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Browns have military history

Posted May 30, 2010

The Browns have a rich history on the field and in military uniforms too.

The Browns success in the 1940s, 50s and 60s is well known and has been well-documented.

With the observance of Memorial Day, it’s important to remember that the Browns, like some other NFL teams, have a proud - and sometimes interesting - history when it comes to military service.

Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza was signed by the Browns while actually sitting in a foxhole overseas during World War II. He served three years in the Army in the South Pacific, spending five months on Okinawa, two in Hawaii and six in the Philippines.

Being stationed in Hawaii now is a pleasure. But at the time of Groza’s service, it was quite different, as America’s involvement in World War II started there with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

In Groza’s time there, he and some of his fellow servicemen erected a goal post so that he could practice kicking field goals to stay in shape for football.

Other Browns players have served beyond those early years. Defensive tackle Bob Gain missed all of the 1953 season and played a combined total of just eight of 24 regular-season games in 1952 and 1954 while serving in the Korean War. Right tackle Mike McCormack missed two seasons, 1952 and 1953, for the same reasons.

But the most memorable story about military service by Browns players and coaches involves a player who was a backup for but one season, 1953. Defensive end Don Steinbrunner served two years as an Air Force navigator after that season. When his tour of duty was up, he considered returning to the Browns but decided instead to pursue a military career.

Steinbrunner, then 35, was killed when his plane was shot down over Kontum, South Vietnam on July 20, 1967. As such, he became the first -- and one of just two -- former or current NFL players who lost their lives while in service of our country. Posthumously, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Below is a list of the some of the Browns who served in the military during the first three decades of the team's existence.

*Linebacker Tony Adamle -- Served in the Army Air Forces.

*Tackle Chet Adams -- Served in the Corps of Military Police, being a first lieutenant when he was discharged.

*Tackle Ernie Blandin -- Served in the Navy, including a year in the Marshall Islands and three months in Hawaii.

*Halfback Bill Boedeker -- Served with distinction in the Army Infantry, being awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

*Halfback Tom Colella -- Served in the Marine Corps.

*Running back Bob Cowan -- Served in the Army.

*HOF center Frank “Gunner” Gatski -- Served in the Army Infantry.

*Guard Bob Gaudio -- Served in the Army.

*Punter/tight end Horace Gillom -- Served in the Army in the European Theatre, winning three Bronze Stars.

*HOF quarterback Otto Graham -- Served in the Navy.

*Halfback Don Greenwood -- Served in the Army Air Corps.

*Guard Lin Houston -- Served in the Army in New Guinea and the Philippines.

*Guard Weldon Humble -- Served as a first lieutenant in the Marine Infantry and was awarded the Bronze Star.

*Halfback Edgar “Special Delivery” Jones -- Served in the Navy.

*HOF wide receiver Dante Lavelli -- Served in the Army in France, Belgium and Germany, and was in the Battle of the Bulge.

*Safety/quarterback Cliff Lewis -- Served in the Navy.

*Halfback Bill Lund -- Served as an ensign aboard a Navy destroyer in the Pacific Theatre.

*Center Mel Maceau -- Served in the Army Air Forces, including in the China-Burma-India Theatre, and won two Bronze Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.

*HOF fullback Marion Motley -- Served in the Navy.

*Tackle Ray Piskor -- Served in the Army.

*Tackle Lou Rymkus -- Served in the Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

*Fullback Lou Saban -- Served in the Army and became a first lieutenant.

*Tackle Len Simonetti -- Served in the Army and saw service in the South Pacific.

*Wide receiver Mac Speedie -- Served in the Army, doing reconditioning work in the medical corps, and rose to the level of first lieutenant.

*Guard Ed Ulinski -- Served in the Army and became a captain in the Army Air Forces.

*Defensive end John Yonakor -- Served in the Marines and was in the Southwest Pacific.

*Defensive end George Young -- Served in the Navy.

The coaches on those early Browns teams also served in World War II, including:

*HOF head coach Paul Brown -- Served in the Navy and became a lieutenant.

*Backfield coach Blanton Collier -- Served in the Navy.

*Tackles coach Bill Edwards -- Served in the Navy.

*Ends coach Dick Gallagher -- Served in the Navy and became a lieutenant.

*Guards coach Fritz Heisler -- Served in the Navy and rose to the level of lieutenant.