On this Memorial Day, the New York Giants honor and remember those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation.
It is also a time for the Giants family to remember Medal of Honor recipient Jack Lummus and Al Blozis, two members of the franchise's Ring of Honor who were killed in World War II.
Jack Lummus' entire Giants career consisted of nine games in 1941. He was a 6-3, 200-pound two-way end who that season caught one pass for five yards for a Giants team that finished 8-3 before losing to the Bears in the NFL Championship Game on Dec. 21, two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Jan. 30, 1942, with the United States fully engaged in World War II, Lummus gave up his football career to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserves. He was sent to the Mainside Recruit Training Center in San Diego for basic training. It was there, on March 16, 1942, that he wrote a letter to Jack Mara, the son of Giants founder Tim Mara and brother of Wellington Mara, informing the Giants he had joined the Marines.
The letter, in its entirety:
I received your letter of March 11 with the Play-off check enclosed. Thank you.
I joined the Marines about 7 weeks ago, and have just now completed my preliminary training here in San Diego. I'm due to be transferred sometime this week. – destination unknown.
Jack, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much I enjoyed playing with the Giants and to thank Duke (Wellington), Mr. Mara and Coach Owen for everything. I'll never forget my rookie year with the Giants.
Best of luck this coming Season.
Three years later – on March 8, 1945 – Lummus was mortally wounded on Iwo Jima when he stepped on a land mine and lost his legs. He joined Blozis as Giants players who gave their lives in World War II and are forever memorialized by the organization in the Ring of Honor.
Blozis played three seasons for the Giants, 1942-44. He immediately made a favorable impression on the team after arriving in 1942 and quickly earned a starting assignment at tackle. Blozis played in the 1944 championship game against Green Bay. Immediately after the Giants' loss to the Packers, Blozis was sent overseas to fight in World War II. An Army lieutenant, he was killed in action in France just six weeks later. The Giants retired Blozis' No. 32 jersey.
Andrew Jackson Lummus was born on a cotton farm in Ellis County, Texas on Oct. 22, 1915 (the 100th anniversary of his birth is a week from Thursday). He completed his high school education at Texas Military College, graduating in May 1937. Later that year, Lummus enrolled at Baylor University, where he was an All-Southwest Conference centerfielder for three years and an end on the football team. In 1938, he was an honorable mention All-America.
Three years later, Lummus hit .257 in 26 games as an outfielder in the Class D West Texas-New Mexico League.
After briefly attending Army Air Corps flight school, Lummus traveled to the Giants' training camp in Superior, Wisconsin. One of 33 players to make the roster, Lummus was paid the princely sum of $100 a month.
After completing his Marine Corps training, Lummus was initially assigned to Camp Elliott, 10 miles north of San Diego. On March 11, 1943, he completed 20 arduous weeks at Marines Corps Schools in Quantico, Virginia to be an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. The following January, Lummus was assigned to the newly created 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif.
Lummus rose to become a Marine Corps company commander. On the morning of Feb. 19, 1945, he landed on Iwo Jima in the first wave of assault troops.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the most savage in the history of the Marine Corps, and one of the most famous in the Pacific Theater in World War II, in part because of the iconic photo of five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy combat corpsman raising the U.S. flag on the island. When five weeks of brutal and bloody fighting concluded, the Americans had captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese Imperial Army.
But the prize came at great cost. Almost 7,000 Americans and 21,000 Japanese soldiers died in the battle. One of those casualties was Lummus, who was mortally wounded while leading 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division.
The circumstances of Lummus death are described graphically in the 1965 book, "Iwo Jima" by Richard F. Newcomb.
After twice being knocked over by grenade blasts, the second of which resulted in shoulder wounds, Lummus continued to attack entrenched positions when _"suddenly he was at the center of a powerful explosion, obscured by flying rock and dirt. As it cleared, his men saw him rising as if in a hole. A land mine had blown off both his legs that had carried him to football honors at Baylor.
"They watched in horror as he stood on the bloody stumps, calling them on. Several men, crying now, ran to him and, for a moment, talked of shooting him to stop the agony.
"But he was still shouting for them to move out, move out, and the platoon scrambled forward. Their tears turned to rage, they swept an incredible 300 yards over the impossible ground and at nightfall were on the ridge, overlooking the sea.
"There was no question that the dirty, tired men, cursing and crying and fighting, had done it for Jack Lummus."
Lummus was carried to a battlefield hospital, where he underwent surgery, but died on the operating table. According to at least one report, his surgeon, Lt. E. Graham Evans, said Lummus' final words were, "I guess the New York Giants have lost the services of a damn good end."
Other sources repeated different versions of the quote. In a letter to his mother, his commanding officer wrote, "Jack suffered very little, because he didn't live long. I saw Jack soon after he was hit. With calmness, serenity and complacency, Jack said, 'The New York Giants lost a good man.' We all lost a good man."
Lummus' remains were buried in Ennis, Texas, two years later. The Giants erected a bronze tablet in Lummus' honor in the Polo Grounds. On Dec. 30, 1945, Lummus' mother wrote Jack Mara and said, in part, "We are so proud that he played with your Club for a season as this had been his desire for so long. Thank you again for your kindness to us and to my son." It was signed, Very Truly Yours, Mrs. Jack Lummus.
On May 5, 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed a citation posthumously awarding the Medal of Honor to 1st Lt. Jack Lummus.
Today, Lummus' legacy endures. His name is forever displayed for fans to see at every Giants home game with the other members of the Ring of Honor.
He is the namesake of the USNS 1ST LT Jack Lummus, a Maritime Prepositioning Ship. Prepositioning ships have supported Marines, Army and Navy operations for many years, and the majority of them are named in honor of servicemen who died while earning the Medal of Honor.