John Whelchel

John Esten "Billick" Whelchel (April 1, 1898 – November 5, 1973) was a decorated officer in the United States Navy with the rank of Vice Admiral, American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. He served as the head football coach at the United States Naval Academy from 1942 to 1943, compiling a record of 13–5. In 1949, he was the head coach for the National Football League's Washington Redskins, tallying a mark of 3–3–1.

John Esten Whelchel
John Esten Whelchel
BornApril 1, 1898
Hogansville, Georgia
DiedNovember 5, 1973 (aged 75)
Portsmouth, Virginia
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Department of the Navy.svg United States Navy
Years of service1916–1949
RankUS-O9 insignia.svg Vice Admiral
Commands heldSan Francisco (CA-38)
McCall (DD-400)
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsLegion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal

Early life

Whelchel was born on April 1, 1898 in Hogansville, Georgia, but he spent his childhood in Washington, D.C., where he was interested in athletics. Whelchel attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated in 1919. During his studies at Academy, he also served in European water during World War I as a midshipman.

Navy coaching career

Upon his return to the United States and graduation, Whelchel was assigned to the football coaching staff. He served there until 1927, when he was transferred to the battleship USS Florida. He also coached their football squad. In 1930, his next service assignment was Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where he became coach of the local Navy football team. Subsequently, coached football team on the board of USS Idaho.

On June 22, 1938, now Lieutenant Commander Whelchel was appointed a Commanding Officer of newly commissioned Destroyer McCall (DD-400). McCall was assigned to the patrol duty in the Pacific and Whelchel spent next two years at sea with Destroyer Squadron Six, Battle Force, under the command of Freeland A. Daubin. He was finally succeeded by Lieutenant Commander Edwin G. Fullinwider on June 15, 1940.

Whelchel returned to the Naval Academy in 1941, where he became backfield coach of local football team. Next year he succeeded main coach Swede Larson. Whelchel led the Navy team to a 5–4 record in season 1942 and an 8–1 record. He also won the Lambert Trophy in season 1943.

Sea duties during World War II

Whelchel was transferred to the Pacific Theater in 1944 and subsequently took command of heavy cruiser USS San Francisco on March 10, 1945, where he succeeded another American football player Harvey Overesch. Whelchel commanded that ship during the Battle of Okinawa and was subsequently awarded with Legion of Merit with "V" Device and Bronze Star Medal for his leadership of the ship.[1]

Whelchel continued in command of the USS San Francisco and sailed toward the Philippines to prepare for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. The cessation of hostilities in mid-August, ceased any combat operations, and Whelchel began to prepare San Francisco for occupation duty.

During August 1945, Whelchel commanded the ship during the show of force in the Yellow Sea and Gulf of Pohai areas and subsequently covered minesweeping operations.

On 27 November 1945, USS San Francisco was ordered back to the United States, arriving at San Francisco in the middle of December. Then Whelchel commanded the ship to the East coast, where she arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation on 19 January 1946. Whelchel was subsequently assigned to the Naval Station Pearl Harbor and promoted to the rank of Rear admiral in 1947. He also received his second Legion of Merit during this assignment.[2]

Washington Redskins

In 1948 the owner and president of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, George Preston Marshall became unhappy with the work of Redskins head coach Turk Edwards. He offered the positions of head coach to Whelchel, who was still on active duty with the Navy.

Upon permission to retire from the Navy Secretary of the Navy, John L. Sullivan, Whelchel finally retired from the active service in 1949. Upon his retirement from the Navy, Whelchel was advanced to the rank of Vice admiral on the basis of combat citations.

Sammy Baugh, Redskins quarterback, described Whelchel in Myron Cope's book, The Game that was:

Marshall thought the admiral would put a lot of discipline in the ball club. Well he showed up, and he looked like anything but an admiral. He was just a kind of average-looking guy, not very impressive. And the funny thing was, he turned out to be a real nice fellow. All the player liked him, although he wasn't as up on his football as he should have been.[3]

Another Washington Redskins player, John Koniszewski, described his experiences with Whelchel at training camp:

He's using psychology on us, and I like it. Take that first day of camp, for example, when he let us play tough football and left us completely alone. We did more work than we would have done with routine stuff.[4]

Whelchel's Redskins opened the 1949 season with a 38–7 loss to the Chicago Cardinals. Spending only seven games with the Redskins, Whelchel was dismissed by Marshall after a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before his final game, Whelchel told his players:

Gentlemen, this is my last game as coach of the Redskins. You are a fine group of men and a good football team. I wish you all success in the world in your future games. Washington will be proud of you." After a pause, he added: "I'd like to win this last game."[5]

The Redskins beat the Steelers, 27–14. Whelchel's record with the Redskins was 3–3–1. He was replaced by his assistant, Herman Ball. The Redskins finished the 1949 season with a record of 4–7–1.[6]

