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The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II

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An extraordinary, untold story of the Second World War in the vein of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat, from the author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total war, one branch of the service dominated the aspirations of college footbal An extraordinary, untold story of the Second World War in the vein of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat, from the author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total 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 trash-talking 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. 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 and beautiful 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 several of 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.


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An extraordinary, untold story of the Second World War in the vein of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat, from the author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total war, one branch of the service dominated the aspirations of college footbal An extraordinary, untold story of the Second World War in the vein of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat, from the author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total 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 trash-talking 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. 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 and beautiful 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 several of 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.

30 review for The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mac

    Having enjoyed Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, I eagerly read his latest, The Mosquito Bowl, and I found both books featured the author’s clever topic selection, thorough research, and easy-to-read writing style. However, even though The Mosquito Bowl covers a more significant topic in American history (WWII compared to high school football), I found Friday Night Lights more interesting and compelling. On the positive side, The Mosquito Bowl left me with a range of emotions and thoughts—sad Having enjoyed Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, I eagerly read his latest, The Mosquito Bowl, and I found both books featured the author’s clever topic selection, thorough research, and easy-to-read writing style. However, even though The Mosquito Bowl covers a more significant topic in American history (WWII compared to high school football), I found Friday Night Lights more interesting and compelling. On the positive side, The Mosquito Bowl left me with a range of emotions and thoughts—sadness at the loss of life for so many who were so young…the brutality of war, specifically the horrors of the Okinawa invasion…the sacrifices of The Greatest Generation (though Bissinger makes clear there also were slackers, cowards, and selfish Americans back then)…the intense, and counter-productive, competition among the US armed services…and the physical prowess of the soldiers, particularly those who participated in the football game—the Mosquito Bowl on Christmas Eve, 1944, in the middle of the Pacific. But somehow the latter book didn’t work for me. Bissinger devotes only a few paragraphs to the football game itself, saying, “Many of the details have been lost after nearly 80 years.” That’s a strange admission given the book's title, and it’s a glaring contrast to the rest of the book where most events are described in precise detail. Also, using the game as a frame to hold the entire narrative together is a stretch. Though the football game provides the reader with a reference point as the war unfolds and though it also humanizes the various characters, the game at times feels irrelevant to the larger war story Bissinger is telling. The game feels peripheral, a forced device imposed on the narrative. So I found a contradiction in reading The Mosquito Bowl. By the end, I was heartbroken at the loss of life and the ruined futures of soldiers and their families. What’s more, I felt I have lived a selfish life compared to the selflessness and sacrifice of so many during the war. Though I was moved by the book, I didn’t find it an enjoyable or well-crafted read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Sembar

