Capt. Slade Cutter, Naval Athlete and Submariner, Dies

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, left, pins a Navy Cross on then-Lt. Cmdr. Slade D. Cutter for raids on Japanese fleets. He earned four awards of the Cross.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, left, pins a Navy Cross on then-Lt. Cmdr. Slade D. Cutter for raids on Japanese fleets. He earned four awards of the Cross. (U.s. Navy)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 13, 2005

Slade D. Cutter, 93, the U.S. Naval Academy athletic icon who later amassed one of the great World War II combat records as a submariner, died June 9 at Ginger Cove retirement community in Annapolis. He had Parkinson's disease.

"College football players should forget the game the moment it is over," Capt. Cutter once said. Still, he will be remembered for his sporting efforts as much as the far more dangerous work he completed during the war, exploits that earned him four awards of the Navy Cross and two awards of the Silver Star. The Navy Cross is the highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor.

Capt. Cutter once wanted to be a professional flutist but was pressed into athletic duty at the Severn School, the preparatory feeder school for the Naval Academy. Being tall (6-2) and husky (215 pounds), the "blonde, easy-moving chunk of brawn," as one reporter wrote, became one of the collegiate athletic world's celebrated Depression-era figures.

He won the intercollegiate heavyweight boxing championship, became an All-America tackle and, in 1967, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

His most acclaimed feat came Dec. 1, 1934, the day of a wet mudfest against Army at Philadelphia's Franklin Field. He said he exchanged long cleats for shorter ones -- giving him better advantage for a smooth kick -- surprising coaches who expected him to fake-kick the ball.

"When they saw it was going to be a real kick, they yelled, 'The damned fool!' " he said years later. "Then it went through, and they thought it was great."

He kicked a game-winning, 20-yard field goal before 79,000 people, giving Navy its first victory against Army in 13 years. The final score was 3-0, and Capt. Cutter was heralded as the "hero of the day."

Slade Deville Cutter was born Nov. 1, 1911, in Chicago and raised on his family's corn and alfalfa farm in Oswego, Ill.

He was steered away from sports by his father, who had been severely injured as a college athlete. Encouraged by his mother, Slade learned piano and then the flute. He won an interscholastic solo flute championship at which John Philip Sousa was a judge.

Later, in his Naval Academy yearbook, he listed the flute, along with chewing tobacco and swearing, as among his major vices.

At Severn, he was spotted by Paul Brown, later the famed coach of the Cleveland Browns, who called Capt. Cutter's father to plead permission to sign up his son. That began his athletic career, which accelerated when he entered the academy in 1931.

Despite lucrative temptations to became a professional boxer, he stayed in the Navy and attended submarine school.

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