The Mosquito Bowl
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for war, one branch of the service dominated the aspirations of college football stars: the United States Marine Corps. Which is why, on Christmas Eve of 1944, when the 4th and 29th Marine regiments found themselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean training for what would be the bloodiest battle of the war – the invasion of Okinawa—their ranks included one of the greatest pools of football talent ever assembled: Former All Americans, captains from Wisconsin and Brown and Notre Dame, and nearly twenty men who were either drafted or would ultimately play in the NFL.
When the arguments between the 4th and 29th over who had the better football team reached a fever pitch, it was decided: The two regiments would play each other in a football game as close to the real thing as you could get in the dirt and coral of Guadalcanal on Christmas Eve, 1944. The bruising and bloody game that followed became known as “The Mosquito Bowl.”
Within a matter of months, fifteen of the 64 the players in “The Mosquito Bowl” would be killed at Okinawa, by far the largest number of American athletes ever to die in a single battle. The Mosquito Bowl is the story of these brave young men, those who survived and those who did not. It is the story of the families and the landscape that shaped them. It is a story of a far more innocent time in both college athletics and the life of the country. And of the loss of that innocence.
Writing with the style and rigor that won him a Pulitzer Prize and have made his books modern classics, Buzz Bissinger takes us from the playing fields of America’s campuses where boys played at being Marines, to the final time they were allowed to still be boys on that field of dirt and coral, to the darkest and deadliest days that followed at Okinawa.
“Take your pick: This is either the story of the most improbable game of football ever played, an anthem to immigrant America, or a brilliant tribute to an exemplary brotherhood that would be decimated at Okinawa. In every case it’s an indelible account of promising young men themselves hurled into history. Buzz Bissinger has stitched their story together as no one else could, powerfully and seamlessly, offering up a tender-tough tale in his signature high-octane prose.”
Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Witches: Salem, 1692
“Harrowing, profound, and illuminating, The Mosquito Bowl humanizes war and elevates athletic competition in one fell swoop. Bissinger is the master of showing us life in a single grain of sand, and he has done so brilliantly here. As familiar as the subject of World War II may seem, this book makes you see it in a fresh and exquisite way, with all its pain and triumph rendered in close detail.”
Susan Orlean, Susan Orlean, New York Times bestselling author of On Animals and The Library Book
“Stephen Crane famously discovered ‘the rage of conflict’ while watching a college football game. For Buzz Bissinger, football is no metaphor; it is the way into one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Deeply researched, told with extraordinary empathy and verve, The Mosquito Bowl will break your heart.”
Nathaniel Philbrick, National Book Award winning author of In the Heart of the Sea and Travels with George
“Here may be the most uniquely fascinating story ever written about World War II. Like the best of Buzz Bissinger, it is about far more than a football game, or even the war. He’s a gifted narrator and prodigious researcher, and in this book his skills are all on display: indelible characters, a bizarre and remarkably distinct setting, action, drama… a great story told with insight and humor and deep feeling. Do not pass this book by. It is magnificent.”
Mark Bowden, New York Times bestselling author of Black Hawk Down and Hue 1968
“The Mosquito Bowl is savage, piercing and haunting. Buzz Bissinger has written an utterly heartbreaking saga that fuses the macho glory of college football with the brutality and futility of combat. It is a measure of Bissinger’s singular talent that his searing account is tragic, yet also inspiring and unforgettable.”
David Zucchino, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Wilmington’s Lie
“Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights is an American classic. With The Mosquito Bowl, he is back with a true story even more colorful and profound. This book too is destined to become a classic. I devoured it.”
John Grisham, #1 New York Times bestselling author