Later life

After his dismissal from Redskins Whelchel worked in real estate and then in farming. Vice admiral John Esten Whelchel died on November 5, 1973 in Portsmouth, Virginia at the age of 75. He was buried together with his both wives Virginia D. Hoover Whelchel (1897 - 1941) and Marion Payne Whelchel (1900 - 1980) at Arlington National Cemetery. He also had a son from his first marriage with Virginia D. Hoover, John Esten Whelchel, Jr. (1935 - 2008).[7]

Wartime decorations

Here is the ribbon bar of Vice admiral John E. Whelchel:

Gold star
Legion of Merit ribbon
Bronze Star Medal ribbon
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal ribbon
China Service Medal ribbon
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal ribbon
American Campaign Medal ribbon
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal ribbon
World War II Victory Medal ribbon Army of Occupation ribbon Phliber rib
1st Row Legion of Merit with Gold Star and "V" Device
2nd Row Bronze Star Medal World War I Victory Medal with Atlantic Fleet Clasp China Service Medal
3rd Row American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp American Campaign Medal Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two service stars
4th Row World War II Victory Medal Navy Occupation Service Medal Philippine Liberation Medal

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs AP#
Navy Midshipmen (Independent) (1942–1943)
1942 Navy 5–4
1943 Navy 8–1 4
Navy: 13–5
Total: 13–5


  1. ^ Maxymuk, John (2012). NFL Head Coaches: A Biographical Dictionary, 1920–2011. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-7864-6557-6. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  2. ^ "Valor Awards for John Esten Whelchel". 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  3. ^ Maxymuk, John (2012). NFL Head Coaches: A Biographical Dictionary, 1920–2011. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-7864-6557-6. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  4. ^ Richman, Michael (2008). The Redskins Encyclopedia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-59213-542-4. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Maxymuk, John (2012). NFL Head Coaches: A Biographical Dictionary, 1920–2011. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 338. ISBN 978-0-7864-6557-6. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  6. ^ Elfin, David (2011). Washington Redskines, The Complete illustrated history. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Quarto Group. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-7603-4072-1. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  7. ^ "John Esten "Billick" Whelchel, Sr (1898 - 1973) - Find a Grave Memorial". 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
1942 Navy Midshipmen football team

The 1942 Navy Midshipmen football team represented the United States Naval Academy during the 1942 college football season. In their first season under head coach John Whelchel, the Midshipmen compiled a 5–4 record, shut out five opponents and outscored all opponents by a combined score of 82 to 58.

1943 Navy Midshipmen football team

The 1943 Navy Midshipmen football team represented the United States Naval Academy during the 1943 college football season. In their second season under head coach John Whelchel, the Midshipmen compiled an 8–1 record, shut out three opponents and outscored all opponents by a combined score of 237 to 80. Navy was ranked #4 in the final AP Poll.

1949 NFL season

The 1949 NFL season was the 30th regular season of the National Football League. Prior to the season, Boston Yanks owner Ted Collins asked the league to fold his team due to financial woes, and give him a new one in New York City. This new team would be called the New York Bulldogs. As a result, professional football would not return to Boston until the Patriots began play in 1960.

As the regular season came to a close, a merger agreement between the NFL and the All-America Football Conference was announced on December 9. Three AAFC teams joined the NFL in 1950, the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts.The season ended on December 18 with the NFL Championship Game. In muddy conditions, the visiting Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Los Angeles Rams 14–0, as heavy rain in southern California kept the attendance under 23,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Both teams had potent offenses, but were severely limited by the poor field conditions. The management of the Eagles and Rams had favored a postponement for a week, but were overruled by commissioner Bert Bell.

Bill Elias

William T. Elias (March 15, 1923 – June 28, 1998) was an American football coach. He served as the head coach at George Washington University, the University of Virginia, and the United States Naval Academy. Elias compiled a career college football record of 36–48–5.

Bill McPeak

William Patrick McPeak (July 24, 1926 – May 7, 1991) was an American football player and National Football League coach.

Burr Chamberlain

Burr Clark "B. C." Chamberlain (August 21, 1877 – November 11, 1933) was an American football player and coach. He played college football at Yale University from 1896 to 1898 at the center and tackle positions. Three times he was an All-American. Chamberlain served as the head football for one season at Stanford University in 1899 and for a season at the United States Naval Academy in 1903 season, compiling a career head coaching record of 6–12–3. He also coached football at the United States Military Academy, the University of Virginia, and his alma mater, Yale.

Chamberlain was born in Dalton, Massachusetts on August 21, 1877. He died of a heart attack at his home in Bronxville, New York on November 11, 1933.

