vietnam while attempting to rescue wounded soldiers in his unit cost him his life. His life and service became the inspiration for the now-well-known Black Lion Award to football players at every level of football played in the nation, from youth leagues to intercollegiate Division IA.

Army linemen on the thinly-manned 1953 team included three guards, captain “Leroy Lunn”, his classmate “Dick Ziegler”, and yearling “Ralph Chesnauskas”, whose talents included extra-point conversions. Ralph calmly kicked the two extra points against Duke to win the game, and became a first team All-American in 1954. Blaik, writing of “Leroy Lunn”, said, “I think it epitomized the character of this team and Lunn’s inspirational leadership that he was able to handle a difficult situation in a manner that increased his stature. It was not an easy thing to walk out there every Saturday for the toss of the coin and then to have to return to the bench and not be in for the kick-off. Roy
never let this bother his playing when he did get in. He improved so much that he clearly earned the right to start with his team against Navy. Then he went out and played the best game of his career.”

Center “Norman Stephen” was a steady, rock-solid team leader on offense, who on the first play from scrimmage in the second half of the second home game of the season, against Dartmouth, — lit a small but growing fire in the team and Corps of Cadets — when he broke from the huddle and ran, almost sprinting to the ball, prompting the team to follow his lead. The roar of approval and support from the Corps each time Norm broke and ran to the ball, from that point forward through the rest of the season, continued to unify a determined Corps of Cadets with their team. He was a standout linebacker who was the on-field captain who called defensive signals. Starting at tackle were two yearlings, “Ron Melnik” and “Howard Glock”, with first classman “Joe Lapchick”, Jr. doing most of the reserve playing.

Coach Blaik considered the heart of his defense to be yearling Bob Farris, a top man academically who in 1955 became the Corps’ First Captain, played tackle on offense and was a line backer on defense in 1953. “The linebacking of Farris against Navy was as fine as I have ever seen in that game,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the abandon with which he played cost him a detached retina that ended his football. To have played him would have risked an aggravation that might have impaired his sight. Nevertheless, Bob captained our 54 team and helped out with coaching.”

None of the foregoing tells of the incredible will-to-win spirit and support of the 1953 team by the entire Corps of Cadets, all of it specifically intended to unify the team and Corps of Cadets in ways never before seen or heard at West Point. It’s marvelous success was marked with the most unusual Lambert Trophy presentation in the award’s history. (Detailed in A Return to Glory, pages 912-916). First offered in 1936, and sponsored by New York City’s brothers, Victor A. and Henry L. Lambert, the trophy was symbolic of Eastern football supremacy, and had been won by Army in 1944, ’45, ’46, ’48 and ’49. For the first time, on a Sunday evening, 20 December 1953, in Washington Hall, the Lambert Trophy was presented outside of New York City to a football team and its student body. (Photograph, page 914)

Respectfully, for your consideration,

Bill McWilliams, USMA 1955

NHF Books, Inc.

2229 Fiero Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89134-6042

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53′ Football, 52′ and 47′

Dick Shea breaks the tape in his second successive two-mile
championship, Penn Relays, 1951.

Al, Ben, and the driver, right after the Navy Mascot’s unveiling in
Washington Hall (Photo courtesy Willis C. Tomsen, ’54)

Gerry Lodge grinds out yardage against North Carolina State, in
Michie Stadium. In the background is Bob Mishcak (87).

Al Rupp ’55, the getaway driver and Ben Schemmer ’54 pose with Bill
XII and Mr. Jackson, the Senior Army Mascot, at the Mule Pen. (Photo
Courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.)

The Army Victory Cannon, first time fired outside Michie Stadium at
the Duke game, is fired after an extra point against Columbia, at
Baker Field, 24 October 1953..

Deliriously happy Army players and cadets celebrate their stunning
14-13 upset of Duke University Blue Devils at the Polo Grounds in New
York City’s Polo Grounds, 17 October 1953. Identified players are
Lowell Sisson (83), right end; Bob Mischak (87), left end; Bill Cody
(11), quarterback; Ed Zaborowski (58), center; Joe Franklin (facing
Ed Zaborowski; Frank Burd (33), fullback; Peter Vann (10),
quarterback. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press.).

Tommy Bell drives for yards against Penn, at Franklin Field in

Freddie Attaya moves for yardage against Duke, after taking a hand-
off from Jerry Hagan. New York Times Photo..

Retired General James A. Van Fleet ’15 at the Washington Hall rally
prior to Army-Navy 1953. (Photo courtesy of USMA Archives).

Pete Vann (10) prepares to throw downfield against Columbia. In the
right foreground is Tommy Bell (46), with Pat Uebel (34), Melnick (70) is on the ground

Ben and Al parade Billy XII through the dining hall. (Photo courtesy
of Willis C. Tomsen, ’54).

Tommy Bell (46) prepares to lunge for more yardage. Pat Uebel (34),
in the foreground..

Navy fumbles attempting to return the opening kickoff. The photo,
taken by a photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, incorrectly
identified the Army player recovering the ball, as Howard Glock, when
in fact it was Lowell Sisson (83) who is on his feet facing the
camera lens as the ball squirts past his thighs. Glock (71), Bell
(46), Mischak (87), Farris (55) and Uebel (34) are identifiable.
(Photo courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.).