    One of the best books I have read in a long time. Maybe because my father was a WWII veteran and he rarely spoke about his experiences just saying, we did what had to be done. The actual football game was a side note that tied together the characters the author brought to life. Even though you knew the main characters were going to be among the 15 athletes/marines that were going to die, it was still sad to imagine that they were all young men with their whole lives in front of them that never g One of the best books I have read in a long time. Maybe because my father was a WWII veteran and he rarely spoke about his experiences just saying, we did what had to be done. The actual football game was a side note that tied together the characters the author brought to life. Even though you knew the main characters were going to be among the 15 athletes/marines that were going to die, it was still sad to imagine that they were all young men with their whole lives in front of them that never got to live those lives. I can't wait for this book to come out in September, I will buy it because I want to see the pictures that will be included.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    While I did enjoy this book and following the various people throughout their war service, I have to give it a solid ding for the title event only being one page. I’m not sure what the title should’ve been, but I do know I would’ve read it anyway without the bait and switch.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    The contributions of American athletes to the war effort during World War II has been well documented. The experiences of Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Tom Landry, Ed Lummus and hundreds of others have been recognized for their impact in defeating Germany and Japan. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Buzz Bissinger’s latest book, THE MOSQUITO BOWL: A GAME OF LIFE AND DEATH IN WORLD WAR II chronicles events leading up to a game between the 4th and 29th Marine Regiments on Guadalcanal The contributions of American athletes to the war effort during World War II has been well documented. The experiences of Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Tom Landry, Ed Lummus and hundreds of others have been recognized for their impact in defeating Germany and Japan. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Buzz Bissinger’s latest book, THE MOSQUITO BOWL: A GAME OF LIFE AND DEATH IN WORLD WAR II chronicles events leading up to a game between the 4th and 29th Marine Regiments on Guadalcanal in late 1944 and the fate of many who fought at Tarawa, Saipan, and Okinawa. The soldiers were made up of former All-Americans from Brown, Notre Dame and Wisconsin universities twenty of which were drafted by the National Football League. Of the sixty-five men who played in the game, fifteen would die a few months later at Okinawa. Bissinger, the author of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, a story of high school football in Texas brings to life the men and their military training as they prepared for the Marine assault on Okinawa. During their preparations trash talking between the two Marine Regiments reached a fever pitch which led to what has been referred to as “the Mosquito Bowl.” Bissinger’s narrative explores the lives of these men with insight, empathy, and a clear picture of what they were experiencing and would soon be up against. It is a well told story of college athletes and their loss of innocence. It begins on the playing fields of America’s colleges through their final time f to remain boys to the darkest days that would follow on Okinawa. The book is a dichotomy in the story it tells. First and foremost, Bissinger zeroes in on the lives of a number of individuals who developed as exceptional athletes and morphed into American Marines. Bissinger focuses on the lives of John Marshall McLaughey, Captain of the Brown football team, played one year with the New York Giants and enlisted immediately after Pearl Harbor. Another major football star, this time as an All-American at the University of Wisconsin, David Schreiner enlisted as an officer candidate with the Marines. Tony Butkovich, from a family of eleven, one of which was a fighter pilot, was an All-American at the University of Illinois, later at Purdue University and was drafted number one by the Cleveland Rams. Butkovich would not make the grade as a Marine officer and became a corporal in the infantry. Bob Bauman was Butkovich’s teammate at Wisconsin and his brother Frank played at Illinois, both brothers joined the Marines. Bob McGowan, from western Pennsylvania was a Sergeant and Squad leader who was severely wounded on Okinawa and whose story provides the reader with the feel of the terror and bloodshed of battle. Lastly, George Murphy, Captain of the Notre Dame football team would join the others as Marines, in his case as an officer candidate. The book jacket describing Bissinger’s narrative is a bit misleading. It appears the book will concentrate on football, but its treatment goes much deeper in its exploration of a number of important topics in American history during the first half of the 20th century. Bissinger follows the military training that the athletes experienced, but its focus is diverse. The depression plays a prominent role in the upbringing of the Bauman brothers in a small town just south of Chicago. The issue of immigration stands out because of its impact on the diversity of American society, but also the backlash that was created after World War I when families like the Butkovichs came to the United States from Croatia at the turn of the century. By 1924, Congress passed the Johnson Act designed to block immigration from southern and eastern Europe. The legislation reflected politics combined with the pseudo-science of eugenics which became very popular in the post-World War I period that argued certain groups were inferior to “white Americans.” Daniel Okrent’s THE GUARDED GATE: BIGOTRY, EUGENICS AND THE LAW THAT KEPT TWO GENERATIONS OF JEWS, ITALIANS, AND OTHER EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS OUT OF AMERICA is an exceptional study of American racism during that period. Racism is a dominant theme apart from war and athletics as Bissinger explores how blacks were treated in the military. Lynchings and murders were common in the American south and the experiences of blacks in the military revolved around demeaning jobs mostly in supply, laundries, bakeries, sanitation, ammo dumps leading to the conclusion that the United States fought for freedom in occupied Europe and the Pacific, but there would be no freedom for the 13 million Blacks living in the United States of America. At the outset of the war there were no blacks in the Marines. The military leadership used college football stars as a recruiting tool and stressed the similar values and talents that college football and the military held in common. Exemptions for college athletes from the draft led to anger by the families of those fighting in Europe and the Pacific while many the same age enjoyed the life of a star athlete. Bissinger does an exceptional job delving into the West Point football program as they experienced their best seasons in 1944 and 1945 due to the accomplishments of exempted players “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis, who were better known as “Mr. inside, and Mr. Outside.” Their exploits would lead the Army to national championships. Bissinger has total command of the history of the war and college athletics. The author lists more than 100 pages of endnotes, assembled from military records, correspondence, interviews of survivors and other reportorial feats — shows up everywhere, in the numbers, in battle accounts, in the homey mundanity of letters, and a clear incisive writing style, sprinkled with humor and sarcasm which are keys to the book’s success. As to the conduct of the war, Bissinger pulls no punches as he recounts the errors in judgement by military higher ups as it planned and carried out the amphibious landing at Tarawa which turned into a bloody disaster with 2000 casualties in the first 76 hours of the invasion. The key to victory over Japan would be “island hopping” therefore amphibious warfare was of the utmost importance, but military strategists did not make use of all of its assets, i.e.; LVT boats as opposed to Higgins boats that could not navigate through the coral that surrounded many Pacific islands. Bissinger’s discussions of Tarawa and the outright stupidity of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. who commanded US forces at Okinawa can only anger the reader as it resulted in the useless deaths of so many young men. Another important weapon Bissinger explores is that of the “flame thrower.” On Okinawa and other islands, the Japanese benefited from their use of caves with interlocking tunnels, a difficult problem to overcome. The caves were challenging to penetrate by bombing so the use of napalm from flame throwers became imperative. Despite the application of this weapon which saved many American lives, the Japanese inflicted innumerable casualties on the Americans as they fought from hill to hill. Japanese troop strength on Okinawa was much higher than US intelligence pointed out, roughly 100,000, not the 66,000 that was estimated. Bissinger lays out the fears and hopes of the men as they prepared and carried out their mission with horrendous results. In the end over 250,000 people died in 82 days at Okinawa. Of that number 50,000 were American, 20,000 Marines, 8222 from the 6th Division. In the last quarter of the book Bissinger does justice to their memory as he lays out the battle for Okinawa, the Japanese who fought to the death, and the obstacles that the Marines had to overcome. He lays out the story of all the men who fought at Okinawa and played in the Mosquito Bowl along with countless others. The core of the book revolves around The Mosquito Bowl, which was a spirited, semi-organized football game on Guadalcanal. The game, played on Christmas Eve 1944 with at least 1,500 Marines watching, is both a pretext and an organizing principle for the book, but its significance fades as Bissinger explores the fates of several participants. Combat and other dirty aspects of warfare are ever present. The fighting on Tarawa, Saipan, Okinawa and stories of those who never returned home point to the insanity of war, which regrettably still dominates our news cycle today as we witness Russian terrorism and atrocities in Ukraine. The title of the book is a misnomer as there is little discussion of the game itself – more to the point the book is not about a football game but the tragedy of young men fighting and dying in wars far from home.

