clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Remembering the fallen Longhorns of World War II

New, 12 comments

Two dozen Longhorn athletes were among the 600+ former University of Texas students and staff killed during World War II.

Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington Ridge Park
The Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the raising of the American flag at Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Former Texas Longhorn head coach Jack Chevigny was killed during that battle.

As Americans pay tribute on this Memorial Day to those who have served in the United States military and died in the line of duty, there’s no better time to remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by a number of Texas Longhorn football athletes and coaches.

The four Longhorn football lettermen who died while serving in World War I were covered in an earlier post, and this one is dedicated to those who died during World War II. The list of fallen Longhorns from World War II took up 13 pages of the 1946 Cactus yearbook and numbered 664 names in all.

In focusing only on the Longhorn football players among that group this post is a reflection of BON’s coverage of the school’s major athletics programs and is not meant to shortchange the sacrifice made by the hundreds of non-athletes who attended the University of Texas before serving in the military, who are just as deserving of remembrance on this and every other Memorial Day.


Joseph Gillespie Smartt (1917-1941)

Smartt tried out for the Longhorn varsity football team in 1935, and though he didn’t make the team and never earned a letter I’m including him in this post anyway. He shared a first and last name with his older first cousin Joseph Brevard Smartt, who was a Longhorn guard and a three-year letterman who served as team captain in 1935.

Joe G. Smartt was not quite two years old when his father, a physician, died in late December of 1918 during the second wave of the 1918 influenza pandemic after developing pneumonia following a bout with influenza. He attended North Dallas High School and the Terrill School for Boys in Dallas for his high school education. Along with the University of Texas, he also spent portions of his college career at the North Texas Agricultural College (which later became UT-Arlington) and SMU. He enlisted in the navy in 1940 and was trained as a pilot. Starting in October 1941, he was stationed at the Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, about 12 miles east of Pearl Harbor.

Just six weeks after arriving in Hawaii, Ensign Smartt was killed during the second wave of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Some contemporary reports stated that he was the first Texan to die in that attack.

A destroyer escort ship named in his honor, the USS Smartt (DE-257), was launched on February 22, 1943. Over the next two years it was part of several escort convoys that crossed the Atlantic Ocean between the U.S. and Europe or north Africa. The ship was decommissioned on October 5, 1945, and sold for scrap the following year.


Chal Newton Daniel, Jr. (1921-1943)

Daniel was a three-year football letterman (1939-41) and the second Longhorn guard to earn All-America honors, 27 years after right guard Louis Jordan (later a World War I casualty) became UT’s very first All-American in 1914.

As a 16-year-old high school senior, Daniel was a team captain and an all-state guard for the Longview High School football team that won the 1937 Texas state championship. After spending his first year at UT on the freshman (“yearling”) football team, he alternated with another player as the starter at right guard as a sophomore in 1939.

Though he turned 19 barely a month before the start of the 1940 season and was only listed at 6 feet and 188 pounds (lighter than some of the team’s halfbacks), expectations were high for Daniel that year, and the Longhorn coaches considered him the best lineman on the team. Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports writer Frank Tolbert said in August 1940 that Daniel “has more poise on the field than any lineman we’ve ever observed closely.”

He was lauded for his play in early season wins over Colorado and Indiana. Then, during the week of the Oklahoma game, he was profiled in the Austin American and was quoted as saying, “If we win one other game this fall, we will whip that A&M bunch.” “That A&M bunch” was the defending national champion Texas A&M Aggies, who had beaten Texas 20-0 en route to an 11-0 record the previous season.

Texas would beat Oklahoma and Arkansas in consecutive weeks to improve their record to 4-0, but then lost to Rice and SMU to all but end their chances of winning the conference. The Longhorns were 6-2 when they took the field against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day 1940, while the second-ranked Aggies were on a 19-game winning streak and in their two most recent games had handily beaten SMU and Rice by a combined score of 44-7.

The Aggies were heavy favorites, and with a win they were expected to get an invitation to the Rose Bowl, where they would face third-ranked Stanford. But Texas thwarted those plans with one of the most legendary upsets in school history.

