Undefeated

From Basketball to Battle: West Point’s Perfect Season 1944

Jim Noles

The story of West Point basketball team's perfect season of 1944, and the fate of its Seniors in the 1945 battles of World War II.
Date Published :
November 2018
Publisher :
Casemate
Language:
English
Illustration :
8 pages of b/w photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Hardback
ISBN : 9781612005119
Pages : 272
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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In stock
$29.95

Overview
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In 1943, the West Point basketball team, the Cadets, had only managed a 5-10 record, and for the 1944 season coach Ed Kelleher’s hopes in reversing Army’s fortunes rested on his five starters. They consisted of three seniors – team captain “Big Ed” Christl, John “Three Star” Hennessey, and class president Bobby Faas – and two juniors, Dale Hall and Doug Kenna. At the academy, Kelleher molded his cadets into a new kind of team, and, as the new season opened in January of 1944, Kelleher’s strategy paid handsome dividends. By the end of January, West Point was 6-0; by the end of February, the team boasted a 13-0 record. Of course, during those weeks, it only took a glance at the newspaper headlines to be reminded that there were far bigger contests than intercollegiate basketball afoot in the winter of 1944.

The cadets would not be able to play in the NIT or NCAA national tournaments for a likely national championship. The world was at war, the U.S. Army needed its finest on the front line more than on the court
, and the three seniors were soon destined for other battles. Hennessey endured weeks of front-line fighting, battling from the waist-deep snow of Alsatian forests to the bombed-out rubble of German cities. Christl, a fearless forward observer for his field artillery battalion, made it all the way to Austria, where he would lose his life in the final week of the war in Europe. Three months later, Faas was shot down over Japan and forced to bail out over the Pacific Ocean. Coach Kelleher would die overseas on his own special assignment with the Army.

In the years that followed, the Army's basketball team would never again have a chance to again play in the NCAA tournament and, in the modern era, few remember West Point's perfect 1944 season. Although West Point's home basketball court is named the Edward C. Christl Arena, and the National Invitational Tournament's trophy is named after his coach, Edward A. Kelleher, too few people fully appreciate why. But after reading
Undefeated, they will.

About The Author
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Jim Noles graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1990 with a degree in International History. Commissioned in the Army’s Aviation Branch, Jim served at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he became a pilot-in-command in UH-1H Huey helicopters. Jim is a prolific author and his books include two WWII histories Mighty by Sacrifice: The Destruction of an American Bomber Squadron, August 29, 1944, and Twenty-Three Minutes to Eternity: The Final Voyage of the Escort Carrier USS Liscome Bay (University of Alabama Press). In addition to his books, Jim's articles and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Birmingham News.

REVIEWS
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"If James Naismith, Herodotus, and Patton were in charge of the reading list for their book club, Undefeated by Jim Noles would be at the top of their list. Undefeated, a pure delight for basketball fans and history buffs, nails Aristotle’s definition of drama—action that is whole, complete, and of a certain magnitude. Military heroics and athletic success serve as the perfect metaphor for life, but Undefeated intertwines the real life accounts of the student-athlete-soldier in the theater of war and basketball—think Patton meets Hoosiers. This is not merely metaphor; this is the harsh reality of World War II.
 
This book should be required reading for all college students who bemoan the challenges of juggling academics with life outside of the classroom. The young men in Undefeated are not preoccupied with getting a job after college, being saddled with debt, and possibly having to move home with mom and dad after graduation. No, what awaits the young men in Undefeated after their glory on the court and brilliance in the classroom is literally a matter of life or death.
 
This book had me rooting for the young men on the court while also fearing for their lives in battle, a narrative where there are no television timeouts but continuous action, an expertly researched and written interplay between the innocence of college basketball and the corruption of war. If you want the full-range of unscripted drama that only sports and war delivers, for better or for worse, Undefeated is the book for you."

- DR. CARSON MEDLEY, author of Through the Red Door: The Eternal Season of Coach Clink and the Division II Chico State Wildcats

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