Did You Know...

Al Blozis is one of just six active NFL players ever killed in wartime.

History & Tradition: Al Blozis

Part 2 of 2

In the sixty years since his untimely death, the story of All-American Al Blozis (C'1942) is a vital part of the Georgetown athletics tradition. Much has been rightly written about his football prowess on the Hilltop, his track accolades, his NFL Rookie of the Year and All-Pro honors, but comparatively little about the battle in the Vosges Mountains that cost Blozis his life at the age of 26.

Many of the accounts of the battle played to Blozis' heroism: that he was fighting behind enemy lines to rescue fellow soldiers. A reader to this web site, Mr. David Coats, has forwarded this account of Blozis' final battle from someone who witnessed it first hand, his father.

"My father, Lowell S. Coats, served with Al Blozis during Blozis' very brief time in combat. My father served in Co. A, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. He was the Company Communications Sgt. at the time Lt. Blozis joined A Co. in January, 1945, and was in an adjacent foxhole when Lt. Blozis was mortally wounded.

"I thought I'd shed a little more light on that sad event in case you wanted to update and clarify this portion of his bio on your web site. If there are any of Blozis' family that maintain contact with Georgetown perhaps they would appreciate this information as I doubt they ever learned much about how he died.

"In January, 1945, the 110th Regiment was regrouping in Fumay France after having been decimated during the initial days (Dec. 16-18, 1944) of the Battle of the Bulge. The 110th was in the direct path of the German breakthrough and took the full brunt of the German offensive. The Germans out numbered them by 10 to 1 and by the end of the 3rd day of the battle the 110th ceased to exist as a fighting unit. But before the regiment was completely overrun they had managed to slow down the German advance putting them well off their timetable and they had bought enough time to enable the 101st Airborne Division to get into Bastogne before the Germans cut off access to the city. This, too, would serve as one of the key successes in the early days of the battle. The regiment suffered a very high casualty rate of about 67% during the breakthrough. My father's platoon would be the only surviving unit from A Co.

"Sometime in late January shortly after Lt. Blozis was assigned to A Co. they were rushed south to the Colmar Pocket to assist the Third Army in cleaning out the last remaining German forces west of the Rhine. It was essentially the last German offensive of the war and the men sometimes referred to this battle as the 'Little Battle of the Bulge'. The 110th's 1st Battalion to which Co. A belonged was held in reserve while the 2nd and 3rd battalions participated in the liberation of Colmar and began the push to the Rhine. Although in reserve, Co. A was nonetheless given the task of taking a prominent point in the Vosges Mountains toward the rear of the combat zone near the French town of Orbey. The mountain or large hill was called Black Mountain by the Army but its real name was Le Cras. The village of LaBaroche is nearby.

"My father didn't follow professional football and only knew that Lt. Blozis had played for the Giants during the recently completed season. I don't think any of the men knew he was a world record holder in the shot put. The men had never seen a man so large and powerful, and his size gained even more impact as they followed him during the three-hour advance up Black Mountain through snow that was waist deep. During the advance they encountered no German resistance. It was Lt. Blozis' first day of combat.

"Upon reaching the summit they dug in as best they could but the Germans didn't wait long to come calling. On the way up the company passed by some old WWI pill boxes located at the mountain's base. The Germans moved into those emplacements and began shelling Co. A. Then they moved up the mountain and began attacking Co. A directly.

"My father's foxhole was adjacent to Lt. Blozis'. During the close-in fighting Lt. Blozis took a grenade in his foxhole. He wasn't dead but was gravely wounded. They did all they could to save him but they badly needed to get him off the mountain and to a field hospital as quickly as possible. The Company's CO and my father spent a great deal of time on the radio with Division HQ's trying to work out how to get him down the mountain but Gen'l Cota, the CG of the 28th Division, said that it was still extremely dangerous and that it was imperative that they stay put.

"Although they had repelled the German attack that first day they still remained trapped there for two more days. Two men took it on upon themselves to try to find a safe way off the mountain so that Blozis could be evacuated but they were captured. One of the captured men had a twin brother in the company and his twin had to be restrained from going after his brother after he learned of his capture.

"After three days the Free French division broke through and brought them off the mountain but it was too late for Lt. Blozis. Blozis was the only death from enemy fire. The other casualties, in addition to the two men who were captured, were men who had to be carried off the mountain due to Trench Foot --their feet had frozen in the severe cold.

"One of the men carried down with frozen feet was one of my father's best friends, Cecil Hannaford. They were brought down a different way than the rest of the company. When Cecil came into the clearing at the base of the mountain he was shocked to see dozens of dead GI's, face down in the snow, having fallen right where they were cut down during their advance on the base of the mountain in an attempt to break through the German line and reach Co. A.

"Immediately upon their evacuation from Black Mountain around Feb. 3rd, Co. A was rushed to the front line and joined the rapid drive to the Rhine. They would be the 1st to reach the Rhine in this sector.

"The severity of Lt. Blozis wounds combined with the intense cold and the inability to evacuate him to a field hospital gave him no chance of survival. I know if affected my father deeply. He was one of the men trying to keep Lt. Blozis alive but in spite of their efforts he had only been able to watch and listen to him slowly die. Of all the misery my father experienced during his 6 months of combat, Lt. Blozis' death would be one of his most difficult and painful memories."