  5. 5 out of 5

    skip thurnauer

    The Mosquito Bowl tells the story of a football game played on Okinawa by some of the best football players in America, all serving their country as Marines in WWII. Like Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, the real stories are the stories of the men who played the game, young men like John McLaughry, an all-star at Brown who played for the NY Giants. The University of Wisconsin's David Schreiner was one of the greatest college ends in a decade and was drafted by the Detroit Lions. Frank and Bob Bu The Mosquito Bowl tells the story of a football game played on Okinawa by some of the best football players in America, all serving their country as Marines in WWII. Like Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, the real stories are the stories of the men who played the game, young men like John McLaughry, an all-star at Brown who played for the NY Giants. The University of Wisconsin's David Schreiner was one of the greatest college ends in a decade and was drafted by the Detroit Lions. Frank and Bob Butkovich led their Canton, Illinois teams to championships in football, basketball, and baseball. Frank, a fullback, was an All-American and a first round draft choice by the Cleveland Rams. The reader learns about these men and others, not only their athletic achievements, but also about their families and their communities. The Mosquito Bowl was played by 56 men who had played college football, 22 of whom were starters, sixteen had been drafted by the pros or received offers, 5 had been team captains, and 3 were all Americans. The game is almost a postscript, told in just a few pages. The gory battles of Okinawa detail the staunch defense of the Japanese army, dug into mountainsides and caves against the U.S. Marines, Army, and Navy who fought in the steamy heat, muck, jungle in the South Pacific. The heroics of our military resulted in victory, achieved at an enormous cost. In 82 days, as many as 250,000 people were killed . The total number of U.S. casualties was roughly 50,000, including many of the men the reader has come to know as football players and Marines. In the Epilogue Bissinger writes, "When I think about the men of the Mosquito Bowl who died, there is one image I can't get out of my mind: how they were alive, living and breathing... and were gone, just like that... The word that keeps coming back to me is waste, the absolute waste of those men's lives regardless of their unfathomable bravery and sacrifice that preserved our freedoms." Because the reader has become invested in these young men, that feeling is unavoidable and permeable. The Mosquito Bowl is a sports story, a military story, and a story of mid-twentieth century America.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Lubin

