A history of the Bears who served during World War II

A history of the Bears who served during World War II

Six eventual members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the franchise's all-time leader in touchdown receptions.  

Those are among some 45 Bears from the past who served this country during wartime, one of whom made the ultimate sacrifice as we, as a nation, take some time to remember those whose lives were taken protecting our freedom.

Former LSU quarterback Young Bussey played just one year for the Bears, but was part of the 1941 Championship team, contributing two interceptions while playing in 10 of the 13 games. But teammate George McAfee was attributed as saying he was "difficult to coach," and perhaps that's why he left the NFL for the Navy in 1942 after playing for the Bears in a 34-24 win over the Chicago Cardinals on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Bussey earned his way to Lieutenant, but while serving in the Phillipines during the Japanese occupation, was killed in the line of duty in 1945. He was 27.

As we should also remember every November on Veteran's Day to the many men and women who've served, the Bears had several great players, not to mention George Halas, commit to duty, as the organization captured its sixth and seventh world championships in 1943, and then when they got everyone back in 1946.

Halas was a Navy ensign at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in 1918 during World War I, then served in the Pacific Ocean for 20 months during WWII as Lieutenant Commander, released from his duties as a captain in 1946, receiving a Bronze Star, and received the highest recognition the Navy can give a civilian, the Distinguished Citizens Award.

Quarterback Sid Luckman began serving after the 1943 season, volunteering stateside as a U.S. Merchant Marine ensign. During the 1944 and 1945 seasons, the Hall of Famer would be gone during the week but granted permission to play in games on weekends. But Luckman was on his way from Britain to France when the Allied Invasion of Normandy took place on June 6, 1944.

Two key members of the franchise's war-interrupted glory days were Hall of Fame linemen. Tackle Joe Stydahar served in the Navy in 1943 and 1944. Guard Danny Fortmann served in the Pacific for the Navy the last two years of WWII. And the aforementioned Turner played in just two games for the Bears in 1945, serving stateside as an Air Force physical training instructor.

The one Bears Hall of Famer who truly lost the prime of his career to serve was George McAfee. After two stellar seasons in 1940 and 1941, he missed what would've been his next three seasons and most of a fourth while in the Navy.

Ken Kavanaugh still holds the franchise record with 50 touchdown receptions. He ran 30 bombardment missions over Europe as an Air Force pilot and captain from 1942 through 1944.

Those are the most prominent of the Bears who served but there are more than three dozen others who did as well, surviving their time, and returning home in helping protect our nation.  Halas' son-in-law Ed McCaskey, longtime Bears executive and the late husband of Virginia, won a Bronze Star, serving in the Army during World War II. And the branches of the military tree reach out to your more modern-day Bears. Head coach John Fox's dad was a Navy SEAL, and more recent players like Charles Tillman, Tommie Harris, and Jason McKie all come from military families.

Then there's the building the Bears have called home since 1971. Whatever criticisms one may have of the organization, the decision by them and the Chicago Park District not to place a sponsor's name on Soldier Field for a big payday must be respected and appreciated. "Doughboy" was the informal name given members of the Army or Marines during the first two world wars, and there's a Doughboy statue at Gate O. There's also a Medal of Honor Tribute on the south concourse, and after the renovation, a Memorial Water Wall on the north side, recognizing all who have lost their lives on duty for our country.

We're all connected, somehow, to brave family or friends who've taken it upon themselves to be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, if called upon. On this last Monday of May, amidst the family time, the cookouts, and probably even some sports talk or sports watching that comes with it, it's also a time to remember part of the reason we're still here.

Under Center Podcast: Tom Waddle on who wins Bears' QB competition


Under Center Podcast: Tom Waddle on who wins Bears' QB competition

Laurence Holmes is joined by former Bears wide receiver and host of the Waddle & Silvy show on ESPN 1000 AM, Tom Waddle. They do a deep dive on the issues with Mitch Trubisky, who wins the Bears' starting QB job and Waddle makes a career comparison to Steve Kerr in "The Last Dance."

(5:30) - How can Trubisky be a better quarterback?

(10:00) - How can the QB competition be fair for the Bears?

(14:00) - Nick Foles has an advantage over Trubisky

(16:10) - Will Robert Quinn have an instant impact as a Bear?

(21:00) - Waddle compares his role with the Bears to Kerr's role with the Bulls

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast


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Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears learning from LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers

Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears learning from LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers

The Bears are reportedly getting value out of the virtual speaker series they launched while under stay-at-home orders

According to the Los Angeles Times, one particularly gripping guest was Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who spoke to the team for an hour and fifteen minutes on May 21.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk to groups,” Matt Nagy said via the LA Times. “And Doc, to me, not to take anything away from anybody else, but that was one of the most powerful hour-and-15-minute discussions that I had selfishly for myself and we had as a team.”

Rivers is one of the most successful basketball coaches in NBA history, leading the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008 and winning Coach of the Year in 2000 with the Orlando Magic. He’s also tied with Red Auerbach for 12th all-time in wins at 938.

He’s also a Chicago native who attended Proviso East, so he’s a big Bears fan too.

“Talking to the Bears, the whole team, are you kidding me?” Rivers told the LA Times. “I was jacked up about that.”

Apparently the Bears were pretty “jacked up” too, because according to the report after the talk ended Nagy’s phone blew up with players and coaches wondering if they could ask Rivers more questions.

Some of the things they did talk about, according to the report: how Rivers scored 54 points in a high school game only to be pushed harder by his dad, organizing a duck boat ride for Boston’s “big three” in 2007 to motivate them for a future parade route, and Kawhi Leonard’s leadership style.

“Man, there was so much good stuff in there,” Nagy said. “A lot of the stuff I don’t even want to tell because I don’t want other people to know.”

RELATED: Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

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