Arizona Athletics

Honoring on Memorial Day Arizona Wildcats Who Lost Their Lives Serving Country

Honoring those who died while serving the country this Memorial Day extends to some Arizona Wildcats who fought in World War II.

Three members of the Arizona Wildcats’ 1942 football team served in World War II and were killed in action.

In 2008, the Arizona Wildcats’ athletic department dedicated a memorial that was built to honor William “Bill” Lowell and fellow teammates from the 1942 football team who served in World War II. Lowell and teammates Rue Mattice and Stanley Petropolis played on the 1942 Arizona football team, served in World War II and were killed while in battle.

The William “Bill” Lowell Memorial adjacent to the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium

Petropolis, 26 at the time of his death, was one of 19,000 American soldiers killed in the Battle of the Bulge, an attack by Germany on France, Belgium and Luxembourg on Jan. 26, 1945. From East Chicago, Ind., Petropolis was an All-Border Conference selection as an offensive lineman his junior season in 1942.

Lowell served in the U.S. Marine Corps and died during the battle of Iwo Jima, a monthlong conflict that killed more than 6,800 Americans. Lowell was killed on March 8, 1945, two weeks past his 22nd birthday.

Sept. 14, 1945, Arizona Republic clipping of a story detailing the death of Arizona football player Rue Mattice when the C-46 transport plane he was piloting had engine failure and crashed in the Philippines during World War II.

Mattice, a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, died shortly after Japan announced it would surrender, flying transport in the Philippines when he lost power to both engines. He died at age 22 on Aug. 22, 1945. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The memorial on the Arizona campus was inspired by J. David Lowell, Bill Lowell’s younger brother and a significant university benefactor. Lowell donated $2.5 million in capital funding toward construction of the Arizona basketball/volleyball practice facility northeast of McKale Center.

The gravestone of former Arizona football player Rue Mattice (Mattice family photo)

The memorial – which features a life-size bust of Bill Lowell – is located west of the entrance to the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium.

Arizona didn’t field a football team in 1943 and 1944 because of World War II. David Lowell played one season, for the 1945 team that went 5-0. He ended his career prematurely to concentrate on his studies. He became one of the world’s leading experts in mining exploration.

David and Edith Lowell (University of Arizona photo)

The relatively new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility was funded in part by David and Edith Lowell. They pledged $11 million to its development. Jeff and Sharon Stevens donated $12 million to get the project started.

Tucson Citizen photo of former Arizona offensive lineman Stanley Petropolis, who died in 1945 in the Battle of the Bulge.

Other notable former Arizona Wildcats survived through their service in World War II.

John R. Black was serving in Tokyo Bay when the World War II peace treaty was signed

John R. Black, who lettered at Arizona from 1938-40, was one of them.

Black, who passed away at age 84 in 2004, graduated from Tucson High School in 1937 and Arizona in 1942. He was first team All-Border Conference in 1939 and 1940 and was captain in 1940 as quarterback and defensive back. Arizona was fifth in the nation in total offense in 1939. Black also lettered three years in basketball as starting guard. He was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame for football and basketball in 1979.

In 1942, Black entered the Navy as Ensign and attended the U.S. Naval Academy and was assigned to service at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station and then to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific from 1942-1946. Black saw action in the Lingayen Gulf Invasion and was hit by a suicide bomber. He was in Okinawa and then Tokyo Bay when the peace treaty was signed. He was discharged in January 1946 as Lt. Senior Grade.

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