    Well presented, accurate and informative The Battle for Okinawa went on for a very long time. The casualties were in very high numbers for combatants and civilians. In many ways, it is difficult to grasp the overall picture so the battle sometimes gets shelved in conversations. This book takes a more poignant view by taking it down to the individual levels. The author makes you feel the individual loss of each Marine and soldier in ways that are very rare. The men who competed against each other Well presented, accurate and informative The Battle for Okinawa went on for a very long time. The casualties were in very high numbers for combatants and civilians. In many ways, it is difficult to grasp the overall picture so the battle sometimes gets shelved in conversations. This book takes a more poignant view by taking it down to the individual levels. The author makes you feel the individual loss of each Marine and soldier in ways that are very rare. The men who competed against each other in the “Mosquito Bowl” were among the very best of the very best America had to offer. Their fates are presented with compassion and their sacrifice is noted. Having read a great many books on WW2, I have to put this one in the top ten worth reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    As I was preparing to read and review THE MOSQUITO BOWL, I researched Buzz Bissinger’s body of work. I thought I was familiar with his writing as the author of well-known sports books during a four-decade career. Football fans recognize FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS as a sports classic. Almost every football coach I know has read Bissinger’s account of high school football in Permian, Texas. Ranked by Sports Illustrated as the fourth best sports book ever written, it served as the basis for a movie and a As I was preparing to read and review THE MOSQUITO BOWL, I researched Buzz Bissinger’s body of work. I thought I was familiar with his writing as the author of well-known sports books during a four-decade career. Football fans recognize FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS as a sports classic. Almost every football coach I know has read Bissinger’s account of high school football in Permian, Texas. Ranked by Sports Illustrated as the fourth best sports book ever written, it served as the basis for a movie and a television series that even today has passionate followers. However, I learned that there is more to Bissinger than writing about sports. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for pieces he wrote on Philadelphia courtroom corruption, Bissinger has covered figures as varied as Caitlyn Jenner, Stephen Glass and Tony La Russa. Many of his books and articles are the result of his immersion journalist approach, in which readers become part of the ongoing story. While THE MOSQUITO BOWL is seemingly about an ersatz football game, there is far more here than what occurred on a dirt and coral field on an island in the Pacific in 1944. This is not a book that will take you into the huddle or locker room and provide volumes of material on football. In fact, discussions of the sport are minimal. The Mosquito Bowl game itself goes by so quickly that you might even miss it. The story presented here is of America at war, planning and preparing for one of the bloodiest battles in US history. Along the way, soldiers from the 4th and 29th Marine regiments found a moment to divert their attention to a football game. The intersection of sports and patriotism is long-standing in American history. During World War II, many of the nation’s finest athletes fought in a battle against fascism and tyranny. Sometimes they could take a break from the war to briefly play the game they loved. They were men at war, but the call once again to be boys on the field was too alluring to avoid. Participants in the Mosquito Bowl Game included an All-American running back from Purdue and others from Cornell, Notre Dame and Illinois. Another player had been an All-American receiver at Wisconsin, and one had started for the New York Giants. Beyond their football careers, they shared a patriotic spirit that brought them to a Marine combat division. Many who played in the game were in their mid-20s and had been molded into Marine officers to lead younger men still in their teens into battle. Some had enlisted shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They had fought their way across the Pacific and were now preparing for a landing on Okinawa, and perhaps an invasion of Japan. Sixty-five marines suited up for the game. Football uniforms were not part of the issued military gear, so the men wore cut-off dungarees, shorts and marine field shoes. Fifteen hundred fellow marines watched the teams battle to a 0-0 tie. The game itself was long forgotten until Bissinger discovered details in his research of Okinawa. The Battle of Okinawa occupies the concluding portions of THE MOSQUITO BOWL. Fifteen of the 65 players died, and 20 were wounded. It was the largest number of American athletes to perish in a single battle. The struggle on Okinawa was exacerbated by Japanese tactics that had been shaped after military successes across Pacific islands. The Japanese maintained their belief that they could frustrate American military efforts and somehow still achieve more favorable terms than unconditional surrender. Bissinger concludes his stirring history with a recognition that the phrase “The Greatest Generation” has become a tired bromide: “There still is far too much misogyny and racism and hatred of the Other in the United States for any generation to be great. But what made the marines special was how they were ordinary men who rose to extraordinary circumstances time and time again. It is the true measure of greatness that most of us never achieve.” Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman

  8. 5 out of 5

    Darryl Barney

    The title can make you think this non-fiction book has a football focus. Although 50 or so former college stars played a semi-serious very brutal football game on Guadalcanal while waiting to fight on Okinawa, the book is about that insanely bloody WW2 battle between US and Japanese forces. The 15 players who died in battle are the characters of the book. This was still a time when privileged young men volunteered for the military during war. The reader is not spared details of how bloody gruesome The title can make you think this non-fiction book has a football focus. Although 50 or so former college stars played a semi-serious very brutal football game on Guadalcanal while waiting to fight on Okinawa, the book is about that insanely bloody WW2 battle between US and Japanese forces. The 15 players who died in battle are the characters of the book. This was still a time when privileged young men volunteered for the military during war. The reader is not spared details of how bloody gruesome and on some level, senseless the 3 month battle was. Total deaths were around 200,000 on a somewhat small island; nearly half were civilians. It was important that Hitler was defeated and part of that was defeating Hitler’s ally Japan In the Pacific so the US had a worthy goal. The book is very well researched and written, there are about 100 pages of reference notes. There is is so much human destruction I can’t say I enjoyed it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A powerful read that will punch you in the gut and have you laugh out loud... I just listened to the the entire book in one sitting after watching Mr. His singer's interview on Morning Joe the other day I knew I had to buy his book. I am no a fan of documentaries in any format but I am so glad I went with my gut on this one. My Dad was at Okinawa and he too never talked about it. There are so many small treasures in this book that will stay with me forever... I will harken back to this book every A powerful read that will punch you in the gut and have you laugh out loud... I just listened to the the entire book in one sitting after watching Mr. His singer's interview on Morning Joe the other day I knew I had to buy his book. I am no a fan of documentaries in any format but I am so glad I went with my gut on this one. My Dad was at Okinawa and he too never talked about it. There are so many small treasures in this book that will stay with me forever... I will harken back to this book every time I hear GSW on a police procedural, see a wheelbarrow or a bull. While I'm not into college football, I'm a huge fan of NFL and the history of both was great. And this Sunday I will be thinking of a very special game that serendipitously ending in a tie was played by some of the greatest boys that America can be proud to say that they are theirs. Yes they were the Greatest Generation, not perfect - no one is - but when the job needed to be done they did it. The folks at home rallied and did what needed to be done. I highly recommend this book. If nothing else to open your eyes that war is hell and perhaps those in charge need work very hard to keep our boys and girls from going there again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hal Brodsky

