Max and Buddy Baer Go to War

By Norman Marcus on January 25, 2016
Max and Buddy Baer Go to War
"How could they keep me out of the service?" asked Max. "I started the whole damn war."

Max would often whack a man on the butt if he wasn’t paying attention. In those days a welt from Max or Buddy was a badge of honor…

It was December 15, 1942, just a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Max Baer was thirty-three years old and his brother Buddy was twenty-seven. They had both retired from the ring in the past year. That morning they both went down to McClellan Field in California, to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The army at that time was only taking men aged eighteen to twenty-six years. The two heavyweight contenders were told flat-out that they were too old to fight!

The captain in charge, a T.H. Wirak, said that they could help the war effort more by boosting the morale of these young troops. They were world famous characters and would do better with the U.S.O. Bob Hope was assembling a group of entertainers and would be glad to have them come along. Traveling all over the world with Betty Grable and Marlene Dietrich appealed to Max and Buddy. But they still wanted to get in on the war.

Wirak however was adamant about the rules. It looked like the Baer brothers had hit a stone wall. Suddenly the ex-champ decided to turn on the charm. “Look Sir,” said Max. “How could they keep me out of the service?  Why I started the whole damn war, getting Hitler riled up by beating Schmeling and then getting Mussolini against us by what I did to poor Primo!”

The captain broke into a great big smile. How could anyone argue with the logic of Madcap Max Baer? The boys were inducted into the Fourth Air Service Command on the spot. Max and Buddy became physical defense instructors with the rank of sergeant. They even were given their own DC-3 transport plane and a bird colonel to fly them from camp to camp to train the infantry in the manly art of self-defense.

They were assigned to Camp Stoneman, an army base near Pittsburgh, California. It was the last stop for advanced infantry training before the men went to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. GIs would be ordered to the gym every day of the week, to tune them up for the coming invasion of Japan.

They would march in and come face to face with Max and Buddy Baer, two faces that they knew from the Movietone Newsreels. The new instructors were hard to miss. Max had a smile that was world-famous. Buddy Baer on the other hand was a bit shy. But at 6’7” tall and two hundred and thirty pounds he was bigger and heavier than Max. He was also a heavy hitter. He had knocked Joe Louis out of the ring in their first fight in D.C. in 1941.

The soldiers were put through their drills. Max and Buddy walked up and down the rows of sweating, groaning men. Max would often whack a man on the butt if he wasn’t paying attention. In those days a welt from Max or Buddy was a badge of honor. Only it was better to get it on your face where people could see it.

After classes the troops would gather around Max and Buddy to talk and touch these two dangerous characters. They found them to be the warmest, nicest guys you could ever meet. They peppered them with questions about their past fights. The soldiers asked about Hollywood movie stars they knew. Questions that I’m sure they had been asked hundreds of times. Max answered them all in a nice way. One private asked, “How could you lose to Braddock? He was so washed up.” Max replied, “I didn’t take him seriously. Never underestimate your opponent.” A corporal asked, “How about Schmeling? You beat him in 1933 but lost to Louis in 1935. Yet Schmeling beat Louis in 1936!  How do you explain that?” Max replied, “I can’t. On any given night anything can happen.”

Soon the conversation got around to women. “Who was the hottest broad you ever dated in Hollywood Max?” asked a soldier. “Lupe Velez,” said Baer without hesitation. “She gave the best ‘blow jobs’ in Hollywood. That’s why they called her ‘The Mexican Spitfire!’” This brought hoots from the men. “How about Jean Harlow? Is she really that beautiful?” “Absolutely,” said Baer, “but she was too smart for me. Always wanted to talk about politics or history. Never had to think so hard since high school. Used to give me a headache!”

After most of the others had left for chow, a young soldier from Philadelphia named Sol Wilson asked his hero, “Why did you decide to wear that Star of David on your trunks for the Schmeling fight?” Baer got serious for once and replied, “Kid, I wanted the Germans to know I was a Jew. Every punch I threw that night was aimed at Adolf Hitler.” Wilson nodded his head in awe; he was Jewish too. He knew exactly how Baer felt that night in Yankee Stadium.

When the war ended in 1945 Max and Buddy were invited to a White House reception to meet President Truman. After talking to Harry for a few minutes, the president asked a favor of them. He picked up a luncheon menu and asked the brothers to sign it. The President wanted their autograph!

When the two brothers died decades later, Sacramento sportswriter Bill Conlin wrote, “When they died, the ‘sweet science’ lost two of the sweetest.”

Both brothers are ranked in The Ring magazine’s 100 Greatest Puncher’s Club. Max comes in at #22. Buddy is ranked #69.

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  1. peter 02:34pm, 01/29/2016

    Fascinating article!  Lupe Velez was linked not only with Max Baer, but also with heavyweight champions Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson.  In fact, before she killed herself, Lupe spent the night, and early morning hours, with Estelle Taylor, Jack Dempsey’s wife.

  2. Eric 05:27am, 01/27/2016

    Actually after the attack on Pearl Harbor all American males between the ages of 18-64 years of age were required to register for the draft. Of course, I don’t think many 40+ year old men were selected for the battlefield. If I remember right, didn’t Dempsey serve in the Coast Guard as some sort of physical education instructor? I think they made Dempsey a damn high ranking officer to boot, maybe as high as a Commander. hehe. What a joke. I actually think if a man takes care of himself, and doesn’t abuse his body with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, food, and inactivity, he should be at his physical peak in his late 20’s and early 30’s. Maybe at the time they were only drafting guys 18-26 years of age, but I’m sure that a man of 27-33 years of age would have been allowed to serve had he volunteered for duty during WWII.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:04pm, 01/26/2016

    Jackie Cohen-No harm intended….just having a little fun with a direct quote from the great Max Baer in this very thought provoking article….I guess in my case it provoked the wrong kind of thoughts. Which reminds me… what’s really needed now is fewer Jews reminiscing about hard nosed Jews in the Thirties and Forties kicking ass and more Jews in the present day knocking out “Anti-Semitic douche bags”. In fact, what’s really needed is a Gideon’s Band of Rabbi Meir Kahane clones.

  4. Bob 04:57pm, 01/26/2016

    Amen, Jackie. The story was terrific, a good piece of history.

  5. Jackie Cohen 01:55pm, 01/26/2016

    Fellas , really? That story is one of the best on the site, any site and you two are talking about the blowjo aspect and bs. Max Baer would probably shake it off meaning your stupidity, however not me! You two need to reread the article and understand your reading history with a legend right in the middle. Max Baer inspired many a Jew to speak up, eliminate or knockout anti Semitic douchebags with no spine. I’m one of them and people need to know he’s a hero of many.

  6. Eric 08:58am, 01/26/2016

    Irish… Have read that Forrest Tucker and Roddy McDowall (Planet Of the Apes dude) were packing. It was rumored that Roddy was gay as well. Guess the good Lord does create all men equal. Seems like it is always the odd-looking, less than handsome or skinny nerdish guys who are always hung like Secretariat while the handsome good looking matinee idol types that the girls swoon over, are hung like hamsters.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:08am, 01/26/2016

    I say Lupe Velez wasn’t just about Bjs….she probably was tight as a drum with a big clit to boot. She was the genuine female version of the Hollywood male stars of the era who in addition to being handsome were always tagged by publicists with having big dicks even if they were gay as fuk or more like Clark Gable, of whom Bette Davis pronounced, “If he had one inch less, he’d be a woman.”

  8. Eric 07:23pm, 01/25/2016

    Poor Max had no idea who started WWI or WWII, but he was glad to go and do his patriotic chore. Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town.

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