Fort Benning Doughboys Football
Marketing and Publicity Specialist
Fort Benning Family and MWR
As Fort Benning prepares to kick off the fourth season of the resurrected Doughboy Football program, the grounds crew is preparing one of the Army’s most historic football fields for the kind of action it hasn’t seen in nearly 30 years.
|More than 6,000 people attended the West Point 2012 scrimmage game March 9 at Fort Benning. It was the first time in history the game was not played at West Point. The team wore Infantry and Armor jerseys. The Armor jerseys won 20-14. Photos by Bridgett Sharp Siter for Fort Benning MWR.
The Fort Benning Doughboys’ 2013 seven-game season starts Sept. 8 and culminates with the Doughboy Bowl Oct 24, when Fort Benning takes on the Columbus State Cougars. The Doughboys remain undefeated in the annual match-up between the post team and the local university. In fact, since Fort Benning fielded the post team in 2010, the Doughboys have ended each season with a winning record.
But today’s Doughboys have a long way to go to achieve the kind of success their forefathers enjoyed.
Fort Benning Soldiers built Doughboy Stadium in 1924-1925 as a memorial to American Soldiers killed in World War I. It was funded by contributions from Soldiers and military units around the world. The word “Doughboy” was a slang term used for Infantrymen during World War I. Some believe the word was derived from the words “dough ball,” a type of button worn on Infantry overcoats in the early 1800s. Others believe it was first used in the Mexican-American War, when US Infantrymen in Northern Mexico stirred up so much dust, they took on the look of the adobe buildings of that region. “Adobe boys” became “doughboys,” or so some say.
Though the first game at Doughboy Stadium took place Sept. 16, 1925, when Benning beat Florida’s Stetson University 51-7, a formal dedication was celebrated on October 17 with a game between Fort Benning and a team from Oglethorpe University out of Atlanta before a crowd of 9,000. Fort Benning’s decisive 27-6 victory foreshadowed a lengthy period on success for Fort Benning football. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who earned five stars before becoming president of the United States, helped coach the Doughboys to an all-Army championship the following year.
Fort Benning quickly earned a reputation as a contender among colleges throughout the Southeast. The Doughboys played – and frequently beat – teams from the universities of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The 1946 Doughboys, made up of raw recruits fresh out of high school, included John Green, now an NFL Hall of Famer, and Jack Stroud, who played 11 years with the New York Giants. The team, coached by a young Army captain named Bill Meeks, outscored opponents 353 to 45 in six games and captured the Service Championship. Meeks went on to work with the Dallas Cowboys.
|August 8 Doughboy try-out at Fort Benning, GA
Photo by John W. Peeler, Bayonet & Saber
Perhaps the greatest of all the Doughboy teams was the 1962 squad. Led by Pat Dye, future coach of Auburn University, the team went undefeated. Two years later, the Washington Touchdown Club named Dye Army Player of the Year.
The success of the Doughboys quickly waned when Fort Benning Soldiers were called to fight in Vietnam. Though the installation fielded post teams up until 1983, when the decision was made to disband the team in favor of a strong intramural program, the Doughboys never recaptured the glory they experienced in the years between World War I and Vietnam.
But the community never lost its appreciation for the venerable stadium, which served another purpose throughout the history of Fort Benning. It was here that Fort Benning families gathered en masse to send their troops off to combat or welcome them home during every war and conflict since World War II, as recently as 2003, when the community gathered to bid farewell to the 3rd Brigade’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, on its way to Iraq. One such deployment ceremony was depicted in the movie We Were Soldiers, filmed at Fort Benning in 2005.
In 2004, a facility was built large enough to accommodate a massive deployment ceremony on post, and the MWR Sports team began renovating the stadium. Today, the resurrection of the Doughboy Football Team represents the “Spirit of Fort Benning,” a command campaign engineered four years ago to foster cohesion among Fort Benning’s Infantry and Armor Soldiers after the move of the Armor School from Fort Knox to Fort Benning and to bolster morale among war weary troops and their family. If attendance and enthusiasm are any indication, it seems to be working. Attendance at the annual Doughboy Bowl hovers at about 4,000 each year.