    An imperfect but well-researched book about the Marines in the Pacific theater. Despite the title, it has little to do with football and even less with the game in question. The author effectively demonstrates and laments the frequent unnecessary and random loss of life (American and especially Japanese) in the war. The book is harmed by the author's unnecessary interjections of the F word for shock value and his occasional sophomoric editorializing at the end if some chapters, usually through su An imperfect but well-researched book about the Marines in the Pacific theater. Despite the title, it has little to do with football and even less with the game in question. The author effectively demonstrates and laments the frequent unnecessary and random loss of life (American and especially Japanese) in the war. The book is harmed by the author's unnecessary interjections of the F word for shock value and his occasional sophomoric editorializing at the end if some chapters, usually through sudden ironic catchphrases that seem misplaced and unnecessary.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abbie Riddle

    And then there are books that change your life.....remind you of the sacrifices that are often made without thought. Bissinger's book is a book that covers a football game that has been long forgotten by most and yet it reveals that even in the midst of war and hardship soldiers long for the normalcy of their lives. This book left me contemplating the lives lost, the innocence given up and the hardships endured. Too often we tend to romanticize battles, war, the duties of soldiers. We relegate t And then there are books that change your life.....remind you of the sacrifices that are often made without thought. Bissinger's book is a book that covers a football game that has been long forgotten by most and yet it reveals that even in the midst of war and hardship soldiers long for the normalcy of their lives. This book left me contemplating the lives lost, the innocence given up and the hardships endured. Too often we tend to romanticize battles, war, the duties of soldiers. We relegate them to a story that can be made to feel different from the actual circumstances. And yet, in the midst of it all are boys and young men about to face the battle of their lives - many of them will not return from the it. Recently my 18 year old son stood leaning on the wall as I cooked dinner. "Mom," he said, "do you realize that 1/3 men do not return from battle? So if Ben, Judah and J and I all were drafted only 2-3 of us would return" I stood there, stirring the food, and was shocked. Not that I did not realize the statistics of battle but that when he mentioned all my boys in one sentence and stated it so plainly I felt suddenly numb. I was hit with images of them facing atrocities that are hard to recover from if they even make it back home. I thought of the hardships faced by veterans even now. And.....And I thought about this book. Simply a must read. I will be purchasing a copy when it is available.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    My mind craves knowledge when I read. This nonfictional account of a football game played in WWII Okinawa is just the ticket to satisfy my brain, because the book is chock-full of events, people and information. It’s also a very true depiction of war when it can be a horrid grind. I loved the flow of the book, beginning with the most important men and their families, because soldiers are the most important component of war.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I really wanted to like this book and I was excited to read another book by Bissinger after reading Friday Night Lights. In the end, I found this book very boring and not at all what I had hoped. First, although the title of the book is “The Mosquito Bowl”, the actual game was hardly more than a footnote in the story. I expected a grand build-up leading to the game but more attention and detail was given to military strategies than to the game the book was named for. Also, I felt the characters I really wanted to like this book and I was excited to read another book by Bissinger after reading Friday Night Lights. In the end, I found this book very boring and not at all what I had hoped. First, although the title of the book is “The Mosquito Bowl”, the actual game was hardly more than a footnote in the story. I expected a grand build-up leading to the game but more attention and detail was given to military strategies than to the game the book was named for. Also, I felt the characters in this book were uninteresting and I didn’t feel the connection to their stories like in other books, like “The Boys in the Boat”. As a result, I lost track of who was who and it made the book feel a bit scattered. This book felt like it could have been about 1/2 as long. There was so much filler content about the pacific war strategies, which is fine but it distracted from the main story the author was trying to tell. The result was neither a football story nor a story about the athletes in the Pacific, but was a jumbled mess of a lot of things and lacking a center. Overall, I do really enjoy Buzz Bissinger’s writing. He is a great author to read and has a beautiful way with words. But as I reflect on this particular story, I think there’s much better WW2 books out there and there’s nothing about this book that stands out as special.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    A very sad and moving book. The horror of war comes through clearly. The men who die are our friends and neighbors and schoolmates.Why did they have to die so young with their best years ahead of them?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Asen

    Bissinger. Needless to say great. WWII in a microcosm. Rich in character development. A fair amount of battles in the second half of the book, but it works

