Profiles of Valor
Born on New Year’s Day in 1911, Henry “Hank” Greenberg established himself as one of the most prolific power hitters of his time, a man of faith, and a patriot.
On the baseball diamond, “Hammerin’ Hank” was a generational talent. Spending the bulk of his career with the Detroit Tigers, Greenberg won the American League MVP award in 1935 and 1940 and led the Tigers to two World Series Championships. This earned him a National Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 1956, five All-Star titles, and a number retirement by the Tigers in 1983. Nicknamed the “Hebrew Hammer” for his ability to hit the long ball and his Jewish faith, Greenberg’s faith was a defining factor throughout his career. Greenberg was the subject of intense anti-Semitic abuse, leading him to become the first Major League player to openly support Jackie Robinson breaking the sport’s color barrier.
On October 16, 1940, Greenberg became the first Major League player to register for the United States’ first peacetime draft. After initially being deemed unfit for service, Greenberg requested another physical which found him fit for service. He was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and reported to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan despite missing part of the season and receiving a pay cut. He was promoted to sergeant that year after serving as an anti-tank gunner but was honorably discharged in December.
In February of 1942, Greenberg re-enlisted as a sergeant and volunteered for the Army Air Forces. He graduated fromOfficer Candidate School and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Air Corps. Greenberg’s graduation from theU.S. Army Special Services school promoted him to the rank of Captain, and he was sent overseas to serve in the China-Burma-India Theater. Greenberg scouted locations for B-29 bomber bases and was a physical training officer with the 58th Bomber Wing. Additionally, he was a Special Services officer to the 20th Bomber Command, 20th Air Force in China when it began bombing Japan.
Greenberg served 47 months, the longest of any Major League Baseball player. Throughout his life, Hank Greenberg went above and beyond to serve his team, faith, and country.