Clyde Scott and The Most Horrific Navy Training Story You’ll Ever Read

War is horror. But so is training for it. This is something Clyde Scott learned firsthand.

In the mid to late 1940s, Clyde Scott was arguably the world’s most dynamic football player as a tailback dynamo for Navy, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles. Before he began a collegiate Hall of Fame career in 1944, though, he underwent a horrifying war “game” experience.

Fair warning: The following story, which occurred during his first two weeks on the campus of Navy in Annapolis, is a graphic one. Scott shared it with the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in 2010. He wrestled with whether to share it publicly or not — “the family of those people, those three boys, I don’t know how they would feel, lookin’ at or seein’ somethin’ that say about how their boys…”— but decides to share it anyway since it’s a part of his story.

Perhaps, too, sharing its horror will one day play a role, though small, in preventing a future war from happening.

The events unfolded in summer 1944 during a training exercise on a Landing Craft Infantry amphibious assault ship. Scott was part of a team of four guys whom he’d never met before. He was assigned to man the ammunition box of a fifty-millimeter machine gun mounted the back end of an LCI.

A morning alarm signaled the start of the war game. As Scott and others scurried onto the boat to their positions, he looked out: There was a little plane right on the water, prop plane, and it was blowin’ water back, sprayin’ it back… It’s comin’ right straight at us, simulating attack.”

Scott climbed up a ladder, to his comrade stationed at the machine gun, and as he’s getting near the platform he looked back again over the water. “”Damn, there’s that plane. Damn, he’s down yonder. He was out there. Now there he is right down here.”

Scott had three comrades on the boat with him. Two were already up on other parts of the deck, and one is peering out over the water with a pair of binoculars. It’s unclear what the second is doing, while a third — a “boy” with big shell belt strapped on, as Scott recalls — is simulating firing the actual machine gun at the oncoming prop plane.

Scott’s almost touching the britches of that gunner, and nearly touching the big metal ammunition box near sturdy steel siding, when an onrushing force raises him up from the ground and then flattens him on the ground. Before he goes on to describe the horror that follows, Scott explains some of why the such a horrible mistake had just happened, why the plane had gone far too low:

“He was a pilot on leave, on a ninety-day leave back to the States, and they had him. He was an expert pilot, and he was makin’ it look real, you know. He was really makin’ it look real. But he had gotten too damn close to the boat… he didn’t even have room to climb, but he cut… the gunner.”

After the impact, Scott got on his knees, the remains of the gunner drenching him. “I was covered with the sinew of a body that was put through a propeller of a damn plane. And it was just turned out mush,” he told his friend Bud Whetstone, who helped interview him for the Pryor Center.  “I had to rake stuff outta my face and just had to breathe.”

He crawled up on his knees and saw the gunner:

“Everything was gone from here up [draws line across his shoulders] was gone, and there was just a little bitty squirts of blood, like that—you know, like a—it was his heart dyin’. It—and I am bloody. I—it—some of it is blood; some of it is goo.”

Someone else aboard the ship soon arrived. “‘Are you hurt, Mister? Are you hurt, Mister?'” And I told him, ‘I don’t think so. I don’t think so.’ And he said, ‘Well’—and then he tried to look at that boy strapped to the gun. He didn’t know how to handle it. He turned around and yelled down for somebody to bring blankets…”

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When the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams played in Arkansas

There hasn’t been much major pro action in Arkansas since this guy returned to Little Rock in 1964.

In last week’s post about Norris Armstrong, I mentioned players from his NFL team competed in two games in Arkansas in the early 1920s.

I wrote this might have possibly been the only times NFL-associated games were played in Arkansas. Turns out, there have been at least three more such games. All three games were preseason exhibition games and featured teams which had lodged in Hot Springs before hopping on the train for Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium:

1. September 10, 1949 – The world champion Philadelphia Eagles trained in Hot Springs before playing the the Los Angeles Rams to a 24-24 tie in Little Rock.

2. September 1, 1951- The Eagles trained in Hot Springs before losing to the Los Angeles Rams* 31-26.

Twenty-seven thousand people attended this game; it’s fair to assume many were there to see the Eagles’ Clyde Scott, who’d earned All-American honors for the Arkansas Razorback in 1948 before being drafted by Philadelphia the next year. He only played five seasons in the NFL but 1951 would be his finest. He ran for 151 yards, caught for 212 yards and scored four touchdowns altogether.

3. August 23, 1952 – The Detroit Lions trained in Hot Springs, and beat the Eagles 7-3 at War Memorial in front of more than 22,000 spectators. Detroit’s Doak Walker scored the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter.

This time, fans had two former Arkansas Razorback standouts to cheer, as the Lions had drafted kicker Pat Summerall. This would be one of the only games Summerall played for the Lions as an injury cut his rookie season short. He played the rest of his career in Chicago and New York. Summerall ended up making 47% of the field goals he attempted in his career (with a high of 69% in 1959).

At first glance, these numbers look absolutely horrible.

Then I wondered whether field goal accuracy through the decades had improved (in part due to emergence of soccer style kicking and improving training methods). Sure enough, it has, based on these pro-football-reference.com numbers:

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Pitting SEC States Against Each Other in the Olympics

Pole vaulter Earl Bell is in the middle of any debate on Arkansas’ most accomplished Olympian.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/BENJAMIN KRAIN 7.10.00

 In Southeastern Conference territory, competition is a way of life. Year after year, SEC sports programs spew jetstreams of cash to beat each other on and off the field. Stadia, facilities, coaches’ salaries, TV contracts just keep getting bigger and better. There’s really no choice. Snazzy helicopters, after all, can only do so much to lure the big-time recruits which make college sports’ premier conference go round.

With the Summer Olympics opening ceremony this Friday, though, now is a good time to figure out which SEC state is top dog in terms of all-around athletic talent. For this exercise, we’ll tear down institutional walls which divide states. No Auburn/Alabama or MSU/Ole Miss delineations here. We only care about state borders, and the  Olympians who grew up between them.

With this in mind, it turns out the biggest states have produced the most gold medalists at all modern summer Olympic Games since 1896. Not a surprise.

It gets interesting, however, when examining the numbers on a per capita basis:

Breaking Down SEC states’ # of Gold Medalists Per Capita

Rank

State

# of Gold Medalists

2010 Population

# People per Gold Medalist

Most Impressive Olympians?

1 Mississippi 22 2.97 million 135,000 Calvin Smith, Ralph Boston
2 Missouri 31 5.99 million 193,226 Henry Iba, Helen Stephens
3 Arkansas 14 2.92 million 208,571 Earl Bell, Scottie Pippen
4 Louisiana 21 4.53 million 215,714 Rod Milburn, Karl Malone
5 Kentucky 16 4.34 million 271,250 Muhammad Ali, Mary Meagher
6 Alabama 17 4.7 million 276,471 Harvey Glance, Jennifer Chandler
7 Georgia 35 9.69 million 276,857 Gwen Torrence, Angelo Taylor
8 Texas 72 25.15 million 349,306 Babe Zaharias, Michael Johnson
9 South Carolina 12 4.63 million 385,833 Joe Frazier, Katrina McClain
10 Florida `43 18.80 million 437,209 Bob Hayes, Rowdy Gaines
11 Tennessee 11 6.35 million 577,273 Wilma Rudolph, Tracy Caulkins

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