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    A unique take on examining the WWII experience from the viewpoint of outstanding college players who entered the Marine Corps, participated in a one-time game on Guadalcanal and went on to fight in the battle to capture Okinawa. The author uses extensive sources to provide the reader with the detailed story of these men and their contribution to the war. I took so long to read the book because we had a 10 day trip and I didn't have time to read -- otherwise I would have never taken so long. I li A unique take on examining the WWII experience from the viewpoint of outstanding college players who entered the Marine Corps, participated in a one-time game on Guadalcanal and went on to fight in the battle to capture Okinawa. The author uses extensive sources to provide the reader with the detailed story of these men and their contribution to the war. I took so long to read the book because we had a 10 day trip and I didn't have time to read -- otherwise I would have never taken so long. I liked the fresh approach and the excellent writing and research.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Singel Baker

    Well written, researched story of WWII in the Pacific. I felt greatly mislead, however, by the title & was disappointed so little time was spent on the game. What a tragic story about a gruesome & terrible life-wasting war. 3.5 stars

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I received a proof copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Though the topic of war and its brutality is a challenge to read about, Bissinger does a good job honoring those who valiantly fought to support their country. This book is very readable because it makes the soldiers and their families relatable and human. Chapters about individuals introduce some of the very young who left college and opportunities to play professional sports to head off to defend the country. There is background abou I received a proof copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Though the topic of war and its brutality is a challenge to read about, Bissinger does a good job honoring those who valiantly fought to support their country. This book is very readable because it makes the soldiers and their families relatable and human. Chapters about individuals introduce some of the very young who left college and opportunities to play professional sports to head off to defend the country. There is background about the military, leadership, and finally how loyalty and camaraderie aid in survival tied together by the gathering to play the Mosquito Bowl before heading off to risk their lives in the Pacific by fighting strategic Japanese positions. The writing style makes it much easier to learn about important moments in history while also finding enjoyment.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Powerful, heart breaking read. This quote from the book sums up how I felt. (I listened to the audio so I may have the punctuation wrong) “When I think about the men of the Mosquito Bowl who died, there is one image I cannot get out of my mind: how they were alive living and breathing, and then fell into the jagged ground of Okinawa and were gone, just like that, dying alone, no matter how many others surrounded them. The word that keeps coming to me is waste. The absolute waste of those men’s li Powerful, heart breaking read. This quote from the book sums up how I felt. (I listened to the audio so I may have the punctuation wrong) “When I think about the men of the Mosquito Bowl who died, there is one image I cannot get out of my mind: how they were alive living and breathing, and then fell into the jagged ground of Okinawa and were gone, just like that, dying alone, no matter how many others surrounded them. The word that keeps coming to me is waste. The absolute waste of those men’s lives regardless of the unfathomable bravery and sacrifice that preserved our freedoms. They deserved so much more. They should have had so much more.”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robert Swanson

    A brilliant read. WWII is generations removed from today, yet the horror of those years and the lives lost are all brought back in this amazing book. Mr. Bissinger recounts the battles of Tarawa and Okinawa in unflinching detail through the eyes of those that served. Knowing that so many of these men would die made this book a terribly sad experience. With the deaths of the key players, Mr. Bissinger's final words for each were the day they died, where they were buried and their age. So young. As A brilliant read. WWII is generations removed from today, yet the horror of those years and the lives lost are all brought back in this amazing book. Mr. Bissinger recounts the battles of Tarawa and Okinawa in unflinching detail through the eyes of those that served. Knowing that so many of these men would die made this book a terribly sad experience. With the deaths of the key players, Mr. Bissinger's final words for each were the day they died, where they were buried and their age. So young. As Mr. Bissinger writes in the epilogue: The word that keeps coming to me is waste, the absolute waste of those men's lives regardless of the unfathomable bravery and sacrifice that preserved our freedoms. They deserve so much more. They should have had so much more. So maybe this book, without my knowing it at first, is an attempt to remind us that those who died were once so alive with the world ahead of them. Just as they must be honored in death, they must also be honored in life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Schwartz

    Full disclosure: Buzz Bissinger is an old and dear friend of mine. That said, I think I can be objective about his new book "The Mosquito Bowl." Quite simply, it is a book for the ages. For anyone interested in "the greatest generation," what it was like to fight in the Pacific theater of WWII, and what America was like in those long ago years, this is a book you will cherish. Some of it takes a strong stomach - war is never pretty, and the savagery of the Pacific campaign is brought to life by Full disclosure: Buzz Bissinger is an old and dear friend of mine. That said, I think I can be objective about his new book "The Mosquito Bowl." Quite simply, it is a book for the ages. For anyone interested in "the greatest generation," what it was like to fight in the Pacific theater of WWII, and what America was like in those long ago years, this is a book you will cherish. Some of it takes a strong stomach - war is never pretty, and the savagery of the Pacific campaign is brought to life by Buzz's amazing writing and incredible research - but it is well worth it. You will meet real heroes, some of whom make it and some of whom do not. You will cheer for them, and cry for them. Buzz uses the device of a football game on Guadalcanal just prior to the invasion of Okinawa to identify and trace a group of fantastic high school and college football players as they land on Okinawa and face the greatest challenge of their young lives. You will remember McLaughry, Schreiner, Bauman, Butkowich, and the rest of them for a long time. Completely agree with John Grisham's assessment - this is destined to become a classic. I am thinking it will rank alongside The Thin Red Line and The Naked and the Dead. Bottom line: buy it, read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dave Scrip

