Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Purple Heart

Distinguished Service CrossAlex Box

Date and Place of Birth: August 5, 1920 Quitman, Mississippi
Date and Place of Death: February 19, 1943 Tunisia, North Africa
Baseball Experience: College
Position: Unknown
Rank: First Lieutenant
Military Unit: 1st Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Infantry Division
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Alex Box was an outstanding LSU athlete whose wartime gallantry would earn him the Distinguished Service Cross but would ultimately cost him his life.

Alex Box
Simeon A "Alex" Box was born in Quitman, Mississippi on August 5, 1920. He attended George S Gardiner High School in nearby Laurel, and enrolled at Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1938.

Box, a handsome and popular figure on campus who majored in petroleum engineering, played baseball as an outfielder and football as a halfback at LSU. During this time he met Earle Hubert, an attractive young student from Plaquemine, Louisiana, and they developed a close relationship.

Box pursued his advanced ROTC studies at LSU in the engineering regiment and upon graduation as a lieutenant early in 1942 he entered the Army. Box took basic training with the 1st Infantry Division at Camp Blanding, Florida and completed training at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. During this time Alex and Earle agreed to marry when she completed her degree, but on August 2, 1942, Box left the USA bound for Britain.

Based at Tidworth Barracks and serving with the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division, First Lieutenant Box continued training until November 1942, when the entire division aboard 22 ships, left England bound for North Africa. Operation Torch was the Allied invasion of North Africa. For the 1st Infantry Division, their job was to overcome the Vichy French forces at Oran, Algeria.

On November 7, the division disembarked at Oran and met with determined resistance. The 1st Engineer Combat Battalion's primary role was of road maintenance and mine warfare. It's secondary role was fighting as infantry. It was in this role on November 9, 1942, at Arcole, Algeria,
that Lieutenant Box - a platoon leader - used a half-track to destroy enemy machine guns emplacements that were blocking the 1st Infantry’s advance. For his extraordinary heroism he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross - the second highest military decoration of the US Army.


The following year Alex was fighting German forces in Tunisia. In February 1943, Field Marshall Rommel launched an all-out attack against the American forces at Kasserine. Alex Box was involved in laying minefields and preparing road blocks, when, on February 19, a mine was accidently discharged. He was killed instantly, along with four other soldiers.
Alex Box Stadium

"The deeds and death of your son have gone to make up the spiritual background that is this country," wrote Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt - at the time second in command of the 1st Infantry Division - in a letter of condolence to Box's mother, Mattie Box.

RH Watkins, superindent of schools in Laurel, Mississippi, eulogized Box as a "perfect example of an athlete, a Christian gentleman, a scholar and a soldier ... His beautiful life may be compared to a great piece of music which ends on a high note."

In May 1943 the LSU Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to name the university's baseball stadium for Box. "For the first time in the school's history," observed the student newspaper, The Reveille, "the service and memory of the military hero came to be esteemed so highly that a structure on the campus was named in his honor." The LSU Tigers baseball team continue to play at Alex Box Stadium today.


In 1991, the Box family made a special presentation of his personal memorabilia to LSU. The items, enclosed in a specially-constructed glass case, are permanently housed in the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame and Museum.

 

And now construction is underway on a new Alex Box Stadium. The state-of-the-art facility will be ready for the 2009 season, and will ensure that the name of LSU’s WWII-baseball hero lives on for many years to come.

 

 
The new Alex Box Stadium will be ready for the 2009 season. 


Thanks to LSU baseball publicist, Bill Franques, for help with this biography.

 

Added August 13, 2006. Updated February 5, 2008.

 

Copyright © 2013 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.