Douglas Legate Howard

Douglas Legate Howard (February 11, 1885 – December 14, 1936) was an American naval officer and the head coach of the United States Naval Academy football team from 1911 until 1914.

Edgar Miller

Edgar E. "Rip" Miller (June 1, 1901 – January 1, 1991) was an American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. Miller played college football as a tackle at the University of Notre Dame from 1922 to 1924. He was a member of the "Seven Mules" line that blocked for the famous "Four Horsemen" backfield on Knute Rockne's national championship team of 1924. Miller served as the head football coach at the United States Naval Academy from 1931 to 1933, compiling a record of 12–15–2. After stepping down as head coach, he remained at Navy as line coach until 1947 and then was the assistant athletic director there from 1948 until his retirement in 1974. Miller was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1966. Five of his Notre Dame teammates are also enshrined in the Hall of Fame: fellow "Mule", Adam Walsh, and each of the "Four Horsemen", Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden.

Frank Berrien

Frank Dunn Berrien (August 17, 1877 – January 31, 1951) was an American football coach and United States Navy officer. He was the 13th head football coach for the United States Naval Academy located in Annapolis, Maryland and he held that position for three seasons, from 1908 until 1910. His coaching record at Navy was 21–5–3. As captain of the USS Nicholson he fought in the Action of 17 November 1917. He later commanded the aircraft carrier USS Lexington.

Hank Hardwick

Harry Judson "Hank" Hardwick was the 22nd head football coach for the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen located in Annapolis, Maryland and he held that position for two seasons, from 1937 until 1938. His coaching record at United States Naval Academy was 8 wins, 7 losses, and 3 ties.

Herman Ball

Herman Ball (May 9, 1910 – January 12, 1999) was a football player and coach who was a long-time assistant in the National Football League and served as head coach of the Washington Redskins from 1949 to 1951.

A native of Elkins, West Virginia, Ball attended Davis & Elkins College for three years beginning in 1932, helping the 1933 squad finish the season as the highest scoring team in college football with 345 points. Following his graduation, his first coaching position came in his home state as head coach at Ridgeley High School.

The following year, he moved south to begin a seven-year stint in Cumberland, Maryland, as head coach at Allegany High School. In his inaugural season at the helm, Allegany finished undefeated, the first of three spotless campaigns during his tenure, the others coming in 1940 and 1941. By the time he departed for the University of Maryland in 1943, he had compiled an impressive mark of 56-13-1.

Ball became an assistant with the Terrapins' football team, and also helped coach the school's baseball and basketball teams. During his third and final year in that role, he worked under the legendary Bear Bryant. Ball also worked part-time as a scout for the Redskins during the 1945 season, then joined the team the following year when he was hired as line coach.

On November 7, 1949, Redskins' first-year head coach John Whelchel was dismissed with the team sporting a 3-3-1 mark, with Ball being elevated to the position. In the team's final five games, Ball managed only one more win, then struggled the next year with a 3-9 mark, the worst record ever (at the time) for the franchise. Despite the miserable fortunes of the team, due in part to Ball's attempt at balancing the team's offensive attack with more of a running game, player loyalty and fan popularity helped Ball earn another year on the sidelines.

That term would be a short one when the Redskins began the 1951 NFL season with an 0-3 start. Ball was fired on October 18, a decision that helped bring about a bizarre situation in which his successor, former Bears assistant Hunk Anderson, was announced as Washington's new head coach, but was prevented from starting his new job because of contract issues with Chicago's George Halas. After refusing to provide compensation for Anderson, Redskin owner George Preston Marshall hired Ball's assistant, Dick Todd.

Serving as Washington's chief scout, Ball also returned to the sidelines as a Redskins' assistant until he resigned on December 17, 1954. He was hired three weeks later as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, spending one season in the Steel City until taking a similar position on February 2, 1956, under Weeb Ewbank with the Baltimore Colts.

Over the next seven years, Ball would help the team capture consecutive NFL titles in 1958 and 1959. When Don Shula replaced Ewbank after the 1962 NFL season, Ball was dismissed and signed as offensive line coach of the American Football League's Buffalo Bills on February 9, 1963. He spent one year there until returning to the NFL when former Redskins head coach Joe Kuharich took over the same role with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In five seasons, the team's best finish was in 1966, when they finished 9-5 and competed in the Playoff Bowl, but following a 2-12 finish in 1968, Kuharich and his staff were fired, although Ball remained as the team's director of player personnel. He remained in that role until announcing his retirement on December 23, 1977, staying on as a consultant until the end of the 1986 NFL season.

He died at the age of 88 at a Paoli, Pennsylvania, hospital of complications from a heart ailment.

Hogansville, Georgia

Hogansville is a city in Troup County, Georgia, United States. The population was 3,060 at the 2010 census. Since 1998, Hogansville has held an annual Hummingbird Festival in October. It is located approximately halfway between Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia on Interstate 85 via Interstate 185.

