Although the third American Football League was not directly connected to any previous American Football Leagues of the same name, it was created when three teams, the original Cincinnati Bengals, the Columbus Bullies, and the Milwaukee Chiefs, were lured away from the American Professional Football Association and joined three new franchises to form the league.
Although the league's average attendance was less than that of the more-established NFL, the AFL seemed to be on as firm a financial footing as the older league. By the end of the 1941 season, a new franchise was awarded to Detroit for the 1942 season.
All the plans for 1942 came to a sudden stop upon the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II on December 7, 1941. During the winter of 1941-42, numerous players from both leagues were drafted into the U.S. military. So many players went overseas that several AFL and NFL teams were left with barely enough players to field viable teams. It soon became apparent to the AFL owners that the success of the league was very much in question. On September 2, 1942, AFL president William B. Cox announced the league would suspend operations for the war's duration. The league did not return.