Prior to the Bombers, St. Xavier’s athletic teams were known as the Conquerors. This moniker came by way of a student newspaper from the early 1930s, The Conqueror. Before its initial publication in October 1931, the nascent newspaper needed a name. A contest was held at the school, and the paper’s staff found themselves deluged with more than 300 submissions from students and faculty alike. The winning proposal of Conquerors, put forth by teacher Edward Wiatrak SJ, was chosen “because it exemplifies the Spirit of Xavier in sports and in academical achievements.”
In the fall of 1943, with World War II raging, The Cincinnati Post began to refer to the St. Xavier football team as the “Bombers.” This was due in large part to the offensive aerial exploits of quarterback George Ratterman ’44 and receiver Charley Wolf ’44. The earliest known reference comes from a Post headline dated October 27, 1943: “Ratterman Tops Aerial Bombers, Wolf Snags ’Em.”
The upstart Bomber nickname still had a-ways to go, however. Though originating with the football team in the fall, the new mascot truly became a force to be reckoned with during the ensuing basketball season. Once again, the duo of George Ratterman and Charley Wolf spearheaded a potent offensive force aided by Paul Walther ’44, Herm Hohnhorst ’45, and Bill “Whiz” Steenken ’44. The quintet, dubbed the “Swish Kids” due to their shooting abilities, amassed a twenty-game win streak before falling to Middletown in the state quarter-finals. By this point, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Cincinnati Times-Star were also utilizing the Bomber name in their articles.
By the spring of 1944, the combined successes of the football and basketball teams elevated the Bomber nickname to new heights and ensured that its growing popularity could not be ignored. Articles in the Xavier Prep student newspaper appeared, arguing both for and against the new nickname.
Though popular, there was not a consensus concerning the new mascot name. But it was only a matter of time. The 1944 and 1945 editions of the X-Ray yearbook make use of both nicknames, but the numbers are telling: Conqueror appeared in the 1944 annual twenty-five times, but by 1945 its use dropped to nine; by the time the 1946 X-Ray is released, the Conqueror designation disappeared entirely. For its part, the Xavier Prep continued to use the two nicknames interchangeably throughout the 1943 and 1944 school years; for a time, it even featured both mascots in the masthead of its sports page. But in the end, its writers likewise eventually stopped using the Conqueror name.