LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – War Memorial is in the name, and the stadium is often associated with the great memories that happened inside. However, when it was built in 1948, many were reflecting on what happened on the other side of the world.
At Saturday’s Razorback game, War Memorial Stadium will be celebrating its 75th anniversary. It will also be honoring the people it was built to forever remember, including Corporal John Morrow.
Morrow drove the first tank crossing the Rhine River on a pontoon bridge into Germany. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge for 39 days, where over 200,000 soldiers died.
At 101 years old, Morrow said he remembers what happened in World War II better than yesterday. In 1942, he joined the army at 19, convinced the atrocities overseas would come to America next if nothing was done.
“I didn’t want that to happen,” Morrow said. “None of us wanted that to happen, so we wanted to make sure that our country stayed free.”
Heroes like Morrow fought for years, and in total, over 35 million people died in the war. Some of those were friends that Morrow lost right before his eyes.
“He lived long enough just to tell the guys that were close to him, ‘Don’t tell my wife how it happened,’” Morrow recalled.
When Arkansas veterans returned home, there was no statewide monument for them for two years. At the same time, Arkansas’ premiere university had its own problem.
Because the football team lacked space, bigger home games would sometimes be hosted in Tulsa or Memphis according to Historic Arkansas Museum Education Director Ian Beard.
“This kind of lit a fire under the Arkansas legislature to build a stadium in Little Rock,” Beard expressed.
Quick construction ended with the capital city hosting veterans of both World Wars and the Arkansas Razorbacks for its dedication and first event, a football game, in September of 1948. 75 years later, Morrow will be honored during the Razorback season opener which also falls on the 78th anniversary of WWII ending.
“Greatest country in the world right here,” Morrow expressed. “It was an honor in a way for all of us to be able to help keep our nation free.”
To see more of War Memorial Stadium’s veteran history, visit gate one at the stadium. It includes the names of every Arkansas Medal of Honor recipient from the World Wars. Beard said one of those, Maurice Lee “Footsie” Britt, was the first man to receive every medal the Army gave in a war. He was also a Razorback football star who gave the dedication speech for the stadium 75 years ago.