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The Army-Navy game was nearly canceled in 1943. Then it was moved to West Point.

During World War II, the cancellation of the 1943 Army-Navy game seemed almost certain.

The 1943 Army football team
US Military Academy at West Point Library Digital Collection

It was Nov. 27, 1943 and the Army-Navy game was being held at Michie Stadium at West Point.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the U.S. had been fighting in World War II for nearly two years, and members of Congress were making a decision on if the famed rivalry game should even take place. And if so, where?

From 1936 to 1941 the game was played at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. In 1942, a government order to conserve gasoline for war efforts was established and by extension, halted the travel of players and students to anywhere outside of their respective schools. This led the game to near-cancellation of Army-Navy before last ditch efforts moved it to Annapolis. Just 11,000 fans attended that game.

Similarly, the 1943 matchup was also in limbo for some time. While then-Secretary of War Robert Pattinson seemed optimistic the game would continue, others in Congress battled over if the game and other varsity sports should be played entirely.

A newspaper clip detailing the future of the Army-Navy game in 1943 The New York Times

The War Department had already solidified that the football players at West Point were not allowed to participate in varsity sports. With a majority of male collegiate athletes and coaches being plucked from school to go overseas due to the draft, the federal government made a claim Army’s players should be prohibited all the same.

In the midst of war, politicians debated for months of the legitimacy of having the young men play, as well as choosing a neutral site.

“If this game is to be played in any big stadium this year Philadelphia has the only legitimate claim to it ... Philadelphia can and will fit its big stadium with 100-000 spectators drawn from within the city and a radium of fifteen miles .. If a game is to be played in a big stadium in the East this is the only city that should be given consideration,” wrote Philadelphia Mayor Bernard Samuels in a letter to then-Senator James Mead.

 Official Program Cover for the 1943 Army-Navy game
Official Program Cover for the 1943 Army-Navy game
United States Naval Academy Archives - Naval Academy Athletic Association

As appealing as a metropolitan city was, war officials couldn’t fathom the use of gasoline to transport the players during a time when it was already in short supply and so West Point was chosen as the home site in 1943.

Unfortunately for the Black Knights, the matchup was quite the blowout. The Mids won with a 13-0 score and landed their fifth victory on the series.

Fast forward 77 years and the game is back at West Point, albeit a different global environment. Regardless of the worldwide pandemic, the Mids and Cadets are facing off in the biggest rivalry game of the year, back at Michie Stadium.