    Bissenger writes a history of young Marines who were once gridiron players who fought and some died. Bissinger does not write an all incompassing history of the Battle of Okinawa. His story centers on a “touch” football game held on Christmas Eve 1944 on Guadalcanal. 65 Marines some former college standouts and pro football players played a game that meant nothing but indulged in a past time and game they love. It was known as the Mosquito Bowl. It was played in a back drop of a WW2. For nearly Bissenger writes a history of young Marines who were once gridiron players who fought and some died. Bissinger does not write an all incompassing history of the Battle of Okinawa. His story centers on a “touch” football game held on Christmas Eve 1944 on Guadalcanal. 65 Marines some former college standouts and pro football players played a game that meant nothing but indulged in a past time and game they love. It was known as the Mosquito Bowl. It was played in a back drop of a WW2. For nearly two hours the men of the 4th and 29th Marines of the 6th Division played a game that they loved. Ironically but fittingly the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Four months later they landed on Okinawa. During the 72 day battle, 15 of the 65 paid an ultimate sacrafice. Bissenger recounts the experices and sacrafices they paid. I highly recommend this true story to read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    I found this a very difficult book to read, but I nonetheless plowed through it, because it was eye-opening. Bissinger uses a little known event, a football game played by American soldiers (sorry, marines(read the book and you’ll understand)) stationed on Okinawa during WW II, as a “point of organization.” However, the focus of the book is the Battle of Okinawa itself, and Bissinger does an incredible job describing it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This book is brilliant. It takes the reader on a poignant, brutal, and reverential journey. Americans who care about the past and future of America should read it for its insights. Writers should read it for its skillful execution. While the book appears to be about a football game, it is about the heart of America. Do not be put off by its length. The last third is a bibliography, a gold mine for historians.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I received this book in a Goodreads book giveaway. Though I would say football and war are two of my least favorite subjects, this book enthralled me the entire way through. The author gives us a very personal look at the young men who went off to war, as well as their families and friends, which makes it much more than just a book about sports or WWII. Not necessarily an uplifting read, but it definitely provides much to think about and honors those who gave their lives. Very well written and en I received this book in a Goodreads book giveaway. Though I would say football and war are two of my least favorite subjects, this book enthralled me the entire way through. The author gives us a very personal look at the young men who went off to war, as well as their families and friends, which makes it much more than just a book about sports or WWII. Not necessarily an uplifting read, but it definitely provides much to think about and honors those who gave their lives. Very well written and engaging!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    ***I was lucky enough to win (yay!) an uncorrected proof of this book and wanted to post an honest review*** “The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II” is the latest book from Mr. Buzz Bissinger, author of the classic novel about Texas High School Football “Friday Night Lights”. It centers on a group of young men fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War 2 who were premier football players at the college and professional levels. To kill time and bring a sense of normalcy whi ***I was lucky enough to win (yay!) an uncorrected proof of this book and wanted to post an honest review*** “The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II” is the latest book from Mr. Buzz Bissinger, author of the classic novel about Texas High School Football “Friday Night Lights”. It centers on a group of young men fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War 2 who were premier football players at the college and professional levels. To kill time and bring a sense of normalcy while preparing for the invasion of Okinawa, the 4th and 29th Marine regiments decide to play a football game against each other which was given the nickname of “The Mosquito Bowl”. The author does a terrific job of diving into the backstory of a lot of the players, many of whom would lose their lives shortly after the big game. You really feel like you know these men who had their whole lives ahead of them who then paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of their Country. He also offers vivid details and descriptions of the battles and day to day hell that was the invasion of Okinawa. If there is a negative to this book, it is that the details of the game are only briefly glossed over. So, if you were looking for in depth analysis of the game that was played, this might not be for you. I have read many books on World War II and this one deserves to be in the collection of anyone who is interested in the topic.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    "When I think about the men of the Mosquito Bowl who died, there is on image I cannot get out of my mind: how they were alive living and breathing, and then fell into the jagged ground of Okinawa and were gone, just like that, dying alone no matter how many others surrounded them.... The word that keeps coming to me is waste, the absolute waste of those men's lives regardless of the unfathomable bravery and sacrifice that persevered our freedoms. They deserved so much more. They should have had "When I think about the men of the Mosquito Bowl who died, there is on image I cannot get out of my mind: how they were alive living and breathing, and then fell into the jagged ground of Okinawa and were gone, just like that, dying alone no matter how many others surrounded them.... The word that keeps coming to me is waste, the absolute waste of those men's lives regardless of the unfathomable bravery and sacrifice that persevered our freedoms. They deserved so much more. They should have had so much more." (p.332) The rosters of the two regimental teams for the Mosquito Bowl were sixty-five. Twenty-two were from major Universities. Three were All-Americans. All were in their 20s when they fought at Okinawa, an experience that would change them just as would hundreds of thousands of other Americans as well as their families and friends. While plenty of other able-bodied men didn’t let the war disrupt their lives, these men postponed offers to play in the NFL, begin careers, marry or start their own families to join the fight. The book’s only misstep, the Mosquito Bowl itself takes up less than a page and doesn’t justify the catchy title. Few details of the game apparently survive-the score, an anticlimactic 0-0. If the title is merely a marketing hook, it does a disservice to the subject at hand. This story doesn’t need a gimmick to sell it. It's a remarkable book that tells so many stories, seamlessly blended together, meticulously researched, and riveting to the reader. Bissinger's gorgeous writing & thorough, exhaustive research make the book readable, propulsive, and a great resource for any historian. For anyone interested in "the greatest generation," what it was like to fight in the Pacific theater of WWII, and what America was like in those long-ago years, this is a book you will cherish. Some of it takes a strong stomach-war is never pretty, and the savagery of the Pacific campaign is brought to life by Buzz's amazing writing and incredible research-but it is well worth it. You will meet real heroes, some of whom make it and some of whom do not. I don't think Bissinger’s primary subject was ever the Mosquito Bowl itself or even football. Its primary purpose was the familiar story of young men going off to war, their devotion to duty and that heroism and sacrifice never go out of fashion.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    #GoodreadsGiveaways I saw the author on Morning Joe discussing this book and added it to my to-read shelf, so I was excited when I won a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I agree with others who have noted that the title is a bit misleading in that there is very little information or discussion about the actual game that took place on Christmas Eve 1944 on Guadalcanal among enlisted men. Instead, the book focuses on the key players on the game, many of who were star a #GoodreadsGiveaways I saw the author on Morning Joe discussing this book and added it to my to-read shelf, so I was excited when I won a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I agree with others who have noted that the title is a bit misleading in that there is very little information or discussion about the actual game that took place on Christmas Eve 1944 on Guadalcanal among enlisted men. Instead, the book focuses on the key players on the game, many of who were star athletes in college and some of whom were drafted by or played for NFL teams. There are many stories of bravery and kinship as well as some less obvious insights: (1) "Men overseas resented that players were safe from harm, playing football, while they smelled like shit and looked like shit and shit into little cans and thought like shit because they were tired as shit and scared and shit trying to stay alive in spite of all of the shit unless you did because of all the shit and most definitely did not give a flying shit about the Army football team. Hometown and statewide teams, yes. But not the players at West Point, whom many considered draft dodgers. As John McLaughry put it, "It doesn't seem right, all these apparently healthy football players being exempt, and many of these men out here eighteen and twenty months all worn down with malaria and still working like hell." p. 88 (2) "He had a steady girlfriend before he went overseas, the daughter of a doctor from the East. They apparently thought about marriage, but Butkovich said no. He didn't want to be forced into the terrible decision of having to choose; in the event that he was killed in action, the $10,000 government-guaranteed life insurance policy would go to his mother." (3) "The navy base [Naval Station Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay] became known for its psychiatric ward, where gay seamen, rather than being punished, as homosexuality was illegal in the military, were treated with understanding and then discharged. The innovative policy was one of the reasons San Francisco became a haven for gays." p. 99 Overall, this is well worth reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dean McIntyre

