The [Transplanted] 28th Rose Bowl, Oregon State vs. Duke – January 1, 1942

Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

The Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) Beavers football team, under Coach Lon Stiner, started the 1941 season winning two games and losing two games.  One of those victories was a 10-0 shutout of Stanford University and one of the losses was to the University of Southern California (USC), 13-7, with the Trojans scoring the winning touchdown with thirteen seconds left in the game.  Then Oregon State reeled off five victories, defeating Idaho 33-0, UCLA 19-0, California 6-0, Montana 27-0, and Oregon 12-7.  With the latter victory, on November 29, the Beavers won the Pacific Coast Conference, and a trip to the Rose Bowl, to be played on January 1, 1942 in Pasadena, California.

As was the custom at the time, the Beavers, who ranked 12th in the country in the final Associated Press (AP) poll on December 1, got to select their opponent for the Rose Bowl game.  Oregon State desired to play Fordham University, which had just won the Lambert Trophy as the outstanding football team on the East Coast.  But just six and a half hours before receiving the Oregon State invitation, Fordham agreed to play the University of Missouri in the Sugar Bowl.  Oregon State then invited Duke, the undefeated and untied champions of the Southern Conference, as well as the nation’s leader in total offense, and the Blue Devils, led by legendary head coach Wallace Wade, accepted.  Duke hoped to avenge its 7-3 lost to USC in the 1939 Rose Bowl. The number two ranked team in the county, Duke finished the season at 9-0, including victories over Tennessee, 19-0; Maryland 50-0; Georgia Tech, 14-0; Davidson, 56-0; North Carolina 20-0; and North Carolina State 55-6.

Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 and America was at war.  The Associated Press reported on December 13 that in spite of the war football fans would get their usual quota of bowl games on New Year’s Day-unless present plans were changed by unexpected military developments.  That night, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, commanding general of the Western Defense Command, requested California’s governor to cancel the Rose Bowl game and the Tournament of Roses parade.  He gave as his reasons: national defense and civilian protection. Mayor Edward J. Kelly of Chicago immediately contacted the Tournament of Roses Committee about the possibility of moving the game to Chicago’s Soldier Field.  Even before the game in Pasadena was officially canceled, Duke coach Wade sent the following telegram to Oregon State athletic director:

“We regret that conditions have developed that have influenced the military authorities to suggest cancellation of the Rose Bowl game. Duke is ready to accept the decision of Oregon State and the Tournament of Roses Committee. We wish to suggest for your consideration the possibility of playing the game at Durham in the Duke Stadium, either with Rose Bowl sanction or otherwise. We can accommodate about 50,000 spectators. Our climate at New Year’s is usually favorable for football. We would be glad to have your reaction to this suggestion if it is desirable not to play the game in Pasadena.”

On December 14, AP reporting from Pasadena, noted that “cancellation of the annual Rose Bowl football game cast considerable disappointment today over this site of the historic New Year’s Day classic, but the reason-the war-was thoroughly and patriotically understood by all.”  The Tournament of Roses Committee, it added, was immediately beginning preparations for refunding deposits on more than 60,000 tickets.  Sports writer Bob Considine, in New York City on December 14, wrote:

Too bad about the Rose Bowl game. The country will get along without it, of course. But it didn’t seem to us to constitute much of a menace to civilian defense.

We’re supposed to be stressing sports, building bodies, giving the people now and then a few hours respite from the seven-day grind of the war business. The Rose Bowl game would have been a source of relaxation not only for the 90,000 who might have witnessed it but for millions who might have read about it or listened to it on the air. Its colorful pregame parade typifies the pleasant, peaceful things we’ve gone to war to protect. Gen. De Witt knows best, but-

England, only a few minutes removed from the full weight of the Luftwaffe, still has its soccer games, rugby matches and popular horse-racing fixtures. Haven’t we as much poise?

In the meantime, both Oregon State and the Tournament of Roses Committee agreed to the suggestion of moving the Rose Bowl to Durham, North Carolina.  Now in the Central Decimal Correspondence Files, 1940-1945 (NAID 895294) a telegram was sent from the secretary of the Durham Chamber of Commerce to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, stating: “In behalf of Duke University and Durham we request information as to whether there would be any objection from the military standpoint to playing the Rose Bowl game between Duke and Oregon State in Durham an inland city.”

Telegram from Frank Pierson, Secy Durham Chamber of Commerce to General George C. Marshall, 12/15/1941
Telegram from Durham Chamber of Commerce to General George C. Marshall, 12/15/1941; File 353.85 Football 11-1-40 to 12-31-41, NAID 895294

Undoubtedly other high government officials, including Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War, were contacted by people and organizations about playing the game in Durham.  In any event, later on December 15, Stimson, probably after coordinating with Marshall, directed a telegram be sent to Duke University indicating that the War Department had no objection to the Rose Bowl game being played at Duke University (from the same series Central Decimal Correspondence Files, File 353.85 Football, 11-1-40 to 12-31-41).

