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Soldiers vs. Devil Dogs: 1923

Soldiers vs. Devil Dogs: 1923

December 1, 1923. Washington, D.C. "Marine-Army game, Griffith Stadium." Marines carried the day 7-0. National Photo glass negative. View full size.


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Better Ways

I've read my share of NFL players now having early dementia and Alzheimer's from the years of shock that hard hitting, which is the result of modern protective equipment. If players had to suit up like this again, I bet their would be a lot less mental damage, and the physical damage would be either less or different, since you'd no longer be able to spear or pile-drive someone. If you used your body as a weapon, you'd do it once and you're done.

And if you think eliminating the hard hits will make the game less spectacular, read the terrific, exciting stories from the college and pro days of 1880-1930 when the legends were being born. Think Red Grange, Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, etc.

I think people make the mistake of this being a college level game. There were tons of semi-pro indie teams barnstorming around, in addition to the new American Association (soon to be the NFL). This had to be a grudge game some Army officer talked or dared a Marine officer to put on, cherry picked with the hardest sergeants either side could "hey you" into the game.

Lt. Col. Frank Goettge

As an old Vietnam Marine I immediately recognized the name "Goettge" (pronounced Get-Gee with hard Gs) and the story of his death on Guadalcanal in 1942 some 23 years before I earned the privilege to be a U.S. Marine. A lot of oldtimers in my day were still mad about the way Goetge met his death on a mission of mercy. The Marines learned a lot about the Japanese that day.

Tough Enough

These players probably went both ways, "defense and offense." Their equipment was not nearly as protective as today's modern gear. I have heard from some real "old timers" that football players back in the day were so tough their bodies were solid calluses.

Getting Goettge

Click to embiggen.

Phenomenal shot

A modern sports photographer shooting at ISO 800 would be delighted to capture action so well.


The expression on the face on the man with the ball says it all.

Gritty Determination

The steely-eyed gaze of the running back is absolutely priceless! I love this picture.

Jack Palance

Lead blocker for Roy Scheider. I think that's Billy Crystal about to get the full force of the block.


To daylight. Wonderful picture. That runner is so focused. Feel sorry for number 23, he's very close to getting a faceful of Griffith turf.

Personal Foul

At least they didn't have to worry about getting called for a face mask penalty.


The facial expressions are terrific. Football photos were so much cooler before the players wore face masks.

Who Dem?

The Army-Navy game is between their service academies' teams, but the Marines don't have an academy; so who's playing here?

[This was not a service academy game. Third Corps Area Soldiers vs. Quantico Devil Dogs. - Dave]

A game only generals play?

For the life of me I don't see any college-age young men here, but perhaps I shouldn't assume the teams were composed of that generation. Maybe the grizzled old timers here are tough old master sergeants and the like. I mean, geez, the leaping lead blocker and the ball carrier look like Francis X. Bushman and Lon Chaney.

When Men Were Men

This is how the game was intended to be played. In the mud, with a Rugby ball, by guys with names like Bronco and Red. In 1923 the NFL was still playing in places like Decatur and Canton.

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