If you go to the Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame in Iowa City, Iowa, there is some information about a former Iowa Hawkeye football player that many know nothing about. That player is Fred Becker.
(Photo Courtesy of the American Legion Centennial)
Who was he and what did he do to end up in the Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame?
There are people that some American’s look up to and consider them their heroes. There are sports stars, the players who play the game they love and are/were good at it. Some of the heroic sports stars include guys like Walter Payton, Larry Station and Cal Jones. Then you have the heroes who served in the military. They will always be the real heroes.
The Iowa Hawkeye football team had a guy that not only played football but also served in the military. In the end, he gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. That player’s name was Fred Becker.
Not that many people have probably heard about Becker but thanks to the power of the internet, you are going to learn about this great American. So sit back and prepare to learn about one of our nation’s greatest heroes and a great Iowan.
Fred H. Becker was born on November 6th, 1895 in the town of Waterloo Iowa. Not much is known about his childhood other than the fact that he went to Waterloo East High School. Becker graduated from there in 1914 and went on to the University of Iowa just down the road in Iowa City.
Becker did not play football in his freshman year at Iowa but made the team during his sophomore year in 1916. There were those that said that Becker was a solid football player and was one of the team’s best. He had the distinction of being the first Iowa Football player to block the two punts in a game when the Hawkeyes beat the Iowa State Cyclones 19-16. He was named a first-team All-American by the Chicago Tribune. That made him the first All-American in the history of the Iowa Hawkeyes in any sport. Beyond that, not much is known about his college career. It wasn’t a long one, but apparently, it was a good one.
Becker turned from college to the military after World War One began. The United States decided to join the fight and Becker was eager to sign up and do his part. He went through training and was commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant in the United States Army. However, he was moved over to the Marine Corps because there were fewer officers there and they needed officers.
Becker ended up being assigned to the 18th Company of the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Marine Regiment which was part of the 4th Marine Brigade. Becker and his troops left the comfort and safety of the United States, boarded a ship and headed for his destiny in Europe.
He found himself at the front and soon after that he was wounded during the Battle of Belleau Wood on June 3, 1918. He recovered and about thirty days later rejoined the action at the front. When Becker got back, he was given a different assignment as the platoon leader of the 55th Company of the same unit. On the 18th of July, 1918, during the Battle of Soissons, Becker was killed.
During the action, he and a few of his men stormed some machine gun positions, and Becker eliminated a single gun position on his own. Shortly after that happened, Becker’s life was taken by an artillery shell that exploded right next to him.
For his sacrifice and valor, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Service Cross and France’s Croix de Guerre which was mentioned in Nile Kinnick’s Heisman speech several years later. That honor is the highest in France.
The tales about Becker’s deeds were buried for many years until an Iowa historian, Mike Chapman, started to unravel the mystery. Soon, people began to take interest and Becker’s memory was revived.
As a result of the revival, some of the honors that Becker received after this revival included being elected into the Iowa Hawkeye’s Athletic Hall of Fame as well his high school’s athletic hall of fame.
The Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame has some great information about Becker. In fact, that’s where this writer first learned about Becker’s service. The write up about him is very informative and gives you a lot of great information about him and it’s a must-read for anyone who is interested in his life.