Two months after turning 18, the Army Air Force drafted Charles “Chuck” Bednarik in 1943. Bednarik was eager to serve alongside his friends who joined. Despite his fear, he felt that it was his duty and he was “happy to serve his country.”
Bednarik attended gunnery training at Tyndall Field, Florida. After two months, he went to the European theater of operations as a member of the 467th Bombardment Group, also known as the “Rackheath Aggies.”
He traveled straight across the English Channel to France to support the Allied troops on the ground. He flew 30 missions over Germany. One mission that stood out among the rest was one directly over Berlin that required the whole 8th Air Force. Between 1,500 and 2,000 bombers flew over the capital city strategically to take out key industrial targets such as tank manufacturers, oil fields, and gasoline production.
Bednarik recounted that his scariest mission followed a push made by the 3rd Army into Saint Lô, France, by General George Patton. Patton pushed the enemy back, but he ran out of gas. Bednarik and his unit of B-24 Liberators had to deliver fuel for 500 tanks, which were 10 miles behind the enemy lines.
After the war, Bednarik returned to playing football with the University of Pennsylvania, and then professionally with the the Philadelphia Eagles in 1949 as a center and linebacker. While playing, he earned the nickname “Concrete Charlie” for his fierce tackling ability. Bednarik played his entire 14-year career with the Eagles, earning nine All-NFL selections and eight Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility. College football created an award in his honor called the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given to the best college defensive player each year.
Bednarik passed away in 2015 at the age of 89.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Aristeo Hernandez
Editor: Barbie Carranza