Which three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients were in NFL?
The highest award in the American military, the Congressional Medal of Honor has only been awarded to three men who played in the National Football League: Maurice Britt, Joe Foss, and Jack Lummus.
Capt. Maurice Britt
June 29, 1919 – November 26, 1995
- 1941 13th-round pick (115th overall) from University of Arkansas
- Detroit Lions, E
- 1941 – Britt managed just one reception in the NFL (though it was a 45-yard completion) before enlisting in the Army after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He played just nine games in his lone NFL season before being sent to the European theater of war.
- 1944 – Lost his right arm in a battle in Anzio, Italy, which led to him being awarded to the Medal of Honor the same year.
- First NFL player to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor
- Became first U.S. soldier to be awarded the following three awards in the same war: Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star. (Audie Murphy was second).
- Here is his official Citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Disdaining enemy hand grenades and close-range machine pistol, machinegun, and rifle, Lt. Britt inspired and led a handful of his men in repelling a bitter counterattack by approximately 100 Germans against his company positions north of Mignano, Italy, the morning of 10 November 1943. During the intense firefight, Lt. Britt’s canteen and field glasses were shattered; a bullet pierced his side; his chest, face, and hands were covered with grenade wounds. Despite his wounds, for which he refused to accept medical attention until ordered to do so by his battalion commander following the battle, he personally killed 5 and wounded an unknown number of Germans, wiped out one enemy machinegun crew, fired 5 clips of carbine and an undetermined amount of Ml rifle ammunition, and threw 32 fragmentation grenades. His bold, aggressive actions, utterly disregarding superior enemy numbers, resulted in the capture of 4 Germans, 2 of them wounded, and enabled several captured Americans to escape. Lt. Britt’s undaunted courage and prowess in arms were largely responsible for repulsing a German counterattack which, if successful, would have isolated his battalion and destroyed his company.
Capt. Joe Foss
April 17, 1915 – January 1, 2003
- Commissioner of American Football League from 1960 – 66.
- Marine fighter pilot in World War II.
- Recalled in Korean War as an instructor.
- 1943 – Called “America’s No. 1 Ace” in after shooting down his 26th enemy airplane, equaling a military record, which leads to being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
- At age 39, Foss was elected as the youngest governor in the history of South Dakota.
- Two-time governor of South Dakota.
- President of National Rifle Association from 1988-90.
- Here is his official Citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society: For outstanding heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as executive officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, at Guadalcanal. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942, Capt. Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable. In addition, during this period, he successfully led a large number of escort missions, skillfully covering reconnaissance, bombing, and photographic planes as well as surface craft. On 15 January 1943, he added 3 more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war. Boldly searching out an approaching enemy force on 25 January, Capt. Foss led his 8 F-4F Marine planes and 4 Army P-38’s into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that 4 Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb. His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership, and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.
1st Lt. Jack Lummus
October 22, 1915 – March 8, 1945
- Jack Lummus is the only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient to have played in both professional baseball and football.
- Played his only pro baseball and football in 1941 before the bombing of Pearl Harbor compelled him to enlist in the U.S. Marines Corp.
- Wichita Falls Spudders, OF (a minor-league affiliate of Cincinnati Reds)
- New York Giants, E, out of Baylor
- Died in the battle for Iwo Jima.
- 1946 – Lummus awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
- Here is his official Citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a Rifle Platoon attached to the 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 8 March 1945. Resuming his assault tactics with bold decision after fighting without respite for 2 days and nights, 1st Lt. Lummus slowly advanced his platoon against an enemy deeply entrenched in a network of mutually supporting positions. Suddenly halted by a terrific concentration of hostile fire, he unhesitatingly moved forward of his front lines in an effort to neutralize the Japanese position. Although knocked to the ground when an enemy grenade exploded close by, he immediately recovered himself and, again moving forward despite the intensified barrage, quickly located, attacked, and destroyed the occupied emplacement. Instantly taken under fire by the garrison of a supporting pillbox and further assailed by the slashing fury of hostile rifle fire, he fell under the impact of a second enemy grenade but, courageously disregarding painful shoulder wounds, staunchly continued his heroic 1-man assault and charged the second pillbox, annihilating all the occupants. Subsequently returning to his platoon position, he fearlessly traversed his lines under fire, encouraging his men to advance and directing the fire of supporting tanks against other stubbornly holding Japanese emplacements. Held up again by a devastating barrage, he again moved into the open, rushed a third heavily fortified installation and killed the defending troops. Determined to crush all resistance, he led his men indomitably, personally attacking foxholes and spider traps with his carbine and systematically reducing the fanatic opposition until, stepping on a landmine, he sustained fatal wounds. By his outstanding valor, skilled tactics, and tenacious perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, 1st Lt. Lummus had inspired his stouthearted marines to continue the relentless drive northward, thereby contributing materially to the success of his regimental mission. His dauntless leadership and unwavering devotion to duty throughout sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Dan Daly, The National Football League, pp 181-182.
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