Born April 17, 1923Killed in action in Ch'ogye, Korea, September 24, 1950
Thomas A. Lombardo started his football career in 1937 playing for Soldan High School were he was not only a four year starter but was also selected to the “All Star City Team” all four years, the “All District Team” three year and was selected as “Most Valuable Player” in his senior year, 1940. From 1937 through 1940 Tom was one of the most feared backs in the St .Louis area, playing both as a running back and quarterback and also staring as a defense back.
In 1938 as a 165 pound half back Sophomore at the age of 15, Tom lead Soldan to a 20 to 0 victory over Cleveland in a playoff game before 4000 fans, scoring two touchdowns and adding two extra points and was instrumental in the third touchdown to claim the Public High Championship.
The game was replayed because although Soldan had lost to Cleveland earlier in the season 20 to 6 they were awarded the Championship because Cleveland had used an ineligible player. Soldan rejected the crown by way of a forfeit and petitioned the Public High Athletic Board to schedule the playoff game.
The 1939 Public High Championship went to Beaumont but not without the help of Tom Lombardo who lead Soldan to a 13 to 7 victory over Cleveland which gave the championship to Beaumont. Once again Tom was named to the “City High School All-Star Team”
The 1940 Public High Championship once again went to Soldan with a 5-1 record. Again Tom was named to the All-Star Team and also edged Beaumont’s back Lee Tevis for the scoring championship with 17 touchdowns and 22 extra points for a total of 124 points to Tevis 118 points on 17 touchdowns and 16 extra points. The biggest honor bestowed to Tom however was being named the1940 “Most Valuable Player” by the St. Louis District Football Officials’ Association cumulating a brilliant high school football career.
Tom was the object of a continuous barrage of offers to play his college ball but chose home town St. Louis University to continue his football playing but before enrolling there was one more high school game to be played on August 29, 1941 in Jefferson City Missouri. It was the North/South All-Star Game. Tom playing on the South Team along with teammate Marko Todorvich and Beaumont’s Lee Tevis routed the North team 55-0. Tom scored two touchdowns while Todorvich and Tevis crossed the goal line once each.
Tom played one year on St. Louis University’s freshmen team before moving on to the United States Military Academy, West Point, in 1942 where he played three years and Captained the 1944 Army National Champions Football Team and graduating in 1945. Because of the war Tom’s class was a three year class.
Tom quickly established himself at West Point as an exceptional ball-handler and passer but didn’t establish himself only as a great football player on the basis of his individual skills alone. It was not merely as a technically perfect player that Tom won his place among the great men of Army football, but rather it was his understanding of the game as a whole, of the great strategy and individual capabilities and limitation of the other players of the team which made him the quarterback he became. Tom was ever the Captain, on the field and off it, calling upon his men to do their part as best they could play, imparting to them somewhat of his own drive and determination. To him accrues much of the credit, for inspiring and developing the greatest team of West Point history. An Army is only as good as its general. A team is only as good as its caption. Tom’s 1944 Army team was great.
The 1944 Army undefeated National Championship team coach by Colonel Earl Blaik and captained by Tom Lombardo saw Army defeat nine consecutive opponents, scoring 504 points to their opponents 35. They defeated North Carolina 46-0, Brown 59-7, Pittsburgh 69-7, Coast Guard Academy 76-0, Duke 27-0, Villanova 83-0, Notre Dame 59-0, Pennsylvania 62-0 and Navy 23-0.
These brilliant victories climaxed a season of dominant spirit and determination by a great team that most likely will never again be equaled at West Point. It required outstanding discipline, careful preparation, top physical conditioning, a great fighting sprit and determination to win. It is seldom in ones lifetime’s that you are permitted to experience the complete satisfaction of being a part of a perfect season.
Football was not the only sport that Tom participated in while at the Academy nor was it the only undefeated team he played on. Tom played three years on the Army baseball team starring on the 1945 team which was undefeated including a 7-2 victory over Navy.
After graduation on June 5, 1945, with Infantry as his choice, Tom served a brief tour at Fort Benning, followed by duty with the Army of Occupation in Japan.
In 1946 Tom was selected by Coach Earl Blaik to return to West Point as an assistant football coach. In January1947 Tom returned to Japan but once again was called back to West Point to coach in the fall of 1947. Then it was back to Japan where he coached the First Cavalry Football Team in 1948. In April 1949 Tom joined the 38th Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, serving as a heavy weapons company officer until being detailed to coach the Second Infantry Division Football Team, which won the Sixth Army championship under his leadership.
On 25 June 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea; the Second Infantry Division with the 38th Division was deployed to augment US forces in Korea. Tom had been transferred to the G-3 section of the Second Division but his repeated request to join a line unit were realized after breakout from the Pusan Perimeter when Tom assumed command of Company I, 38th Infantry. The regiment had suffered heavy casualties along the Naktong River. After a successful crossing on the night of 18 and 19 September, Tom assumed command and quickly made his presence felt. The invasion at Inchon had relieved the pressure on the Pusan Perimeter and the North Korean forces were quickly put to flight Tom’s regiment was in pursuit, and his company was left behind to search out and destroy bypassed enemy strong points. On the afternoon of September 24, 1950 on a hilltop near Ch'ogye, Korea he led a group of volunteers from the company he commanded up the hill to carry out an assault on an enemy position. Casualties were heavy, but the enemy was routed. First Lieutenant Tom A. Lombardo fell just as the enemy abandoned their position. Tom was serious, sincere, unselfish, mature, confident, and caring. He led by example, both on and off the field, and acted without pretense or fanfare.
On November 17, 1962, the US Army Soul Area Command designated the football field at Yongsan Reservation, Soul Korea as Lombardo field.
On 20 November 1962, the commanding officer, Seoul Area Command read two messages: one from General Douglas MacArthur and the other from West Point Coach Earl Blaik.
General Douglas MacArthur said; “It is highly appropriate that this gridiron, carved out of ground hallowed by American bloodshed that men might be free, be dedicated to honor the memory of Lt. Thomas A. Lombardo, for he brought to the battlefield the fighting spirit and leadership acquired on the football field. He captained West Point’s 1944 eleven and later gave his life in the consolidation of victory at Inchon. He knew no compromise with duty, nor sought any, but his final breath gave implacable devotion to the immortal legend by which he was trained to serve- 'Duty, Honor, Country.' Let those who struggle for supremacy in sports remain ever conscious that hereto are sown seeds that upon others fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.”
Coach Blaik’s message was that “It is a source of inspiration to all who were associated with Tom to learn that a football field is being dedicated to the memory of this soldier-athlete. On behalf of his teammates and the coaching staff may I express our sincere gratitude for the honor you have bestowed on our former colleague. From her sons, West Point expects the best; Tom Lombardo always gave his best”
Though his journey from St. Louis to Ch”ogye ended so many years ago, this superb athlete, son, brother, husband, father, soldier and friend is still loved, revered and respected by those privileged to have shared part of his life with him. West Point has had no finer son.
Is it any wonder that when naming the St. Louis Chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame in 1992 that the name, Tom Lombardo was selected as the Chapter’s choice?
The St. Louis Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame is named for Tom Lombardo because he embodied the values and character which the chapter seeks to develop and reinforce.