View Full Version : Football Amazing War Hero from the 1941 Detroit Lions

04-30-2008, 08:10 PM
Amazing NFL Player-to-Combat Hero Story Link to full article (http://www.ausa.org/webpub/DeptArmyMagazine.nsf/byid/TEUE-7DRLVP/$File/Mason.pdf?OpenElement)

Detroit Lions Receiver Maurice Britt was awarded all the decorations for valor that our nation confers on its Soldiers. This amazing 1941 Lions squad includes future Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White and NE Head Coach Bill Belichick's father.

Team photograph above: 1941 Detroit Lions.Top row: Byron White (44), Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1962–1993. Middle row: Steve Belichick (30), Naval Academy assistant football coach: 1956–1989 and father of current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Bottom row: Maurice Britt (81), Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient and lieutenant governor of Arkansas, 1966–1970.

More than 16,000 fans were
packed into Briggs Stadium to watch the Lions play the
Philadelphia Eagles. In the typical hard-hitting play that
both teams were known for, Detroit went into the half holding
a slim 7-3 lead, only to see the lead quickly disappear
when play was resumed. Philadelphia scored two quick
touchdowns, dominating the game almost
exclusively with rushing plays
straight up the middle. Aided by Detroit
penalties, the Eagles maintained a
comfortable 17-7 lead with less than
eight minutes remaining on the clock.
But the Lions were not going down
today. Suddenly they came to life after
being pushed around for three quarters
by Philadelphia’s T-formation attack.
With time waning, Detroit was
forced away from its conservative
game plan. Deep in the Lions territory,
quarterback Dick Booth heaved the
ball to Byron (Whizzer) White, the
Lions’ star running back, who had already
scored once in the first half.
Booth’s pass hit White in stride on Detroit’s
31 yard line. White, the league’s
rushing leader, was able to sidestep
four defenders, break a tackle and race
the remaining 69 yards to score.
On the next series, the Detroit defense stiffened, and the
Eagles were forced to punt, giving the Lions the ball back
on their own 28 yard line. On their first play, Lion fullback
Steve Belichick threw to White for a 12-yard gain. On the
next play, Booth rifled a deep pass to Maurice Britt, the
rookie All-American end from the University of Arkansas,
who had just entered the game. Britt hauled in the 45-yard
pass on the 15 and galloped into the end zone for the goahead
points. Detroit staved off a ferocious Eagles comeback
attempt, and the game ended as Philadelphia ran out
of time near the Lions goal line.

I saw Lt. Britt, slightly bleeding on the
face, having run out of carbine ammo, grab the M1 rifle
from a badly wounded man lying near me and continue to
fire with it. He also grabbed some hand grenades and with
his rifle and grenades went ahead into a wooded area
ahead of our position looking for Germans. A few minutes
later, I saw him throwing grenades, disregarding machinepistol
bursts hitting all around him. I marveled that he
wasn’t hit. Concussion grenades, too, were bursting all
around him …”
Sgt. James G. Klaes recalled, “All in all, I saw him [Britt]
throw approximately 10 to 12 grenades, with German automatic
fire and grenades coming back all the time.”
His face, chest and hands were covered from wounds
caused by three German “potato masher” grenades that he
managed to kick away just before they exploded. With the
initial German assault faltering, the remainder of the enemy
force faded back into the woods in front of his position.
Realizing the danger, Lt. Britt called for his men to
follow as he moved into the woods to clean out the threat.
Cpl. Eric B. Gibson, from Chicago, and Pvt. Hunter
Schimer, from New York City, followed their commander
forward. Cpl. Gibson recalled, “I saw his canteen was
pierced with bullet holes and his shirt covered with water;
his field glasses case, too, was pierced with bullet holes. I
was throwing hand grenades at the Germans, and Lt. Britt
asked me for some as he had thrown all he had. During the
morning he must have thrown at least 32 hand grenades …
After the battle was over, we counted 14 German dead. A
lot of them Lt. Britt killed himself. … Throughout the entire
morning, the Germans and Lt. Britt were exchanging
fire from as close as 15 yards apart.
“Lt. Britt was all over the draw and woods that morning,
he was a one-man army, and his actions and bravery undoubtedly
had much to do with routing the German counterattack.
Had he failed, the company would have been
isolated on Monte Rotundo.

05-01-2008, 08:23 AM
This is an amazing story. Just one of many about American soldiers in WW2. This truly was the "Greatest Generation".

05-01-2008, 09:41 AM
Cool story. Thanks for posting it.

05-01-2008, 06:37 PM
I have met many a phenomenal leader here in the Army, but Maurice Britt's story is akin to Biblical heroism. Amazing.

It also validates what I have believed for a long time, and borne out by personal experience: the gridiron is a great breeding ground for tough, brave civil servants, especially Soldiers and Marines. Lessons boys learn on the football field build character and toughness in a way that few other sports can.

RIP, Pat Tillman.