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

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

Buzz Bissinger. Harper, $32.50 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-287992-9

Bissinger (Friday Night Lights) effortlessly combines sports and military history in this gritty account of a football game played by U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal in December 1944. Noting that no other branch of the military attracted more college gridiron stars, Bissinger spotlights, among others, Notre Dame captain George Murphy and the University of Wisconsin’s two-time All-American end, David Schreiner. After months of trash-talking between these and other former collegiate football players in the 4th and 29th regiments of the 6th Marine Division on Guadalcanal, the two sides squared off on the parade ground in T-shirts and dungarees, playing a hard-fought game that devolved into a bloody brawl among the “dirt and pebbles and shards of coral.” The football action is vivid but brief, as the game turned out to be “two hours of life that turned into death several months later,” when 15 of the 65 Marines who played in the Mosquito Bowl were killed and 20 more wounded during the Battle of Okinawa. The book excels in its sweeping yet fine-grained portraits of how these Marines got to Guadalcanal and in the harrowing descriptions of Pacific Theater combat, including the bloody fight for Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa. This is a penetrating tale of courage and sacrifice. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Sept.)