The decision to stage the annual Army-Navy classic at Municipal Stadium in 1944 had its origins in the White House and came from a president who realized the enormous boost the game would give to a war-weary nation.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who described the game as being good for "the morale of the nation," and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., planned to capitalize on the game's popularity by linking it with a war bond drive that required ticket buyers to purchase a bond in support of the war effort.
On Nov. 17, Roosevelt ordered that the game be moved to Municipal Stadium on 33rd Street, giving the city only two weeks to prepare for an event that would tax already-existing war-stressed facilities.
The city's preparations were directed from a "war room" in the offices of the Association of Commerce at 22 Light St. and were under the direction of Robert O. Bonnell, chairman of the Mayor's Army-Navy Advisory Committee.
He explained that the group's aim was "to make pleasant the brief stay of visitors in our city, to facilitate their getting to and from the game, and to expedite their being fed and housed while here."
They also concerned themselves with designing plans to move the huge crowd to and from the stadium by public transit and street closings. Another goal was to have Municipal Stadium completely empty of spectators within 40 minutes of the conclusion of the game.
Frank H. Durkee, president of the Park Board, inspected the stadium trying to figure out how he could expand its seating capacity from 59,000 to 75,000. He found a solution in portable bleachers that he had trucked from Annapolis. The field had to be resodded and was barely completed in time for the game. Great, flapping pennants calling attention to the Sixth War Loan Drive were flown from poles surrounding the stadium.
With only two weeks to go, Baltimore hoteliers, restaurateurs and club owners had their own particular set of problems. They quickly found themselves maddeningly swamped with requests for rooms and dinner reservations, which were complicated by wartime rationing and demand for hotel rooms.
Although nonessential wartime travel was discouraged, Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad officials braced for the huge crush of football fans who would arrive aboard trains from New York and Washington.
By Nov. 21, tickets to the game were exhausted, with some ticket-hunters offering to buy $5,000 and $10,000 worth of bonds for a ticket to see the game.
On the morning of Dec. 2, 1944, early snow flurries gave way to a bright and frigid day, as nearly 70,000 fans struggled toward the stadium, with the first arriving at Gate 2 at 8:30 a.m.
"Thousands of persons in trolleys, private automobiles, station wagons, buses and trucks and afoot, plus 5,600 marching cadets and midshipmen, moved on Municipal Stadium for four hours yesterday beginning at 10 a.m., to be in at the kickoff of the annual football extravaganza," reported The Sun.
"While trolleys disgorged hordes of city dwellers, thousands of automobiles converged on the stadium area from Washington, Annapolis, Wilmington [Del.], Philadelphia, Richmond [Va.], New York and Pittsburgh," observed the newspaper.
Instead of traveling to Baltimore via special train, the West Point contingent of 2,300 was loaded aboard the USS Uruguay, a troopship, which docked in Baltimore at the Pennsylvania Railroad pier at the foot of Clinton Street in Canton.
Traffic was brought to a halt when the Army Cadets Corps marched up Edison Highway to 33rd Street, managing to further clog one of the main routes to the stadium.
Because military ethics forbid cadets arriving and entering the stadium before high military officials, the West Pointers milled about, causing an enormous snarl that took 15 minutes for Baltimore police to untangle.
Once inside the stadium, an excited but somewhat travel-worn crowd prepared for the kickoff.
"A roaring cheer from 70,000 frosted throats greeted the kickoff in the 45th Army-Navy football game this afternoon in the Baltimore Stadium, as the greatest of the service classics started on its way into gridiron history," The Sun reported.