Winston Churchill called the RAF defense against the Luftwaffe, “Britain’s finest hour.”
An enraged Hitler then turned to massive all-night bombing attacks on Britain’s cities. The “blitz.” was underway.
London took a terrible pounding.
A wave of sympathy for Britain’s dilemma swept across America. “Bundles for Britain” became a popular cause in the cities and in the towns and on college campuses, including the University of Oregon.
FDR pushed a lend-lease agreement through a reluctant congress. American military supplies, food, medicine and clothing began pouring into Britain.
Convoys of loaded American freighters ploughed across the icy Northern Atlantic. U-boats prowled on the attack.
German subs had already sunk one American freighter that year. Two more freighters and a US destroyer were torpedoed by the U-boats in September, killing 100 Americans. Then on the night of October 31, another US destroyer was torpedoed while on convoy duty, with a loss of 111 men including all seven officers. The year ended with an escalation of U-boat attacks.
Pressure mounted for America to enter the war.
Wrestling was one of the original Olympic sports. And most Pacific Northwest schools in those days were serious about their wrestling programs. Jim Wyatt, an ATO graduate who coached Freshman Wrestling at Oregon, lured several of us out onto the mats that year. What the hell, I knew I’d never make the varsity. The training was tough and I didn’t take it that serious. Still, the conditioning was good. I learned some nifty moves. And I thought it was a great way to earn mandatory PE credits.
In amateur Olympic wrestling, each match consists of three two-minute periods. You have two ways to win—by pinning or by points. If you pin your opponent’s shoulder blades to the mat for two seconds, you win. Or, if you dominate by takedowns, escapes or reversals without a pin, you can still win by points.
At the start of training, Coach Wyatt made it clear that you don’t have a chance to pin your man or even get any points until you get him off his feet. That’s why he spent extra time drilling us on a dozen or so ways to get a man down from the neutral position. No stalling. No body slams. No choking.