Alan Hoisch dies at 91; WWII vet and UCLA star set Rose Bowl record

Alan Hoisch obituary: UCLA running back holds Rose Bowl record for longest kickoff return

Alan Hoisch, a decorated World War II pilot and star running back on UCLA's 1947 Rose Bowl team, died Friday of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his son John Hoisch.

Hoisch was a member of the Southern California Jewish Hall of Fame and Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. His 103-yard kickoff return in UCLA's 45-14 loss to Illinois in 1947 remains a Rose Bowl record.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1923, Hoisch moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1935 and was a star football player and track athlete at Los Angeles High from 1939 to 1941. He was named All-City in football in 1940. In track and field, he was clocked at 9.8 seconds in the 100-yard dash.

In Los Angeles High's 15-6 victory over Fremont in 1940, Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Smyser wrote, "Dynamite — touched off by a little lad named Al Hoisch — exploded all over the Fremont High School football field in the second quarter."

Hoisch enlisted in the Army Air Forces after playing one season at Stanford in 1942. He flew supplies to the British in Burma during World War II and was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and four air medals, according to his family.

"He would share with us the enthusiasm that all his college mates had to serve," John Hoisch said. "He was extremely hateful of what was going on in Europe with the Nazis. Some of his friends had parents in Germany."

Hoisch was assigned to the Pacific Theater after flight school. He handled supply runs in a Curtiss Commando C-46, a twin-engine airplane that was noted for an abnormally high number of midair explosions.

"If you lost an engine, you were going down," John Hoisch said. "If you took a bullet, you were going down. It had what was called a wet fuel tank. It was just metal and gas."

Still, Hoisch said, his father always believed he would survive the war.

In later years, Alan Hoish would draw maps to show his family where he had been, from Pakistan to Burma (now Myanmar) to China, as well as South America.

The war experiences helped Hoisch and others returning to college as athletes.

"He carried the aggressive nature of war and translated it onto the athletic field," his son said. "That's why some of those guys were so tough."

Hoisch was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 23rd round in 1946 but chose to enroll at UCLA. He joined a Bruins team that was stocked with World War II veterans, including quarterback Ernie Case. Hoisch, a 5-foot-6, 145-pound halfback, was among the team's stars, along with Case, receiver Burr Baldwin and receiver Tom Fears.

The Bruins went undefeated in the regular season, clinching the Pacific Coast Conference title by beating USC on a muddy Coliseum field that UCLA officials suspected was drenched by the Trojans the night before the game in order to slow UCLA's backfield.

Hoisch was a big part of that victory. With the score tied, 6-6, in the third quarter, USC's Mickey McCardle fielded a punt at the Trojans' 5-yard line. Hoisch immediately hit him, forcing a fumble. UCLA recovered, setting up a Case touchdown in a 13-6 victory that clinched a spot in the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins were manhandled by Illinois in the Rose Bowl, but Hoisch was a bright spot. His 40-yard reception set up UCLA's first touchdown for a brief 7-6 lead. The Illini romp was interrupted by Hoisch in the second quarter. He fielded a kickoff in the end zone, cut up the right sideline and raced 103 yards to the end zone.

Hoisch returned for the 1947 season and was named first-team All-Pacific Coast Conference and honorable mention All-American. He was denied a third varsity season at UCLA because he had played at Stanford.

He went into the textile business after graduating, running a Los Angeles-based company until retiring at 65.

Hoisch remained an active athlete, playing handball. He won the national championship in his division at 65. He also developed a deep love for animals and volunteered at the Wildlife Way Station, a nonprofit animal sanctuary.

Hoisch is survived by his wife of 65 years, Rita; sons John and Tom; and a grandson.

A private service is pending.

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