Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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William Dagon


Date and Place of Birth: 1924 Hillsboro, Illinois

Died: April 9, 1999 Hillsboro, Illinois
Baseball Experience: Unknown
Position: Second Base
Rank: Corporal
Military Unit: HQ Company, Third Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations


William M Dagon was born in Hillsboro, Illinois in 1924.


Dagon entered service with the Army on December 2, 1942. Following basic training he volunteered for the paratroopers - attended Parachute Jump School at Fort Benning and was assigned to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division, at Camp Blanding in Florida and then Camp Mackall in North Carolina. It was during this time that Dagon had an opportunity to play some baseball. The ball team at Camp Mackall was strong and the line-up was dotted with semi-pro players. The 508th Red Devils played all through the long, hot summer during off-duty hours, they clinched the Camp Mackall championship with a 26-4 won-loss record, and one of their few losses was at the hands of an all-star team put together by Babe Ruth.


In March 1944, as part of the invasion build-up the 508th PIR was posted overseas. They were based in Nottingham, England, where Mills had the chance to play one last ball game before going into combat. On Sunday, May 28, 1944, an enthusiastic crowd of 7,000 fans gathered at Meadow Lane soccer ground to see the 508th Red Devils play an exhibition game against the locally based 505th PIR Panthers. The Red Devils outclassed the Panthers, 18-0.

Eight days later, as night fell on June 5th, Mills and the men of the 508th - faces blackened and hearts racing - boarded transport planes for the flight across the English Channel. That night over France, 24,000 Allied paratroopers ascended through the darkness into chaos and confusion. Inexperienced pilots failed to locate designated drop zones and whole regiments landed miles from intended locations.


Dagon survived Normandy and was also involved in Operation Market Garden - the largest airborne operation in history that occurred in Holland in 1944. This heroic operation was dramatized in the movie The Longest Day. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart on September 21, 1944, and was awarded the Bronze Lion by the people of Holland in 1946 for “brave actions around Nijmegen.”


In July 1945, with the war over in Europe, Dagon was able to pull on his baseball uniform once more. It was more than a year since he had played. The 508th Red Devils played a season of games at Frankfurt Athletic Field with Dagon easing back into his position at second base and occupying the number two spot in the batting order during the later summer months.


William Dagon passed away on April 9, 1999. He was 74 years old.


Created July 15, 2006.

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