Jonas H. Ingram

Admiral Jonas Howard Ingram (October 15, 1886 – September 9, 1952) was an officer in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. He commanded the United States Atlantic Fleet during World War II and was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in 1914 in Veracruz, Mexico.

List of Washington Redskins head coaches

This is a complete list of Washington Redskins head coaches. There have been 28 head coaches for the Washington Redskins, including coaches for the Boston Redskins (1933–1936) and Boston Braves (1932), of the National Football League (NFL). The Redskins franchise was founded as the Boston Braves, named after the local baseball franchise. The team changed their name to the Redskins in 1933 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1937.Joe Gibbs is the only coach to have more than one tenure. Two different coaches have won NFL championships with the team: Ray Flaherty in 1937 and 1942, and Joe Gibbs in 1982, 1987 and 1991. Gibbs is the all-time leader in games coached and wins, and Dudley DeGroot leads all coaches in winning percentage with .737 (with at least one full season coached). Mike Nixon is statistically the worst coach the Redskins have had in terms of winning percentage, with .182.Of the 28 Redskins coaches, seven have been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Ray Flaherty, Turk Edwards, Curly Lambeau, Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, George Allen and Joe Gibbs. Several former players have been head coach for the Redskins, including Turk Edwards, Dick Todd, Jack Pardee and Richie Petitbon.

In addition, former players have become assistant coaches, such as Earnest Byner, Russ Grimm, and Keenan McCardell. On January 5, 2010 the Redskins hired former Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan went 24–40 during four seasons in charge, before he was fired on December 30, 2013.

Richie Petitbon

Richard Alvin Petitbon (born April 18, 1938) is a former American football safety and head coach of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. Petitbon first attended Loyola University New Orleans on a track and field scholarship and left after his freshman year to attend Tulane. After playing college football at Tulane, he played for the Chicago Bears from 1959 to 1968, the Los Angeles Rams in 1969 and 1970, and the Washington Redskins in 1971 and 1972. Petitbon recorded the second most interceptions in Bears history with 38 during his career, trailing Gary Fencik. Petitbon also holds the Bears record for the longest interception return, after scoring on a 101-yard return against the Rams in 1962. As of 2019, he also holds the Bears record for the most interceptions in a game (3 against the Green Bay Packers in 1967) and most interception return yards in a season (212 in 1962).He returned to the Redskins in 1978 as secondary coach under Jack Pardee. From 1981 to 1992, he was the Redskins' defensive coordinator under head coach Joe Gibbs, either alone or sharing the job with Larry Peccatiello. During this time period, Petitbon was considered one of the top coordinators in football. When Gibbs initially retired in 1993, Petitbon was named his successor. He did not find the same success as a head coach, lasting only one season. Aging and underachieving, the team finished 4-12 and Petibon was dismissed by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke in favor of archrival Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Following his firing, Petitbon never took another job in the NFL.

His brother, John Petitbon, also played in the NFL. Both Petitbon brothers are members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Swede Larson

Emery Ellsworth "Swede" Larson (c. 1899 – November 7, 1945) was the 23rd head football coach for the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen located in Annapolis, Maryland and he held that position for three seasons, from 1939 until 1941. His coaching record at United States Naval Academy was 16 wins, 8 losses, and 3 ties.

Tom Hamilton (American football)

Thomas James Hamilton (December 26, 1905 – April 3, 1994) was an American football player, coach, college athletics administrator, and naval aviator who rose to the rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy. He served as the head football coach at the United States Naval Academy from 1934 to 1936 and again from 1946 to 1947 and at the University of Pittsburgh in 1951 and 1954, compiling a career college football record of 28–32–1. Hamilton was also the athletic director at the Naval Academy from 1948 to 1948 and at Pittsburgh from 1949 to 1959. From 1959 to 1971, he was the commissioner of the Athletic Association of Western Universities, renamed the Pacific-8 Conference in 1968 and now known as the Pac-12 Conference. Hamilton was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1965.

Turk Edwards

Albert Glen "Turk" Edwards (September 28, 1907 – January 12, 1973) was an American football tackle in the National Football League (NFL). He played his entire career for the Washington Redskins, starting with their first six seasons in Boston, and later became the head coach. Edwards was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969.


Whelchel is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

B. Frank Whelchel (1895–1954), American politician

Dan Whelchel (1894–1988), American football player

Hugh Whelchel (1900–1968), American football player

John Whelchel (1898–1973), United States Navy officer, American football player, coach and athletics administrator

Josh Whelchel (born 1987), American composer

Kristy Whelchel (born 1977), American women's soccer player

Lisa Whelchel (born 1963), American actor

Susan Whelchel, American politician

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