Texas got the ball first at their own 35-yard line and used two long pass plays to move the ball to within a foot of the goal line. A touchdown run by fullback Pete Layden and a successful extra point kick gave the Longhorns a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game, and those would be the only points scored that day. UT gained just 123 total yards the rest of the game and punted 11 times, but its defense dominated A&M’s offensive attack. 18 Aggie pass attempts resulted in five completions for 51 yards and five Longhorn interceptions returned for a total of 39 yards.

The 7-0 Longhorn win shocked the Aggies and the college football world. A&M fell from the second to the sixth spot in the AP rankings, and settled for a berth in the Cotton Bowl Classic, where they defeated 12th-ranked Fordham 13-12. Stanford moved up to the #2 spot and beat #7 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, 21-13. Minnesota, which did not play in a bowl game, finished 8-0 and was the top-ranked team in the final AP poll, and is recognized as that season’s national champion.

Substitution rules would not be relaxed for a few more years, so every starter for Texas and A&M played both ways. Nine Longhorn starters, including Chal Daniel, played the entire game, and only two substitutions were made. The men whose combined efforts beat the mighty Aggies on that Thanksgiving Day in 1940 were thereafter dubbed “The Immortal Thirteen”.

Daniel played more snaps than any other Longhorn in the 1940 season, staying on the field for 417 of a possible 600 minutes of game time, and he was voted to the AP’s All-Southwest Conference second team.

He and 17 other lettermen were slated to return for the 1941 season, and that squad was expected to be perhaps the best in program history. Daniel was a young 20-year-old senior as the 1941 season began, and though only 200 pounds he was touted as a potential All-America selection. He and his teammates more than lived up to their preseason expectations through the first half of the season, outscoring their first six foes 230-27. Texas was ranked #2 by the Associated Press in its initial poll in late October, and following a 34-0 win over #20 SMU on November 1, the Longhorns moved ahead of defending national champion Minnesota to take over the #1 spot for the first time in school history. But their stay at the top was short-lived.

A 7-7 tie against Baylor and a 14-7 loss to TCU knocked the Longhorns down to the ninth spot in the rankings. The November 17, 1941 issue of Life magazine, which went to press at around the time of UT’s ascension to the top of the rankings but went on sale shortly before the loss to TCU, had a feature on the Texas Longhorn football program. The issue’s cover had pictures of 14 Longhorn players, all of the regular starters plus three key reserves. Chal Daniel was among the players who graced the cover, which gave the Longhorns the biggest jolt of national publicity the program had ever had.

The November 17, 1941 Life magazine, with 14 members of the Texas Longhorn football team featured on the cover. Chal Daniel is pictured at the far right in the third row from the top.

While Texas was falling victim to what was likely one of the earliest magazine cover jinxes in sports history, Texas A&M was once again running roughshod over its conference opponents and was undefeated at 8-0 going into the annual Thanksgiving Day matchup with Texas. As was the case at that same point in the 1940 season, A&M had risen to the #2 ranking in the AP poll behind Minnesota.

The Aggies had waited a full year for payback against the team that had spoiled their national championship dreams in 1940, but they were denied that revenge. Nine of the Immortal Thirteen who had played in the upset win over Texas A&M the previous year were in the starting lineup, and the result was an even more decisive win than the previous year’s. Texas traveled to Kyle Field and gained 418 total yards, held A&M to five net rushing yards, intercepted four Aggie passes, and blocked a punt in a 23-0 victory. It was UT’s first road win against A&M since 1923.

Texas moved up to #4 in the final AP poll, while A&M dropped to #9. Chal Daniel was named a first team All-American by the Sporting News, the International News Service, and Central Press Association, and made the third teams of the Associated Press and Life Magazine.

Texas finished off that season with a 71-7 thrashing of Oregon on December 6, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The 1942 NFL Draft was held just over two weeks later on December 22, 1941, and Daniel was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 6th round with the 44th overall pick, but he never played a down of pro football.

Two months after playing his last game as a Texas Longhorn, Chal Daniel enlisted in the Air Corps. After completing basic and advanced flight training, he received his wings and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in August of 1942, shortly before his 21st birthday.

On February 13, 1943, Daniel and Lt. Calvin E. Griffin took off from Randolph Field in San Antonio in a basic trainer plane, but never returned. Their plane crashed eight miles north of New Braunfels and was not found until four days later. Both were killed. Daniel was the first Longhorn football letterman to die in military service during World War II.

He was inducted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1970.


Shelby Othello Buck (1918-1943)

Buck was a two-year football letterman (1938-39) and a decorated boxer while at Texas, and as a pilot he flew for the air forces of two different countries during World War II. He is also the only Longhorn football letterman to come from Crosbyton, Texas, a small town about 35 miles east of Lubbock.

He made UT’s varsity football squad in 1937 but was very lightly-regarded and did not earn a letter. He improved in 1938 and was a backup end for much of the season, then an injury to a starter late in the season moved him into the lineup against the Davey O’Brien-led TCU team that would win that season’s national championship. Texas lost to TCU 28-6, but Buck played the entire game and impressed with his play at defensive end.

Buck, who stood 6’3” and whose weight was variously reported to be between 195 and 209 pounds over a three-year period, was a regular at offensive and defensive end in the 1939 football season. He was limited as a receiver due to hands that were suspect at best, but was often singled out for praise for his defensive play in published game reports.

In the week leading up to the 1939 game against Texas A&M, which would be his last as a Longhorn, he stated a desire to pursue a law degree once he had graduated with his bachelor’s degree in history. Soon afterwards, he hinted that he might launch a campaign to represent his hometown’s district in the Texas state legislature. It appears he did not end up pursuing either of those goals, but he did have a brief career as a professional boxer.

Boxing may have actually been his best sport. He was one of six sons in his family, and five of the six Buck brothers were competitive Golden Gloves boxers. Mere weeks after the end of the 1938 football season, Shelby Buck put his formidable punching skills to work in the local boxing circuit. In March 1939, Buck won the UT intramural heavyweight title, then two months later he won the heavyweight final of the Longhorn Boxing Club tournament. (At that time, a boxer only had to weigh in above 175 to be classified a heavyweight, while that division today is for boxers weighing 200+ pounds.) A Division I varsity athlete participating in a sport like boxing during their main sport’s offseason might seem crazy today, but it was not unheard of in that era.

On January 29, 1940, Buck won the Austin District Golden Gloves heavyweight title with an opening round knockout of his Longhorn Boxing Club teammate Ray Wallis. Wallis was a previous Golden Gloves champion himself, and the punch Shelby Buck landed to knock him out less than a minute into their fight was still talked about by Austin sportswriters decades later. Buck went on to finish as the runner-up heavyweight in the Golden Gloves state tournament in Fort Worth the following month.

He turned professional in boxing in late spring, and won his first professional bout by technical knockout in June 1940, but his pro career in the ring was a brief one. He registered for the military draft in October 1940, and at some point that year or in 1941 he joined the navy. In July of 1941 — still over four months before the United States officially entered World War II — he was allowed to transfer from the United States Navy to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

While training with the RCAF in Ottawa, Ontario, he played a bit of Canadian football, suiting up for the Ottawa Rough Riders in their 1941 season. He received his pilot wings in August of 1942, and was made a sergeant-pilot in the RCAF. He was sent to Europe some time later, and in April of 1943 he was among 90 Americans in the Royal Air Force and RCAF who were transferred to the United States Eighth Air Force, and with that transfer he was made a flight officer.

On May 30, 1943, he died when the plane he was flying crashed in England, and his death was widely reported in Texas and Ontario news outlets starting on June 8. He was 24 years old. An August 22, 1943 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article stated that Buck’s plane (which relatives believed was a B-17) had crashed in England on its return from a mission over the European mainland.

In February 1959, the Austin American-Statesman published the results of a poll it had commissioned from a panel of 14 longtime boxing observers, many of whom had judged or officiated Golden Gloves matches in Austin going back to the first such events in 1937. The panel members were asked to rank their picks for the ten best Austin area Golden Gloves boxers since 1937. Shelby Buck received the fifth-most points in the poll, which was taken nearly 19 years after his last match.

In a column that was widely-circulated the week of June 16, 1943, Associated Press sports writer Hugh Fullerton, Jr. related a story told by Houston Post reporter Victor Emanuel (a UT alum who had earlier worked at the Daily Texan) of how Shelby Buck had notified him in 1940 of his plans to get into professional boxing, with the goal of becoming “a main eventer”. Fullerton quoted Emanuel as saying, “Shelby died a main eventer.”


Glen Wallace Morries (1923-1944)

Morries was one of fourteen Temple (Texas) Wildcats who have earned letters playing for the Longhorn football program. He was called into military service when his collegiate career was just getting started, and he made the ultimate sacrifice while just 21 years old.

Morries played tackle on Temple High School’s 1940 team that reached the state championship game but lost to Amarillo, 20-7. He was quite big for his time at 6’2” and 230-235 pounds, and he impressed as a tackle playing on UT’s Yearling (freshman) squad in 1941.

As a sophomore in 1942 he was a backup right tackle behind senior Zuehl Conoly, but he played in every game and earned his first and only letter at the end of that season. Despite not being a starter in 1942, Morries impressed enough during his time on the field that shortly after the season he was one of two tackles named to the “Sophomore All-Star Team” of the Southwest Conference by AP Features Sports Editor Dillon Graham.

The 1942 Longhorns went 9-2 overall, won the Southwest Conference title, were ranked #11 in the AP’s final regular season poll, and finished the season with a 14-7 Cotton Bowl win over fifth-ranked Georgia Tech in the first bowl game in program history. Only six starters on the team were seniors, several quality backups were slated to return, and that year’s group of freshmen was said by freshmen coach and former head football coach Clyde Littlefield to be the best group of Yearlings he had ever coached during his time at Texas.

Under normal circumstances this would have been cause for great optimism preparing for the 1943 season, but the U.S. was a year beyond its entry into World War II by that time. News accounts from late January 1943 speculated that the Longhorns and most of their Southwest Conference rivals were likely to lose several eligible contributors who were already in the reserves of one military branch or another, and it was far from certain that a college football season would even be played that fall.

Morries was among a group of Longhorns who had already enlisted in the army reserves, and in the spring of 1943 they were ordered to report by April 27. He served in the US Seventh Army, 103rd Infantry Division, 411th Regiment, Company L. Sources differ on whether he was a sergeant or a private first class. He was killed in action in France on November 27, 1944, and his family was notified of his death a month later.

He was initially buried in France, but in July of 1948 his was one of 4,383 bodies of U.S. servicemen that were transported from France for reburial in the U.S., and he is now buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Temple.


James William “Red” Goodwin (1916-1944)

Goodwin was another member of the Immortal Thirteen to meet his end in a plane crash, as he went missing in action following an air skirmish over Germany on April 22, 1944 and was never seen again.

I dedicated an entire post to Red Goodwin’s story last week, which you can read here. Rather than repeat all 3,800+ words of that post I’ll recap the high points.

He was a standout lineman at Amarillo High School and was the starting center on its 1935 state championship team. After some time at an Oklahoma junior college, he enrolled at Texas in 1938 and was a member of the Longhorn varsity team in the 1939 and 1940 seasons, starting at center in 13 out of 19 games in those years. He was elected a co-captain of the 1941 squad, but ended up enlisting in the Army Air Corps that summer instead, as he was likely to otherwise be drafted.

He was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Force in 1942, promoted to captain the following year, married his college sweetheart on Easter Sunday in 1943, and most likely went to England when his fighter group was assigned there in January 1944. His P-47 was shot down in southwestern Germany in April 1944 and he was classified as “missing in action”. A November 1944 article in Life magazine talked about a Captain James Goodwin who had led the British-American mission in Yugoslavia earlier that year, working with groups of Yugoslav Partisans in their campaign against German forces.

Red Goodwin’s wife believed this man to be her missing husband, and after a series of communications between Rep. Lyndon Johnson (then serving as congressman for Texas’s 10th Congressional District) and military authorities in Washington and Europe, it was widely reported in late November 1944 that Red Goodwin had been evacuated and was heading home to Texas, but it turned out to be a bizarre case of mistaken identity and the military getting its wires crossed. Goodwin was declared legally dead in April 1945. He was 27 at the time of his assumed death. He was posthumously awarded an Air Medal for his service.


James Michael “Mike” Sweeney (1919-1944)

Sweeney was born in New Mexico but lived in Amarillo for nearly all of his youth. When he was three years old, his father died following an accident while working in an oil field, and Mike and his two older siblings were raised by their widowed mother.

Sweeney grew into an outstanding athlete and was an All-State end on Amarillo High School’s 1936 state championship football squad, which took home the last of three consecutive state football trophies won by that school. In the hard-fought 1936 state championship contest with Kerrville Tivy, Amarillo’s offense wasn’t the dominant force it had been earlier in the playoffs, but Sweeney blocked two punts that were returned for Amarillo touchdowns. Those two plays ultimately proved to be the difference in a game won by the score of 19-6.

After graduation he came to the University of Texas along with seven other starters on the 1936 Amarillo team and their head coach Blair Cherry, who began a ten-year run as a Longhorn assistant coach in 1937 before succeeding Dana X. Bible as head coach after Bible’s retirement in 1946.

After spending the 1937 season on the Longhorn freshman team, four of those eight Amarillo Golden Sandies earned letters in 1938: Mike Sweeney, John Gill, Bill Kilman, and Don Williams. That foursome would earn a combined total of ten football letters during their time at Texas.

Sweeney was a regular at one of the end positions in 1938, though he missed a pair of games late in the season due to a knee injury, and had surgery on that knee the following spring. He re-injured his knee while playing summer baseball in 1939 and ended up not only missing that football season but taking the entire semester off from school to recover. He re-enrolled at UT in the spring of 1940, re-joined the football team and worked his way back into football shape.

Going into the 1940 season there were questions about how well Sweeney’s knee would hold up and if he would look like the same player who had been a regular two years earlier. But he put those worries to rest with solid play on both sides of the ball. In UT’s third game of that season it faced Oklahoma, and Sweeney’s play was a big part of Texas beating the Sooners 19-16 to earn their first win in that rivalry in four years. Weldon Hart of the Austin Statesman said it was the best game of Sweeney’s career up to that point, and wrote “I doubt if there is a defensive end in the Southwest to compare with the Sweeney of the Oklahoma game.”

But two weeks later, Sweeney broke an ankle in the first half of the Longhorns’ game against SMU and was lost for the rest of the season. Texas and SMU were scoreless at halftime in that game, but SMU took control in the second half to win 21-13 and dash UT’s hopes of competing for a share of the Southwest Conference title. In the week following Sweeney’s injury, the Austin American’s Wilbur Evans lamented the loss, writing, “Perhaps no player on the squad has given more consistent top-notch performances this year” than Sweeney.

Sweeney’s fractured ankle meant a second season for him in which he missed multiple games due to injury, and it also meant that he missed out on playing in UT’s 7-0 upset win over unbeaten Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day, otherwise he would have been one of the “Immortal Thirteen”.

When some of his Longhorn teammates got married in 1941, Sweeney was rumored to be headed to the altar himself soon, though the Austin press was unaware that he and former Amarillo classmate Mary Emma Finley had gotten married the day after Thanksgiving in 1940. Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney were among seven couples of recently-married Longhorn football players and their wives that were featured in a picture published in the October 28, 1941 Austin Statesman. The aforementioned November 1941 Life magazine feature on the Longhorns reported that nine players on the team were married men, and two were fathers.

Texas was unique among Southwest Conference schools in its football roster’s profusion of “benedicts” (a term most appropriately used to describe a longtime bachelor who is newly married, but which the media of the time applied liberally to the young husbands on the Longhorn football squad). Texas had no policy regarding married students playing for its teams, but it’s worth noting that Baylor, Rice, and SMU all had rules at the time that prohibited married men from participating in varsity athletics, and those rules were only relaxed toward the end of World War II.

Sweeney had registered for the draft in October 1940 and turned 22 in March of 1941, and though he had a season of eligibility remaining his name was prominently mentioned in July 1941 reports of returning lettermen who were seen as likely to be drafted that fall. But by the end of the following month those fears had waned and he was expected to be available for preseason camp.

He was listed at 6’2” and 190 pounds on the 1941 roster published in September, up 25 pounds from his reported weight as a high school senior. He may have been hobbled by the ankle and knee injuries suffered in previous seasons, as accounts of the 1941 season suggest he was a reserve more often than a starter.

As previously stated, the 1941 Longhorns began their season with sky-high expectations and reached #1 in the AP poll after their sixth game. A 7-7 tie against Baylor ended their perfect season, and a 14-7 loss to TCU knocked them out of the top five in the rankings, but they finished fourth in the final AP poll after a 23-0 demolishing of 2nd-ranked Texas A&M, and that year’s Longhorn team was arguably the best in program history up to that point.

Mike Sweeney was picked by the Cleveland Rams in the sixth round of the 1942 NFL Draft, taken with the 42nd overall pick. He was the fourth of ten Longhorns who were selected in that year’s draft. Sweeney spent time as a “practice teacher” in physical education along with teammate and fellow NFL draftee Jack Crain at University Junior High in Austin in the spring of 1942. But World War II interrupted any future Sweeney had in playing pro football or teaching P.E.

He joined the Army Air Force after graduating from the University of Texas in 1942, and after months of training he received his wings and was commissioned a lieutenant in February 1943. He was transferred to England in September of that year.

While in Europe he piloted B-26 bomber planes with the 451st Bombardment Squadron. He flew over 60 combat missions, and for his service he was awarded the Air Medal with ten Oak Leaf Clusters. He was killed in action in France two months after D-Day, on August 6, 1944. He was attempting an emergency landing at an allied air strip in Normandy following a bombing run, with both of his B-26’s engines out of commission by the time it reached the ground. The wounded plane crashed into a fuel truck, and Sweeney and two other crew members died in the resulting explosion. Another member of the crew was pulled from the wreckage but died shortly afterward.

Sweeney was 25 years old. He was initially buried in France, but his body was later returned to the U.S. and re-buried in Amarillo on February 17, 1948.


Ralph Burton Greear (1910-1944)

Greear came to Austin from Clovis, New Mexico. While at Clovis High School, Greear was a star in football and was also a starter on the varsity basketball team, which lost in the state championship game his senior year. Local news outlets referred to him by the nickname “Pert” in contemporary articles, a moniker that apparently did not follow him to Texas.

Greear’s older brother William had attended the University of Texas in the early 1920s before receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy, and Ralph followed in his footsteps and enrolled at Texas in 1929. He joined the football team and was a reserve tackle in his first few seasons with the Longhorns. He was a member of the varsity football squad in 1930 but did not play in any games, which allowed him to preserve a season of eligibility. He also played for at least one season on UT’s basketball team but did not earn a letter in that sport.

He earned his first football letter in 1932, becoming just the second Longhorn football letterman from New Mexico (the first was Charlie Turner from Roswell, a letterman from 1913 to 1915). Greear’s high school teammate J.D. Voyles was also on the UT roster in 1932 but did not play in enough games to earn a letter.

As a 23-year-old senior in 1933, Greear was listed as a tackle at the beginning of the season but also spent time at guard. He was usually a backup but reportedly played right guard for most of the Longhorns’ 9-0 loss to Oklahoma. He was one of the team’s bigger linemen at a reported 190 pounds.

He was awarded his second letter at the end of the 1933 season and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1934. He made his home in Austin after graduation; his mother had died when he was five years old and his father had passed away during his senior year of high school.

In 1937, he married fellow UT graduate Alta Butler. In his post-college years he was an avid supporter of his alma mater and attended as many Longhorn football games as he could. He reportedly attended Texas’s 3-0 loss to Northwestern in Chicago on October 3, 1942, a road trip he made with his wife and his brother and sister-in-law. By that time, his older brother William H. Greear was an colonel in the Army.

Ralph Greear was also on his way to joining America’s military efforts in World War II. The Austin Statesman reported on September 21, 1942 that Greear was an Army officer candidate in the tank corps. He was 6’1” and approximately 225 pounds by that time, having gained some 30 pounds in the nine years since the end of his college football career. He self-deprecatingly predicted to the Statesman that “the army may just armor him and let him be a tank.”

He reported to Fort Knox in Kentucky for basic training in November 1942. He graduated from armored force officer training school in May 1943, and was commissioned a second lieutenant.

He served in the Ninth Army with the 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. His unit fought in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest in southwest Germany near Belgium, which took place over a period of three months in late 1944 and has been called the longest battle the U.S. Army was ever involved in.

Ralph Greear was killed in action on November 29, 1944 after being shot while leading his platoon into the battle. He was 34 years old. He is buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium. A year after his death, he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star medal “for meritorious service in support of combat operations against the enemy in Germany from 20 to 29 November 1944”, and it was presented to his widow in a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston in December 1945.

Alta Greear re-married a few years later to another WWII veteran, and had her only child in 1948. She was widowed a second time in 1979, and died in 2005 at the age of 92. Ralph Greear’s older brother Col. William H. Greear died in 2000 at the age of 97.


John Edward “Jack” Chevigny (1906-1945)

Jack Chevigny was the 20th head coach in the history of the Texas Longhorn football program, holding that position from 1934 to 1936. An Indiana native, he was a legendary halfback while a student at Notre Dame, playing for the Fighting Irish from 1926 to 1928. As a player he was most lauded for his prowess as a blocking back, and he played a prominent role in Notre Dame’s 12-6 win over Army in 1928, which history remembers as the game in which Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne supposedly gave his “Win just one for the Gipper” speech at halftime.

Chevigny’s coaching career in general and his tenure at Texas in particular was not as successful, and after a promising start in the profession he only went 13-14-2 in three seasons leading the Longhorns, and he never coached another college game after resigning from UT.

In 1943, at the age of 36, he very briefly served in the Army before being discharged and immediately commissioned a first lieutenant with the Marine Corps. Not content to serve as an athletics instructor and coach at Camp Lejune, he requested a combat assignment and eventually was granted one. He served in the 27th Marine Regiment and was killed on February 19, 1945 on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was 38 years old.

That’s the super abbreviated Cliff’s Notes version of his life and career. Unlike several of the other Longhorns mentioned in this post, Chevigny has had much written about his life already. Rather than spend another 1,000 words paraphrasing what others have written about him in the past, I’ll direct you to some articles on the man that are well worth your time.

ESPN One More for the Gipper by Steve Wulf (November 11, 2014)

Notre DameJack Chevigny: Gridiron Star and Battlefield Hero by Craig Chval, Jr. (September 4, 2015)

Austin American-StatesmanEx-UT coach Jack Chevigny helped win one for the Gipper, beat Notre Dame by John Maher (August 29, 2016)


In addition to the men named above, the following Longhorn varsity athletes were mentioned in a September 1945 Associated Press article on Southwest Conference athletes who were known casualties of World War II:

Robinson Paul Butler (basketball)
Andrew Chilton (golf)
Jindrich “Henry” Chovanec (basketball)
W.R. Davidson (track & field)
Dick Davis (track & field)
J. Ward Fouts (golf)
Don Goldbeck (tennis)
Chester Granville (basketball)
Coleman Pack (track & field)
Sam Patillo (track & field)
John Payne (golf)
Bernie Lavoice Scudday (basketball)
Jack Seale (track & field)
Wilson Smith (baseball)
Joe Storm (track & field)
Ned Sweeney (basketball) - no relation to the aforementioned Mike Sweeney
Volney Taylor (baseball)
Warren Wiggins (basketball)

Chovanec, Goldbeck, and Granville were all listed as “missing in action” at the time, but all three died in the war. Another ex-Longhorn mentioned in the article as missing in action was former track star Ralph Baggett, who had been stationed in Guam and was captured by Japanese forces three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Baggett was a prisoner of war for nearly four years before he was liberated in September 1945. He died in 2005 at age 86.

UT’s regional rivals also suffered their share of losses in that war. No less than 79 former varsity athletes from Southwest Conference schools were World War II casualties. May their names not be forgotten.