"Ole 98" Is Safe! Lt. Tom Harmon - Great on the Field, Heroic in Battle
On September 7, 2013, The University of Michigan football team unretired the jersey of one of their greatest, All-American Tom Harmon. Most Michigan fans know about his many exploits on the field that won him the Heisman Trophy. Fewer know that he served heroically in World War II. On April 15, 1943, the story broke in the Ann Arbor News that his Army bomber plane went down and he was Missing in Action. Harmon's ordeal dominated the front page of the News for much of April, as family, friends and fans assured each other that "Ole 98" was tough enough to survive a crash and the jungles of South America. The Ann Arbor News wondered if the flight was his Last Play?
Then, on April 17th, news came that Harmon was safe, having survived a solo, four-day ordeal in the jungle. His parents got the news just after returning from a mass in his honor at St. Mary's Student Chapel. An emotional Michigan coach, Fritz Crisler, and the city were overjoyed at the news. Harmon was the only crew member to survive the crash. He shared the story of the crash and his jungle odyssey in a column released by the Army. The photo that ran in the News on April 23 showed a worn and weary but thankful soldier. Harmon got right back into the fight and in October, 1943, he was shot down over China only to escape capture a second time. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. Harmon died in 1990.