Lamar Blass: Hall of Fame Athlete and Soldier
The Bloomsburg University Archives is home to items documenting the history of the school and the achievements of alumni. A recent acquisition is a battered dog tag that belonged to one of the most celebrated early athletes, Lamar Blass, who was killed in action during World War II.
Blass grew up in Aristes in southern Columbia County and, after one year at Lehigh University, transferred to Bloomsburg State Teachers College in the fall of 1933. He majored in secondary education with a concentration in mathematics and served as president of the senior class, although it was in athletics where he stood out.
Blass played football and basketball, but was the top all-around performer on four outstanding track and field teams. He compiled points in the broad jump, high jump, high hurdles, 100- and 220-yard dashes, discus, and shot put, setting five school records in the process. In 1937, he served as captain for the second time, and Bloomsburg won the first of four consecutive state titles in track.
Following graduation, Blass taught at Catawissa High School for two years before moving to New Holland. Married to Marion Hogeland in August 1941, he entered the U.S. Army the following July, seven months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. He was sent to officers’ training school and commissioned a second lieutenant in January 1943.
Assigned to the field artillery, Blass first saw combat overseas in North Africa in March 1943, and was sent to Naples, Italy, in November, after his promotion to first lieutenant. His final action occurred at the Anzio beachhead, south of Rome, in May 1944, where his unit, the 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, was attached to the Fifth Army’s 1st Armored Division.
The division began a drive to the north on May 24. Five days later, Blass was killed when his battery came under enemy fire. His commanding officer, Field Duskin, who was with him when he died, said of Blass, “Not only was he a superior officer, he was one of the finest gentlemen that I have ever known.”
In the 1980s, a scholarship fund was established in Blass’ honor and in 1991 he was elected to the Bloomsburg University Athletic Hall of Fame. His athletic legacy was summed up by the editor of The Morning Press in 1944 who said, “If ever there was a man who loved sports and lived by the code of sportsmanship, it was Lt. Blass.” •
ROBERT DUNKELBERGER, University Archivist