Baseball legend Bob Feller was one of the first professional athletes to enlist in the military for service during World War II. He would go on to break numerous baseball records both before and after his time in the service.
Bob Feller made his Major League Baseball debut in the summer of 1936, when he was just 17—and still in high school. For the next five seasons, the young hurler would show off the stuff that made him one of the most electric pitchers in the game.
After the 1941 season, Feller drove to Chicago to meet with Cleveland Indians representatives to discuss his contract for 1942. On his way there, he heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Two days later, he enlisted in the Navy.
After graduating basic training in early 1942 at Norfolk Naval Base, Feller began playing for the Training Station’s baseball team, a light duty assignment for athletes. After applying for gunnery school and requesting sea duty, Feller joined the crew of the USS Alabama.
The Alabama served as an escort for aircraft carriers, fended off kamikaze attacks and bombarded beaches. Feller saw combat off Tarawa, in the Marshall Islands, at the Caroline Islands, and in the Philippines. He called the Battle of the Philippines “the most exciting 13 hours of my life. After that,” he said, “the dangers of Yankee Stadium seemed trivial.”