The Corps assembled in battalion mass, Philadelphia, prior to Army-
Navy 1953.

A chloroformed Navy mascot, Billy XII, sleeps soundly on the back
floor of a convertible on the way back to West Point, the Sunday
prior to the 1953 Army-Navy game. “Borrowed” by Ben Schemmer ’54 and
Al Rupp ’55, with the kind assistance of the car’s owner, a soldier
(unidentified) in the Academy band.

Inducted into the Collegiate Football Hall of Fame.

Arnold Tucker was an assistant coach working with the Army Plebe team in 1951, and was a TAC in company F-1 ’52-’54, thus was there the season of 1953. His classmate, then-captain Herbert O. Brennan, was TAC in K-1. Herbie Brennan, a Korean War fighter-bomber pilot and destined for great things, but was tragically shot down and killed over Vinh, North Vietnam, in about October 1967, when his F-4 took a direct hit from AAA. He and Mary had five children..

Dick Inman ’52 clears his hurdle in the 4X120 shuttle hurdle relay,
Penn Relays, Saturday, 26 April 1952. Note the race was run on the
infield grass at Franklin Field, due to heavy rain. Army placed
second in the event, though they were given championship watches
because the Air Force service team placing first was ineligible to
compete in the college division, but was trying for an berth on the
1952 U.S. Olympic team. Other Army shuttle hurdle relay team members
were Ed White ’52, Bill Purdue ’54, and Larry Johnson ’52. (Photo
courtesy of the Penn Relays’ Director.)

Dick Shea and runner-up Smith of Penn State, after Dick’s third
successive championship two-mile run, Friday, 25 April 1952. (Photo
courtesy of the Penn Relays’ Director.).

Dick Shea ’52, captain of Army’s track team, breaks the tape in his
third successive two-mile run championship, in the 1952 Penn Relays,
Friday, 25 April 1952. Note the muddy track and a victory in
difficult weather conditions. (Photo courtesy of the Penn Relays

Army team captain Leroy Lunn receives the Lambert Trophy, symbolic of
eastern football supremacy, in a ceremony in Washington Hall, Sunday
evening, 20 December 1953 – the first time in the trophy’s history it
was awarded outside New York City, and the first time to a team AND
its student body. The two brothers Victor and Henry Lambert first
awarded the trophy in 1936. (Photo courtesy of the USMA Archives.).

An ecstatic Earl Blaik leaves the field after Army’s 1953, 20-7 win
over Navy. Cadet well wishers in the foreground next to Blaik are,
left to right, Clyde W. La Grone, Roman J. Peisinger, Ira Coron, and
Leonard Griggs. In the background is Rox Shain, the Army player whose
game-opening diagonal kickoff preceded Navy’s fumble. (Photo courtesy
of Willis C. Tomsen, ’54.).

Pat Uebel races for the end zone, running back a Navy punt for a
touchdown. There are some errors in identification of the Army
players. In the upper left, Odom is in fact Norm Stepen (51), Burda
is in fact Lowell Sisson (83), and the numbers of the player
identified as Sisson keeps him unidentified. (Photo courtesy of Urban
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.).

Tommy Bell prepares to take a pass thrown by Pete Vann. From left to
right, Lowell Sisson (83), Gerry Lodge on the ground (32), Pat Uebel
(34), Howard Glock (71), Leroy Lunn (60), and Norm Stephen (51). The ball is seen against the man standing with the long coat,just over the 40 yard line, while just left of Tommy Bell, Billy (the Navy Goat) remembers the fine treatment he received as guest of The Corps of Cadets.
(Photo courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.).


Corps March On, pre-game at the Polo Grounds, 17 October 1953.

Pete Vann takes to the air against Dartmouth in Michie Stadium. Gerry
Lodge in the foreground giving pass protection..

Army’s Tommy Bell takes a handoff from Peter Vann. Army-Navy 1953.
(Photo courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Phildelphia, PA.).

Milton Caniff, Steve Canyon cartoonist, prepares the Corps for No. 7
Duke at the Thursday rally in Washington Hall..

The 1953 cheerleaders, standing, for the Army team, with tumblers in
the first row.
Cheerleaders, left to right: Ed Moses, ’54; John Clayton ’55, Al
Worden ’55, Billy McVeigh ’54, Jay Edwards ’54, Bill Robinson ’55;
Tumblers: Peter Jones ’54, Dan Ludwig ’55, Jack Charles ’54, Charles
Glenn ’56..

Why ’62 Nominated the ’53 Football Team for West Point’s Hall of Fame

The Reasons for 62’s Nomination

After the Navy Game —- He ordered the door secured and as he turned to speak his eyes were misty. “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”.

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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.”


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

The Army – Navy Rosters

The Last Game for the Class of 54

The Upcoming Duke Game

Furman and Northwestern Games

And then there is Navy

The Opposition

Two of Army’s Greats

Col Red Reeder

Also see Red Reeder, Class of 1926

B Squad

Yearlings of the 53 Team

Col Blaik Looks at Upcoming Season

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Army’s Year 1953

Bob Mischak’s tackle – 1953 Army Duke

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Mike Natvig

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