'Doc' Blanchard: American footballer and USAF pilot who saved an Essex village

In 1959 Doc Blanchard was inducted to America's college football Hall of Fame, and broke a speed record flying an F-100 Super Sabre jet at 610mph between England and Tripoli. But his greatest achievement came when another F-100 caught fire as he returned to RAF Wethersfield. Ordered to follow protocol and eject, Blanchard, with the Essex village beneath him, refused. He executed an emergency landing, then fled the burning plane. "It was the fastest I ever ran," he said.

Running was his speciality. Between 1944 and 1946, Blanchard and Glenn Davis became national heroes as gridiron's "touchdown twins" at the US Military Academy at West Point. Blanchard, the full-back, pounded the centre of the opposition's line while Davis, the half-back, attacked its flanks, and they were known as "Mr Inside" and "Mr Outside". In three seasons, Army won two national championships, their 1944 match against Navy raising $60m in war bonds sold along with its tickets. After Army won, completing an unbeaten season, General Douglas MacArthur wired, "we have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success".

Felix Andrew Blanchard Jr came to football naturally. He was originally nicknamed "Little Doc", to distinguish him from his father, a doctor who had played at two universities, and who placed a football in his baby's crib. Young Doc entered the University of North Carolina, but when war broke out, his grades were too low for a Navy programme which would have let him finish college. He joined the Army and and was admitted to West Point in July 1944. Two months later, he was making his impact on the gridiron. After losing 59-0 to Army, Notre Dame's coach said, "I've just seen Superman, and he's wearing No 35". Six feet tall and 15 stone, Blanchard ran a 10 second-flat 100 yards, and was the eastern college shot putt champion. In 1945, Army again went undefeated. Blanchard became the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy, as the nation's top college player, and the first footballer to capture the Sullivan award, given to the country's top amateur athlete.

After graduation, Blanchard and Davis negotiated a deal to extend their four-year service commitment in return for four months' furlough each year to play professionally, but an outcry in Congress saw that deal cancelled. They used their graduation leave to go to Hollywood and play themselves in a forgettable movie, The Spirit Of West Point.

Blanchard made his career in the Air Force, retiring a colonel in 1971. He flew nearly 100 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam, returning to football only to coach Army's freshmen for a few years in the 1950s. In early April, Army announced it would retire Blanchard's No 35 jersey.

Michael Carlson

Felix Anthony ('Doc') Blanchard Jr, pilot, American footballer: born 11 December 1924 Bishopsville, South Carolina; married (one son, one daughter); died Bulverde, Texas 19 April 2009.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam