Joltin' Joe

undated photo

Joe Louis, shown here (center) signing autographs for his fellow GIs, served with the U.S. Army Special Services Division for 14 months and entertained more than 2,000,000 soldiers by his frequent boxing exhibitions and talks. For his "incalculable contribution to the general morale," he was awarded the Legion of Merit. Louis had won the professional heavyweight championship of the world in June 1937 and compiled a 68-3 record. Louis's first loss came in 1936, to the former world champion, the German boxer Max Schmeling. The Nazis equated Schmeling's victory over Louis to a validation of Nazi superiority over democracy. The two boxers fought again in a 1938 rematch. Louis won the bout in one round, and Americans celebrated the victory of democracy.

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