Oregon’s National Guard State 1961 Basketball Champions

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Gene Thomas
  • 142nd Fighter Wing History Department
At first glance, one might think this is a lead-in to a story about your favorite NCAA college basketball team during the month of "March Madness," but the give-a-ways are the vintage 1961 uniforms with the 'Oregon ANG' logo on them.

In late January of 1961, a total of 11 basketball teams were organized within the Oregon Army and Air National Guard. They played a series of elimination games to determine the Oregon National Guard State Championship team. That team would then be the Oregon National Guard representative at the Sixth Army Basketball Tournament that was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Jan. 24-25, 1961.

The Oregon Army and Air National Guard eliminations started in January, 1961. The Army National Guard (OreNG) had nine teams from all over the state, while the Air National Guard (OreANG) had two teams from the Portland Air Base; Team One and Team Two. The OreANG Team One survived all its elimination games and become the Oregon National Guard Basketball Champions for 1961.

Maj. Gen. Alfred E Hintz, Oregon Adjutant General, presented the big basketball trophy to the OreANG with best wishes prior to the trip to Salt Lake City tournament.

The OreANG Basketball Coach was Chief Warrant Officer Jack H. Cronise, with team members: 1st Lt's Dale E. Moses and Arthur A. Sklar, Tech. Sergeants Clifford W. Lathrop and Loran G. Lebert, Staff Sergeants Leroy W. Dornfeld, Claud R Dudus, and Earl A. Glass, Airman 1st Class Richard W. Frost, Airman 2nd Class Frank L. Bass, Jr., Airman 3rd Class Douglas B. Basham and Fletcher A. Johnson. Tech. Sgt. Wayne R. Kuhn was the team photographer.

The Oregon Champs were well represented, with players from Headquarters, Fighter Group, 123rd Fighter Squadron, Air Base Squadron and the 142nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (CAMRON).

The OreANG basketball team flew to Utah in the Oregon's C-47A twin-engine transport aircraft and arrived late on the night of January 23. The team dove right in to the elimination process, playing against national all-star teams and emerged as the overall fourth place finishers. The Colorado NG won the overall championship that year.

Top scorers in the Salt Lake City tournament for the Oregon team were, Doug Basham with 27 points, Loran Lebert had 19, Fletcher Johnson 15 points, Earl Glass had 14 and Frank Bass with 12 points.

There is no evidence another OreANG basketball team ever won a state National Guard Basketball Championship and as of this writing that 53 year old "rotating trophy" has not been found. Possibly it could be in the Oregon Military Department in Salem.

In 1961 the OreANG was flying the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, a twin engine sub-sonic air defense fighter. 1st Lt. Arthur A. Sklar, a team member shown above, was a pilot in that fighter interceptor.

Viewing the team picture above, their physical fitness program went hand-in-hand with the sports program. These warriors could pass anyone's physical fitness program, including the Coach.

The team sports program in the OreANG helped foster camaraderie in the unit and these gentlemen become ambassadors for the OreANG with their travels throughout the state and to Utah. Prior to the championship the team played in the Portland Industrial and Multnomah leagues, here again as National Guard ambassadors in the community they served honorably as citizen Airmen.