• The Mosquito Bowl

  • A Game of Life and Death in World War II
  • By: Buzz Bissinger
  • Narrated by: George Newbern
  • Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (156 ratings)

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The Mosquito Bowl  By  cover art

The Mosquito Bowl

By: Buzz Bissinger
Narrated by: George Newbern
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Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary, untold story of the Second World War in the vein of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat, from the author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total war, one branch of the service dominated the aspirations of college football stars: the United States Marine Corps. Which is why, on Christmas Eve of 1944, when the 4th and 29th Marine regiments found themselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean training for what would be the bloodiest battle of the war—the invasion of Okinawa—their ranks included one of the greatest pools of football talent ever assembled: Former All Americans, captains from Wisconsin and Brown and Notre Dame, and nearly 20 men who were either drafted or would ultimately play in the NFL.   

When the trash-talking between the 4th and 29th over who had the better football team reached a fever pitch, it was decided: The two regiments would play each other in a football game as close to the real thing as you could get in the dirt and coral of Guadalcanal. The bruising and bloody game that followed became known as “The Mosquito Bowl”. 

Within a matter of months, 15 of the 64 the players in “The Mosquito Bowl” would be killed at Okinawa, by far the largest number of American athletes ever to die in a single battle. The Mosquito Bowl is the story of these brave and beautiful young men, those who survived and those who did not. It is the story of the families and the landscape that shaped them. It is a story of a far more innocent time in both college athletics and the life of the country, and of the loss of that innocence.  

Writing with the style and rigor that won him a Pulitzer Prize and have made several of his books modern classics, Buzz Bissinger takes us from the playing fields of America’s campuses where boys played at being marines, to the final time they were allowed to still be boys on that field of dirt and coral, to the darkest and deadliest days that followed at Okinawa.  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2022 Buzz Bissinger (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Mosquito Bowl

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

War Story Interrupted Briefly by a Football Game

This is an 11-hour story that spends about five minutes highlighting a football game. The book highlights the lives of a dozen or so soldiers, sailors, and Marines who were star college football players, enlisted in the military during the Second World War, and saws their lives come together on a makeshift football field in the middle of the Pacific.

If you're looking for a description of t his most improbable gridiron contest, you won't find it here - or presumably anywhere else.

If you want to learn more about coming of age in the 1930s and the structure of college football in the pre-war years, you won't be disappointed. The author has meticulously researched the lives of his main characters and brings them to life in the context of their times. He overlays these biographies with an historical description of college football during this era - a time when the Ivy League, Marquette University, and Washington University in St. Louis produced All-American gridiron stars.

I rarely find audiobooks annoying. (Quick aside: I find it amusing that the Audible site, of all places, flags "audiobooks" with a red underline as a misspelling!) But there were times when the narrator - true to his mission of reading the book in its entirety - spent several minutes listing the last names of casualties (and, in some cases, their cause of death) in alphabetical order. The names are remarkably unimportant. It's enough to say that 78 Americans died in that battle, without listing them. Yes, it's a small criticism. But to this listener, it was like fingernails on a chalkboard. I ended up doing what I do when the Liberty Mutual or Kars for Kids jingles play on their ads - I simply turned the volume off for a minute or so. Sure, I may have missed a few sentences of the next section, but it was worth it for my peace of mind.

I usually listen to audiobooks at 1.5X speed and find that flow easy to follow. I set it to 1.8 and 2.0 on this book and it didn't seem rushed. Thus, the narrator is a slow talker. Adjust your speed accordingly.

2 people found this helpful

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Bait and Switch

The title sounds intriguing but it is highly misleading. This is a perfect example of bait and switch. A better title would be How Racist America Won WW II and Soldiers Playing Football in the Army. I knew something was up when he use the term “White Privilege” very early in his book. I don’t go to movies anymore for the same reason I am returning this book. I'm very well versed in World and American history and I’ve read enough about the evils of mankind. If the author wishes to engage in virtue signaling (the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character are the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue) about the unjust action of The United States in WWII, it would have been nice to know this before I bought the book. I know about the inequities throughout world history and the United States. I bought this book to acquire knowledge about soldiers who played football during World War II and hoping for an enjoyable listen. But instead, the author resorts to a history on racial injustice of the American army and America during World War II. I did not buy this book for a history lesson on this topic. And that is why I am returning it

2 people found this helpful

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A real disappointment.

I was so excited to read this after hearing the author talk about it on NPR I purchased it the same day. I won’t finish it. I’m the son of a 7th infantry Army veteran who fought on Okinawa AFTER fighting on Attu, Kiska, the Marshall Islands, Guam and the Philippines. This is a story of privileged jocks who avoided the draft in every way possible by playing college football and getting shady exemptions from the service. I think he’s looking for another TV series.

1 person found this helpful

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Slow and plodding

Could only make it about half-way through before I gave up on it. Way too many unimportant details and statistics, this book is missing the heart and soul of the story. At first glance, this looked interesting, maybe there are some good parts of the book later on, but I’ll never know.

The performance contributed to the boring chapters, the narrator was perfunctory in tone, like he was reading a newspaper.

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Great story, sometimes questionable narration

For the love of all that's holy, the "s" in "corpsman" and "corpsmen" is silent! Totally distracting in an otherwise great narration.

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Personal Connection

I listened to an interview of Buss Bissinger about this book on a news program and bought the book that morning. My father was a marine and fought on the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Roi-Namur. He did not talk about his experiences until the last 10 years of his life. Since he died earlier this year, I have been listening to books about the marines in the South Pacific, this book is by far the best. It brings the men and their sacrifices to life. Many of their experiences were similar to my father’s description of his experiences.
What made the hair on the back of my neck stand up was chapter one, McLaughry. My dad played football for Dartmouth after the war for Tuss and attended Dartmouth with John’s younger brother Bob, totally unexpected personal connection! This book was excellent.

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Our finest and Breavest

God Bless our military. I never served but I am so great full for those who have. This author brings to light the reality of our brave Veterans who served in WW II.
The Performance of the book was well executed and engaging.

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“Glad you read it?” Hmmmm good question

I was asked if I was glad that I read it. And I guess the answer is yes. I’m glad. But not normally glad. Glad in the same way I was that I saw Schindler’s List. A very well written book that should be required reading. Give this book a shot and you won’t regret it. Even if you’re not overly “glad”.

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Inexplicably woke.

I started this book to learn about the men who fought and died, and their chance meeting on a football field. in that sense, it generally delivered. I was also "treated" to an endless helping of the author's political preaching - often with no real contextual connection to the story. He clearly felt the need to ensure that his readers were fully aware of his leftist, white guilt.

Reader was fine, except he consistently mispronounced words. If you're going to perform a book about the military, learn how to pronounce the words. Corspman, for instance, is Cor-man. Just like every other pronunciation of "Corps" both the P and S are silent.

Overall, cut out the hour or so of preaching and you've got a really great book.

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  • BA
  • 10-23-22

Riveting and Disturbing

WWII Pacific theater won by ordinary men despite incompetent leadership, but such waste of life.