Memorandum for the Adjutant General from Colonel W. B. Smith, 12/15/1941
Memorandum for the Adjutant General from Colonel W. B. Smith, 12/15/1941;  File 353.85 Football, 11-1-40 to 12-31-41, NAID 895294

Meanwhile, from Durham on December 15, the AP reported that:

The football faithful of North Carolina jumped from the depths of gloom to something approaching hysteria today when word came through that the canceled Rose Bowl game between Duke and Oregon State had been revived and would be played here.

With a grin a mile wide, the usually dour Coach Wallace Wade, of the Blue Devils, received the news that Oregon State had agreed to play the game on New Year’s Day in Duke Stadium…

War Department approval already has been asked for the contest, which was to have been held, as usual, in Pasadena but was canceled upon the request of Army officers after outbreak of the war with Japan.

Urging official military sanction, Gov. J. Melville Broughton assured Washington authorities that the game would not interfere in any way with the defense program in North Carolina.

‘I think the Army will give its permission,’ he commented. ‘We want to have the game here, and to tell you the truth I’d like to see it myself.’

The Secretary of War having agreed to the transplanted Rose Bowl, planning moved into high gear, with the Tournament of Roses Committee making arrangements for the game to be played in Durham, with Duke the visiting team (as technically it was still the invited guest).

On December 19, sports writer for The Washington Post, Shirley Povich observed “The battle at Durham has all the elements of a pretty good football game” and “It should be fun in Durham’s Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.”

While Duke was borrowing bleachers from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State, boosting stadium capacity from 35,000 to 55,000 spectators, the Oregon State team took a five-day train trip to Durham. “From a football standpoint, it is a tough assignment,” Beavers coach Lon Stiner said. “But we’ll be in there doing our best even with these added odds against us.”

Duke was a 12-to-5 favorite when the game was first announced and the odds increased to 3.5-to-1 after the game was moved to Durham. “I don’t quite understand why my boys should be rated so low for this game with Duke,” Stiner said. “They may be light, but they are poised and tough and not upset at the prospect of meeting high scoring Duke.”  On December 26, the Associated Press reported from Durham that “Duke will have a decided edge over Oregon State when the teams meet here New Year’s Day before an overflow crowd of 55,000 in the transplanted Rose Bowl.”  The article pointed out that Duke outscored its opponents 311-41 while Oregon State outscored its opponents 123-33, and Duke accumulated 3,335 total yards compared to Oregon State’s 2,241.  The AP quoted the Oregon State’s team captain as saying “We feel that a lot of people around here are going to be mighty surprised.”

Rose Bowl game program from January 1, 1942
Rose Bowl Game Program, Football Records, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, (c) Duke University

January 1, 1942, was a cold, rainy day in Durham.  Ben Dulaney (sports editor for The Washington Post) writing from Duke Stadium after the Rose Bowl game, observed:

There weren’t any parades before today’s Duke-Oregon State game. There wasn’t a girl in a bathing suit anywhere-not even a movie actress. You couldn’t even buy a chrysanthemum-much less a rose. Also the California sun must have stayed in California.

No, the transplanted Rose Bowl didn’t bring its color with it. But, gentlemen, the 55,000 who plunked down their four-forty apiece saw just about the greatest exhibition of collegiate football ever presented in the East.

Oregon State won the game 20-16.  It turned out that The Washington Post on December 27 was correct when it ran an article entitled “Oregon State Defense Only Major Asset.” The Beavers recovered three Duke fumbles and intercepted four Duke passes.

Most of the players in the 1942 Rose Bowl would serve in the military during World War II, with one Oregon State and three Duke players dying in action in the Pacific.  Wallace Wade, the Duke Coach, enlisted in the military after the game and served until 1945. One of the Oregon State players did not make the trip to Durham.  Being of Japanese ancestry, Chiaki “Jack” Yoshihara, was prohibited by executive order from traveling more than 35 miles from home. He would listen to the game on radio and spend 1942 in an internment camp.

After the Japanese setbacks in the Pacific, including the Battle of Midway, during 1942, it was deemed that the West Coast was no longer vulnerable to attack, and the Rose Bowl game continued on in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.


The Duke quarterback, Tommy Protho, became Oregon State’s coach in February 1955.

In ten seasons, Prothro had considerable success at OSU, taking teams to the 1957 and 1965 Rose Bowls.