On June 6, 1944, roughly 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches in Normandy, France, to begin the long march across Europe to fight Nazi Germany. Nine thousand of those men lost their lives that day. Of the survivors, at least four of the men were Pro Football Hall of Famers.
» Dante "Glue Fingers" Lavelli "never dropped a pass that he touched, not in practices or games," according to his former coach, Paul Brown. Before his Hall of Fame career, Lavelli fought at Normandy and was in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He said he once spent three days in a foxhole praying.
» Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman was one of 19 men (out of 28) from his team's 1943 championship squad to leave for the war the following year. While Luckman fought at Normandy, his coach, George Halas, was the "welfare and recreation officer" for the 7th Fleet in the Pacific. Halas reportedly sent orders to his old team via telegram.
» Frank "Gunner" Gatski's college football program at Marshall dropped football in 1943 because of the war, and his army reserve unit quickly was called to the front lines. Gatski returned stateside to become an All-NFL center who won three titles as a member of the Cleveland Browns in his first six seasons.
» Pete Louis Pihos served in the 35th Infantry under George Patton and was awarded the bronze and silver medals for bravery. Pihos was drafted No. 3 overall in 1945 but couldn't play until 1947. He was worth the wait, playing in the first six Pro Bowls as a 60-minute man for the Philadelphia Eagles. He won three receiving titles.
In so many ways, the struggles and sacrifices these men endured on a daily basis are unimaginable. And for that, we thank them.