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MCM: Tom Landry

Before he became one of the most innovative and distinguished coaches in NFL history, Tom Landry was a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII.

Tom Landry circa 1944 Tom Landry circa 1944

Starting off as a quarterback in high school, than continuing his game at the University of Texas, Landry put a hold on his education to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, both his brother, Robert had enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Unfortunately, during a flight over the North Atlantic Ocean, Robert’s plane went down and he was declared dead.

Tom enlisted in the armed forces in honor of his brother, Robert. Though his first experience in a bomber did not go as planned, he was committed to flying. Training as a co-pilot for a B-17 in Sioux City Iowa, in wasn’t until 1944 that he received his first orders and sent off to England. Landry was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 493rd Squadron in Ipswich.

Earning his wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant at RAF Debach, he was co-pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress in the 860th Bombardment Squadron. From November 1944 to April 1945 he completed a combat tour of 30 missions and even survived a crash landing after his plane ran out of fuel.

Tom Landry coaching the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. Photo from Harold Valentine/AP. Tom Landry coaching the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. Photo from Harold Valentine/AP.

After the war, he went back to playing football while at college. Then went on to become one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, creating the “4-3 defense” alignment and winning two Super Bowl Championships. His service to his country and the heart he put into all he did is just one of the many reasons we consider Tom Landry an American inspiration.