In late November 1941, two college football teams—Willamette University and San Jose State—set sail for Honolulu for a series of games with the University of Hawaii. Instead of a festive few weeks of football and fun, the players found themselves caught up in the first days of the United States’ war with Japan. For two weeks after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, the young men were recruited to dig and man trenches, string barbed wire, guard hotels, and join patrols as martial law took hold in Honolulu. They arrived home on Christmas Day after a dangerous journey back across the Pacific. Almost all of the players would go on to fight in the war.
This is a different kind of war story, blending battle and gridiron—along with a strong dose of human interest, of college-aged young men unexpectedly caught up in the world war. This is a story of war and football, of Pearl Harbor and the first moments of the U.S. in World War II. It is a story of the very first days of World War II as experienced by a group of young men who witnessed it firsthand—and would soon be fighting it (indeed, who were already fighting it). This is a story of heroism, courage, self-sacrifice, and duty in the maelstrom of war.