Alumnus Buzz Bissinger’s Latest Book Spotlights Lives of Athletes Who Served in World War II

In his newest book “The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II,” Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author Buzz Bissinger ’72 follows two Marine regiments, from a football game on Guadalcanal to the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

During his time at Andover, Bissinger served as the Sports Editor for The Phillipian. Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976, Bissinger became a professional journalist, writing for the “Ledger-Star,” “The St. Paul Pioneer Press,” and eventually “The Philadelphia Inquirer.” In 1987, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for a series on the Philadelphia court system. One year later, he left the “Inquirer” to write his highly acclaimed first book, “Friday Night Lights.” Since then, Bissinger has contributed to various publications, including “The New York Times” and “Wall Street Journal.”

My uncle went to Andover and he had been on The Phillipian. He gave me a bound copy of The Phillipian in the 1940s and that was mesmerizing to me, that a school would have a weekly paper, [and] they would make a bound volume… I knew I wanted to be a reporter before I got to Andover, but my first journalistic experience was at Andover in The Phillipian and I actually think that without it, I’m not sure I would have become a journalist… The Phillipian gave me a niche. It gave me a place to go, a place where I could be recognized for something, and that’s very, very important,” said Bissinger.

In addition to his journalistic work, Bissinger penned six more nonfiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller “The Mosquito Bowl,” published by HarperCollins on September 13, 2022. Bissinger encourages readers to recognize his anti-war stance as he described the raw brutality of combat in “The Mosquito Bowl.” He hoped readers would establish an emotional connection with the book. 

“It’s really an anti-war book. The combat is very vivid. [It’s] very visceral, nothing is held back. I know some people said it was too hard to read, but you know, war is death. War is about death. War isn’t about heroism, war isn’t about life, war isn’t about saving people. I want readers to understand just how brutal and insane and horrifying it is. If they can’t stomach it, I get that, but you’ll never really understand just how awful war is. And I hope and pray we never have another one, though I think in our society it’s simply too ingrained,” said Bissinger.

Bissinger continued, “I also want people to realize just how brave these men were. They were ordinary men. They weren’t special forces. As I say in the book, they were ordinary men who rose to extraordinary circumstances and I think that’s the best thing you can say about anyone in life. And I want you to feel their sense of duty, a sense of duty that no longer exists. This would not happen today. If there was a draft, I don’t know how many would even obey it. It’s [also] about humanity. I want you to love these men. I want you to see what they go through. I want you to feel their lives. And at the end, I want you to see just what they went through and how brave and willing they were to sacrifice because some of them knew when they were given a certain assignment on a battlefield, they weren’t going to make it. But they went through with it anyway.”

While writing The Mosquito Bowl, Bissinger emphasized the national unitedness that Americans displayed through the war. The notion of empathy plays an important role throughout the book. 

“[The soldiers] did remind me of how great this country can be when there’s unity. There was unity across the board. Women served by taking over industry in the country. African Americans served despite withering racism… In combat, there were people from every social, geographical, and economic stripe, and that’s how you learned to get along with people because you had to. At a certain point, you’re saving each other’s lives, and you don’t have time for red-state and blue-state arguments. You end up loving each other. And that’s something we really have lost in this country,” said Bissinger.