    THE MOSQUITO BOWL: A GAME OF LIFE AND DEATH IN WORLD WAR II by Buzz Bissinger -- The GoodReads and publisher promotions for this book is heavily given to an actual football game between GIs stationed on Okinawa on Christmas Eve 1944, shortly before what would become the bloodiest battle of WWII. The book highlights numerous college players, some of great success and fame during the war years, their young years, families, and college sports achievements. THE MOSQUITO BOWL is the name given to a s THE MOSQUITO BOWL: A GAME OF LIFE AND DEATH IN WORLD WAR II by Buzz Bissinger -- The GoodReads and publisher promotions for this book is heavily given to an actual football game between GIs stationed on Okinawa on Christmas Eve 1944, shortly before what would become the bloodiest battle of WWII. The book highlights numerous college players, some of great success and fame during the war years, their young years, families, and college sports achievements. THE MOSQUITO BOWL is the name given to a showdown football contest between two Marine regiments on the island and the talented college players. There were 64 players in the game, 15 of whom were killed in the battle for Okinawa that was to follow. The playing of the game is covered by no more than a couple of pages in the 480-page book. The rest of the book is given over to battles, strategy, warfare, death, destruction, and all manner of war atrocities. If you're looking for an interesting sports-related footnote of history, this isn't the book for you. But if you want to read about the war that went on before and after that game, then go ahead and read. It's a well-written book but dishonestly promoted.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Northumberland

    When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total 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 greate When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total 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 trash-talking 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. The bruising and bloody game that followed became known as "The Mosquito Bowl."

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