Old Camp Lewis team to be honored at Rose Bowl Game

By Dean Siemon/JBLM PAO on December 29, 2017

One of college football’s oldest New Year’s traditions continues Jan. 1 when the Georgia Bulldogs and Oklahoma Sooners — two of the four teams in this season’s College Football Playoff — square off in the 2018 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The game has a long history of featuring some of the greatest football legends in history from schools like the University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame and University of Southern California playing in iconic matchups. Early in the game’s history, the Rose Bowl was nearly canceled due to the World War I draft.

Thankfully teams from military bases — including Joint Base Lewis-McChord — were able to fill in during the 1918 and 1919 Rose Bowls. An Army team from Camp Lewis, now JBLM, would go up against Marines from Mare Island, Calif.

That game, which Mare Island won 19-7, will be honored during the 2018 Rose Bowl by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with a video package — in development for a full year — that will be shown in the stadium right before the singing of the National Anthem of the 104th Rose Bowl game.

“The 1918 game has special significance due to it being allowed to take place at all, and then with two military teams makes it very unique,” said Lance Tibbet, president of the 2018 Tournament of Roses.

With weeks left before the scheduled Rose Bowl was to be played, a large portion of college football players across the country were drafted to participate in World War I. This didn’t leave a lot of options on the table for the game’s committee, which thought about canceling the game altogether.

Then-Rose Bowl president B.O. Kendall sent a telegram to then-U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to inquire whether the Tournament of Roses parade and the Rose Bowl game should continue as normal.

Not only did Wilson say that both events should continue, he also gave the approval for the Rose Bowl game to include military teams.

Although the game began in 1902, the second Rose Bowl game took place in 1916, with subsequent games following on an annual basis.

“The revered Rose Bowl Game that we know today might not have survived another interruption,” Tibbet said. “Additionally, the two military teams brought fans from near and far. It was a sold out game with over 25,000 in attendance. The game also showed how united the country was and gave people an opportunity to show their support for our military services.”

Camp Lewis was still relatively young, having just opened up near American Lake in September 1917. Right away, installation leadership wanted to have a strong athletic program with nearly 90 activities — including an intramural football league with 12 teams.

Additionally, athletic director Capt. Trevanion “Van” Cook formed the 91st Division team with Lt. Edgar Kienholz as the player-coach after playing for what is now called Washington State University.

The team had several college football stars like Utah’s Ernest “Dick” Romney, who had Camp Lewis’ lone score on a 6-yard touchdown run. The team had a strong season leading up to the Rose Bowl with a 5-1-1 record, losing only to Mare Island in the regular season and having a tie with Washington State.

The Rose Bowl hosted military teams again in 1919 with Mare Island losing 17-0 to the Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets from Chicago, which featured Chicago Bears founder George Halas.